UnitiNova upgrade path

Sorry if this is a well worn thread - I do dip in from time to time and I haven’t seen this particular thread - please redirect me if necessary!

I listen to mainly electronic dance music, either by streaming from a 320kps internet station or via a usb stick. If I have cds, I also listen to them via the stick. I don’t have vinyl or a cd player.

I would seem to have the ideal partner with my Nova, therefore. And very good it is too! I was under the illusion that I was now fairly high up the audio league until I realised that I was merely top of the Naim budget league and there were levels way above that.

From time to time I do wonder how I could improve upon the Nova. There are other brands out there - the Cambridge Edge series or the upcoming Nad M33 - that may be worthy improvements. But if I had to stick to Naim, what path would I take?

For example, one Nova review stated that the streamer in the Nova is virtually the same as in the higher level separates, so maybe just upgrading the pre-amp section would not achieve anything. Could the Nova still fulfil a role in a partially upgraded system?

If I had to go the Naim separates route, what level of pre amp and power amp would make a meaningful difference?

I must stress that I am strictly at the “what if” stage at the mo, and suspect that what suggestions you come back with would be well out of my budget! But if I may risk wasting member’s time on this, what would be your general thoughts and advice as to future direction?

Needless to say, sticking with the Nova would hardly qualify as punishment!

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I would add a powerline and then later if you need power a nap 250…

If you tap “ upgrade nova” in the search part, there are some threads on it.
Some added an Innuos server , connected in usb/ converter to the Nova ( used only as dac and integrated).
Others added a 250 dr.
You have also the audiophile switch possibility.

I’ve been down this road, or rather I’m currently somewhere on it, too.

In my case I added a Powerline and upgraded my pre-Nova Innuos set up from a Zen Mini3/LPSU to Zenith MK3. Then added a SPDIF to USB converter, the Audiophilleo with Pure Power.

All were worthwhile upgrades for me, and in the case of the Innuos Zenith has rendered the Nova’s streaming function redundant, as FR noted.

The use of the APhilleo as bridge between Innuos and Nova has given me a streaming and serving SQ I’m very happy with*.

*albeit it’s left me wondering, as suggested elsewhere here when I asked a similar question, whether to ditch the Nova and go with a separate DAC and amp to be fed by my Zenith.

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The separates route upgrade I would recommend for a start for you would be:

Preamp Nac 282 (comes with Napsc) with HiCap DR
Poweramp Nap 250DR

Streamer NDX2 with XPSDR

You could go at a lower entry point with 202 and 200 instead of 282 and 250.

I went from Nait 5Si with CD5Si to an 82 Hicap with 250 and it was a really big jump.
Don’t dismiss olive or chrome bumper gear either as you make big savings and get a superior quality system more cheaply.

A well integrated sub added to the Nova would do wonders with EDM. Also, adding a Powerline is very beneficial and relatively low cost. Other improvements are power conditioning through a power board and a good network switch if you are wired for internet streaming.

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Plus one for a Powerline and a sub with a Nova - both make a real difference.
Separates are a different ball game…

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I would second the Powerline & NAP250DR and see what you think at that point. Both would give a significant upgrade (to the Nova) and would be a step towards a seperates system.

I would look at feeding your Nova with lossless formats rather than MP3 before spending anything on amps or cables. Maybe a subscription to a lossless streaming service - free trial periods will let you see just how much of a difference that will make.

@swtrains

As a Nova owner I am a little surprised at the number of people who ‘upgrade’, or express a wish to do so after generally short periods of ownership.

There is nothing wrong with this approach. Your money & your choice sort of thing.

If you have heard better systems, perhaps at your dealers, & want, & are able to move up to these, then fair enough.

Your post seems to indicated ‘upgraditus’ due to what you have read rather than what you have listened to.

As you are like me, very happy with the Nova, I would strongly suggest two things -

1 Give the Nova more time & make sure you are certain what you like & dislike about it

2 As you say you do like the Nova you shouldn’t be in a rush to do anything & will therefore have plenty of time to audition alternatives &, importantly, make sure that any changes do not unbalance your current system causing you to regret changes & spending lots of money without achieving the improvements you were hoping for.

Above all, enjoy the whole process. This will make it a certain as possible that you do indeed eventually end up with a better sounding system & not just a lighter wallet!

Please don’t think I am picking on you. It’s just that I think I see far too many on these forums who get sucked into upgrading for upgradings sake & who have no clear idea of what they are trying to achieve other than ‘better sound quality’. To my mind this always begs the obvious question ‘Better in what way?’. They then often seem to end up with systems they are never entirely happy with.

Whatever you do, good luck.

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I have a Nova and love it to bits - fantastic piece of kit. I would echo a couple of comments on here. Do switch to a decent power cable. I use a Sean Jacobs PowerBlack which is very reasonable in price but made a big difference. The second is to use a decent streaming service - either Tidal or Qobuz (which I use). You will be amazed at what doing those 2 things will get out of your Nova for not much money

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Totally agree with Canaryfan above, the Nova is really good in itself. That said, there was recently a thread about upgrades paths for the Nova:

And by the same member an earlier thread exploring Naims’ offerings through the various ranges which may be helpful for context:

Another one about Nova upgrades:

I started with a Nova and have to say that it is a superb bit of kit on its own and capable of producing superb sound and with plenty of power packed in it. For the type of music that you listen and the sources it comes from I’d say that the Nova is very good indeed and all that you will need for a very long time.

I haven’t tested the Nova with a NAP250DR however jumped straight to a NAP300DR amp since that is my ceiling as far as amps go. I do use a high end turntable and Flac files from a hard drive as well as streaming through the Nova. There are people that maintain that adding a 300DR to a Nova is a waste since the 300DR is that good that it will show the limitations of the source. And there are others that will say that adding a powerful amp to the Nova would make a massive difference.

In my experience neither is true. The 300DR will make a substantial but subtle difference in the sound and it certainly is a worthy addition. On the negative side, as i have recently discovered, the 300DR will emit a low pitch hum which is goddamn annoying. It is not loud enough to disturb your listening at normal sound levels but it is certainly audible at low volumes and when it’s quiet. People blame dirty mains and all of that and advise to have a separate circuit installed for it. That may be ok with some but in my book it is just disappointing.

As far as Powerline goes, other people have noticed an improvement in sound. I did not notice any sufficient improvement to justify blowing £600 on a cable. Forget other people’s opinions and go and do a blind test yourself with the type of music and sources that you use.

But, in my opinion, the best thing to do is stay away from this forum or others like this. Because the more you dive in here the more you get the bug to upgrade (even if you dont need to).

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This is a normal thing for toroidal transformers to do and is indeed caused by dirty mains. The 300 has a larger transformer than the Nova, so is more susceptible. It is definitely annoying when it is loud, but no reason to be disappointed with Naim as there is nothing they can do about it except using a different kind of transformer. However they believe in the SQ advantages of doing it their way and we want them to stay Naim. There are other hifi companies already. The hum does not affect the sound though as the manual states.

I have a 300PS, a 555PS, a SuperCap, and an XPS. (Oh yes, I enjoy writing this :joy: ). Most of the time they are nearly completely silent on my mains, you would have to put an ear on them to hear a hum. And then there are certain times of day when someone somewhere turns on whatever device and there is a hum.

As you would expect, the units with the larger transformers are louder, and when there is no music playing it can be a little grating at times with four of them. On the other hand, I have a combined living room and kitchen, and the motor of the fridge is louder.

As for the forum and the upgrade bug, I seem to remember everyone was trying to slow you down

I must have sensitive hearing but the hum is audible when watching TV and it is certainly annoying. I have ended up turning the 300DR off because it was irritating me.

I stand by my comments about the upgrade bug linked to frequenting the forum though. It wasn’t a matter of people trying to slow me down or speed me up but rather the comments pushing you towards upgrading everything. There gest of the comments was that unless I bought top pre-amp and top source to go with the 300DR I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the 300DR properly. So much so that at one point I regretted buying the 300DR. Until a few guys (yourself included) kindly reminded me that my system is still a hell of a lot better than what a lot of others have.

It’s the nature of this type of forum that it always pushes uyou indirectly towards buying the best and upgrading as much as possible. It’s inevitable. It is very easy that whilst admiring/chasing the top of the range, one can lose sight of the fact that Nova is a £4k piece of equipment which is certainly better than a lof of systems out there.

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Oh yes, the hum can certainly be audible, I said so and didn’t intend to imply otherwise. My point is that this is what toroidal transformers do when there is DC present on the mains. They can also be nearly perfectly silent with clean mains and they are silent for me most of the time. Naim believe that toroidal transformers have SQ advantages and this is the price you pay on 300 level. Being disappointed with Naim for this is like being disappointed with Ferrari because your new 458 Italia makes scraping noises when driven over the dirt road to your garden shed.

The forum can indeed be a seductive place, but in your case there was certainly no shortage of posts arguing for caution. Nevertheless, Nova and 300 is still wonderful, as it was for me (though for me it was just an intermediate state and I knew I would go 252), and you will enjoy it for countless hours. If the hum is too bad to be bearable, your dealer may be able to help, or the forum threads on power conditioning. Measuring the mains quality is one option and if you are lucky it is out of specs and you can complain to your supply company :slight_smile:

Ok, so I’ve just pulled the trigger and a shiny new Nova should be with me very soon to replace my current 172XS/250.2 combo. I’m looking forward to a little more convenience, using a streaming service and the Nova does seem very well received by many SQ wise too.
Part of the appeal is a single box and of course I’ll have to give the Nova time to settle in.
I’ll definitely sell the 172 but… reading a number of Nova threads I’m already wondering what the 250.2 may add to the mix.
Obviously I can just try it and moving to one box and newer technology has been part of the appeal but just thinking out loud as to who has added power amps to their Novas.

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250.2. a big upgrade IMO, also add a powerline to max out the Nova!

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Seems slightly counter productive to go from a 2 box streamer/pre and power to a single box Nova, then back to a single box plus power amp, thus discarding a very good power amp inside the Nova. Of course sometimes it just happens like that i know.

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It’s not that I particularly plan to, I’ll use the Nova on its own but as I said above I was merely ’thinking out loud’ having just ordered the Nova.
It gives me an additional option I guess before selling on the 250-2.

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