What a strange journey

My Supernait 3 arrived today, and is currently breaking in on a wide range of music. It sounds unexpectedly fabulous right out of the gate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started on down this path 3 years ago after buying a pair of Focal Sopra 2s. I’d heard their predecessors at a shop in Chicago and fallen in love. My Thiel’s weren’t cutting it, so I sold them and bought the Sopras to go with my McIntosh integrated (which had replaced some awful amplification from Wyred4Sound).

That spring, I was at Axpona and swung by the Focal room to see what else they had to show, and that’s when I saw the Naim Nova, months before it’s commercial release. It sounded great, in a totally different room, driving a bookshelf version of my speakers, and I thought hmmm…

That brought me to this forum, where I asked if I should get the Nova, or separates, or go half-way with a 272 and power amp? A certain flat fish we all know and love pushed hard for the 272, but many others insisted the 282 was better. Of course the 252 is better than that. And we all know the 552 is where you really want to be. And… Yes, you know how this forum works.

I flew to Oxford on business, and emailed two dealerships in advance to audition 272 and 300. I had already decided the madness of five (five!!!) boxes for a 282 preamp was not for me (1 for the preamp, 1 for the Hicap, 1 for the NAPSC, 1 for the phono stage, and 1 for the headphone). The first dealership had nothing ready, they just wanted to sell me a Devialet (garbage to my ears). The second was much better. I really liked the 300, but was a bit underwhelmed by the naked 272, plus it was already old tech compared to the Nova. That night in my hotel (Oxford Parsonage - highly recommended!), I found a good deal on a Classe Sigma SSP preamp, done! I bought the 300 the next day, and when it arrived at my Oxford address, I forwarded it to the US. Half price from US prices, not bad.

I lived happily this way for a year and a half, waiting for an updated 272, and then Naim released the NDX2. Having read the manual carefully, I saw that I could connect it directly into my 300 and voila! No need for a preamp. I sold my Classe, bought the NDX2, and prepared for audio nirvana… only to be terribly disappointed. Denizens of this forum (including one Mr. Dane - what does he know?!) warned me I needed a preamp, but I just figured audiophiles say you “need” all sorts of things you don’t need at all (e.g. directional speaker wire, thousand dollar ethernet cable, etc, etc). Alas, the denizens were right. The NDX2 sounded awful going directly into the 300.

Preamp time. I already had a source, a new 272 was nowhere to be seen, and it was obvious I needed something betwixt source and power amp. 202, I thought, but no they told me! That’s a missmatch. 282 then? Well, you really want a 252. And a Supercap. But I may want a turntable? Then you’ll need a box for that. How about headphones? Another box. So either 5 boxes for a 282 and feel like a cheapskate, or four for a 252 (and a lot more money!)? Either way, I’ll always be thinking of the 552…

No! So I followed a certain Gallic chicken into vacuum pre nirvana. PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium Preamp arrived and worked wonderfully! For 3 months. Then a tube went. Replacement tube lasted 1 month. Replacement for that replacement lasted for 2 months. Then I lost the left channel. Return period over, I was stuck with an unreliable pain in the neck. Busy at work, I didn’t have time to play fix-the-stereo so I stopped listening to music.

This brings me to December of '19. On vacation I vowed to sort out my system. Debugging revealed that I was wrong, the preamp was fine for once. It was my NDX2 that had lost the left channel. So I sent it in to replace a bad relay. But I still didn’t want to muck with finicky tubes anymore. And I wanted a turntable to go on the shelf currently occupied by the enormous tube amp. Still no 272.

But the new Supernait 3 had come out! It has a phono stage, power supply, pre, power, and headphone in one box! The review on HiFi Critic (which I trust, base on experience) is glowing. I find a brand-new unopened unit at a steep discount from UK retail. Bought. Shipped. Delivered. Converted to 120V.

Which brings me full circle to listening to it right now as it breaks in. It really is wonderful, already. Instead of seven boxes (five for the 282 and two for the 300) I have one. Just one. Instead of 3 boxes (one for the primaluna and two for the 300) I have one, and it has a phono stage and a headphone amp!

Sound comparison? Well I’ve never heard the 282 into 300 so I don’t know, but I don’t want a seven box system so I’ll pass on hearing it. What about the Primaluna into 300? The Supernait is better.

The Naim faithful will be nodding their heads now, muttering about synergies and so on. Some may find my old threads and point out that they had told me so! They had. Synergy apparently matters a lot more than I presumed. I really should listen better.

The Supernait doesn’t have quite the bass of the Primaluna and 300 (which was better than the McIntosh and Classe preamps into the 300 in every respect). It’s maybe not quite as good at huge orchestral passages, though that may evolve during break in. But the Supernait is more, how shall I say, delicate? I hate audiophile descriptions. But it’s more touching, emotional if you will. From the female vocals to Johnny Cash. From Mozart’s Requiem to Dvorak’s Piano Quintet (81-Richter). It’s just marvelous.

I can only imagine what a fully specced out 282 and 300 would have sounded like, but I’m happy to not find out. This is all the amplifier I need. Of course I’ve said that before, but I mean it this time!

With the money made by selling Primaluna and 300, I bought the Supernait, and a VPI Super Prime Scout turntable which arrives on Wednesday. And I put some cash in my pocket for LPs, Digital Downloads, and maybe a HicapDR… No!!! No more upgrades.

What a journey. Sorry for the long ramble, but I figure we’re all trapped in our houses so hopefully it was at least interesting.

The moral of the story? Some denizens of this forum are right more often than I care to admit (though not about freaking wires!). Naim makes the best audio kit (kit? I’m starting to sound English!), I’ve ever heard. At every price point. And finally, climbing down the ladder and off the upgrade train is much easier than I had thought. Thank you Naim.

Now that I’m happy, I expect the 272 successor will be announced tomorrow, but I’ve moved on. And I’m delighted. Again, thank you for the NDX2, the Supernait 3, and the combo of the two. Naim earns every penny.
—Pedro

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Interesting read and quite the journey you’ve found yourself on there!
I’ve recently moved from a SN2 to a SN3 in my home office setup, with a little unexpected bandwidth these past days I’ve taken the time to set it up and then stop and take it all apart and start again.
Had an initial listen last night then another session now with it being rebuilt and speakers moved around half a dozen times with some toe in applied.
Enjoying the SN3 off the bat and looking forward to what lies ahead.
I do have a HiCap DR but due to ending up a Fraim level short (order went wobbly then lock down) I’m running the SN3 naked and impressed with what it’s doing compared to the SN2 it replaces.
I have an ND5 XS2 but aim to swap in an NDX2 down the road, aim being a 4 box setup with a Turntable on top for dipping in and out of my
vinyl library.

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Late night listening to Sibelius No 1 & En Saga (CD) on headphones via SN3 (& Headline for the extra oomph). I’m sold.
I’m absolutely sure a 28(7/5)2 and a 250DR would indeed sound glorious. But I no longer care… :smile:

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Sounds like we’re on a similar trajectory @Mr.M , though you got there a lot faster! Enjoy your system, and please let me know your thoughts on the HiCap when you add it to the SN3. I’m curious, though I shouldn’t be.

Neither do I @steviebee . Haven’t tried the headphone amp yet. It’s late, I may go do that now.

Edit: listening to headphones now. Mr. Speakers Ether C Flow that I bought at Axpona last year from the man himself. With crossfade turned on in Roon, they’re really wonderful! I’d say this is the best I’ve ever heard them but this is the only time I’ve driven them with anything better than an Audioquest Dragonfly Red. Certainly SN3 is much better.

This is also the first time I’ve found a use for Roon DSP. Previously I tried room correction and hated it. In the end I’ve always left DSP turned off. But with headphones, crossfade makes a huge difference.

Very happy Supernait owner.

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Excellent result, well done. It’s a great combo and you can always squeeze a bit more with power supplies, Powerlines and cables if the urge comes.

Sometimes I can’t resist poking people who praise cables, but your comments about the SL interconnect between SN3 and NDX2 in another thread have me wondering…

When I bought the headphones I’m listening to right now (Dan Clark Audio’s Ether C Flow), he asked me if I wanted the default cable, or the upgraded silver plated OFHC copper cable. I told him flat out, I don’t believe in silly wire nonsense. He smiled, sat me down, and handed me both cables to AB at my leisure. I sat at Axpona for over an hour going back and forth. In the end I paid $300 more for the silver plated cable. What can I say? They sounded better. Doesn’t make any sense, but there it is.

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@perizoqui, since you are in the US, like me I’d suggest that you check out The Cable Co. They have demo cables for the more than 50 brands they carry. Best way to buy cables is to try them in your system. You’ll be really surprised how much more is lurking in your system!

Never say never,I added HicapDR,superb ,for what amounts to little outlay!

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as an SN2 owner - the Hicap DR idea always piques my interest…

but i ask myself - many of the members dont use a subwoofer - i use an 18 inch one - so if the central point of a Hicap DR is more bass control then maybe a minidsp might be a direction to look at.

But thats a specific case for myself.

but in any case from @Mr.M @perizoqui will look forward to your impressions…

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congratulations on a well laid out system @perizoqui

I thought the Focal Sopra No 2 was a standmount but i am wrong

in which case my gut feel tells me you might try a Hicap DR sometime later.

But i must tell you if the music sounds good in your room and there are no urges anymore to upgrade - thats the real satisfaction.

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Lovely story, but a bit like planning a vacation, I can’t help wondering if the journey is as important as the destination. Do audiophiles actually ever reach their destination?

Absolutely. For a month or two. Then the panic starts and you like “Oh well, here we go again”. No arguing.

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Indeed, audiophilia nervosa has no cure I’m afraid.

Thanks @opus, I bought something from them before, can’t remember what now. They don’t sell Naim interconnects unfortunately.

That’s what I was thinking @anon93526344 . I’m pretty ecstatic right now. Maybe in the fall, or next year, when I get the itch to make changes for the sake of making changes, that’ll be the time to tinker. This week, I’m watching FedEx, as they drive my new turntable from LA to the midwest!

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I’ve had the HCDR connected to the SN3 for awhile now (I had a spare HC lol) - IIRC, it brought some benefit to the overall presentation, bass seemed cleaner, more defined, just seemed to ‘shape up’ the SQ generally. Since adding it, I’ve not really considered trying the SN3 w/out it, tbh…maybe I should!

Hope I have reached my destination @anon64018693, but in this case the journey has made me much more appreciative of the destination. If there was a number that quantified the goodness of a system by the ratio of it’s excellence to the sum of its cost and complexity, this would be the highest scoring system I’ve ever had. I only know that because there have been others.

@steviebee I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts if you did try the SN3 without your HiCap. Sometimes I think the main fault amongst audiophiles is in overstating the benefits of modifications. For example the sliver-plated cables I bought for my headphones (see my previous coment on this thread) was better than the default cable. But! I could only tell by ABing them carefully for an hour. Is that change worth $300? Probably not, but I did it anyway because I was excited to hear any change at all!

Burn-in with electronics has been like this. A definite, but subtle, improvement. If a new system sounds like crap, it is crap. In my experience anyway.

I expect adding a HiCap, or XPS, or better wiring would improve things, and I may end up doing so because I’m an audiophool like the rest, but the improvements will be subtle, not “massive” or “night and day” or anything else. Still, we’ll find out… maybe.

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Yes, I would not describe HCDR with SN3 as night and day… it’s an unhelpful term to be sure. However, some things…the HiLine IC on my CD2 was quite impressive!

Your thoughts are scientific and yet you recognize audiophoolia as a reasonable trait…

May this tribe increase…

Not sure if a “trait” or a disorder :grin:

But in these quarantined times, maybe embracing a little insanity is the sane thing to do.

Waking up (at 10AM, I know - blame the quarantine), to Bach’s flute sonatas played by Andrea Olivia and Angela Hewitt, and thinking back to my Primaluna and 300, and the comments I made last night to kick off this thread. Wind instruments is an area where the new setup is clearly better than the old. Female vocals as well. So the highs are better then. Mids are similar. Bass is a bit softer, but I’m not sure that I care much.

Another thing I noticed last night, watching a movie from the 90s with the kids (Bodyguard with Whitney Houston - don’t judge me!), is that the new system is less forgiving. Garbage in = garbage out (the sound effects, not Whitney’s voice which is fabulous). Whereas the Primaluna in particular (compared to Classe and McIntosh preamps that preceeded it), used to make everything sound a little better.

A pic or 2 are in order on the system pics thread … :grinning: