Uniti Star > ND5XS2 + Nait XS3 > Supernait 3

Some (hopefully) illuminating thoughts on a demo I enjoyed at my local dealer recently comparing the UnitiStar to the ND5 XS2 + Nait XS3 and the Supernait 3, all through the same speakers and cables.

These observations are certainly self evident for many, however, I do think it’s still worth a quick synopsis for others who are possibly in a similar position I am -that is, starting with something from the Uniti range and thinking about what improvements might be had with a step up to separates. Within an hour, I had some pretty clear answers.

For reference, I’ve been living with the Star for over a year, and I’ve been enjoying Naim gear for 20+ years. I’ve also spent a lot of time tinkering with gear, building tube amps and speakers, and listening with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Starting with the Uniti Star through a pair of Totem tribe floorstanders, I heard the same good things I was used to at home: strong all round performance, good PRaT, decent bass control and detail, and a good sense of space and scale. For the money, I still think the Uniti range is incredible. The deficiencies are only relative… don’t listen to the higher end gear if you don’t want to know what you’re missing…

Switching to the Nait XS3 + ND5 XS2, everything was just better fleshed out, better detail, more space, better attack, better bass control, nicer treble, everything just sounded a bit more real. The differences were clear and obvious, but not extremely different from the Star, just better. I was already sold on the ND5 XS2 + Nait XS3, this was what I came in expecting to hear.

As a bit of a wild card, and against my better judgement, I asked to hear the SN3 with the ND5 XS2 Now, I’m not prone to hifi hyperbole, but the change to the SN3 was genuinely surprising. Tracks that I’ve heard many, many times were being played with so much new information, space, and emotion, I was genuinely taken aback. There were layers of decay in the background, more texture to voices and instruments, and an overall sense of composure and control -particularly in the bass- that placed the SN3 well ahead of the XS3 for me. What clinched it for me was the uncanny way the SN3 brings life and energy to music in a way that I haven’t heard since I was listening to active olive series gear 15 years ago. The olive kit, while fantastic in conveying the vitality of music, it lacked the spatial sophistication that this new gear does. The SN3 brings these elements together in an exceptionally cohesive, musical, and enveloping way that manages to preserve the life of the music while still delivering the space, depth, and air that good hifi does.

I can see how some may prefer the sound of the Nait XS3; there is a mellowness to the delivery that is, in a way, easier to digest compared to the SN3. But, if you’re looking for a system that really draws you into the music and challenges you, in a sense, to participate and engage with whatever it is you’re playing, the Supernait 3 with the ND5 XS2 genuinely hits the mark.

The Supernait 3 + ND5 XS2 is, to my ears, one of the rare combinations that sound as much like music as it does HiFi. Somewhat annoyingly, I’m now quite smitten with this set up… I’m also glad I didn’t stick around to listen to the new 200 series.


not surprising, the SN3 is a great amp and very refined imo, just as well you dident try a NDX2 with it instead of the ND5 but it would make a nice future upgrade, particularly bought pre loved.


Superb write up - many thanks for sharing your experience of the demo. I’m also in a similar position in that i’m planning the move up from the Uniti range and also wondering which direction to head with separates, and the units you mention are very high on my list.

Did you take the plunge and buy?


Great comparison and description. I just missed out on an opportunity to purchase the SN3 in lieu of Nait XS3. But convincing myself that the XS3 and ND5 set-up is all I need and just be happy…for the moment. I do want to know anyone’s opinions on whether the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition would outperform the Nait XS3 and ND5 XS combo from headphone PoV. (Using Focal Clears for reference). Appear to have the same DAC chip. But not sure if there’s other determining factors.


I agree that the nd5xs2/sn3 is a great combo, the cohesiveness is what drew me to the combo when I had it. I also agree that you shouldn’t listen to any potential upgrades unless you want to spend the money :joy:.


I moved from Nait XS2/ND5 XS 2 to a SN3/ND5 XS 2 and as you say it is a whole new level of goodness. I then added a HCDR to the SN3 and that really took it up a level. My dealer said that adding a HCDR to the SN3 is one of his easiest sells when he demos it.


Wonderful review @edanmars thanks for sharing! Especially including the Star is very helpful, did you also get to hear the Nova at one point?

I feel obliged to also include a source-first perspective to this amp-first review.

The XS3 will also bring a lot more to the table when adding a nDAC with DC1 cable to the ND5 XS2, a lot more than the sum of its parts.

For the SN3 the HiCap DR is also a no-brainer. That combination with “just” the bare ND5 XS2 is a bit of a mullet system to my ears, deserves a higher level source.

The base point combo comparison in the ranges would have been XS3 / ND5 XS2 versus SN3 / NDX2 all bare, and then adding stuff and switching (many) components.

When you look at the financials of all of the above then, even with ex-dem and pre-loved, within a budget you may end up with a different buy (as I did).

Anyway, very insightful, and good luck on your journey!

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I remember being surprised when I heard the Atom HE and a NAP200 via speakers, more pleasant to my ears than a bare SN3/NDX2 combo, but that demo was a while ago and not at home.

I do know that the headphone amp in the XS3 is nice but the one in the Atom HE is definitely much better still. The Nait 50 has a version of the latter I believe.

Yet when I hear the massive difference of adding the nDAC via DC1 to the ND5 XS2 I would guess that is as a source a better streaming front end than the Atom HE.

Then also all the pre-amp sections come into play in between streaming and the headphone amp.

With also the New Classic products available now the sheer amount of options gets confusing quickly.


@daddycool You raise a good point regarding source first vs. amp upgrades, and I agree… mostly :wink:

What surprised me about the XS3 to SN3 jump was a clear improvement to the overall sound, not just the typical amp improvement hallmarks (grip, slam, etc). The whole soundstage expanded, details were more present, everything improved, which leads me to think the ND5 XS2 is a very capable source indeed. My point being, anyone listening to the ‘recommended system’ that is the Nait XS3 + ND5 XS2 should know that the limiting element isn’t the ND5 XS2, and if funds allow, the SN3 is a disproportionately significant improvement, at least to my ears and preferences.

Another stop of interest in this source first conversation is probably the preamp in the SN3. There has been a fair bit of talk around how good the SN3 preamp section is, particularly with the addition of the DR circuitry, and after what I heard, I would say this does seem to track.

On a related ‘source first’ note, I ran a CD5X/152XS /Flatcap/250 Mk2 a few years back (yes, clearly a lopsided system, but that’s another thread…), and I have to say that the ND5 XS2 + SN3 absolutely walked all over that combo in all respects. That older mullet setup was satisfying in many ways, but the ND5/SN3 is simply on another level. The amusing thing is that the total value of the mullet rig would have been well more than the ND5/SN3 kit, yet sounded nowhere near as good.

Summary: I honestly feel that the SN3 with the ND5 XS2 is a long way up the diminishing returns curve, in spite of the assumptions around integrated units vs. separates. Naim has hit a sweet spot with the SN3, maybe it’s something about the DR PSU, or hand-me-down tech from the last 250 amp, either way I feel like this is a giant-killer and a genuinely solid value.


I’m with you edanmars

I have the SN3/NDX2 combo, the SN3 is the sweet spot in the Naim range , it’s a cracker


as a lowly Nait user (not in the ‘super’ territory);
the question I would throw out is ‘at what volume level’?
We all know that humans favour a volume bump, and will always prefer the louder amp when comparing…

The strength of the XS, to me, is in its ‘low down volume’ capability.
I know the amperes on tap on the Supernait is nearly double,… but I question how much that will improve sound quality when I am rarely approaching 9am on the volume dial.

I couple of times I have seriously considered ‘would I have been happy with the Nait 5si’? (yes)

the XS has seriously more power than I need, and I have huge hopes to use it in AV Bypass mode (as a ‘power amp’) off a home theatre receiver. In that mode I feel that matching in the Supernait would mean the channel volume differences between the internal amp channels and the offboard (Nait) amp channels would be huge… and likely mean the preamp in the ‘AV processor’ is attempting too much of a volume swing (generally leads to a grainy ‘thinner’ sound)…
I feel the baby Nait would probably match up with my AV amp the best… and that the ‘lowly’ XS is probably highly overkill.

Whilst I have no doubt that the SN3 is a ‘better’ (audio perspective) amplifier…
all amps have ‘their sweet spots’.
If I was using a Supernait I feel that the volume dial would be so close as to the volume imbalance on the ALPS pot (I’d probably HAVE to use the balance control :wink: )
At super low volume listening, I question just how much of the ‘doubled amperes’ would be in effect improving the detail retrieval and layering quality etc.
I DO believe that the trickle down power supply tech improving the preamp is HUGE…
again; AV BYPASS means I’d be stepping past this…

I guess this is the standard internet quip “YMMV” (your mileage may vary)

saving the space and the electrical draw is my reason for the lesser part. (I know both are small differences… )

No doubt the SN3 is a jump up from the XS3 in sound quality…
but are there cases where they would, for all intents and purposes, be on near equal footing?
threshold of sound listening, in AV Bypass, ‘for example’…


Only my observation but on my Supernait 3 and Kudos speakers I don’t get past 9pm on my volume and that is a fun zone.
Quiet listening at night between 7+8 and no channel imbalance. :+1:t2:
Tons of headroom.

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one thing I notice about my new SN3 is that, compared to previous, the channel balance is absolutely perfect even if I turn the vol right down. The last amp was always low on the right even at normal levels and disappeared at low levels which always really annoyed me, if I set balance to about 2 o’clock it improved but never sounded quite right, even after going back to Naim for a new relay and a request to check right channel it never improved, anyway all history now thankfully.


Put it behind you now just enjoy. :+1:t2:


Very interesting and thank you for sharing your experiences.

Ironically I had just about convinced myself that an XS3, being considerably more affordable (but still a lot of money), would be just what I needed.

I’m with you on sources. On my DIY open baffle system even my lowly Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100 reveals details that were not always apparent on the main system, even when using a DAC that cost 10 times as much. It’s not faultless by it is very engaging. I think that ‘modern’ sources, even ‘budget’ ones can deliver a much higher quality of sound than the majority of sources from a generation or two ago.

Essentially, speakers need to suit your taste and need to work within the room, then the amplifier needs to be capable of driving the speakers properly but in such a way that music sounds natural, cohesive and refined enough not to offend. Get this right and then the source is very important. If you don’t get the speaker/amp/room equation right then the full capabilities of a good source will never really be heard.


Now Ur talkn’ me into spending $$$!!!

You raise an interesting point, and I tend to agree with you on some of the lower power amps, in terms of subjective sound quality and preference, certain amps have a specific and super pleasing sound. If your speakers match well in terms of impedance and efficiency, at lower volumes the result is often quite special. I had a Nait 3 years ago that I absolutely loved and it took a long time for me to find a Combo that I liked better, even tho I knew much past about 9’oclock on the dial it was getting a bit ragged.

On the other hand, I have personally noticed a strong correlation between amps with large power supplies and a certain relaxed aspect to the sound, as if the fact that it’s operating at 10% of its ultimate capacity vs. 50% has a certain impact on the sound quality, or perhaps more the presentation of the music ( if there is a difference?), but either way, I definitely prefer the Naim amps with larger power supplies.

One interesting takeaway from the experimentation I’ve done over the years is most definitely that there is sometimes little correlation between what we like the best and what costs the most / should be the highest performing. That little Nait 3 / CD3.5 / dynaudio rig was with me for 13 years, and in spite of hearing some very high end systems, I found it genuinely difficult to improve on the amount of enjoyment I got out of the music through that relatively humble set up.

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Yep that’s Nait 1 / 2 / 3 for me as well :slight_smile: All great but best compromise was the Nait 2.

Now finally on Nait XS3, same super pleasing special but more elegance and headroom.


@YetiZone yes, yes I did :slight_smile: break-in took some patience, but the combo continues to impress me. I’m still glad I spent the $ to upgrade, it’s clearly better to my ears than the Uniti, and now the streamer is as good or better than my P6+Ania TT.


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