Why I returned to S-400s (this is long, please do something else if you have spare time)

Dear Max.

Thank you for your erudite thoughts on the S400's. I too have a pair which I bought for some of the very reasons you have articulated. I also understand totally why you do not wish to go down a "rabbit hole" of justification and the "fear of falling back into perennial dissatisfaction and regulation paranoia and itch to change like the plague". Please just enjoy the music your system is now producing and stay well.

Best Regards Graham

Late to this particular party, but thanks very much for the OP. It was a long post but is such an easy and enjoyable read. Very well written and gave a real sense of the rational and irrational elements involved in your particular selection process.

Mine is probably equally complex and irrational but, at the same time, very different, which means a very different outcome. My partner still hasn't quite got used to the Twenty.26s. When you enter the room you see them side on - I wonder if there is a word to describe the irrational slightly uncomfortable feeling she gets as she goes through the split second cycle of 'they're falling over, must catch them, oh no they're supposed to be like that' every time she enters the room?

sunbeamgls posted:

I wonder if there is a word to describe the irrational slightly uncomfortable feeling she gets as she goes through the split second cycle of 'they're falling over, must catch them, oh no they're supposed to be like that' every time she enters the room?

Phew.

C.

Adam Zielinski posted:
rsch posted:
Max_B posted:
 

mine are 337195. I use a small amount of toe-in mainly because I love to see the black panel and the two thin lines of the visible strips of the sides... Very elegant. Sounds good too, luckily.

M

How much toe in exactly ?

R.

I also use a small amount of 'toe-in' -
If you imagine a parallel line (with speakers in a full frontal position), the inside spikes are moved by 1 cm away from that line.
That's what works for me, in my room.

I encourage experimentation - best if you get a tape measure and use it when moving speakers - to get the distance and the toe-in precisely the same.
I must have moved my Ovators at least 5 or 6 times until I found a good spot for them.

I have 2-3 mm of toe in either on 600s and 400s

Regards

Roberto

@Max -

Still liking the ovators?

Also - did you ever get a chance to listen to the Kudos Super 20s? 

Your comment regarding the Harbeths - they do sound very relaxing - and supposedly per alan the antidote to all this gear swapping + Speaker search. But not to be, huh?

DavidDever posted:

They are a remarkably good speaker on other manufacturers' electronics

Ironically, after 5 years of Naim integrateds I finally got a chance to get a pair of S-400s home having just moved to a Plinius integrated in January. Interesting how the Ovators put the Naim signature right back into my system. Good or bad? Still deciding. Love the way they do tight, articulated bass. Sound staging is a little flat and dimensionless and I can't really point to any imaging. Plenty of musicality and while the mids are incredibly clear and resolved, they are also a bit too forward and I feel like some of the life might be sucked out of the vocals. Maybe the BMR unit was asked to handle too wide a range of frequencies. A little bolster from a mid driver might help the singers sound like they have a diaphragm. FWIW - my wife loves the S-400s sound but thinks my Totem Sttafs look nicer in the room.

Joerand,

Funny, I have kind of the same observation. If you bring in any Naim component, you'll get something Naimish. Half a year ago I put a Naim AV2 in front of my old Technics amp, which immediately resulted in much better balance and dynamics in music. I found that the Pre-amp is mostly responsible for this, however I'm not an expert here.

It seems - according to the forum tales - that the BMR unit strongly improves when activated. Unfortunately, you need to upgrade to S600's for that. This gives you the opportunity to bring in another Plinius amp too :-)

Gents - I beg to differ with regards as to which Ovators....

S400s are great for smaller rooms and are happy being driven either by an integrated (e.g. SN2) or a good pre-power combo (in my case NAP 250DR).  S600s are supposedly much happier in larger settings.

As to their sound signature - my S400s are probably one of the most transparent and fastest speakers I've heard. There is something resembling a sound signature of Quad ESL63s to them. They grately reward when being driven hard
I can appreciate Ovators may not be everyone's cup of tea - but to my ears - they are simply stunning.

Few observations on runnign in and set up: they need an absolute eternity to come on song - I bought an ex-demo set and it took them nearly a month before they loosened up. Almost no toe-in is required and using dedicated NAIM Ovators plugs is very beneficial.

Adam Zielinski posted:

S400s are great for smaller rooms and are happy being driven either by an integrated (e.g. SN2) or a good pre-power combo (in my case NAP 250DR).

My room is on the smallish side - 14x16 feet, semi-open and I'm using a 200-watt Plinius Hautonga integrated. For the time the Ovators cabinet size is a bit imposing compared to the relatively diminutive Totem Sttafs, but that's a visual adjustment and can work over time. As far as a sonic fit into my room, the Ovators are appropriate. They do a range of volumes well.

Adam Zielinski posted:

As to their sound signature - my S400s are probably one of the most transparent and fastest speakers I've heard.

No doubt. Love the 400s bass articulation. Tight, fast with great resolution and clarity. The vocals are pretty much spelled-out in front of you, but I'm still not sure I need the closed captioning in my face .

Adam Zielinski posted:

Few observations on runnign in and set up: they need an absolute eternity to come on song - I bought an ex-demo set and it took them nearly a month before they loosened up. Almost no toe-in is required

I've got a used pair - seems a given with Ovators at this time. I spent the first two hours toying with placement and toe-in and feel like I'm in a good place. My wife's completely unsolicited comment of "wow, the sound is coming from the middle like the speakers aren't even there" seems to confirm the speakers are in a good place in my room. FWIW, they're toed-in.

As far as an ex-dem set loosening up? I suspect that's more to do with auditory adjustment of the listener than the speakers.

DavidDever posted:

They are a remarkably good speaker on other manufacturers' electronics–a facet of the development process which is often lost or communicated less-than-effectively–and benefit greatly from proper optimization that might (at first glance) appear at odds with that of traditional Naim loudspeakers.

I apologize for having fully noticed and read this post so late. I find it interesting because in some of my 'non-Naim' moments I think that I will surely keep the S-400s and might change CD and amp. I too – in a purely instinctive way – think they could be great with other electronics too.

I am still happy to have bought them (although it was not one of my best and most clever bargains). They are beautiful, they blend in the room with supreme elegance and 'nonchalance'. What I love most in them: their midrange. It's at least as integer and rich as they say of Harbeth (I did direct comparisons); what I like least: their top end could be a little more airy and refined. But to me they are one of Naim's smarter designs. It only took me two pairs and five years to be aware of it.

Bart posted:

I listened to S400's only once, for about 20 minutes, at the end of a Super Uniti, in my dealer's listening room.  I didn't like them much, but such are speakers and preferences.

Bart,

is it possible that what you didn't like was the SuperUniti? The first time I heard the S-400s was at the last edition of the TopAudio In Milan, I think 2012. They were driven by a UnitiLite (a machine I love, and consider highly) while the SuperUniti is something I once owned, sold in a week and wouldn't want for free if I needed something to amplify my TV. Such are amps and preferences...

Best

Max

 

I think it is most important to have your source being very good. I had some experiences with either badly recorded or overcompressed music and if your Naim setup is setup correctly, it mercylessly reveals this. Given the comparisons with electrostatic loudspeakers, I'm not surprised that especially Ovators do this.

Max currently has a well balanced setup: the CDX2, SuperNait and Ovators. Just perfect.

I'm sure that if your sources are good, the 300dr will bring them to another level - but at a price.

I've been running on a Nait 5 for some days now, and am happy. My SuperNait is on holiday for a while ...

ChrisSU posted:
Drewy posted:

The s400s need more than a Superuniti to really open up. I started with a SU with mine and are now being gripped by a 300dr. 

I guess you could say that about any speaker....

I guess I could but I'm convinced the Ovators are not ideally suited to the Uniti range. Personal experience.

I'm really hoping that the Nova will be an improvement over the Superuniti and will be able to drive my S400 with some authority.  My XS does well but I am left wondering occasionally what would I get by going higher up the tree, SN would be good but is it too small of a step and do I need to go pre-power?  Probably, but back to the Nova I also need to replace my DAC and an all-in-one would achieve that plus reduce box count and give me options for different locations in the room, so is tempting.  The waiting is seems interminable...

Just to close out my home audition with the 400s - they went back. My thoughts are that the 400s are wonderful speakers for musicality and they sure know how to rock. The clean bass provides the PRaT and opens up the BMR's stunning clarity. The speed is addictive. Unfortunately, the overall tonal balance didn't work for me. Vocals and mids were too forward for my ears and the highs were a little too rolled-off.  I also noticed occasional glare. The flat soundstage had good width, but no real height, dimension, or imaging.  Given the superb bass delineation and musicality, I could have lived with the soundstage and even the occasional glare, were it not for the forward mids and their lack of body and timbre. Maybe the drivers could have been crossed-over a little higher? Maybe a traditional mid driver and tweeter in place of the BMR unit?

I can appreciate why owners of 400s are passionate about them. If they work in your room, with your system, and to your ears there's probably not better VFM for a speaker out there. No reason they shouldn't be considered a world-class speaker. The build quality and looks are great and I had no problem placing them in my room.

Now my journey continues to find a speaker that works for me. At the same time I recognize that there really is no perfect speaker out there. I thought that plugging my Totem Sttafs back in after a few days with the 400s would be a let down. To my surprise I was right back on track with those slim but musical little two-way towers.

Joe,

funnily enough, I don't recognize my S-400s in any part of your description. This proves to me how room, gear and ear dependent they are.

Anyway, I, for one, am not passionate about them: I bought mine because they were Naim, they had to be floor standers and they looked beautiful. How they sound is a matter I don't want to take too seriously, for now; my hypohedonia gracefully helps me to maintain the amount of time and money I spend for audio within reasonable limits.

M

Max_B posted:

How they sound is a matter I don't want to take too seriously, for now;

Which doesn't mean I don't care how they sound, or even do not like them. I love them for a mix of all the mentioned reasons. They have adapted themselves to a not easy acoustical environment nicely. If I'm asked now, I wouldn't want any other speaker than those, now.

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