Hello! To complement a recent ND5 XS 2 (which I am very happy with), I am currently evaluating a demo Nait XS 3 to replace my old Nait 2 from 1991 (overhauled and recapped a few years ago). I was hoping
(a) to get a remote control and proper integration with the streamer,
(b) a good headphone output and
(c) an overall better sounding, fresher, more powerful amp.
(b) are ticked, I am quite happy with that. But my expectation
(c) that the Nait XS 3 would blow the vintage Nait 2 out of the water did not work out at all. I struggle to pinpoint a real difference (and an A-B comparison is an awkward exercise), but I feel tempted to say that the XS 3 sounds a bit subdued, as if there was a layer of something between me and the music. Has anyone made a similar experience, benchmarking modern kit with a 30 year old box?
I am seriously struggling to justify spending that amount of money for (a) and (b) whilst compromising on the sound. I could live without the integration and fiddle a servo thingy to operate the volume, but that doesn’t solve my headphone problem. What would you do?
Fair enough, but an additional headphone amp does increase complexity (spouse acceptance coming into play) and turns the lack of a remote volume control into, well, the lack of two volume controls. The room has one half in which I am sitting, and another one with the kit. Routing cables between these halves is very difficult for architectonic (and spouse acceptance) reasons.
Yes, jmtennapel, you are absolutely right, of course. There is a slight practical/usability difference, however, between a dangling headphone cable whilst I am listening through the headphones, and a cable between Nait and headphone amp.
So - what are your recommendations for a semi-affordable headphone amp - taking into consideration that I seem to like the vintage Naim sound?
Maybe get a pre-loved XS2 – much cheaper and thus easier to justify… Whilst the XS3 is widely considered the better amp, there doesn’t seem to be a great step-up from the XS2. I had an XS2 in the past, and thought it was a lovely piece of kit…
A Headline can be expected to outperform the headphone amp in the XS3 by a considerable margin, but you will need a power supply (the bigger, the better…) – and no remote control…
If you prefer ‘vintage’ Naim, a Nait 3R would give you remote control.
I have with an 82 vs 282. Sent the 282 for a service hoping it would change.
A Nait 3R, although gutsy, is not a Nait 2. I’ve had both and enjoyed both. The Nait 2 is the one I wish I’d kept.
Indeed, but the point I was trying to make is that the 3R likely offers a better musical performance than a modern Nait, for someone who prefers ‘vintage’ Naim., and gives remote control operation, unlike the Nait 2.
Of course, some think that the original Nait is the most musical of all…
Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and inputs. Strangely enough, nobody said anything along the lines of “get your ears checked, the modern Nait is lightyears ahead of the old one”. I counted a few remarks of the category “I wish I had kept mine”, though. So I have decided to return the Nait XS 3 and keep my trusty olive Nait 2. I will figure out a solution for a dedicated headphone amp, and one of these days, I may even finish my half-hearted attempt to have a networked, remote controlled stepper motor driving the volume potentiometer on the Nait.
Always nice to read about people who trust their own ears!
Welcome to the forum,
I currently use an AV Options rebuilt Nait 2 “olive” in my main system. Over the years I’ve tried a Nait 5i, SuperNait, and a 152/flatcap xs/155 combo thinking I can improve on the Nait 2, however, none of the above matched/surpassed the SQ of my Nait 2. I have not heard a Nait XS 3 to comment on your original question, nor have I had some of the more expensive Naim amp combos in my home because, quite frankly, they’re outside my budget, so for now I’m sticking with my Nait 2 which a thoroughly enjoy.
If I ever get the urge for a change, I’ll probably gravitate to the many great tube integrated amps I’ve heard such as Leben, Line Magnetic, Triode Labs, Rogue, Luxman, etc. These options are in my budget and share the same attributes that the Nait 2 delivers – wonderful tone/touch/texture, rhythm, momentum, overall musical cohesion. Some of the above even have remote controls and headphone outputs!
My two-cents (as we say in the States).
Good luck with your search!
(one of) my dealer(s) here in New York stocks Naim, Leben, and Line Magnetic. i think you’re on to something: tube kit and Naim seem to share some key musical virtues, though i couldn’t for the life of me explain why. recently, my dealer had a Line Magnetic integrated amp playing through some Dynaudio Special 40 speakers – good stuff.
Did the nait xs3 have a few weeks to run in ?
You could try an SN2 well set up with Powerlines and a HiCAP and it’s a great headphone amp
I think the Naits of the nineties had a much different sound, when it went from Olive to black the sound changed. The Olive Nait may produce a more dynamic sound at the expense of a more subtle sound ( in comparison ) of a SN3.
Hearing music or voices through the Nait 2 feel like there is no amplification. The sound is lightweight, agile and fast with perfect timing. You just don’t care about frequency extremes or stereo image size. It keeps you awake all the time and stirr your interest.
I thought a Naira xs3 would be just as good. Apparently still not ?
There’d be no shortage of people wanting to take that Nait2 off your hands. That, in a roundabout way, is my answer.
To conclude this: I returned the Nait XS 3, kept the Nait 2 and solved my headphone issue with a Lehmann Audio Linear headphone amp, with which I am extremely happy. The lack of remote control was eventually resolved by means of a severely over-engineered stepper motor, which drives the Nait’s volume pot via a belt.
If anyone is interested in a non-invasive volume remote for a Nait 2, please let me know, I will then make the design / DIY template available in some way.