Naim Nait Integrateds... Sound Quality Comparison, User Comments and Bang for the Buck
Have been considering a Naim Nait integrated. In doing so, I’d
like to ask what for the user-lowdown on the following models when comparing to
each other based on sound quality, characteristics and price. Everything I am
considering is used. The reason I am not including the 5i (non-italic) is that
I have owned this model in the past. I liked the sound a lot, but my only
criticism is that I felt is lacked low bass response and punch. However, the
dynamics were there, as well as the smooth, full mids that would not strain or
get harsh when driven. Treble was neither bright nor veiled—just right. From my
readings, it appears that the lack of bass concern was corrected on the 5i-2 model
and onward? I’m planning on possibly getting a CD5x to mate with one of these
Naits. My music flavors are pop/rock/prog (i.e. David Bowie, old-Def Leppard, Pink
Floyd) and electronic (i.e. Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk).
Here are the models I am considering:
For those who have owned all four model at one time or
another, and/or, were able to compare any of these models at the same time, what
are your comments on each regarding sound characteristics? Do they all have the
basic foundation of the “Naim Sound?” Are there some that are punchy in bass vs
others? Some that are brighter in the highs? Any more laidback in the mids than
As for used pricing (according to ebay sales history) it
appears the 5i-2’s are selling for an average of $575 shipped/paypal. The XS’s
are averaging $975 shipped/paypal. I could not find much if any sales history
of the 5si, but would assume around $775-$800 based on the other figures. XS-2’s
appear to be listed on the used pages for around $2,000 used, but I wonder if
any can be had for $1,500 shipped/papal or less? What’s interesting is that all
the ebay sales pricing is before the 10% final value fee.
As for sound for bang-for-the-buck, if a 5i-2 can be had for
say $575-$650, it is worth another $200-$300 or so, to go to a 5si? Or, is it
worth another $425 to get an XS? As for the XS, let’s say one can be had for $1,150.
Is it worth another $600-$800 to get an XS-2? As for my specs, my room is 12x12
and using Vandy 2c’s. Cables are AQ CV-4 speaker cable and Mogami 2549
interconnects. I’ve read on another post that AQ sounds very nice with Naim’s
current gear. When I had the 5i (non-italic), I tried the NACA5 cables, but didn’t
like them. I felt the sound was dull. The DH Labs Q-10 I had at the time were
much better, but were a little bright—since they are silver-coated copper.
After that, I had sold the 5i at the time and moved on to other gear.
You’re in luck. I have owned them all, with the exception of the 5si, and most at the same time.
I will start by saying that all Naim amps sound best in the context of the complete Naim ecosystem, so no power conditioning, din interconnects and NACA5 speaker cable, with the Naim supplied power cable or Naim Power Line and generally work best with ATC, Naim, Linn, Neat, Pro Ac, PMC, Totem, Epos, speakers, etc.
I’ll take it from the top:
5i (non italic) and 5i-2 (italic) you have these confused up top, there is no such thing as 5i-2 non italic. I lump them together because the sound is very similar. These, and the 5si, which I have no interest in hearing, are the only Naim amps to use a passive preamp section allied to a high gain power amp section. They have a fantastic following, but never did it for me. I found the sound somewhat tuneful but diffuse with a lack of control in the bass. Dynamics, while good, are curtailed. The 5i italic is just a wee smidge more defined, and the 5i non italic may sound a bit chunkier, but it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. The benefit of these as well as the handicap is that they cannot take any of the add on Naim power supplies, flatcap, hicap, etc. They also cannot be separated to use the preamp section and the amp section separately.
XS and XS-2, you may be confused here as well. These are exactly the same amp except the XS-2 has a brushed faceplate. Under the skin they are identical 60 watt amps. You may be thinking about the XS2 which is the current 70 watt integrated. But you didn’t ask about that one. These are, IMHO a much more accomplished amp, with better control and definition with perhaps a tad less tunefulness. An easy trade off to make. Overall these sound more mature, more composed and more grown up than the 5 series. In addition to being able to be split into amp and active preamp, and being able to use the Naim power supplies, which, in this instance, really do kick performance up a few notches, Aux 2 on these amps will power the Naim Stageline phono stage, so you don’t need to get a seperate power supply for it, or go outside of the Naim family for your phono requirements.
In discussing Naim components we always talk in terms of system building. If your sources are weak then the 5 series will be a much better match. They always sound pleasant and are not too revealing of source. Never surgical or spot lit.
If you have top rank sources, the CD5X or CD5XS would fall into this category, and speakers that are more demanding in terms of the control that is required than the XS may be for you. Good luck with the hunt.
I think that I listed the speakers that those who post on the Naim forum use and have found to be a good match in my first post.
And BTW I did not say that there was any problem with the Vandy pairing, as I have not heard it. I did say that the pairing is not common, which I believe is factual in nature, having been on the Naim forum for many years and having seen many, many speakers recommended for use with Naim, Vandys never mentioned once. But I would defer to the Vandy experts like John Rutan of scenic Verona NJ.
That said, I found the Vandy reticent in the treble and I find Naim to be the same, a poor start IMHO. Vandies highlight soundstage, Naim counts it well down the list. Naim focuses on PRAT, not a particular Vandy virtue, IMHO. It’s just not a match that I would try, the two companies being somewhat philosophically divergent, but it may be great. I just don’t know. YMMV.
Viridian, I called it a problem for lack of a better term. You said "not sure that road would be for me, YMMV." Was just asking why, and said respectfully as in not being aggressive. Please don't generalize Vandy's as having a reticent treble. May have been true for some older models, but Vandersteen's latest speakers are anything but reticent in the treble. They are accurate.
A friend of mine is running Vandersteen Treo Ct's, the same as mine. He is using a Naim Uniti Atom integrated (40 watts/Ch.) and the combination is absolutely stunning. I know this because I have heard Vandy's and own them. I'm sure if you heard this Naim/Vandy combo, you would most likely agree with me. IMO.
Yes, my apologies, as I should not have generalized. Thank you.
The OP has 2Cs I believe, and I had 2CE, and my take is that mine were reticent, in my room, with the gear that I was using at the time.
I do feel that one of the few benefits to Naim ownership is the large knowledge base, which makes matching components and speakers easy. Your match of Atom and Treo is the first I have heard, or read, of the two Marques being paired. But I have no doubt in what you say that I would enjoy the pairing very much, and now I would like, very much, to hear such a pairing. You have brought first hand experience to the conversation and I was merely speculating.
I would like to ask a question that may not be very bright. You said that you feel that the speakers are accurate. Interestingly, I misspent some of my youth hanging around Electric Lady Studios. But barring being in the studio, or being a home recordist, other than gross colorations, what is the yardstick used to determine the accuracy of one speaker versus another? It seems like an objective term that would require familiarity going back through the whole recording chain to the microphone to validate the veracity of an accurate speaker.
viridian, I believe I was using the term "accurate" in a subjective manner. Specifically, the tweeter. It is a special carbon dome type which has a natural, extended, airy presentation. It is neither bright nor rolled off (dull) sounding. It's the type of treble that can help down into the frequencies of the midrange. Again this is all subjective on my part with no measurements to back up my claim. Just the way it sounds to me, so take it with a grain of salt. Cheers!
I agree with both of you on parts of your comments. Yes, I have 2C’s. Depending on what gear and cabling you use, they can sound rounded on the frequency extremes. Case in point: When I mentioned in my initial post of using a Naim 5i (non-italic) with a Naim CD3.5, the sound was still dynamic and full, but treble and bass seems rolled off on each of these extremes. When I say rolled off, it doesn’t mean as if I am taking a treble knob and turning it down. The word "veiled" comes to mind when doing something like this. Same with the bass knob, but in that case, it would cause perhaps a thinness to the sound. I guess perhaps the correct word to describe the naim pairings is: Flat?
I’ve read that the 2CE’s are can sound a little brighter in the highs vs. 2C’s due to using a metal dome tweeter?
Another piece of info to provide is that one of the best gear pairings I ever had on these 2C’s consisted of the Naim CD3.5, but with a Creek 4330SE integrated. Cabling was DH Labs Q10 speaker and custom DIN to RCA Air Matrix interconnects.
Perhaps in my scenario, a Naim amp and source pairing is not the best? However, from what I read out there regarding the sound characteristics of XS, vs. past naim integrateds (i.e. much better bass and highs, more transparent and open with better resolution) I am very intrigued to try one anyway. My budget though will get slightly blown in picking up an XS and CD5x. Either way, I think I should pick up the CD5x. It’s an excellent source to start with. If an XS is just not doable right now, I would nee to find a suitable integrated that will mate with the CD5x. If that is the case, I am thinking Simaudio i3 for the time being.
This is a crazy hobby, but I love it, and love listening to music. Music is very much a part of my everyday life. It’s sometimes even medicinal after a hard day at the office. Another aspect of this is each persons ears and what THEY hear vs. the next guy... or gal. Once person can walk into my room and say I need more bass and less treble. The next could say the opposite....
OP go for it ! And no it is not a common pairing but one I have to some degree in all three of my systems to I believe great effect. frankly I think you see the speaker pairings you see because non UK speakers are expensive and underrepresented in the UK, center of the NAIM universe. there is IMO a bit more global perspective in the NAIM FB group... i use a NAIM Unitiserve SSD with a Pardo LPS and HRS resonance control with a bunch of over gear including Vandersteen 7 in my Reference system
i am also blessed the Treo CT @mr_m mentions and has heard... redialing it in a bit for a new more resolving front end but musical - the Atom is a fantastic value and my wife uses it as much as me - she was streaming a Three Dog Night Live album from her youth when I woke this AM Tidal from the phone...
certainly an older pair of 2 can be made to sing - the 2 requires an amp with viselike grip to low end to control the acoustic coupler - naim excellent in this area without loosing tone in the bass
as for @viridian most excellent questions about true north Reference... very astute. i spend a significant part of my music centric life chasing down acoustic unamplified or minimalist processing music. For a reference. i also went down a path of building out two microphone digital and analog ( 15 ips half track ) mobile recording racks and finally spending some quality time in studio w recording engineer producer and artist friends... I think I have a pretty decent idea what the chain sounds like and various weaknesses... but as Helmut Brinkmann says, it is all an elaborate illusion...
any of you you are welcome to stop by Seattle or Carlsbad, call first bring music
@viridian when you come up bring Eric @bdp24 with you, I owe him a listen as well. he lives your neck of the woods...
Tim next time you are here in California I will just let you rummage thru the booze stash, some of it can in a pinch be used to clean records....I think....plus I have been saving up record sleeves for your daughter, decent quality cast offs....