XS3 vs SuperNait 3 (or alternatives): new amp needed

Indeed so, and exactly why I liked the XS3 more coming from a CB Nait 2.
(also I have efficient easy load speakers so no direct need for all that SN3 juice)

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Thanks!

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Thanks Steve. Knowing that you were using an A32 and the matched P35 is very interesting and provides me with a very useful reference point.

The Nait 2 is a little mystery to me… I’ve heard one just once, @Naim, driving a pair of DBLs! I still look for a chance to have a second audition. It must really be a FunAmp…

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Just a few more thoughts on this. First, both the XS3 and SN3 have a high input sensitivity - has this caused a problem for anyone with overdriving the preamp stage from a high output source - e.g.2V or more? One advantage of the A28 has been its very low noise floor and the ability to trim the sensitivity for each input. IIRC the manual states circa 130mv for both XS3 and SN3.

Ref the balance control, if I can live without this feature then the XS3 is back in the running. Thinking about budget, the £2.5 - £3k required for a pre-loved (hopefully) SN3 is going to be a stretch and difficult to justify with my wife (holidays/trips out etc.). However preloved XS3s appear to be circa £1600 which is considerably more ‘affordable.’

Perhaps a left field choice but, at that price level, another option is a used Superuniti - it has a lower input sensitivity according to the manual. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I assume its sonic performance will be lower than the SN3 but how would it compare with the XS3? It has some advantages over the XS3 being significantly more customisable and it includes a balance control (according to the manual - can anyone confirm this?) which would be a bonus. Yes it has an inbuilt DAC and older generation streaming platform - they are nice to have but neither of those are major things in this system as I will use continue to use the D33 as the DAC. I would need to add an external phono stage (ironically sold one not that long ago) but budget-wise they are a little cheaper than a used XS3. Is this an option worth considering or best avoided?

I think the XS3 and SN3 should both be fine with high output level sources. Here’s a link to a post from Richard referring to the ability of the older preamps being ok up to 7V

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Thank you. That makes sense. I assume it means that loudness changes quickly quite early on in the travel of the volume control?

I assume that too. Given the known sometimes variable behaviour of the volume pot used in those amps you might get a bit of imbalance if the amp volume is turned down to compensate… which would be awkward to address without a balance control!

FWIW I run a XS3 with a Chord DAC. I think the DAC’s “fixed” output is 3V, which never sounded bad to me, even if I now usually turn it down from that level when I listen. I have never noticed any imbalance with my XS3, at any volume.

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This dates back to the time when Naim preamps were designed to work with turntables, and they continued to use their preferred Alps volume pots for many years after CDs, and then streamers, became popular. This made the volume controls awkward to use, especially at lower volumes and with sensitive speakers.
When Naim started to make all-in-one boxes (Uniti and NAC-N) they used different volume controls that were still analogue, but had a much better useable range. The control used in the Superuniti (and 272) was particularly well done and was great to use. The XS3 and SN3 are the last products in their range to use those Alps Blue Velvet pots, and I for one am glad to see the back of them.

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That makes sense. Looking through the specifications for the Superuniti I did notice that the input sensitivity is very different - 275 mV which is much more inline with that of the FMJ Arcam amplifiers - IIRC they are circa 250mV.

The sources I will use are:
CD5si
D33
Goldring Lenco GL75.
I think both the CD5si and D33 have a max output of circa 2.1volts.

Many thanks. IIRC the Chord has adjustable output from 1v to 3v, though I might be getting that mixed up with the Mojo. On older Arcam amplifiers (Alpha range - circa 150 mV sensitivity) I used to use in-line attenuators with my Alpha 5CDP - this resulted in a lower noise floor and cleaner sound, though possibly at the expense of some drive to the music. It is useful to know that you have not had an issue with 3v into the XS3 though.

Yep, exactly that. You can turn the Hugo (and Mojo I think) on in “line level” mode, the volume control is still active and I do usually turn it down to the “Simon in Suffolk” recommended blue/turquoise level. But I tried it again this morning in the default settings

Here’s the associated XS3 volume setting. It’s maybe playing a little louder than I might normally listen here, but not much.

And the sound pressure app (OMD Bauhaus Staircase playing!)

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I’m a big fan of my XS3. In terms of upgrades since my NAIT3 & CD5/Systemdek days, the top two were very easily adding the Hugo and Technics SL. The XS3 is lovely but it didn’t “blow my NAIT 3 out of the water”. I’m sure the SN3 would be an upgrade but I’m not sure I’d expect fireworks. I’m trying to say the XS3 is very very good, and allowed the source improvements to shine through very brightly.

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According to the Arcam website, your A28 did 75 WPC into 8 Ohms (both channels), 130 WPC into 4 Ohms (one channel driven!?)

XS3 70 WPC into 8, 100 into 4
SN3 80 WPC into 8, 130 into 4
SU 80 WPC into 8, 120 into 4

The SN3 looks the better option for pure power handling, though I don’t know the significance of Arcam only quoting the power output into 4 Ohms for a single driven channel. Nor do I actually know if Naim are quoting one or two driven channels in their specs… (for the SU they do specify it is both channels driven)

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Supernait 3 enjoyed here no complaints about power requirements and plenty of headroom.
Can’t think of needing any more in a domestic environment.
Matched up with a CD5si CDP and a Klimax Lp12 at Kandid level. :+1:t2:

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Yes, for some reason Arcam quote the 4ohm figure as a single channel. Interestingly the Solo Movie 5.1 MK2 is measured at 75wpc 8ohm/120wpc into 4ohm in 2 channel mode but it has significantly more ‘presence’ and bass control than the A28.

Regarding the Naim XS3 and SN3 I have found measurements in a Polish publication which seem reliable. On their test samples they measured:

XS3 - 85wpc 8ohms (both channels), 134wpc 4 ohms (single channel) and 128wpc/4 ohms both channels driven.
SN3 - 97wpc 8ohms (both channels), 97wpc 8 ohms (single channel), 142wpc/4 ohms both channels, 149wpc single channel.
For reference/out of interest they also tested the 5si, XS2 and SN2 when the 40th anniversary amps were released. Always into 2 channels they measured:
5si - 70wpc 8ohms/104wpc 4ohms
XS2 - 70wpc 8ohms/112wpc 4ohms
SN2 - 97wpc 8ohms/138wpc 4 ohms.
Therefore ref power the difference between XS3 and SN3 is considerably less than between XS2 and SN2. Interestingly when all 3 40th anniversary amps were tested the 5si had the lowest noise floor and widest bandwidth by some margin. The XS3 was improved over the XS2 (though not as good as the 5si) and the SN3 wasn’t much different from the SN2. My take-away from this is that measurements are important (handy to know real-world power) but that they don’t tell the whole story.

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I’d never consider the watt specs really.
Usually Naim watt are very conservative.
A Olive 70W Nap 250 trounch most 250W amps

As an example I did a compare with a friends 200W Rotel poweramp vs my Nap 140 which is something like 45-50W.
We were shocked and the friends face looked to be in panic.
The little Naim amp was preferred in every way.
Its been years but changed my way of looking at specs (I hardly do)

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That’s interesting, there were a few a threads recently (Naim watts…again…) about “Naim Watts” and the level of distortion used in the power figures quoted by Naim, 0.1% according to 110db if I remember correctly from another thread. I’m sure that’s the reason for the XS3 numbers you quote from that other review being higher than those quoted by Naim, and thus much closer to the Arcam. The old phrase “Naim Watts” certainly seems to be applicable, also as @PerF alludes to.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to take this into the numbers so much. I suspect a XS3 would be fine, I also suspect the SN3 would be finer with the added advantage of having a balance control. Good luck making your decision, is any of this helping!? Any closer to knowing what you’ll do? :slight_smile:

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As I’m happy somebody buy new kit, then s/h kit are wider available for many of us.
Mind you an early XS often seen at less than half price new, same with SN2.
Makes you wonder if people should more often consider these options, as there’s not that much between amp generations looking at how much you need to pay more new.

If I think back I’ve had more Naim kit than I can remember, I do however know I’ve only purchased new twice.
A Nait 2 back then and lately a Nait 50.

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Nait 2’s little 18 watts sounded a lot more engaging than the big Rega monoblocs I had at the time. With efficient speakers, but still, that’s why I switched. Every time I upgraded the source the amp filled the room even more. Just to say “Naim watts” is a thing :slight_smile:

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