Where next and how much?

Bought my first Naim kit in late 2019 having admired the brand as a teenager reading What HiFi in the 1990s. Back then I could only afford Sony separates on a 3-tier Apollo Aria glass shelved rack, driving bi-wired Mordant Short 20i Pearls on Atacama sand-filled stands. The CD player eventually stopped working giving me the excuse to change up.

In late 2019 I became the proud owner of a (new) fairly recently released ND5 XS2 streamer, CD5si CD player and Nait XS3 amp. worth about £6.4K in total replacing less than £1K of Sony kit (CD, amp and tuner) ignoring inflation; quite a leap. The Apollo rack, QED Silver Anniversary bi-wire speaker cable with gold banana plugs and the Atacamas are still present, as are the Mordant Shorts!

Clearly the weak link is now the speakers, which I am looking to replace. But my immediate dilemma is not what to consider/audition but how to shortlist and at what price point before even making that list.

The considerations appear to be as follows:

This is not a dedicated listening room but a working lounge / diner with usual domestic hard and soft furnishings. I am never going to chase higher and higher upgrades which these new speakers will need to match in the future. I have no need for a Fraim with only 3 items and no plans to look at offboard DAC or power supplies etc. Ditto bespoke mains. A perfect symmetrical listening position is infeasible. I am sentimental about the Atacamas and so would prefer stand-mounters and prefer that aethstetic. I am not a fan of “chop and change” (the Sony kit was over 20 years old) so this is possibly about to become my forever set-up. I listen very loud only occasionally.

My objective is partly to know my system is delivering best SQ reasonably obtainable at modest volumes with those physical constraints. My own hearing will become the weakest link eventually.

My Naim dealer has recommended that I audition (i) Neat Iota Alpha (which I might consider ditching my Atacamas for due to the visible space saving), (ii) ATC SCM11 or (iii) 19, (iv) Neat Petite Classic or (v) Moon Voice 22. I see that the KEF R3 Meta have just done well in the What Hifi awards. Any others?

And then do I upgrade the speaker cable?

I seem to recall a rule of thumb of 10% accessories (cables, stands, rack) to actual electronics, but is there a corresponding rule of thumb for speakers? Matching the price of the amp feels about sensible but I’d go quite a bit higher if I felt I’d notice a difference. This is to enable shortlisting and auditioning.

Musical taste is largely standard BBC Radio 2 / Radio 6 fare and rock/indie/metal CDs from my youth (80s/90s) with the occasional bit of dance / rap also.

In addition to the speaker spend question, I’d be interested to know if anything else merits attention because my preconceptions are outdated or simply wrong. Am I foolish to prefer stand mounted speakers over floor-standers?

Never liked this, try naca5.
You should include pmc and proac bookshelf speakers.

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Before thinking about speakers, you should be aware that biwiring is really not suitable for Naim. I’d suggest that an immediate step is just to use half of the cables.

I’d also reconsider both the rack and the dedicated mains. Both make a very worthwhile difference. A basic Quadraspire bamboo rack should be much better than the glass and steel Apollo, and decent mains should free up the sound and let the electronics work at their best.

As for speakers, I wouldn’t go mad. I’ve been very pleased with my PMC twenty5.21i. They benefit from their bespoke stands, which also match visually. Your Atacamas are very good and should work well with lots of stsndmounts. I’d suggest that the ATC 11 is on the borderline of what your Nait will drive. I’d forget the 19. ProAc make some fine stand mount speakers and are worth looking at. Naim’s NACA5 is an obvious choice. Kudos KS-1 is excellent, and of Chord have more cable options than many have pairs of socks.


Hi Anton

Speaker aesthetics are very personal. If your preference is to stand mounts, there are many out there that will work in your system.
I recently listened to a pair of PMC Prodigy 1’s attached to an Anniversary Nait 50 and found them to be excellent.
Do you have a good dealer that will let you home demo products?
Two pieces of advice you might find useful:
*Hearing speakers in your own space is so important, as I found to my cost recently.
*Take your time and enjoy the process.
Good luck

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Is the bottom end important to you? Do you aim for accuracy in presentation? Or do you prefer the system to mould the music, for example making it more “exciting”? These are factors that may steer your choice.

For me, since I first heard proper deep bass there was no way I could be satisfied with a system that diminished or cut off the lowest notes., though of course not all music goes low. Unfortunately if you do like the bottom end, it dictates that speakers will be relatively large, and, when done well, a lot more costly than speakers that limit the bass. In terms of budget, as a rather crude generalisation, with speakers the more the better and I would very much advocate going secondhand or ex-demo to maximise your buying power. (Speakers last for decades unless abused, and they don’t wear out like, say, a car, so if they sound good you don’t really have to worry how they they might have been treated in the past, and s few years would make no difference to sound but a sizeable difference in purchase cost.)

Unless you have a very small room the only real limitations with speakers are whether they will fit in your room, physically and with whatever aesthetic limitations you might have, and whether your amp is capable enough to control them. The last point really can be determined by listening – do they sound right? (Always audition with the amp you’re going to use.) Better amps will always make the speaker sing even better, but it’s a matter of whether what you have will give you satisfaction for as many years as you want. “Source first” believers would say otherwise, but I think it is not unreasonable for the value of the speakers to be as much as the rest of the system put together, maybe even more, at least until you reach a pretty high-level. Of course, If having a good bottom end isn’t important to you then you can compromise a lot more on speaker cost.

If you really have no idea where to start, then as well as doing what you’re doing asking questions on this forum, go to several different dealers (don’t just pick one) speak to them explain what you like, Ann arrange of things that they have within your budget. Once you have heard maybe a dozen or different speakers you will be in a much better position to be able to focus on the type of speaker, or even specific speaker that you would like. I would certainly add PMC to your list of brands to audition, as high up the ranges as your budget and any physical/aesthetic constraints allow.

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Thanks HungryHalibut. The cables are together at the amp end but bi-wired at the speaker end, not least because after 20+ years and various movesvI’ve lost track of where the metal jumper bars for the speakers are!

How much do you call “going mad” financially in my modest (by Naim standards) scenario?

Presumably all other tweaks would be after replacing the Mordant Shorts, not before, yes? I perceive them to be the weakest link currently, even if what I am feeding them could always be improved.

Thanks QuickSticks. Yes to good dealer (IMHO but not a long relationship or many purchases, just my current Naim kit and the recommendations I listed) and also home demo, but a few rather than a dozen pairs, hence my dilemma.

You really shouldn’t be biwiring, which is what you are doing. Use just one connection at the speaker end, plus jumpers to link the terminals.

I’ve never spent huge sums on speakers, and in the context of your setup I’d agree with your thoughts of not spending more on them than the cost of your amplifier. But if you find something that costs a bit more but you like them much more, don’t let any arbitrary figures rule them out.

The most important thing is to find something that works in your room, which means it’s important to be able to try them at home first. Make sure any speakers you trial are nicely run in, as they can change significantly over the first few weeks.

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Thanks Innocent_Bystander, lots for me to consider there. On balance I am probably not in the market for concert level chest vibrating amounts of bass or the size of cabinets required to produce that amount. Detail and musicality is more important, within the constraints mentioned and at modest volumes, mostly. Indeed, repeated mention of detail (over say smoothness associated with other brands) was what attracted me to the Naim brand from the reviews in What Hifi back in the 1990s.

With regard to speakers, I suggest seeking out deals with your favourite dealers; eg ex-demo, end of line, last year’s model, discontinued finish, etc. which I’ve found to be available often discounted 25-50%+.

Of course, don’t be tempted by models beyond your system’s capabilities unless you plan to upgrade source/amplification further at a later date and, as always, a (home) audition is preferable, almost essential.

Good luck in your quest,


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Thanks Osiris. I was viewing current retail price as a way of narrowing the field - fix a budget that is sensible alongside my current Naim kit (and its capabilities) and shortlist around that. It feels like there is too much choice to know where to begin otherwise. Part of the issue is probably that I have only heard my current, modest speakers for the last 20+ years and I have only ever heard my Naim kit through them, which is my second ever separates system!

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Your speakers (and the room they are in) will be far and away the most decisive factor in determining how your system sounds. I would suggest forgetting cables, electronic upgrades or mains wiring, until you have the speakers sorted.

You mention the KEF R3 Meta, which I have had for a few weeks now. I am very impressed, these are very revealing, especially in the mid tones where vocals can sometimes get lost. And they look very nice as well. They have decent sensitivity and should be a good match to your amplifier. KEF also make the LS50 Meta which is a little smaller than the R3 and would also be a good match for your system. Both of these speakers can be supplemented by a very compact subwoofer if the deep base is important. You really need to listen of course.


With your system I would go with standard NACA5 cables, no bi wiring. Keep it simple. Get a good rack for the boxes. Speakers are very personal choice. If you want stand mounted speakers then go for it. I have gone for floor standers for many years now. They take up the same amount of space and produce an overall better bass.

Not in all cases and stand mount speakers can be better. Get a demonstration if you can. ATC speakers are good. I like Focal. But there are so many brands all with different sounds. The right speakers change the sound.

If you want more neutral stand mounters then LS3 5A are popular. Now made by many companies such as Graham Audio, Falcon and Rogers.

My personal view is get some Focal Aria 926 or 936 speakers. I have 936s in conservatory and Sopra 2s in the lounge. I have a switch so I can listen to main system in both rooms with speaker cable running from switch to conservatory.

Speaker choice is hugely personal. Check out by listening.


Indeed that was what I was suggesting, stick to your planned budget, but look around for what might be deemed ‘a bit better’ for the same budget, being careful not to over cook the system as a whole.

It’s tricky and perhaps (over) complicated, but from personal experience there are great outcomes to be had with patience and a bit of luck :smirk:.


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When I read your post and relaxed description of your preferences regarding system, room, style of listening, music preferences and overall attitude, for some reason a pair of JBL L100 emerged in front of me … ok, not quite cheap or small necessarily but may be something similar in attitude to life - as I remember it - great rhythm, pace and a relaxed musicality at any and low volume level, almost from any listening position, anywhere in the room and not a care in the world about unimportant stuff.

Before sorting out the speakers I would not spend any money at all on cables, mains and all that at this point but rather invest in the speakers. Given the rest of the system I would personally not go for ATC or e.g. Dynaudio? If you don’t mind bright and less engaging, Focals can probably do the music you mention? BBC monitors or similar probably not quite the fit in terms of your general music preferences? If you like standmounts or smaller speakers, may be PMC or ProAc?
Wishing you fun in the process.

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The volume control is your friend! Its about depth of bass, and correct balance relative to the rest of the music, not reduced or missing, and nothing to do with absolute sound level… And achieving that as well as clarity, detail, delicacy when needed etc is when speakers get expensive. But indeed not everyone is bothered about lowest octaves, some maybe don’t even like to hear them, which is fine for them.

If you want clarity and detail, together with accuracy, one area to look is those originating as monitor speakers, with names like ATC and PMC.

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Thanks Cephas. Not keen on having a sub and adding yet more boxes/choices, but I will definitely defer the accessories until after I have speakers in keeping with the electronics. There is no shortage of choices!

Thanks again I_B. I guess I want it to sound as the recording artist intended it to sound, but I appreciate that is the holy grail with money no object to get studio quality reproduction and acoustics. I know I am not in that ball park. But more fundamentally, I don’t want parts obviously missing or exaggerated, however I seldom encounter anything lower than a bass guitar or double bass, rather than a church organ or full orchestra. More useful food for thought.

Neats are a match made in heaven with Naim gear so I don’t think you’ll want to give the Iota Alphas back after demoing. Many on here can attest that Neat pairs extremely well with Naim kit.

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Thanks garcon. I will research the JBLs. I do like hearing the detail in music so perhaps I am not so relaxed after all! Indeed, it is becoming clear that I am not really sure what I am after sonically.

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