Without getting into possible alternatives to speakers, sources, etc., the jump from one Integrated to a better one to mid-to-high-end separates is, IMO, very drastic.
I’ve made the Naim journey over the years (separates prior to this, but I’ll leave those out) from a
5i—>XS2—>SN2—>NAC 282/NAP 250, each one with a PSU in the chain, save for the 5i, which did not wow me in the least when I had it. Moving to the XS2 was a revelation in its own right. I still to this day own it, but remember at the time how much it changed my view of music-listening through a solid-state Integrated. I then picked up a new SN2, and that also reaped massive rewards over its predecessor. I enjoyed that very much with each listening session until a recent move to the separates, adding a second HiCap-DR as well.
Each ‘upgrade’ prior to the separates was obvious to me, but in a very one-dimensional kind of way; in a hi-fi way, but it always left me wanting more. There were simply aspects to the music and instruments that were improved in some areas but lacking in others. The balance just couldn’t be had, enjoyable as it was. With the 282/250, I am astounded by the realism, weight, separation, timbre, focus and dimensionality present in pretty much every recording and genre I’ve thrown at them. The space/soundstage just fills the room when applicable, rather than just an annular area between the speakers and every so often falls outside them, in essence ruining the illusion of realism to a detrimental degree. Tough to reproduce sounds like piano and electric or upright bass strings are absolutely incredible; kick drum and the striking of skin on the snare just punches you in the breastplate; complex music mixes are so much more easily sorted out to the point that music I used to avoid or rarely listened to no matter how much I historically loved them don’t seem to break much of a sweat here, either. I’ve mentioned it before, but even my speakers have benefitted from the combination. They have such rhythm, drive, delicacy when called for and focus…like tenfold from what they were doing before. Some have said quite accurately that music now feels detached from the speakers, owning their own relative spaces. The 282/250 seem to have really brought about the best of a newfound ability in everything connected to them.
I’m attempting not to make this sound like hyperbole, because everything I’ve experienced since adding them to my listening room is true. I just didn’t know how much of a difference they would make in reality. Because, quite honestly, nearly every upgrade I’ve gone through has reared some kind of ugly letdown, leading to fatigue, frustration, boredom or wonder. I let go of those when I got my speakers, but knew they could do better. This latest combo is in the same realm, and it’s quite a feeling. Sure, I may wonder what a 252/SC/300 combo might bring, but it’s honestly something I’ve not thought about in the least. Maybe someday. Who knows? And right now I don’t care.
Good Integrated to better Integrated to better separates is entirely worth it.