Active NAP500 DR Upgrade

I recently got my set of three Nap500 re-capped and upgraded to DR two weeks ago. They were eight years old so I was going to get it done in the next year or two anyway, but hearing friends DR update performance-lift in passive systems I was suitably impressed and wondered how it would sound in Active use.

Last year I purchased the S1 Pre which was a large upgrade in performance from the 552 I had been using. Add to that the full loom of SL leads I got at the same time and I’ve experienced a large lift in musical performance already – I was wondering if I was being greedy, the answer is obviously yes!

I’ll leave aside the painful run-in experiences, aside from that I really needed ten days warm-up to get from variable ‘HiFi’ sound to music-making. There is still run-in going on, which manifests as a meandering sinusoidal increase and decrease in performance over time, but it has settled enough to get some first impressions.

I’m very pleased and impressed with what the DR does. There is a lift in clarity and removal of ‘gaps’ in the resolution when music becomes complex or loud – it was as if before things gently smeared-out the resolution at transients. This is especially noticeable on drums and bass guitar notes when played fast. Now there is more power and definition on busy riffs that was not there before.

Overall the Amps produce a bigger and brighter picture of the performance – a larger window into the musical performance.

For example, on the old Renaissance ‘A Song for all Seasons’ which is a complex Prog-Rock with Orchestra, guitar, synth and Annie Haslam’s powerful soprano vocals the album becomes a live album! A friend who knows the Album well and my system, was convinced I’d swapped the CD for a live version – I had to extract the disk for his scrutiny before he admitted it was the same old CD. That particular CD (an old version) has large dynamic range and a lot going on that is now beautifully rendered with clearer insight into the performance and Artist-intent than I’ve heard before.

Overall the DR 500 resolves lower frequencies better and has lower distortion in the high frequencies. The LF does seem to have a lower roll-off point too – it is more seamless and fulsome in a good way. This matches what the S1 Pre did, as that also took the bass performance much lower with far better power and control. The combo CD555S (2x555PS)-  S1 Pre – 3x500 DR with Ovator S800 works together beautifully as a system in my opinion.

The usual question is – ‘why don’t you go Passive S1 Monoblocks instead of Active 500DR?

They are different systems in what they each do well and I prefer what I have done along the Active path.
I’d love the S1 Monoblocks as they are beautiful and in a different league to the NAP500 even with DR, but you still get the passive effect I don’t like – a gentle smothering of the dynamics and immediacy of the performance that is portrayed so much better Active. I can’t afford a set of four S1 Monoblocks - love to but can't.

Back to the DR 500: It is difficult to properly describe what I mean by grater ‘clarity’ - I'll try. The reproduced note-structure and power of both voice and instruments is as if they are playing inside your body at times – I’m not meaning playing loud, just more clarity and power in the harmonic structures with less smear.

And the system does go a lot louder with less dynamic ‘cloying’ at the edges – it is clean, clear and fulsome. One thing I like about a good Active system is the removal of dynamic effects of one part of the music treading on another – this is done much better now.

In short – if you are dithering about getting your NAP500 DR updated – get it done, funds permitting.

My thanks to Naim for turning it all around in two weeks and my Dealer, Signals, for making it all happen.

DB.

Original Post

They are still running-in and dipping in and out of wonderful - good - a bit off - wow again. I've been here before and my old NAP500 set took many weeks to run-in and there were a lot of bumps - I'd say it was several months before I really heard what they could do and suspect it will be the same with these DR beasts as well.

I'd been deliberately holding-off writing anything for a couple of weeks because it has really only just began to open-out and bloom to give a richer more fine-detailed sound, but I know there is a long way to go from the performance right now.

The essential differences are the scale and dynamic linearity improvements, cleaner sound in a good way, and rendition of fine detail between percussion or singing phrases - hearing the decay timbre of Acoustic guitar I'd never heard as well or the little inflections on the in and out breath of a vocalist that was not resolved before. There is a lower noise-floor and less distortion.

The old NAP500 is a beautiful Beast that has a confidence yet delivered with a delicacy of detail when present - the DR has improved in terms of clarity, tone-colour and insight. The performers are more awake and interested in what they are doing is the effect. I'd heard the latter aspect in Passive systems too - you just get more of the same Active.

DB.

Interesting stuff Gary! (I do wish you hadn't done this...). I'll no doubt be having myself a listen at some stage. I did have mine booked in for the DR/overhaul, but then I (ahem) decided an expensive holiday took precedence. Now, a new hip beckons, so maybe next year...

"The usual question is – ‘why don’t you go Passive S1 Monoblocks instead of Active 500DR?’"

The answer to that is easy. 500DR is better than S1 power amps. 

Add in the additional nonsense of a passive crossover for the speakers, and its a complete slam-dunk.

and "Last year I purchased the S1 Pre which was a large upgrade in performance from the 552 I had been using."

In complete agreement -- on VFM terms, s1 pre is better VFM than 552, which is good but disappointing at the pricepoint now. 

DB,

As impressive as your system is - and 'envy causing' of course (!) - do you feel you are missing something extra special by not being able to play 24 bit 192kHz?!!!

Even in my modest system, the difference between a well recorded 16 bit 44.1kHz and its equivalent 24 bit is easily noticeable.

Consciousmess posted:

DB,

As impressive as your system is - and 'envy causing' of course (!) - do you feel you are missing something extra special by not being able to play 24 bit 192kHz?!!!

Even in my modest system, the difference between a well recorded 16 bit 44.1kHz and its equivalent 24 bit is easily noticeable.

Consciousmess - I don't think this is quite so straight-forward.  I've heard and have some very disappointing Hi-def recordings which have been significantly bettered by red-book CD.  The critical thing seems to be the quality of the mastering. 

MDS posted:
Consciousmess posted:

DB,

As impressive as your system is - and 'envy causing' of course (!) - do you feel you are missing something extra special by not being able to play 24 bit 192kHz?!!!

Even in my modest system, the difference between a well recorded 16 bit 44.1kHz and its equivalent 24 bit is easily noticeable.

Consciousmess - I don't think this is quite so straight-forward.  I've heard and have some very disappointing Hi-def recordings which have been significantly bettered by red-book CD.  The critical thing seems to be the quality of the mastering. 

Absolutely spot on. I've yet to hear a new (so-called) Hi-Def recording which eclipses the sound quality of a nicely mastered West German 1980's CD.

The mastering of new popular music continues to decline, from what I hear with new purchases. Some are so bad, I can't listen to to them on a high resolution system. The music industry concentrates on achieving the best possible impact from mp3 replay and digital radio. They are not interested in a tiny percentage of audiophiles.

Why do it properly when you can dumb it down for the masses?

John.

Trying to compare HD recordings to their exact Red Book equivalents is extremely difficult. Many of the so-called "high Definition" offerings are taken from lesser or better masters - it's a real minefield.  If you can find a genuine match then, yes, the HD versions do sound a bit better. But it's not night and day, and give me an original standard def. over a later "HD" recording any day (with one or two rare exceptions).

GraemeH posted:

A good example is the supposed 'hi-res' 'Hotel California' where my first press cd walks all over it.

G

Yes, Graeme. That was one of the examples I was thinking of.  At £18 for the download an expensive mistake on my part, but it serves a purpose now and again to demonstrate to visitors that hi-def isn't necessarily better and can actually be inferior!

Mike

GraemeH posted:

A good example is the supposed 'hi-res' 'Hotel California' where my first press cd walks all over it.

G

I'm actually glad a couple of other people have mentioned this - I thought it was just me. It doesn't sound quite 'right' to me, but I can't put my finger on what's wrong ...

Can someone expand a bit on the problem with "Hotel California"   what is the res, were did it come from & can you describe whats "wrong" .      

I don't have a CDP these days so can't compare,  but I had two versions on CD, an early  first release that was damaged (CD rot) & the CDX2 refused to play the last track, so I replaced that with a "remastered" copy & that had soft dynamics & a weird distant sound. When I moved to NDX I ripped the old CD & although the ripper showed it to be damaged it did play OK on the NDX.      I then bought a 24/192kHz from HDTracks (USA) & it definitely better than the CD rip.  

I had a friend over a few weeks ago and played him three versions of Hotel Califonia, which he commented on blind:

1. Best of Eagles LP ripped at 9624: Comment - Sounds like it has been taken from a Anthology album, lacks depth & dynamics;

2. Best of CD: Comment - Similar to the first, but with slightly wider soundstage;

3. Rip of DVD-A at 192-24: Comment - That's music.

But, I completely agree that it is in the mastering, and trying to compare apples with apples is difficult as provenance is difficult (impossible) to determine.

I think any of us could set up a demo to 'prove' that CD beats LP, HiRes beats LP and that LP is the best - all depends on what we choose to play.

M

Mike-B posted:

Can someone expand a bit on the problem with "Hotel California"   what is the res, were did it come from & can you describe whats "wrong" .

I bought the 24/192 from HighResAudio. Like I said though, I can't quite put my finger on what it is about it - to me, it sounds 'too good' to the point that it's not 'right' if that makes any sense? Of course, there's every chance that it's probably just down to it being my first hires recording and I'm too used to those inferior CD things.

tonym posted:
"one or two rare exceptions?"   ...........     The Steven Wilson remasters of Aqualung
 

100%  ........  I lived with the CD rip until a few months ago & thats one damn good remaster with exceptional SQ.  And  from HRA @ £12.00 in 24/96 (FLAC converted to WAV) is a steal .  And if/when anyone asks me for a listen to hear what all this hifi stuff is all about,  Aqualung is the one I go to every time.  

tonym posted:
Jonn posted:

Which hires albums would you include in your "one or two rare exceptions?"

The Steven Wilson remasters of Aqualung, Yessongs, and Warrior On The Edge of time spring immediately to mind.

Did I miss SW's  remastering of "Yessongs" ? The original mastering was always murky to my ears. I have the CD/DVDA sets of The Yes Album, Fragile, CTTE and Relayer and will be ordering Tales from Topographic Oceans when that is released soon.

sjbabbey posted:
tonym posted:
Jonn posted:

Which hires albums would you include in your "one or two rare exceptions?"

The Steven Wilson remasters of Aqualung, Yessongs, and Warrior On The Edge of time spring immediately to mind.

Did I miss SW's  remastering of "Yessongs" ? The original mastering was always murky to my ears. I have the CD/DVDA sets of The Yes Album, Fragile, CTTE and Relayer and will be ordering Tales from Topographic Oceans when that is released soon.

Whoops, my mistake, I meant The Yes Album, sorry to raise your hopes!  It'll be interesting to see what Mr Wilson does with " Tales", an excellent album IMO, athough not generally liked.

I have to disagree with your scepticism.  I appreciate some labels just offer HD to cream off more cash, but take an example from Coldplay.  All their albums are well mastered - without a doubt - but hearing their 24bit 196kHz Head Full of Dreams album has better soft textures and space than the 16 bit albums.

You can even compress it to 16bit 44.1kHz on computer.

Or Dire Straits in SACD compared to 16bit 44.1kHz.  Telegraph Road is a clear example!

 

MDS posted:
Consciousmess posted:

DB,

As impressive as your system is - and 'envy causing' of course (!) - do you feel you are missing something extra special by not being able to play 24 bit 192kHz?!!!

Even in my modest system, the difference between a well recorded 16 bit 44.1kHz and its equivalent 24 bit is easily noticeable.

Consciousmess - I don't think this is quite so straight-forward.  I've heard and have some very disappointing Hi-def recordings which have been significantly bettered by red-book CD.  The critical thing seems to be the quality of the mastering. 

On the sidelines, but spot on! 

I know a gentleman, on this very Forum, who has been blessed with both formats, an Loaded LP 12, and a CD555, this gent prefers the LP-12.  But guess what, when a particular cut isn't available on Vinyl, he has to resort to the CD555. 

As been mentioned a number of times, A new Paradigm, no longer, just the Analog TT, Digital CD, and Digital Streaming, but a choice, depending on Music & Mood! 

The 282 Active Club, Please keep the sidelines informed, nice hearing from you DB! 

Allante93! 

 

Darke Bear posted:

System

Taken from my listening chair.

"I'm keen to get the best possible performance out of the installation - and have developed an open mind to what works and does not - I have also managed (for me) to redeem CD performance to something very special. Keeping an eye and ear on Streaming sources for future.
Also have Linn Ekos Archive Lingo - used very rarely (needs a good service - or may let it go)."

Allante93!

My forum visitors yesterday experienced some of the run-in, which thankfully improved as we played music for about five or so hours.
Today is sounded excruciatingly bad! Harsh and nasty - but seems to be losing that a bit later in the day - I'm hoping.

But it is the expected rough-ride of the NAP500 run-in I experienced before. I envy those that say they plug it in and it is fine right away - either we hear things differently or Naim save the feistiest beasts for me.

Chill-out chair

DB

Just want to thank you for a great day yesterday DB, great music, company and hospitality along with an awesome system that got better as the day progressed.

As you rightly say there is a way to go with your run-in journey. I feel your pain, remember I went through a similar 24 hour period where the 300 sounded so off (harsh and shrill) it was un-listenable. Hang on in there.

BR

R

 

An Update:

After week 3 of run-in things improved significantly and now it is nearing week 4. A friend visited in the second week of run-in and we both heard the run-in like clouds of haze over the music moving like patchy fog when driving at night. Clear patches of 'special' performance then duller and ‘normal HiFi’ performance. But after 3 weeks the threshold of this seems to have dropped and although I still hear run-in effects, it is now not intrusive into the music for me.

The presentation is markedly different from what I’d become used to over many years with my old NAP500 Amps. It is not just clearer but the music I is presented differently in ways difficult to describe, but I’ll have a try.

First the Bass performance is fundamentally changed, to the extent I wonder if Naim are now using the Statement developed DC-offset management system rather than the old servo-loop the NAP500 had before. There is a quality of ‘there-ness’ (new word) to the bass now; it has a different presence and does not appear to have the very low-frequency phase changes that the old NAP500 had, which I never really knew it had – other than when they are not there, like now, it is obvious!

There is a clean, firmness and power available in a different way. Things like large kettle drums have real feeling of a wedge of air whacking the room that was not present before. Bass chords go deeper with more clarity and separation – a lack of murky noise breaths extra life and vim into playing. The formerly lazy bass guitar is now played by a man possessed!

This lack of noise and phase distortion in the low bass puts a darker and more intimate perspective around the performances in many cases. You now hear what the lower vocal ranges of singers does with greater clarity.

There is also much more body to instruments and a fullness to the sound that is pleasing. The dynamics are cleaner at the highest frequencies too – if a vocalist screams in a live concert it is very loud and clear!

I’m also finding that I’m experiencing the music much more in my body now than before, particularly the chest – this was a surprise. This is not because I’m playing it louder – in fact I’ve turned it down until I get more uses to the effect. It is as if instruments and vocals now get a stronger sympathetic reaction with all the parts in you that can move. It puts more into the concept of ‘being moved’ by a performance. I think it is the extra harmonic purity and power therein of the notes, for the same volume setting – before the power 'spread-out' and ‘filled-in’ between the notes, but now it does not spread and is contained in the musical notes.

Things like Synth and Organ music are really taken a long way forward. Vocalists can really connect with you with no effort required – there is no ‘listening to the music’ as much as a connection with the performance.

It is still running-in and I’m confident there is a lot more to come, but I’m pleased in what I’m hearing right now.

DB.

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