Upgrade path from Nova: current thoughts

I have a Naim Nova and love it; it is wonderful for most of my listening: jazz combos, chamber music, acoustic based folk and pop. The problem arises when playing complex music with greater dynamic range such as classical orchestral, big band jazz and some complex choral recordings. The music flattens and becomes less rich sounding, not distorted but less full . I think I need more power.

My system consists of Nova and Core driving Harbeth SLH5-XD speakers. Room is a medium sized (49 sq. meters, 2.4 meter ceiling) open concept condo. I listen to streaming audio on Tidal, my ripped CD collection on the Core and play vinyl with a Transrotor/SME/Benz ebony setup through an Avid phono stage.

I would prefer to stay with an integrated amp for aesthetics and would add a streamer if necessary. I am in Canada and am budgeting around $8000 Cdn., about the price of a Hegel 390 here, an integrated amp that I am considering. I could go as high as $12k for something special

My question is what else should I audition? I do not see a Naim upgrade path even if I went separates. The Naim separates are much more expensive in Canada than in the UK, much above the exchange rates. A 222/250 combo would cost $24000 cdn.

I look forward to all suggestions and appreciate you reading through my detailed post.

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A Supernait 3 and Hi Cap, plus a NDx2 would be the logical progression path . I think it would blow the budget

Is your budget including trade in ?

If it isn’t , why not keep the Nova, use it as a streamer and add a SN3 , then swap the Nova at a later date for an NDX2

Naim equipment can often be upgraded gently

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How’s about a s/h 272/250DR ± an XPS DR, probably traded in by someone upgrading to the NC200 series, always assuming the s/h market works more or less the same in Canada as the UK?

Will support Tidal native and enough inputs for the rest of your existing system.

Not an integrated, but really good system with years of life left in it.

Hope this helps a little.

ATB with your search, J

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In my room and with my speakers, the Hegel 390 had a slightly softer sound overall than the Nova. I preferred the clarity and definition of the Nova by comparison, along with it’s superior bass handling.

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Imho the Nova is a great 1-box. Beating it for SQ in general and tight and punchy bass in particular means moving away from Naim or getting more boxes.

Fortunately, you can buy second-hand Naim kit with high confidence that it will have very much the same presentation as you already have, and you may well be able to buy from s/h sellers outside Canada (perhaps to the South, where is a lot more Naim kit?). How bad are the taxes if you buy on UK eBay and ship to Canada?

In any event, I think my rankings (supplemented by comments from others and assuming all are bought secondhand) would go:-

Either of those plus Hicap
Ditto plus PS

You can swap 82 for 282 (or even go up another rung with 52 or 252) without really changing that order. You can slightly improve it by giving nDAC or NDX2 a separate power supply. There are other variations along the way to make the list even messier, and I am sure others could make a good case to change that slightly here or there.

Personally, I thought ND5XS2+82+Hicap+250 beat Nova by enough that I went to the bother of buying them for the holiday place. However, as that and the above list probably show, even someone who believes you can get meaningfully more sound quality with Naim without breaking your budget can’t do it without getting noticeably more boxes. If the box count is critical, all this probably supports the idea that you need to consider other brands.

Sorry if that is a messy answer to a simple question.


Thank-you to all who replied to my post. There were some good suggestions and I have more information to help in my decision making.

JMC, I found your observations regarding the Hegel 390 and Nova interesting. I have heard both integrated amps driving the Harbeths, but never at the same time.

Osiris, A Naim 272/250 DR, NDX2 acquired on the used market here in Canada is a logical upgrade. Audition would not be possible in my market and pieces would be purchased individually from across the country. My concern s whether the 250DR would have sufficient additional oomp to address my issues. While current is important watts are watts.

Anyway, I will ponder these suggestions.

I guess the 250DR question will depend on how easy your speakers are to drive, and, of course, how much you like the sound.

I ran PMC 20-23’s for ages and then transitioned to Kudos Titan 505’s with only positive effects but we all hear things differently.

Good luck with your quest,


You should be aware of the limitations of the streaming board in the 272, which is essentially a 15 year old board designed to stream locally from a NAS drive. Partnered with a 250DR it would still be a sound quality upgrade from your Nova, but make sure that it caters for your current and future needs before you commit.

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Just an fyi, a 250DR should be plenty. The 272 is a steal at current prices and while it’s a gen1 streaming platform a couple software apps (bublesoft, minimserver) deployed on your network will allow you to stream lossless and max the SQ for the 272. 272/250DR at current prices are probably the best VFM out there now. If you don’t want to fuss with workarounds go NDX2 but you’ll pay and will need to get a pre amp as well.


I personally prefer Naim, but with Harbeths at the price you’re talking about I’d heavily heavily consider Accuphase. They pair beautifully with Harbeths and like Naim they’re essentially a 30 year investment.

Check the E4000 or previous version.

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Hi @novadave, from the Nova, I decided to buy a new SN3 and a second hand NDX2 and am very happy with the result. Before I did that, I experimented with the Nova by playing into to a few Linn power amps (couldn’t get hold of any Naim amps to demo). Decent control of speakers but loss of PRaT.

I was going to sell the Nova, but just couldn’t, so I eventually bought some Neat Iota Alphas to go with it. A remarkable pairing.


I’m in Canada like you, and I agree that Naim is not price competitive beyond the unity line. But we do have lots of other options. I use a Moon 330A connected to my Atom HE for example. Within your budget and a big step up.

2nd hand is your friend, ND5 and SN2 or 3. Job done. By sheer coincidence ine heard a SN with the Harbeths at the UK Bristol show a few years back, work brilliantly.




Yes, I am coming around to your way of thinking. Buying a non-naim power amp and using the Nova as a streamer/pre. I may even sell the Nova and purchase a Naim Atom HE. I do like The Naim streaming approach.

Lindsay M:
While used Naim products are available in Canada, they are not common and the norm is to buy at a distance, hence no audition and a lot of trust. I suspect I do want another 3 db of output so probably an amp in the 175-200 watt8 ohm range. My listening room s 49 sq. meters so on the larger side.

Acquired a NSC22 + NC250 to replace Nova. If you like Naim and you can stretch, not withstanding the fx issue, you will not be disappointed. It is a real step up from Nova, if that’s what you are after. Might not be easy to justify budget wise, but it will last what, fifteen years plus before needing any attention?
I’m not clear why you are considering swapping a Nova for an Atom?

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Luxman & Harbeth seem to make a good pairing. I was at a NY audio show and a dealer set up a L590AXII integrated driving a pair of M30.2’s and it sounded great. Lots of good integrated choices in your price range.

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I may not swap the Nova for an Atom HE, but doing so would give me a better headphone amp with comparable pre-amp/streamer capability. In both cases I would add a more powerful power amp.

Congratulations on your Nova replacement. That combination would cost $24,000 cdn here so would be a stretch too far and frankly not competitive with better solutions in my opinion.

Thanks for your thoughts. I have heard Luxman and been impressed. I have not yet heard Luxman with Harbeth. It sounds like I should.

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And that is BEFORE taxes!

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If you love the Nova and the convenience of a one-box system then rather than change it or starting to add extra boxes I would look at getting more sensitive speakers. Your Harbeth’s are only average sensitivity and maybe struggle at higher volumes in your room.

I would look at something approaching 90dB sensitivity. This will give your Nova a much easier ride and should leave plenty of headroom. In the end it depends on how much you want to hold on to your Harbeths…

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