Naim Amps...advice please (Part 2) Experiences in Dealerland

Tice

Standard Member
I decided in November that while I was very happy with the HD element of my Yamaha CDR HD 1500, the CD was less than exciting and that I should look at a stand alone CD player to add to my system. I also decided that I’d like to replace my Cyrus 3 amp at the same time….upgraditis is a particularly virulent disease. Research in magazines suggested that the Arcam FMJ CD36/FMJ A32 might fit the bill, two tape loops, two sets of speaker terminals, headphone socket, good reviews, decent looking and within my budget.

And so I ventured into the first dealer and explained the above including a budget of approx £2000 for the two items. He immediately suggested a pre/power combo to make the upgrade “worthwhile” and proposed the Naim 200/202. With interconnects, a phono stage, and a headphone amp this would cost just shy of £4000 for one element of my upgrade instead of £2000 for both parts. Overlooking the irony of a lack of listening skills in a HiFi dealer, I arranged an audition and said I would like to hear it at the same time as the Arcam C31/P35 pre power combination as a comparison. When I arrived for the audition, only the Naim was available and set up. Although I have to admit I liked the sound of the Naim set up, with a decent CD this would put me at least three grand over budget and I still hadn’t had a chance to compare it with my original choice of equipment. Not a great start.

On to dealer two who arranged an appointment and had both Naim and Arcam pre/power combos set up for me to audition. After hearing them side by side, it wasn’t difficult to conclude that (for me at least) the Naim was light years ahead of the Arcam albeit more expensive. The audition wasn’t particularly enjoyable as the dealer insisted on taking my records off after the first couple of minutes of each track and then playing me his to demonstrate the virtues of the equipment.

To make matters worse, being a Linn dealer the usual evangelical approach asserted itself and the audition became a sales pitch for a Linn Sondek which in addition to being able to cure cancer and solve world hunger is apparently also a turntable. My original budget of £2000 was now upwards of £6500 without a new CD player which was the reason I’d started the process in the first place…….plus they weren’t prepared to lend me any equipment for a home trial even against a credit card swipe.

More than a little disenchanted and with my “find a good dealer” cynicism level off the scale, I posed the question about Naim Amps in part 1 of this thread. This proved to be my best move to date. As a result of the replies, I resolved to track down some old Naim Olive gear and listen to it against new Naim. This led me to James at Tom Tom audio in St Albans.

After explaining what I was trying to achieve he arranged for me to audition the desired equipment. Having set the kit up, he left me alone to listen to as many tracks for as little or as long as I liked only returning to swap the equipment over when I was ready to change……no pointing out how great it all was, no inflicting his musical views or choices on me and no trying to sell me something I hadn’t asked for. A second audition was done on the same basis but with a turntable instead of a CD player.

At the end of both sessions I came to the conclusion that although new Naim may be technically “better”, for me it’s nowhere near as much fun or as addictive as the older equipment.

Suffice to say that the combination of good equipment and a good dealer has resulted in me buying an NAC 82/NAP 250 combo including phono boards with a Hicap, NAPSC, new Headline headphone amp, new interconnects and Chord Odyssey speaker cable. The NAP 250 is currently being serviced and I have a NAP180 on loan in the meantime. Admittedly it worked out above my original budget and I have yet to get a CD player but the system sounds so damn good, I don’t care….and that’s with the NAP 180. I still have the NAP250 to look forward to which I'm collecting tomorrow.

So to sum up, thanks to everybody who replied to my original question, particularly Karkus30 and Nimby who led me in a direction I would not otherwise thought have going.

There are good dealers out there but they’re not as easy to find as some would have you believe. All I know is that if there were more dealers like James at Tom Tom that listened to clients and less who insisted on being up their own arse and pushing their own agenda, there would be fewer threads on this site worrying about the demise of high end audio.
 

karkus30

Banned
Glad you ended up with what you wanted. As we said, Naim isnt the most accurate sound on the planet, but if you like it then theres not much else that will fill the void.

The 82/250 is a cracking combination (I rate the NAP250 as better than my 135s TBH, it was the original design). Once it serviced it will be brilliant with the High cap and 82.

The phono boards can be modified by Avondale Audio........a simple cheap mod worth around £25 and they will sing.
 

Tice

Standard Member
Questions for anyone :

1. What are the advantages of an internal v external phono stage?
2. What exactly is meant by the term "accurate" when describing an amp?

On a more general note, I'm curious to know if my recent experience with dealers is the norm i.e a 1 in 3 good/bad split, whether I'm being over critical or have I just been unlucky.
 

alexs2

Distinguished Member
Questions for anyone :

1. What are the advantages of an internal v external phono stage?
2. What exactly is meant by the term "accurate" when describing an amp?

On a more general note, I'm curious to know if my recent experience with dealers is the norm i.e a 1 in 3 good/bad split, whether I'm being over critical or have I just been unlucky.

Hi...just a couple of views on your questions...

1.Advantages....compact,totally integrated,and hopefully perfectly matched to your amplifier.
Also no requirements for off-board PSUs and wiring etc.

Disadvantages....not all internal stages are as good as dedicated external stages,and a number of external stages permit flexibility in matching to cartridges,which some internal stages do less well,or require specific matching for.

The very best currently available phono stages(the Whest,Sutherland,Manley etc etc)are all external stages but are for the most part very costly single items,which may not be used very often.

Obviously you have the Naim MC stage which has a very good reputation for an internal stage,and will perform well.

2.Accurate....there's a good subjective term!

To my mind and ears it means an amplifier that doesnt add any sonic character of it's own to the music being played,and frankly it's not always easy to find such a thing,with many tubed amps sounding quite warm,some S/s amps sounding a bit treble heavy etc.

You alluded to the old debate about the lack of neutrality with some especially older Naim amps,but there's always been a character which under the right circumstances can be very enjoyable....good rythmic abilities,as opposed to the amp sounding almost slow,if that makes sense.

Finally dealers....a good one is worth a lot when you do find one,and I've also been through a few,but have found my local branch of Audio-T very helpful and not in the least bit pushy,and the same can also be said for Audiofile in Herts.
I've come across a few awful ones,and similar to yours where the rep kept fiddling with the system and changing the music,until I had to ask him to leave it alone.

I think for many people that's a self-limiting but irritating problem as you end up not buying from such places.
 

karkus30

Banned
Same views as Alex. Dealers !!! dont get me started, but its not just hifi dealers.........went to buy some drumsticks. Conversation goes like this:

Have you got some Vic Firth 8D in stock ?

Nope, we have 5A, 5B and 7A

OK no problems

Why do you want 8D ?

Cos thats what I use

well they are exactly the same as 7A

No there not, 7As are shorter.

No they are not!

Yes they are, 8Ds are the same length as 5As

dealer looks puzzled and drags out a pair of 5A and 7A sticks and proceeds to measure them.

Theres only an extra 3/4 of an inch, cant see how that makes any difference?

Yes, but I like that extra length..........hang on a minute are you a drummer?

No, I play guitar.

Then *@£ do you know about what sticks I should have :mad:
 

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
Good to hear that James managed to help you out. Nice chap. I bought a pair of speakers from him a couple of years back and would happily recommend him.

Ref your question on phono stages, don't worry about comparisons, just go buy yourself a 522/523 (depending upon whether you need MM or MC) for your 82. The 522/523 boards are designed to work with the 82 and are almost certainly going to be the most effective solution that works well.
 

Tice

Standard Member
Ref your question on phono stages, don't worry about comparisons, just go buy yourself a 522/523 (depending upon whether you need MM or MC) for your 82. The 522/523 boards are designed to work with the 82 and are almost certainly going to be the most effective solution that works well.

Bearing in mind that my 82 has phono boards fitted, it it reasonable to assume that I already have the 523?

On the subject of dealers I would also recommend Harrow Audio who have been brilliant over the years but didn't stock the equipment I wanted to audition for my recent upgrade.
 

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