I left Naim... and I can't work out whether I'm happy.

Hi all

ive had many Naim systems in the past including, at best cds2 into 82/250. More recently I had an NDX / Supernait combo and loved it. Having moved house and needing the money I sold my set up including Muso and was left bare for 12 months or so. 

Having been extremely impressed with Devialet I recently bought a Devialet 120. It sounds fantastic. BUT I think I may be addicted to that Naim sound. I'm just not 100% happy. 

Has anyone directly compared a D120 with a Superuniti? I do want to stay one box, and I know there is a previous forum topic seemingly comparing the two but it rapidly went off topic! Any direct comparison would be appreciated. 

Plus any mocking for me moving away would be graciously received

steve 

Original Post

Maybe just take six months or so to be sure.  Sometimes it can all be in our heads more than the reality.

On the other hand I find the Devialet sound so very impressive from a Hi-Fi perspective but for me it fails to connect at an emotional level.  It is all Hi-Fi and no music however if you switch back to Naim you might miss the things Devialet is so good at.

This is such a strage past time.

 

I've had that on a couple of occasions, and I think it is a word or phrase triggering a warning because it might be unacceptable content, but not one of the auto-censored words. Mine were posted a short while later, but the first time it happened I had gone through twice retyping what I just thought was a failute to upload, not having gone back to my inbox and seen the message until after!

Let me get this right. You owned and loved (by your own admission) a few Naim systems culminating in a NDX/Supernait combo, switched to Devialet 120, obviously listened to both extensively, then have doubts , and then ask the Naim forum, most of whom will not have had the benefit of living with a Devialet system, for advice as to what you should do? I will admit to being confused as to what helpful and considered advice you hope to gain from here. I will however try to be constructive.

I have owned Naim gear for many years so I will put my 'bias opinion' on the table right now (not a surprise I am sure as this is a Naim forum after all). I have however listened to a couple of Devialet systems, one a top end (800 I think) system with some PMC Fact 8s on the end (I was in fact auditioning the speakers - excuse the pun) and other lower end Devialet systems with their own speakers at various shows and showrooms.

Devialet is impressive, but for a short time IMO. It is rather HiFi (define that how you will) and I found the bass prodigious but inaccurate and in the end rather over-bearing. I do like the styling and the sleek, compact design. But at the end of the day, I buy Hi Fi solely on its ability to reproduce music in the home and its ability to connect me with the music in an emotional sense. Devialet failed to do this for me, Naim does.

Purely a personal perspective I am sure you understand.

Hi Steve,

I swapped a SU for a Devialet 120 in the early part of 2015 and was initially very impressed with the level of detail coming from that shiny box. It offered, in my opinion a higher level of clarity and bass that surpassed the SU. The D120 was superb at delivering a very open and transparent sound and hi-res recordings sounded incredible. However, after about 6 months, I began to feel like I was missing an emotional connection, there was a lack of foot tapping and swing, sort of speak and I seemed to be listening to great sounding records more often rather than wanting to play all genres and rediscover my music library.

As much as I really enjoyed the Devialet sound and customizable software options, I sold the shiny box and eventually spent way more $$ and settled back in with a Naim 272/200.

As for a direct comparison, the Devialet D120 was more transparent, has a pretty darn good DAC section but lacked something I needed that is perhaps not tangible. The SU seem to offer less details but was more fun.

Other reasons for moving away from Devialet is that they did not offer UPnP functionality and Naim did and their AIR software was buggy when using a computer for playback. This entailed having to purchase a Moon Mind 180 streamer to reinstate UPnP capabilities. 

Hope this helps.

These are points on a spectrum between "work it out" and "change it" and I think you know the answer.

Work it out with your wife and your family.   Fix your beloved 993 or 2002.   Rehab your Verdier.  

Prioritize the important things and change the rest out.

 

Steve,

Your post raises the question of the "Naim sound". After getting into Naim about 7 years ago, I have not directly compared any amplifiers from other manufacturers to my NAC 202 / NAP 200. As a matter of fact, I have upgraded within Naim to the NAC 282 / NAP 250 DR earlier this year.

What is it about this "Naim sound" that makes music a compelling listen and sets the Naim gear apart from the rest of the competition. Is it the PRaT that is synonymous with most if not all Naim owners, or is it something else.  Apart the usual talk of component A sounds better than component B, in what ways "better" is better? What are the perceived differences in the musical presentation that makes "better" truly better other than the music being able to evoke strong emotions and musical satisfaction to the listener? 

As mentioned earlier, since I have not tried any other gear since I got into Naim 7 years ago, I cannot say for certain on the uniqueness of the "Naim sound". Nevertheless, after trying and comparing some non-Naim "accessories" such as power supply and speaker cables, I think I have rough idea on the aspects that may have defined the Naim sound. My preliminary findings are just suppositions so they may not be true. What I think is the Naim sound is primarily a bass-driven sound which gives music the pace, rhythm or timing. It is not deep bass I am talking about but a pronounced mid-bass lift which gives music a rhythmic toe-tapping feel. With other gear, this mid-bass is subdued, and for this reason the toe-tapping beat in the rhythm is missing.

The only way to know if you are happy with the Devialet is to get the Naim in and see which one you like better. Another way to tackle this is to manage your expectations. Consider that there will always be something better(or different) than the existing gear that you have, even if you have the Statement series in your system(duck for cover). In that way, your craving for a change would cease to exist. Having said that, sometimes it is easier said than done as people want to try and discover new things. People are constantly changing and there are times that they just want a change, not only in hifi gear but all things in life(except the better half).

Steve, you don't mention whether you have changed speakers as well as the room. If so, there are too many changes in play. I've used Naim for over thirty years and am acclimatised to the sound, so other things sound wrong, even though they are simply different. I don't believe Naim is the only way, or the only make that can get you close to the music. Devialet might be even better, I just don't know. 

If you are listening to less music it's a sign that something is not quite right, whether it's the Devialet, the speakers, the room, or even something else entirely in your life. My only suggestion is to borrow a Naim setup and see if that gives you what you want. As well as the SU it would be worth trying the NDX/SN2 again, or maybe a 272 based system. Both of the two box options are much, much better than the SU, and I'd say are worth a try. 

Interesting comments above. As someone who left the fold, i’ve not been tempted to head back to Naim yet and this is from someone who has had Naim systems at various levels for 25 odd years before heading off in another direction. I must admit the Devialet took a lot of getting used to, not from a SQ perspective but from being used to the security of having all those boxes (must be proper Hi-Fi) – I hung on to my NDX as source for a while just to be sure. I’ve seen quite a few comments about the Devialet lacking emotional involvement but to me it’s just very truthful of what it’s playing, doesn’t have a false sense of pace and doesn’t impose its own character on the music. I’ve had mine just over 3 years and can’t see me changing for a while yet – I do spend a lot of time listening to my system and it gives me a lot of pleasure. I seem to buy and listen to more music rather than thinking about the next upgrade fix -  it must be doing something right 

The other thing that makes ownership easy is that it is so consistent in performance. Whether it’s been off for a couple of weeks or woken up from sleep, within 15mins or so it’s sounding at its best and doesn’t seem to go ‘off’ which makes it a lot easier to live. It's not for everyone, but don’t dismiss it just ‘cause it looks more style over substance and is a one boxer (well two in my case with the Melco as the source). You don’t need loads of kit to make good music.  

I'm not sure what the rest of your system is Steve (Wilson Benesch speakers from your profile pic ?) but maybe the Naim kit is better suited to it and your ears ?

James

 

I wondered about the Discoveries in the profile too. If they are Steve's speakers they would need a lot more than a Superuniti to do them justice. 

I was thinking of James when the Devialet was mentioned. It certainly must be doing something right. As to the infamous Naim upgrade path, it depends on whether one considers it a benefit or a curse. 

Had Devialet D200 and NDS (with SN2) in a home demo shoot out, I found the Devialet very bright, and great high frequency response, but when the run-in demo SN2 got hooked up to the NDS I was hooked fairly quickly.

I agree with some of the comments above, although James post above is excellent, that the Devialet felt very 'new HiFi' shiny and well driven and crafted but something about the NAIM punch around the mids, as Ryder described well also, is what perhaps gives the NAIM sound that extra foot tapping boogie sense of delivery, and the imaging/sounstaging (3D imaging) for me is better overall with NAIM.

One of the reasons I have never box swapped is for the very reason that I will end up where I started but poorer.   

Can't really advise but having heard NDX/Supernait I doubt I would have changed unless I was really clear in my own mind that I was actually achieving a significant improvement.   

Regards,

Lindsay

Dan43 posted:

I agree with some of the comments above, although James post above is excellent, that the Devialet felt very 'new HiFi' shiny and well driven and crafted but something about the NAIM punch around the mids, as Ryder described well also, is what perhaps gives the NAIM sound that extra foot tapping boogie sense of delivery, and the imaging/sounstaging (3D imaging) for me is better overall with NAIM.

Whether or not the OP's present set-up is right for him only he can decide (and is a separate question ro whether he should 'go back' to Naim), but whether Naim (particularly amplification)  is right for an individual seems so often to depend on whether you want to boogie and have involunrarily tapping feet almost regardless of what the music is, or whether you want the sound to be what was recorded, so that if the beat of the music induces foot tapping then it does, and if not it doesn't ( similarly re getting up and boogie-ing if you are that kind of person). 

As for mids, best sound I've ever heard (and It has received universal praise ever since it was first produced) is from the ATC SM75-150 dome midrange drive unit, used on theiir larger speakers, and that or recently their own clone of it on the pro range of PMCs. Punch in the midrange of course depends on what is driving the speaker, and also fundamentally on whether the recording has punch unless something in the voicing of system components provides emphasis.

Excellent replies – thanks everyone. I’ll pull out a couple of points to try and elaborate a bit.

Firstly to the point of what’s making me “unhappy”… I’m not sure unhappy is quite the right word. It’s that sense that the music sounds fantastic, but is it getting my foot tapping (as everyone so rightly points out).

I’ve used the set up with my discoverys and a set of the special edition Atohm GT1s (which come with the D120)… both of them exhibit the same “sound” I’m talking about as you might imagine. The thing I’m finding hard is that there is a sense that vocals sound a little more distant than they ever did on the Naim kit. It’s quite hard to put my finger on, but I’ve noticed myself working with music on in the background and thinking: I can’t understand what she / he is singing. I never found that with Naim, but now it’s gone I can’t compare!!

I have asked my dealer to take it back in, compare with another 120, perhaps a 220, and then an original naim setup (either SU, or perhaps a 172or 272/200 combo to get that “naim sound”).

@rightcoastants – I suspect I’m going the same way as you! And, yes, AIR is horrible and there’s no good interface for the Devialet which is annoying but hopefully isn’t skewing my view.

@hungryhalibut – (If you are listening to less music it's a sign that something is not quite right, whether it's the Devialet, the speakers, the room, or even something else entirely in your life.) – perhaps a 4 month old child!!! J

Steve

And as others have asked, did the change in system coincide with the house move -i .e, have you heard your old Naim system in your present room?

Midrange presentation depends heavily on the particular speakers, while in a room it tends is affected by surfaces in the room that may absorb or reflect very differently in one room compared to another (and the wider the dispersion of the speaker in the midrange the more significant may be near reflections from side wall, ceiling and floor)

Innocent Bystander posted:
Dan43 posted:

I agree with some of the comments above, although James post above is excellent, that the Devialet felt very 'new HiFi' shiny and well driven and crafted but something about the NAIM punch around the mids, as Ryder described well also, is what perhaps gives the NAIM sound that extra foot tapping boogie sense of delivery, and the imaging/sounstaging (3D imaging) for me is better overall with NAIM.

Whether or not the OP's present set-up is right for him only he can decide (and is a separate question ro whether he should 'go back' to Naim), but whether Naim (particularly amplification)  is right for an individual seems so often to depend on whether you want to boogie and have involunrarily tapping feet almost regardless of what the music is, or whether you want the sound to be what was recorded, so that if the beat of the music induces foot tapping then it does, and if not it doesn't ( similarly re getting up and boogie-ing if you are that kind of person). 

As for mids, best sound I've ever heard (and It has received universal praise ever since it was first produced) is from the ATC SM75-150 dome midrange drive unit, used on theiir larger speakers, and that or recently their own clone of it on the pro range of PMCs. Punch in the midrange of course depends on what is driving the speaker, and also fundamentally on whether the recording has punch unless something in the voicing of system components provides emphasis.

Agree entirely, S400s for me were very truthful and replayed what was sent to them honestly, revealing the source material in many areas to be quite poor, especially brickwalled CD rips.

I found that any colouring that the Devialet produced, outside any speakers relaying that colour, was for me just too bright overall, I found overall that NAIM was more honest and perhaps more down the middle in that respect.

I have just moved house and room and speakers in the new hifi room have made just as big if not more of an impact on what I am listening to than in some respects the quality of the equipment itself.

So many variables make up the final enjoyment to the individual, hence test test test (if you find a dealer happy to indulge this even better) and find your own favourite flavour. I suspect a lot of us though have bought a lot of different levels and abilities in our kit before finally settling on that 5-10 year life of that ideal system, plus add in new developments and it is a constantly moving target unfortunately.

Dan43 posted:

So many variables make up the final enjoyment to the individual, hence test test test (if you find a dealer happy to indulge this even better) and find your own favourite flavour. I suspect a lot of us though have bought a lot of different levels and abilities in our kit before finally settling on that 5-10 year life of that ideal system, plus add in new developments and it is a constantly moving target unfortunately.

Wow, is that all you expect? I'd hate to have to consider any change in that timeframe, which would suggest the system isn't ideal (unless you mean due to failure -but even that should be better).

I woud expect an ideal system to last a lifetime, literally, with no component failing in less than 10 years having to be replaced (and when something does fail it would be replaced with the same thing or current equivalent, because if the system is ideal then I would try to avoid change) - and in fact I realistically expect amps and speakers to last decades barring accidents, non-mechanical sources hopefully also, though on from the streaming angle they are relatively recent introductions and their longterm longevity isn't yet proven (ignoring firmware updates, which are not necessary if it does what I want it to do). This precludes changes that might result from other events, like moving house changing the room sufficiently to adversely affect the sound (and not readily retrievable with acceptable room treatment), or a windfall providing funds to just go and see if there is anything better, even though that has not been an intent or desire...

Innocent Bystander posted:
Dan43 posted:

So many variables make up the final enjoyment to the individual, hence test test test (if you find a dealer happy to indulge this even better) and find your own favourite flavour. I suspect a lot of us though have bought a lot of different levels and abilities in our kit before finally settling on that 5-10 year life of that ideal system, plus add in new developments and it is a constantly moving target unfortunately.

Wow, is that all you expect? I'd hate to have to consider any change in that timeframe, which would suggest the system isn't ideal (unless you mean due to failure -but even that should be better).

I woud expect an ideal system to last a lifetime, literally, with no component failing in less than 10 years having to be replaced (and when something does fail it would be replaced with the same thing or current equivalent, because if the system is ideal then I would try to avoid change) - and in fact I realistically expect amps and speakers to last decades barring accidents, non-mechanical sources hopefully also, though on from the streaming angle they are relatively recent introductions and their longterm longevity isn't yet proven (ignoring firmware updates, which are not necessary if it does what I want it to do). This precludes changes that might result from other events, like moving house changing the room sufficiently to adversely affect the sound (and not readily retrievable with acceptable room treatment), or a windfall providing funds to just go and see if there is anything better, even though that has not been an intent or desire...

Not particularly maybe a lifetime for some maybe with changing equipment it is a year or two, a lifetime is a long time and 40-50 years use after finding that perfect speaker is pretty awesome.

No I imagine again it is individual your mileage and others will differ, no absolutes at all just a rough assumption, if a system lasts 30 years then the value of the original purchase is just exceptional in its return and enjoyment.

Cars are expected to change every 3-5 years wonder what mileage then the ideal system, at the time you purchased it, should be expected to last?

All NDS purchasers changed their systems they must have done as it was new to market, good question then about longevity of a system and expectations of it.

Ah so you bought the Ensemble system. A very neat solution (and the Atohm speakers allow SAM to be used) but you've ended up buying a complete system rather than just changing the amp component so there are more variables at play here. 

Just a couple of things i'm sure you are aware of but just in case -

Make sure you have the latest firmware.

If just using USB (you must be if using the Melco as a source) then turn off any unused inputs (using the configurator) especially Ethernet and AIR. 

Turn off the Dynamic Power Management if you have this enabled.

Use a decent USB cable. Chord Silver Plus works really well

 James

Dan43 posted:
Innocent Bystander posted:
Dan43 posted:

So many variables make up the final enjoyment to the individual, hence test test test (if you find a dealer happy to indulge this even better) and find your own favourite flavour. I suspect a lot of us though have bought a lot of different levels and abilities in our kit before finally settling on that 5-10 year life of that ideal system, plus add in new developments and it is a constantly moving target unfortunately.

Wow, is that all you expect? I'd hate to have to consider any change in that timeframe, which would suggest the system isn't ideal (unless you mean due to failure -but even that should be better).

I woud expect an ideal system to last a lifetime, literally, with no component failing in less than 10 years having to be replaced (and when something does fail it would be replaced with the same thing or current equivalent, because if the system is ideal then I would try to avoid change) - and in fact I realistically expect amps and speakers to last decades barring accidents, non-mechanical sources hopefully also, though on from the streaming angle they are relatively recent introductions and their longterm longevity isn't yet proven (ignoring firmware updates, which are not necessary if it does what I want it to do). This precludes changes that might result from other events, like moving house changing the room sufficiently to adversely affect the sound (and not readily retrievable with acceptable room treatment), or a windfall providing funds to just go and see if there is anything better, even though that has not been an intent or desire...

Not particularly maybe a lifetime for some maybe with changing equipment it is a year or two, a lifetime is a long time and 40-50 years use after finding that perfect speaker is pretty awesome.

No I imagine again it is individual your mileage and others will differ, no absolutes at all just a rough assumption, if a system lasts 30 years then the value of the original purchase is just exceptional in its return and enjoyment.

Cars are expected to change every 3-5 years wonder what mileage then the ideal system, at the time you purchased it, should be expected to last?

All NDS purchasers changed their systems they must have done as it was new to market, good question then about longevity of a system and expectations of it.

Personally I prefer to find what I like and then keep it, with no hankering for change - if the music sounds fantastic, why change? I had my last pair of speakers for about 25 years, with no desire to change, and only did this year because I had some unexpected resources and as they were about 45 years old it seemed like an opportunity to find something even better, that would then last me what hopefully will be more than another 25 years, while beaing a visual and aural momento of someone.

As for cars, the cars I've liked I've kept a lot more than 5 years, my Saab, for example, lasted me about 8 years and 100k miles, having been purchased a couple of years only with 80k on the clock, and my only reasons for selling was rust around the sunroof needing a fair cost to fix properly and a feeling that it must be getting close the point where other big bills would start.

But then I know I tend not to just do things like a majority, but purely what makes sense to me.

Allowing for the terrible affliction that is audiophilia neurosis ultimately if Iit doesn't seem right then it probably isn't right.  HH could  be on to something with regard to the speakers but me thinks the OP needs a re-think.  

One other point  - one box systems have really come on leaps and bounds but ultimately and everything else being equal isating high performating electronics from each other is going to provide for an improved musical experience.  

Regards,

Lindsay

The need to 'play away' from home once in a while is a human failing, and why not?  It does us good to go exploring from time to time, if only to re-confirm our current choices.

Following a recent advertising email from that Scottish company, I booked an individual listening session with an Exakt DSM and Exakt 350 speakers... so a significant box reduction from my own NDS/2x555PS,  552, 500, B&W Diamonds, and if one believes the incoming email, a significant improvement in SQ.

Here's what I wrote to the dealer who hosted me for half a day earlier this week:

Thanks for your time on Monday, I found the experience very enjoyable.

 One possible explanation for my ‘understated reaction’ is that my Naim system comes very close to what I heard in your dem room, another explanation may be that at my age my hearing is beginning to diminish (OK, is well diminished! ) and the subtleties that are apparent to younger folk are nowadays lost to me.

 I did, as I said I would, listen to my system soon after returning home; in particular to that track from the album ‘Trio’.  You are absolutely right, there are all three ladies on there – I’d previously missed the one on the right of Dolly (is that Emmylou?), but on careful listening she’s there OK.  It was also quite clear that the bass rendition on the Exakt 350 system outperforms my own by a significant margin.  However, the Naim system seems to enable more precise placement and separation both laterally and in depth of the components of the performance.  Whether this is an accurate portrayal of the original recording engineer’s intention, or whether, as you suggested, the Exact system is giving a more ‘natural’ portrayal, it’s difficult to discern without having been in the studio at the time, so when I’m sat listening to the Exakt system, I’m judging it by what I’m used to hearing – that must be a perennial obstacle for you, but nonetheless, one you’re accustomed to !

 You asked and I didn’t answer fully, what system I’m listening to at the moment:  it’s mostly Naim,  an NDS streamer with 2x555PS feeding a NAC552DR pre through Chord Music interconnect, feeding a NAP500 power amp through Chord Sarum Super Array, driving B&W 802 diamond speakers through Naim Super Lumia cables.  There’s other peripheral analogue and digital sources too, as I mentioned.

 As I see it, then, the advantage to me of the Exakt system is a reduced box count; I don’t hear a significant uplift in sound quality.  This being the case, I shall stick with what I have for the time being.

So, I've ventured out and scratched the itch, as they say, and returned very satisfied to live with my Naim setup.  It's an exercise I recommend to you every few years... it's actually about 30 years since I owned a fully active Scottish system and in between that and my current Naim system, I dabbled with some American and Canadian options, but I'm happy now and can return to my listening pleasures, satisfied that what I have is the best for me right now.

Roger

Note to Richard - not sure if I'm supposed to mention model numbers in the Scottish heirarchy, but since this is very close to their top-of-the-line setup, it serves to put my comments in perspective, I hope.

 

Another sad case of being wowed by the initial wow factor and then the magic fading!

I have heard the top end Pre/power set up a couple of times now and I can see the attraction but for the long term????  No thank you, nothing beats my humble 552/500.

 

The SN is a cracking amp, I wouldn't hesitate to get one if I was looking for an amp in that price range 

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