Leaving the Naim game . . .

As you all might guess from my screen name, I've owned Naim for a long time - since 1983, when the first Nait came out.  I've been up and down the range, topping out with the CDS2/52/2x250/SBL active (along with a maxed out LP12).  Lots of boxes!  And it all sounded pretty good - when it was "on," it was was mighty hard to beat.  Life intervened, and I wound up moving back down to much more modest systems, finally selling everything off when I was deployed to Iraq and then Afghanistan. 

When I got back from Afghanistan, I got back to hifi with a fairly basic Linn system, which I enjoyed until this past summer, when I swapped out the Linn gear for a modest Naim setup - the entry level separates.  Over the course of a couple of months, I rapidly ran up the range and wound up with a 202/Hicap/NAPSC/200. 


I wasn't pleased.  It didn't make me want to play CD after CD the way the older Naim gear had.  And the journey had become a chore, rather than the fun it used to be.  I tried different speakers, different sources, etc., and nothing made it quite gel.


Since I'm of reasonable intelligence, I took the proverbial look around.  And tried some different systems - probably the usual suspects for someone with such a strong history with Naim and Linn.  And wound up with a stack of gear from Exposure Hifi - the 3010S2 series.  In many respects, it's better sounding than the Naim gear it replaced.  It's a little clearer sounding (or a bit more detailed, whichever way you prefer), while at the same time providing more body, making a Bosendorfer more easily distinguishable from a Steinway.  It's got a touch more warmth, so you can tell Suzanne Vega, while thin, does indeed have a body and is not just a disembodied mouth.  And it has more grip (at least on the speakers I tried with both systems), which gives the impression of deeper, better controlled bass.  And it actually made more sense of rhythms and timing than the Naim system. 

While I trust my own ears, I played both systems for some friends, and the unanimous preference was for the Exposure.  Which made me curious - the Exposure costs something like 35% of the Naim at retail - what on earth could be going on?  And I think that the core answer is that Naim has changed dramatically since Julian Vereker passed, and especially when they joined Focal and were then acquired by Naxicap, a French investment bank.  It's rather sad to see that some on the Naim forum can't accept that something might sound better and be preferred - one of the aspects I appreciate here. 

Anyway, it's been an interesting journey, and fun to get back to it. 
Congratulations on finding a system that meets your needs and find more satisfying than your Naim.  And thank you very much for your service, too!
I’ve yet to hear the Exposure, but have been reading the reviews, as well as user comments. I spoke with a dealer who loves the 2010S (new D version) with Harbeth P3’s, which is what I just bought. So between the Exposure and the Croft, I think I’m on to something. I am tip toeing for sure, and especially concerned about resale on the Exposure. I think it’s a line that hasn’t caught on in the US. While also true of Croft, I think it will have a slightly better market. Art Dudley reviewed the 2010, and the Croft phono integrated. He liked both very much. Trust your ears!
I ended up with a  similar naim system - 250s, isobariks, full LP12 etc for almost 20 years, having "upgraded" along the way.
I woke one day about 12 yrs ago and wondered why I hardly ever played anything on it.
Eventually got some ATC active speakers valve phono and pre amp, the system is now used daily.
Hello Naimfan -
I too would like to express my thanks for your service.  Glad you are home and have put together something you enjoy listening to.  
Sometimes we can over complicate things and it's gratifying to go to a simpler system.  I've done that myself, coming from Naim gear and then going with a simple Viva integrated.  But it is difficult for me to understand how the Exposure gear could possibly sound better than the CDS2/52/250 setup.  The only thing I can think of is that, in some systems, the 250 can sound kind of fat at sluggish as compared to the 200 and 300, which are much faster sounding.  So that may explain your impression of the Naim system lacking detail.  Yes, the new Naim is different than the old and I don't like all of their newer products, but the CDS3, 252 preamp and 250/300 amplifiers are still fabulous products, albeit with a lot of boxes to deal with.  But the main thing is that you are enjoying, which is what this is supposed to be about.  At least in theory. :)
Chayro -

The CDS2/52/250/SBLs were long ago - I was using a Nait 3R after that.  I'd be surprised if my Exposure system were as good as the CDS2/52, but it was noticeably better than the 202/HCDR/NAPSC/200 system it replaced, at roughly 35% of the (retail) cost.  I think the main reason is neglect - the 202, NAPSC, and 200 were introduced in 2001, and Naim have essentially ignored the "Classic" line, save for adding DR to certain pieces.  Their focus seems to be on either stupid expensive (Statement) or lifestyle - and there's a gaping hole in the middle. 
Naimfan - As I don't have to tell you, the 202 and the 252, or even the 52, are not even close.  The preamps and power supplies make all the difference in a Naim system.  As you know. 
First thank you for your service and returning home safely.

I'm curious what speakers you were listening with during this new phase.

Also, yeah, it's a shame, but money is absolutely no indicator of anything. The audiophile I want to hang around with is not the one who buys a great $20,000 speaker, but the one who buys a $2,000 pair because he/she knows its fantastic.


From one Veteran to another- Thank You! naimfan, for your Service.

i would like to ask which speakers you owned then and now?

Happy Listening!

All -

Thanks for your well-wishes re service.  I deeply appreciate it.  Iraq was hell, Afghanistan was a relative vacation in the desert. 

I used a couple of different speakers.  I own Linn Helix 2 speakers with ku-stone composite stands; had them forever and like them even if I know all their weaknesses.  I also used a pair of ProAc D28s, having had Response 2.5s long ago, and a pair of Vandersteen 3A Signatures (which are WAY too big for my room).  Which speaker was used didn't matter as far as results; the Vandersteens gave the best performance with the Naim system.  Speaker cable was either Naim NACA5 or Tellurium Q Black.

Speakers will be next - although I'm tempted to find a pair of Response 2 (original) and call it a day. 
My dealer sold Linn/Naim back in the day. One day he was testing out some new gear from the UK - a $200 tube preamp - which blew away the multi-box and expensive Naim gear. This little Croft Micro set me on the path of tubes and I have never looked back. I remember too the Exposure VI power amps being very good too. Maybe you need to change your handle! 
I did a similar thing and sold my Naim system a couple years ago because i wasn't listening to music anymore. i've gone through a couple systems including an AudioNote Uk set up and now Luxman class A system and Living Voice Avatar 2 speakers and listen to music daily again so I would not think to much into losing all the Naim stuff I never found in musically satisfying either.
I've heard nothing but great things about Croft.  Heard one probably 20 years ago in the UK and it was great; just not available in the US at the time. 

Glen - I'm not too worried - enjoyed Naim for a long time and would probably still like an olive system.  But the Classic range doesn't seem competitive price-wise; and adding more and more boxes just isn't an option.  And the sound just didn't cut it - the most important part for me was that I wasn't listening every day.  Now I am. 

how did you like the TelluriumQ cabling?
This is on my must- demo list.
The Exposure stuff stands the test of time and is simply great sounding gear. You made a good choice.

The TQ Black speaker cable is good.  It sounds better than NACA5 in either the Naim or Exposure system - it's much more "hear-through."  It sounds like it goes deeper at the same time it tidies up the bass, and upper frequencies are noticeably cleaner sounding. 

Great value, I'd love to try the Ultra Black - which is just a *bit* more expensive. 

whom is your local TQ dealer/retailer? Happy Listening!
Jafant -

I bought it from the UK; it was about $375 shipped for a 3 meter set with bananas.  Took a while to break in, but sounds very good indeed.  NO clue how it compares to most US cables; never played there.  I think the most "modern" other interconnects I have are a set of Cardas Crosslink 1 and Wireworld Equinox 3. 
Interesting post. I too have used Naim gear for quite awhile. Many different systems and components from the Naim line. I have tried much other gear, including tubes and Exposure, and everything in between. I keep going back to Naim because it seems to be the only brand that makes me want to listen all the time. Currently have about 4 Naim systems, including something from every era.  Chrome bumper, olive, current black, and even a Muso.
i also would like to express my sincere gratitude for your service to the USA.
I'm a dealer for Exposure, Naim, Rega, LFD and Luxman. I say that only to mention that I too have been chasing the prefect solid state British sound. For whatever reason Luxman found its way into the group for many British audio fans.

Anyway, Exposure is awesome. Forget about price comparisons, they make great gear. They have life and light in their sound while being the opposite of harsh. In my opinion they do what we all came here for, they sound good.

Michael, Blue Jay Audio