What Amp?

I have a NAC 12S and NAP 120 that I purchased from Russ Andrews in 1976 and have served me faithfully for the last forty years (almost). Recently I moved them to another another room that's slightly larger than the one they were in and I'm feeling that I need more power. The heatsinks on the back of the 120 can get pretty toasty if you drive it a decent level for a while. 

I've seen several NAP 140 /150 /160 amps posted on the Interwebs at pretty decent prices, I'm just wondering if I would really notice the 10w increase, or would the other amps be a better match? When I bought mine back in 1976, I really wanted the NAP 250, but it was way out of the budget....

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers,

Hamish

Original Post

Primarily using an iPod, but also an AR XB turntable on occasion. I'm putting it through a pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors with recapped x-overs running White Lightning speaker cable.  Had the whole rig serviced about three years ago, but it's always run toasty. 

The intent of this system was to use primarily for more acoustical based music rather than playing "Foxtrot" at high volume. The modded Paradigm's are quite exceptional and handle voice and piano very well indeed. Also, my wife is not overly fond of large boxes that glow, with the accompanying large wooden boxes. By using my old Naim, I get the quality of playback without turning the room into a replica of the Tardis......

The NAP120 shouldn't be running so hot - not unless it's unhappy, which is often caused by unsuitable cable or poorly soldered connections.  The NAP 120 is an excellent power amp and moving to a NAP140 or similar is a sideways move in my opinion.  I'd be looking at getting some NACA5 on there - at least 3.5m per channel, preferably 5m or more - properly terminated with Naim speaker connectors or similar nickel plate bananas such as Deltrons (please, avoid gold here at the amp end).

I'm honestly open to anything. I was really wondering if an amp other than the 120 would better fit my needs. And if it sounds better, then I'm open. All the 250's I've seen are typically two to three times the price of either a 140 or 160. Is the 250 really that much better?

My first Naim in 1977 was a ex demo 12N/120. I upgraded shortly after to a 12N/160. Vast improvement. Later I went to a 32/Naps/250. Big improvement again. Years later I had the opportunity to compare a 12N/120 against a current 42/SNAPS/110.  The 12N/120 whilst good was left far behind. Given how cheap they are, I'd look at a 42/SNAPS/160, possibly one that's been recapped), circa 1985 as a possible step or a later/last of the production run 42.5/SNAPS/140. They're all going to be better than where you're at and good value for money. I suspect a lot of the improvement would be because the pre-amps I am suggesting were a step up from the 12N, and because of the introduction of the SNAPS. Can still remember being quite surprised about what that little box did back then. Now we accept the rational but back then power supplies like the SNAPS & then HiCap were viewed with some scepticism.

And Richard Dane is right, either look at your cables or maybe the bias current for the output transistors needs a tweek. Naim lasts forever but power amps need a bit of service every now and then. Maybe just service the 120, find an old SNAPS and enjoy!

Hamish, The AR77XB was my first record player so very similar to yours. Which cartridge do you have?

Don't ever show your wife the Systempics thread btw. That way lies trouble.

I use 2x7M of Naca5 in a fairly small room. Sounds great. The excess is looped around the back of the system. Naim amps love Naca5 because it allows them to give their best.

Chris

Your speakers are "Compatible with 8 ohms" and 87dB / W, so if the 120 is running hot and was only serviced 3 years ago, either

1  You're damaging your hearing
2  You have a wiring fault
3  (most likely) You have the wrong speaker cables

Back in the day, before NAC A4 cable came out, Naim were great amplifiers and you just bought one and had fun, (or suffered abuse at the hands of the "straight wire with gain" brigade). And you learnt to solder those damn DIN line level plugs.

I have met Mr Vereker on several occasions and whilst I loved dining out at his expense, (thanks Julian I really enjoyed those times), the only view that I remember him expressing in regard to speaker cable, (back when 120's and 160's and the grand father 250 were extant), was that Monster cable was shite and a good figure 8 was all you needed. We had a Radiospares outlet in Perth and that's where you went for decent banana plugs and cable.  I took a course in soldering.  You learnt to dress cables properly. But that was it.

Latterly the science evolved and we learnt about power supplies, cables, stands... All great and worthwhile  but it was mainly refining a great sound further.

Yes the balance of a system, (any decent system), is affected by "audiophile" cables. A long time ago you strayed at your peril from the carefully thought out synergy of a Linn/Naim system. But in my whole time as a dealer not one Naim amplifier ever blew up because of some strange, overpriced and over hyped speaker cable. The power amps are almost bullet proof. Yes the old ones run hot if you get it wrong and yes you can  get caught in a hall of mirrors second guessing if it "sounds right' but bloody hell the worst that happened was they shut down.  My admiration for Naim is based not only on their great sound but also, and almost as importantly, that the product is damn good, easy to live with and it very rarely breaks down.

We have learnt a lot over the years. Naim have demonstrated conclusively that you have to consider the minutiae very carefully. I believe in good cable, and the right cable. Positioning, dressing, directionality et al help make the system sing. But don't get too hung up on it all. Naim is not that fragile. And even when you've stuffed up they still sound pretty good.

Speaker cable design has become far more radical since the '70s.  Naim's extremely elegant amplifier design, where the speaker cable provides the required inductance for amp stability, thus removing a the need for added inductance networks within the amp output stage, does mean that with the advent of very low inductance and/or high capacitance speaker cable designs you need to be a bit more careful these days with the traditional Naim amps.  Figure 8 cable is usually fine, but plaited cables should be avoided as they can be too low in inductance, and high capacitance cables hold also be avoided - high capacitance and low inductance in speaker cables often go hand in hand. Similarly, if cables are too short then there may not be enough inductance for proper stability.

I agree Richard, I believe that one of the design parameters of a Naim that makes them so musical is the lack of LRC across the output stage. They're not fighting their way through all that "choke". And it's true that some modern cables, (especially from your Trans-Atlantic comrades), chase the low inductance chimera into dangerous territory when using an amplifier which has factored in real world speaker cable inductance

 

Appreciate all the feedback! I now have a plan. First, I'm going to get a couple of runs of NACA5 and then assess the benefit. Then, if I don't get an appreciable change, then I'll shop for a NAP 160 (or a 250, if I time it close to a birthday)......

Cheers,

Hamish

I really want to keep the 12N as I have done considerable reading on this forum and others and it gets the thumbs up as being one of the most musical of the pre-amps. Just to clarify, in the almost 40 years I've had this rig, the NAP 120 has ALWAYS run a little toasty and in my younger days, I managed to shut it done on a couple of occasions. Bear in mind, when I bought it, there was no focus on using specific cable for the speakers. That didn't come until the rig hit it's teenage years....

Cheers,

Hamish

Adam Meredith posted:
Hamish posted:

...  I'll shop for a NAP 160 (or a 250, if I time it close to a birthday)......

For the NAP250 option - you'll need a power supply for the preamplifier.

A 180 (about £350) would get you close but still give you the option to run without a PS until you could afford one, although Olive HiCaps tend to go for about £300 these days.

Loki posted:

Is the 250 really that much better?

Yes, without a shred of doubt. I've had NAP90, and 180 and the 250.2 is absolutely head and shoulders above them. Worth every penny, if you can afford it.

Ipod source

Easy driven bookshelfs

No need for 250 amp

Hamish posted:

First, I'm going to get a couple of runs of NACA5 and then assess the benefit. Then, if I don't get an appreciable change, then I'll shop for a NAP 160 (or a 250, if I time it close to a birthday)......

What's a wait until the end of Jan when you've waited forty years?!

C.

After looking around for some Naim speaker cable, I eventually decided on a 5m run of the Witch Hat speaker cable. I didn't want to deal with cable that was stiff and unyielding.

 Given that I had set up this system for primarily acoustic / jazz /vocal, I was very impressed at how well the WH cable performed, specifically on female vocals. I always found Joan Armatrading's "Down to Zero" a little murky on the vocal. The WH cleaned it up nicely. It did sound a little bright for the first ten hours, but so far it's only getting better over time. Given that I'm streaming lossless from an iPod, I can't wait to see how vinyl performs. I'm not affiliated with WH, but was impressed with their product and the follow up after purchase.

Cheers,

Hamish

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