Hi all and apologies in advance for the lengthy post! I have been wondering for some time on how to best fill an empty shelf in my Fraimlite and this weekend I had the chance to try out a couple of black boxes thanks to my kind dealer… Please follow me through this short journey and hopefully you will find it of interest. Your feedback will be highly appreciated of course!
My system is located in our living room and consists of:
- Allo Digione Signature (on RPi 3B)+ Allo Shanti
- Blue Jeans BNC cable
- Naim nDAC (middle shelf)
- Lavender DIN interconnect
- Naim SuperNAIT 2 (top shelf)
- Naim NACA5 3.5m
- Dynaudio C1 Platinum
All boxes are connected to a MusicLine “Netzleiste” for electricity and placed on a FraimLite with 4 levels (one taken by the TV). There is also a NASTY room mode at ~45Hz IIRC. A pair of GIK monster bass traps stands behind the speakers but this is mostly decorative I would say! Distance from listening position to speakers is ~2.5m and the sofa is pretty much flush with the rear wall thanks to the logistics of Belgian housing…
Here is a photo to get an idea:
I 've been wondering for some time what would be the ideal companion to this pair for the long term. As you can see going over the 3-box limit is not an option. The logic(?) says that a 555PS would be an excellent addition. At the same time, Dynaudio speakers are known to be power-hungry, so I was curious to see what a NAP 250DR would bring in the game, all else being equal. Some calls to my friendly dealer… and he very kindly provided me with the boxes for a weekend demo at home.
In goes the NAP250 (bottom shelf), with the Powerline from the 555PS providing the juice. The NAP was connected to the bi-amp out of the SN2. Straight away the difference in the sound is clear. In the words of my 5-year old son: “turbo” and “loud”! Indeed the bass was much stronger and I had to use the foam plugs of the speakers to tame it. Then the sound was more balanced, very powerful and a tad more “mature”.
I borrow the (better) ears of my better half. The difference is also clear to her, but not in a positive way, as she finds the sound too powerful and not so well controlled. (Maybe that’s why the pre-amps are called NACs after all…). She believes that it would work better in a bigger room. I (tend to) believe that it would work better with a better preamp as well.
Out goes the 250 and in goes the 555PS. In between we played a couple of tracks again with the original system to refresh our auditory memory. However I had to disassemble most of the system in order to manage the SXPS connection to the nDAC, so by the time everything was back up and running my memory was long gone. You can see below the rat’s nest behind the rack… I noticed that the rear Fraimlite leg gets marginally in the way of the Burndy by the way.
Better half comes back: Now that sounds better! At that moment my wallet started sweating as it’s usually her that guides us to the most expensive option in a purchase. After going through some “reference” songs we concluded that we could hear more details and possibly some instruments were more realistic. To be honest, however, it was not the night and day difference that I would expect. Please note here that I was using a USB stick to play ripped FLAC files directly from the DAC, to avoid any possible bottlenecks of my streaming setup.
The biggest improvement was actually by putting my TV on the side and gaining a much better imaging of the singer’s voice…
With the TV on the side, I decided to “supercharge” the lot and connect everything. Here is the Full Monty, with the 250 on the top and with a standard mains lead this time:
This combination was actually the least satisfying in my ears! I would put it down to listeners fatigue and stress of comparing stuff rather than any technical issue to be honest. I understand that the comparison should ideally be made over a longer period of time, but I would assume that the key differences would become obvious straight away.
- No black box upgrade will fix your room acoustics.
- It seems that for this room, these cloth ears and the kind of music I am listening to (far from Classical or audiophile…) the current configuration is hard to be improved significantly by a PS for the nDAC. I think I just heard a sigh of relief from my wallet!
Not so fast… the gap remains!
So… the shelf is still empty… I would still like to improve my system and make it more warm sounding, as despite my efforts over the years (Excite X36–>Confidence C1 / DacMagic100 --> nDAC / Nait XS -> SN2), the sound is usually too “in your face” and relatively fatiguing when sitting in the sweet spot. It is usually more enjoyable if I listen from a different room. …Maybe it’s the music I am listening to or there is just no hope for this room arrangement…
Anyway, there are more things I am planning to try out in my room and see if they make a difference. As long as my dealer doesn’t get pissed off!
- (REL) subwoofer: I think this would have the greatest impact on the sound and maybe help with room acoustics as well.
- Removable sound diffuser to place in front of the TV when not in use. I have tried a pair of cushions but they didn’t make any difference.
- HiCap DR: That’s an obvious thing to try and fills (half of) the empty shelf.
- ND5 XS2 instead of the Allo stuff: I will wait for the conclusions of @nbpf first! I wouldn’t expect a huge difference but at least I would have Chromecast functionality which is handy and missing from the RPi solutions.
- The ideal combination would be a Shoebox NAIM transport feeding the nDAC side by side with a HiCap… alas… nowhere to be found!
- Top up with (second-hand) cable upgrades (Powerline(s), HiLine) whenever the opportunity shows up. Then again, they will probably be wasted with my cloth ears!
That’s all folks…
Congratulations if you made it to the end! This audition has shown clearly the importance of well-balanced components and a clear end-game target to avoid getting into a spending spree with no way out!
Happy to hear your comments and any suggestions that might prove beneficial. (I am afraid that a dedicated power supply is not an option though…)