Experimented today B&W, Naim, Pioneer


Active Member
I think the point of this post is to say always experiment with any old kit you may have stashed away before you upgrade your newest kit or splash out on shiny extra new things :).

I took the Naim power amp out of the cupboard today and scratching around for a preamp for it, decided to hook it up to my now redundant pioneer av amp. As this av amp is pre-ethernet / wifi i hooked up my sky q mini box via optical out and opened the Spotify premium app on the sky q mini box - my phone as controller. So the best quality of the source is 320kbps, not even cd level.
So, Pioneer as a preamp, Naim as the power amp.
(Excuse my untidy master bedroom at present)

The pioneer is an old school tank, built before everything was reduced in size and weight and before pioneer merged with (onkyo?). Tuned by air studios etc it was higher up their price range in the day and claims 170w per channel (sounds likely and tested at over that on the bench); although i am obviously the using the Naims amp @ 110w per channel not the pioneers amplification.

Dug on the internet and found the Pioneers engineers service manual with wiring diagrams and pcbs - when in stereo direct mode, it uses a dedicated Burr Brown dsd 1791 dac and a relatively short signal path, circumventing the av circuit boards. Good.
Dac is older tech now but still, figured i'd see what it sounds like as the dac has an SNR of 113db, allegedly. And will do 24/192.

The b&w's (dm602 s1) are known for flappy uncontrolled bass and questionable treble.
I can vouch for the flappy bass.

Well, just spent two hours going throwing everything from instrumental to rock at this setup and all i can say is... amazing and far better than when i had my new denon avr as the preamp.

Enya sounds haunting yet powerful, the darkness/silence between sound and no sound is great. Solo Guitar tracks are fantastic now. Dance music is lively and engaging.

Bass is now excellently controlled and very punchy indeed. No sub needed i have a paradigm servo 15 monster to use if needed but absolutely not required now)
and treble plays neutrally with good volume, clarity and no shrillness/tiringness.
Must be the Naim controlling the drivers well i imagine.

A thoroughly engaging and dynamic/rhythmic listen, i never tired during the two hours.

Unusually, it handled all music types without fail, something i find rare.

The preamp has the option of tone control if i put into stereo
(Non direct mode - although i detected no degradation in sound quality when engaging that mode when used without and bass or treble adjustments) and auto room eq, but no need to use any thus far.

Open and engaging and rhythmic.

Unlike my new denon avxr-3600 with these speakers, which, whilst wasn't truly truly awful if you used the audyssey and dialled bass back to -6 etc) it still struggled to play with much rhythm and authority and just wasnt enjoyable at all really. A very thin and unconvincing presence. Bass was flappy and uncontrolled. Even when using the Naim and the denon as preamp it was better but still not how it should be.
The naim and pioneer works far far better than the naim and the modern denon av amp. Which is unexpected as the denon likely has a better dac and more likely to not have drifted tolerances on it and other components unlike the 10 year plus pioneer.

So today was a good day as, after months of internet research and ebay watching, i've saved buying a dedicated preamp which, after hearing the Naim and denon combo, i was convinced i would need as an av amp would not provide the stereo sound i was looking for. Proven wrong :) Just goes to show experimentation and not throwing vast amounts of money on shiny new things can, sometimes, pay dividends.
I was even ready to move the speakers on too. Not now :)

Total cost for this what i claim to be a very good standard of hifi now?
£80 for the speakers a year or two ago (The naim was gifted to me and the Pioneer i've had for 10 years plus and its been sat in the cupboard for the past year or so).

I was about to shell out on an Arcam Sa20 or second hand Naim preamp, either come in at around £800, and i've heard the Arcam in store which is why i wanted it as it sounded similar to this from memory, but i am more than happy with the 2 channel performance now in what will be a dedicated music room when i move house next month.

Experimentation if you can, is always worth a go!

Last edited:


Distinguished Member
...and likely to flatter a decent speaker upgrade later on perhaps.

Good call sir.


Active Member
True, what would you recommend as a decent speaker upgrade? Happy with floorstanders or standmounts.....

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