Best "laid-back" speaker cable & interconnects for all Naim system?


Looking for suggestions on speaker cable and interconnects that are both laid-back and warm, but have excellent low bass response, depth and punch.

Just got a used Nait 5i (with NACA5’s) and have been listening over the past week. Rest of my gear is a Naim CD3.5 and Vandersteen 2C’s.

OMG, are these NACA5’s harsh and flat or what! Anyone else experience this? I think I have all mids and nothing in the highs and lows. No don’t get me wrong, there is some bass punch, but not like my previous Creek 5350SE and 4330SE.

To balance everything out, I either need to resell the Nait and get an integrated that is more laid-back with excellent low bass response and punch (like the 4330SE... yes, I miss her) or try and find the equivalent in speaker cables and interconnects? If that is even possible? 
jsbach1685
" To balance everything out, I either need to resell the Nait and get an integrated that is more laid-back with excellent low bass response and punch (like the 4330SE... yes, I miss her) or try and find the equivalent in speaker cables and interconnects? If that is even possible? "

I had the 5350SE and the 5i. Also have Vandersteen Models 1, 2 and 3's. The problem is the 5i. Its just not good enough for Vandersteen's. It doesn't produce clean power. Your Creek was a much better amp.

For now, if you back off on the tweeter 1db and run 2 sets of identical speaker cables and double biwire, that should make it more listenable. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, a small spool of Monster or AQ should be fine. Eventually, it would probably be best to switch to higher quality solid core cables, but not now because cables won't overcome the Naim's weaknesses.
If sfall is correct about the Nait amp, then adding cables is the wrong approach. The Nait produces 50wpc, but it may not have the current required to drive the Vandersteen's. That means it's not a good match for these speakers.
Care to weigh in,  sfall?
I don't think wattage is the problem. The 4330SE I had prior was 50wpc too and it was plenty for the Vandys. The 5i is plenty loud and clean... the problem is that it doesn't balance right (to my ears) with the rest of my gear. 

What interconnects and power cable are you using. Based on internal pics of your equipment, the Nait5 might be a higher-resolution device, where the Creek might be slower/warmer. I cannot state that for sure since I haven’t heard either equipment, but it’s an assumption based on the circuit designs (Nait5 appears to use a lot of SMD type bipolar devices, which are faster and quicker with higher resolution).

As far as NACA5 is concerned, it appears to be stranded copper speaker wire. The strands are large gauge and the speaker wire is very stiff. Not sure if you will be able to get warmer/softer, but fine stranded 12awg (like monster) may help.

As far as interconnect, the Wire World Eclipse 7 will probably do what you want (unless you already have something similar). The Eclipse is somewhat on the soft side, but it has all the bass/midbass impact and all the details are there. System synergy can be a factor here as well.

But sfall is probably right as he has direct experience with all related equipment.

NAIM is synonymous with toe-tapping "in your face" presentation.
Wireworld, especially the mid grades as opposed to top.

Best,

E
Wireworld Eclipse ..the all copper ones.
Here are several suggestions;
I know that Vandersteen recommends biwiring their speakers, so perhaps that would provide a more even frequency response.
 I don't know what your cable budget is, but Purist Audio cables are laid back with a smooth top end.
Also, are you using any room treatments? Absorbion and diffusion are necessary to remove any standing waves and smooth out the highs.

Last item; try posting this question on the Naim owners forum... 
http://forums.naimaudio.com/forum/hi-fi-corner
At one time NAIT's were unstable using other brands of speaker wire. Check with NAIM first!
" At one time NAIT's were unstable using other brands of speaker wire. Check with NAIM first! "

He is using Naim cables. On the same amp the OP has I tried: AQ, Kimber, Tara, Synergistic, Harmonic and Cardas speaker cables. Its also interesting to note that when I tried AQ Cheetah and Panther (identical cables except one is silver and the other is copper), I couldn't tell the difference. It was the only time I couldn't hear a difference between copper and silver.

I didn't think it was relevant, but since you brought comparability, a while back I went to a Naim dealer to audition some new gear, and brought some of my components and a bunch of AQ cables because I didn't know what the dealer would have, and it was a long drive. The store owner asked if he could try some of my AQ cables, and of course I said OK. It was Saturday, and after the owner played around with my cables, he said he was picking up the line first thing Monday morning.

So given all that, I doubt there will be any compatibility issues. But I also stand by my original statement in that new cables won't be enough to fix the problem. 
5i owner's manual states naim cables sound best, but you can use a wide range of cables without causing damage to the amp. 
I have a Naim 5i mkII - and the best commercially available cables I have reviewed comes from KLE Innovations (KLEI).

The gZero3 IC is very good starting point for the price, but what I consider their "best value" is the gZero20 IC (which I settled on) - superb detailing, bass, image and clarity

I currently have the gZero2 speaker cables on my AV system connected to a Blusound Powernode 2 and they sound superb - with a sub
http://image99.net/blog/files/category-klei-gzero2-sc.html

On my audio system (Naim) I use the gZero6 speaker cables because they provide much more depth and bass control than the gZero2’s did
http://image99.net/blog/files/category-klei-gzero6-sc.html

My speakers are Gershman Sonogram’s - a full range floor standing unit

The KLEI TOTL models are expensive and as always, you get diminishing returns, but they also offer improvements over the gZero20 IC’s and gZero6 SC’s - it is just more difficult to discern improvements and justify the additional expense - i.e. for me

You can read my KLEI reviews here (see menu on the left side of the screen)...
http://image99.net/blog/index.html

The reviews are also posted on the KLEI site along with reviews from other people.
https://kleinnovations.com/category/reviews/

Please Note: I am NOT a professional reviewer and I completed that many reviews simply because as I received each subsequent product I could hear improvements right off the bat - my curiosity got the better of me :-)

But as you will see - other reviewers also seem to agree with my findings.

I have tried several different cables from a few brands and the KLEI cables are the best I’ve tried, not only with my Naim but also on a much more expensive Arye system.

Ayre amps also has an issue with high capacitance speaker cables, but the KLE products provided no hint of those issues - just clean, dynamic sound.

The only negative thing about the KLEI products
- they require a long burn-in period to sound their best - from new, upwards of 400 hours.
- they also require about 20 hours re-seating time, so even just moving a cable between components requires time for them to be at their best.

However, their best is pretty amazing!

KLEI also offers power cables, which I have not tried - Yet :-)

But based on their other products - they are probably very good also.

BTW - good power cables make a huge difference to the SQ on Naim amps - their stock cables are better than most, but still leave a lot to be desired

Regards, Steve







As I recall, unlike the other Naim amps, the Nait will work with any cables because of the built in zobel network, or something to that effect.  That aside, as a former Naim junkie, IMO the cables are not your problem.  If the sound is that objectionable, you need to change the amp.  
That aside, as a former Naim junkie, IMO the cables are not your problem.  If the sound is that objectionable, you need to change the amp.
Bad synergy between amp and speakers. That's why you should ask at Naim owners forum.
chayro,

I agree... I think the issue is the amp. It wasn't an issue when I had the 4330SE, and things only changed when I introduced the 5i. Not that the 5i is awful... hardly. Just isn't the right fit.

So this begs the question: What should I get? Of better put: What can I get with a max budget of $675 that is slightly laid back like the 4330SE, but still has really good low bass response (punch).

Rega Mira 3? Options from Musical Fidelity or Arcam? Simaudio Moon iL/250i? Another Creek perhaps? Any of the Evo's similar to the older Creeks? Exposure 2010S? Classe CAP-101, CAP-150?  
See - you are now going through what everyone at one time went through.  You are not satisfied with the sound and you are setting this arbitrary budget of $675 because you have that in your head.  You just have to get used to the sticker shock of what good stuff costs and get something you really like.  Within reason of course.  I remember when I thought $1500 bought the best CD player in the world.  Until I heard the next model up for $3000 and it was all over.  Personally, I think you are going about this in the wrong way.  Find something you like and then either figure out a way to pay for it or find something very close for significantly less money.  But if you can't do that, I would recommend you buy an integrated from Cambridge or NAD with tone controls so you can adjust the sound to something more to your liking.  Those are both very good products at reasonable cost.  
JSbach - although I like Naim products very much, I think their cables are archaic by today's standards. (yes, I am a NAIM heratic)

e.g. Their use of DIN leads was cutting edge at one time - but single ended technology using RCA's has progressed so far and now leaves DIN far back in their wake. I would consider replacing any NAIM cables you have - they may be impacting the effectiveness of the CD player wrt  driving the amp

Is your amp the 5i the mk 1 or mk 2? - if the "I" is in italics it's the MK 2 - same as mine

From what I have heard and read the MK 2 has more punch than the mk 1

As for the speakers - the  Vandersteen are 86db and my Sonograms are 89 DB, so I do not see that 3db as being that much of an issue i.e. if you have the MK 2.

Before the KLEI cables, I was using Van den Hul D-352 - comparable to the NACA5, but more refined with what I thought was substantial bass.

When I received the the KLE gZero2 cables the improvements were jaw dropping...
- first - the gZero2's are skinny compared to the D352
- mistakenly wondered how could these skinny cables be better than the D-352's
- as it turns out - looks are deceiving.
- their top end is superbly smooth and complete
- their bottom end is deeper, more dynamic and better controlled.
- the gZero6's are even better  

NAIM components have a very good reputation - but from my own experience they can be so much better - when treated to the right cables.

After considerable time experimenting and reviewing cables i now consider them to be one of the most important aspects of an audio system - as important as components.

We hear about the synergy between components and speakers and tend to believe cables simply connect components.
- But the fact is - cables can make or break a system.

Buying a more powerful amp will probably get you a more desirable outcome. but you cables will still be impacting SQ.

Having said that - if you have the 5i MK 1 you might want to look at another amp - perhaps a more powerful NAIM ?

If you have the MK 2 - it should drive your speakers without a problem - i.e. with the right speaker and power cables.

Regards...

  

Hi chayro, 
Not exactly... Let me explain. I was totally happy with my system when I had the 4330SE. I regret selling it. The ONLY reason I did was because a 5350SE showed up in the ad listings for sale. These don't come up for sale very often, so I was simply tempted to get the 5350SE because it must have been better, right? Well, I sold the 4330 and bought the 5350. It was better, but it just didn't have the same sound the 4330 produced, so essentially mess up the chemistry of my system. So then I sold the 5350 and bought the Nait thinking that an all-Naim system would be better--wrong--still not what I want. I don't need to spend $3k on an amp or integrated. The onlyl reason for the $675 limit is because that is what i paid for the 5350. Honestly, I'd like to stay under that, but $675 is the max. If a 4330SE showed up on the ad listings today, I would buy it. But since there are scare to none these days, I have to find something that is very similar in sound... a sound that is warm, laid-back, punchy and low in the bass, yet is still very clean. The icing on the cake was bringing it all together with DH Labs Q-10 speaker cables and custom made DH Labs Air Matrix DIN to RCA interconnects. The 4330SE just blended perfectly with the full-range sound of the CD3.5 and Vandersteen 2c's. I was an idiot to sell it. 

" I agree... I think the issue is the amp. It wasn't an issue when I had the 4330SE, and things only changed when I introduced the 5i. Not that the 5i is awful... hardly. Just isn't the right fit. "

I think I can give you some info that may help. Most problems in audio can be traced back to the preamp. Its either the whole problem, or at least part of the problem. Very few people ever figure this out, and that's why you see some people always changing components. They're just not aware of the real problem. This is what's wrong with the Naim. Its extremely difficult to build a good preamp, and its even harder to build a good, cheap preamp. I haven't heard every product on the market, but I can honestly say that I've ever heard a good preamp for the $1500 or $1600 that the Naim sells for. Also, take into account that the amp section of the 5i takes up a good portion of the cost.

There are a few manufacturers that under stand this, and instead of including an active line stage in their integrated amps, they use a passive instead. Creek is one of them, Ayre is another, and if you gave me some time to think, I could come up with a few more examples. Either way, it will be a fairly small number.

Going with a passive line stage is away to get around so many obstacles that you run into with cheap preamps. My saying is if you can't afford a good active preamp, don't use one at all.

If you end up finding a used 5350SE, you need to be careful because there are 3 versions. The original 5350SE, a slightly upgraded 5350SE Classic, and the 5350SE Classic made in Asia. I would recommend that you get one made in the UK, even if its an original model.

Another option that will give you a lot more options, is to buy a stand alone power amp and a separate passive line stage. A lot of people do it this way and get results that would otherwise be out of their reach had they gone with an active solution.


Hi sfall, 

Thanks for the info. I think you may have mentioned that on another one of my threads... (regarding passive preamp stages) as the 4330 does have a passive pre, as does the 5350. I am keeping my eye on a Classic 5350SE (UK made). The original had a dedicated source knob for recording, as well as those blasted external pre-out/main-in jumpers on the back. The "Classic" 5350SE got rid of the dedicated recording knob and made the pre-out/main-in connection internal (via a button on the back). The Asian made unit is (I believe) the Evolution 5350. 

As for dedicated power amps, a local audio friend of mine has a McIntosh MC502 amp for sale. He's a big McIntosh fan and said it would sound great with the Vandersteens. I bet that sucker would sound awesome with the right preamp. Or... I can sell my Naim CD3.5 as well and go with a cd player with analog volume control? Theta Miles anyone? 

Anyway, as for Integrateds, I'm leaning towards the Classic 5350SE, as well as maybe a Classe CAP-101, Exposure 2010s, Arcam A85 or Rega Mira 3 (one for sale here now). However, I am unsure on the others if they're have passive or active preamp sections? 
For me at least. I like the speakers to be the foundation of my set up. I would ask Vandersteen users what they use with there speakers. There are MANY out there in forumland, I promise :)

I once heard Vandersteen speakers with Audio Research equipment and it had great synergy. Very natural and dynamic sounding. Maybe find out what Vandersteen voices his speakers with?

When it comes to cables and I want to avoid brightness, I stay away from Silver-clad Copper or plated Silver Copper wiring . I much prefer Solid Core Silver (Clear Day) or All copper (Wireworld Eclipse)..those are just 2 examples.
" The original had a dedicated source knob for recording, as well as those blasted external pre-out/main-in jumpers on the back. "

I completely forgot about that. I had the original myself. The external jumpers is one of the best features on the 5350. If you remove them it completely separates the amp and preamp sections. So if you upgrade to a seperate amp or preamp, the Creek can be used either way without having the signal go through the section you're not using. NAD has the same setup on all butt their entry level integrated. If you can't find exactly what you want, NAD would probably be a good choice. Its at least as good as anything else in its price range. Same thing for a Rotel 1060 or 1062.
Jsback1865,

If naca5 sounds harsh and flat, it may need more burn in or it your system is not in harmony.
It is true that NACA5 has prominent mid that is magical if it is in harmony with the rest of the system. 

From my experience flat and harsh come from 2 possible sources
1. your CD3.5 needs service (change the tants and caps)
2. your cables (include power cables)

Regarding cables if you are using the old grey DIN DIN cable - this sounds muddy bass and lack of highs
.
so your option from my experience:
1. Naim Grey Lavender - better but in my opinion but just mid level.
2. AR Sound - choose yellow

Power cord:
1. VH Audio airsine - expensive but worth it - you will own this one for a long time.
2. Black sand audio violet - i dont have one but read that it is quite close to VH

Hope this helps





  Just got a used Nait 5i (with NACA5’s) and have been listening over the past week. Rest of my gear is a Naim CD3.5 and Vandersteen 2C’s. 

OMG, are these NACA5’s harsh and flat or what! Anyone else experience this? I think I have all mids and nothing in the highs and lows. No don’t get me wrong, there is some bass punch, but not like my previous Creek 5350SE and 4330SE.