Unfortunately, after a period of little/no use, the Arcam A28 amplifier in our main system has started blowing internal (slow blow) fuses. TBH the open baffle system I have built in our new room sounded much more engaging/natural so I had not listened to the main system much. On reflection I felt I was having to turn the volume up more than I remember so perhaps the amplifier was loosing any drive it had?
Anyway, I substituted the A28 with our Solo Movie mk2 in stereo mode and both myself and my wife were immediately struck by how much more it brought the system to life. On paper at 75wpc into 8 ohms and 120 into 4 ohms both Arcams have similar power but the Solo has much more punch, clarity, texture, cohesion and engagement though the A28 sounded more natural, spacious and less fatiguing. AFAIK the Solo Movie is related to the A29 Class G amplifier and it shows. The difference was so vast that on all the sources I tried (the Solo has a built in CD player and streaming too) it sounded like a completely different system. However, unfortunately the Solo itself has been a bit problematic and has limited inputs/no phono stage so I’m in the market for a new amplifier, hence I’m considering an XS3 or SuperNait 3 as a replacement.
The amplifier must:
have more drive than the A28 but not be fatiguing to listen to.
have a built in MM phono stage.
have pre-outs in case I configure the dual BK subwoofers at line level.
not run too hot.
be capable of playing at 85db in a room 3.5m x 7m with plenty of headroom.
not need 3.5 metres of speaker cable per side - I have just the right amount of Linn K20 (just over 2 metres) and don’t really want to have to buy more cable if I can avoid it. In the manual the SuperNait3 appears to be more particular about cable than the XS3.
a balance control would be preferable for subtle tweaks if needed but I also find them useful for fault finding.
The rest of the system consists of:
Goldring Lenco TT
Naim CDsi -
Arcam D33 DAC - very good with the top version of Tidal via a laptop.
Speakers - all floorstanders. Modified Tannoy Revolution R2 - a big, relaxed and weighty sound. Tannoy Signature Revolution DC4ts dual concentrics - more precise/clearer but sometimes a bit sharp. Piega T-60 Micro AMTs - seem to be somewhere in between the two Tannoys but also different.
Stereo BK Gemini 2 subwoofers - excellent and I wouldn’t be without them - the ability to fine tune bass response with good active subwoofers cannot be underestimated.
I think my biggest problem will be getting to hear both amplifiers at home as my local Naim dealer is 45 miles away. My local Arcam dealer also stocks Rega and Cyrus and is much closer but I would prefer a Naim model to match the CD player if I’m happy with the sound signature.
Your only option from your short list is SuperNat 3
Only the Supernait has balance control.
Both have a built in MM phono stage.
The Supernait, as are all the modern intergrateds, are very flexible with most all normal speaker cables, 2+m of Linn K20 is OK.
Many thanks - TBF ref the balance control I think not having it would be an issue for me.
Thank you for confirming ref the speaker cable - makes the decision easier.
Secondhand Supernait3s seem between £2.3k to just under £3k. To me that is a lot of money (I could not justify £4k for a new one) but I want this to be an amplifier that will last me many years, give me the performance/SQ/control/flexibility with speakers I’m striving for and provide aesthetic appeal/give me pride of owners ship when I look at it - the SuperNait just looks more ‘right’ to me than the XS3.
@AlexP - I think you’ve got it right above, but if it does come down to price I suspect you could pick up a used XS3, for half what you’d have to pay for the SN3. The XS3 buy it now prices are high, but I think auctions represent what people are generally willing to pay. Here’s what Naim say about the XS3:
The NAIT XS 3 offers much of the performance of our reference quality SUPERNAIT 3 in a simpler, slimmer package
The XS3 is lovely and feels like the premium product it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved a SN3 too, but am a very happy XS3 owner.
Many thanks for all your replies. XS3 still in the running but SuperNait3 is the favourite. There are indeed some great deals to be had at the moment. However I do need to speak to my wife about for every obvious reasons. She knows I need to do something (1st world problem) but the expenditure required to get where I want to be will be a ‘surprise.’
As I understand it moving iron and high output moving coil designs are far less affected by phono stage input capacitance. Which provides a fairly large selection of cartridges to choose from if you want to avoid all risk of an incompatibility
In my opinion this is a case of component swapping versus (matching) system building. We are now trying to insert high quality amplification in between only average sources and speakers.
If budget not allows upgrading three sources at the same time, then focus on one. Rega up from the Planar 6 level as TT, trade-in the CD player for a CD5 XS or higher, or use a quality transport (Oppo, Rega) into your DAC. Keeping the sources as is will create the need for all the measues downsteam. Naim interconnects from source to amp are fit and forget in this context and a good baseline.
On the other end, the speakers, both Tannoys have quite a weak bass and dynamic expression, so I understand the use of twin subwoofers to enhance deep slam.
At the end of decent Naim amplification (any of the slimline series), with quality sources, a used pair of Neat Motive 1s or Rega RS5s could very well replace the whole speaker/sub collection, within the same footprint, at low cost.
Linn K20 has the (sole) benefits of being flexible and compatible with vintage Naim, but the latter isn’t an issue here. Otherwise compared to NACA5 it is a very big compromise. Used pairs of NACA5 in any lenght can be found everywhere at reasonable price.
Moving from slimline XS to a version of Supernait will provide even more grip on the speakers, yet then source becomes even more critical. Perhaps use as a rule of thumb source is at least the same original price as the amp, preferably more, and build up your experience from there. A half-decent rack also goes a long way to a better sound, as does attention to the mains.
I won’t be changing the speakers. Building my own OB speakers has been a journey that goes to show the impact that passive crossovers have - IMO grip and power are required to ‘force’ the musical message through in conventional speakers - hence the Supernait.
A few years ago I listened to PMC 5:23s at a dealer and they only really started to sound that much better than my then current system when fed by an Exposure 3010S2D - the amps I tried in around the £1500 mark were not enough and it was all a little flat.
In comparison my OB system, having no passive crossovers and being fully active below the full range drivers produces a much more room filling and powerful sound than the PMCs did with the Exposure but using a lowly Arcam A18 for the full range drivers. The OB system uses 8 inch FR drivers, 2 x 8 inch mid bass drivers per side and then 2 x 15 inch 98db efficient OB drivers below that - speaker efficiency goes a long way to negating the need for big amps. Also the natural, unforced clarity in the system shows the benefits of OB.
Ok, I went from your description above, so I had missed any OB (open baffle?) in the equation. Also there it’s not just amps and speakers, sources do matter (a lot) in what you get delivered.
I’ve read here before that indeed these PMCs need a lot of amp like SN to NAP250. On the other hand, the speakers I mentioned are very efficient even with a basic amp. Just yet another aspect of getting it right alltogether.
Good luck and do keep us posted on what you end up with eventually!
It has been a real learning journey building it but also eye opening too.
As for sources, the best I have is the Arcam D33 - it was priced at a similar level to the Naim DAC when launched. Even when fed with an Arcam DV135 as transport it has greater clarity than the Naim CD5si. When fed with a good Tidal stream it’s in another league and that’s obvious with both sets of Tannoys and even more so with the Piegas - their AMT tweeter reveals a lot but is not as harsh as the titanium tweeter in the Signatures.
Just a final thought, you might like the system I had before I moved to Naim / the Nait2. It was the then top-of-the-line Rega with powerful monoblock amps. I’ve seen them used for silly low prices so easy to try out.
Look for Rega Jupiter CD / Cursa pre-amp / Exon + Exon power-amps. It works best with Rega speaker cable and interconnects. Version 3 (like Cursa3) is best, and definitely enough power. There are MM cards for the pre-amp available or installed already.
Enjoy that wonderful chair, I need something like that myself.