Naim NAPs Tone Scale
Posted by: Khan on 10 January 2019
itís 2019 and Iím on my third Naim setup which is now complete. Through the years Iíve always partnered a different NAC pre to the NAP power amps so Iíve lost sight of where each of NAPs would stand in terms of tone i.e warm or bright. Although I donít regard any Naim amplifier to be overly bright or warm there is a tone scale nevertheless. So in order of systems.
NAC 82 - NAP 300
my first real taste of the Naim sound. And boy was I in for a treat. My speakers at the time were Harbeth SHL5+. The NAC 82 was doing a stellar job for the £900 I paid for it and the NAP 300 was delivering the music to the Harbeths with ease. From what I learnt from some experimentation was the NAP 300 was the warmer in tone between the pre and power. Value for Money, this was my best setup. And I LOVED the NAP 300 for its tone, timbre and speed.
NAC 252 - NAP 250.2 later upgraded to NAP250DR
after I had purged myself of my first Naim setup after a horrible end to a long relationship I was in, I missed my one and only hobby so I got back into the game with the Harbeth Monitor 30.2s. They didnít quite have the scale of the larger SHL5+ but they were more transparent and definitely a faster speaker. Suddenly I learnt that there were far more notes being played in the lower registers of so many of my favourite tracks. The NAC 252 was more refined than the 82. A little darker too but in a gorgeous way. So far Iím still mighty impressed with the NAC 252. The 250.2 on the other hand was good but not great. It provided the much needed warmth to the smaller Harbeths but I always felt like it was a little thick in the mids without bringing the transparency with it. The upgrade to the 250 DR was a game changer. One of the biggest leaps in sound quality that I have experienced. I could suddenly hear so much deeper into the recording. The weight of the bass was accompanied by the texture and layering in the music. Sublime setup.
NAC 552DR - NAP 135s
Initially with Naim SL2 loudspeakers (which I couldnít get to work on my wooden floor and small room), and then to Harbeth 40th Anniversary 30.2s. Now The 552 DR is A Masterpiece. It sorts out all the congestion in music without sounding harsh or bright. Itís bring a calmness to the music that reminds me of the best of MOSFET and tube designs that Iíve heard, but with far more transparency. I had read in Michael Fremerís review that the 552 was on the darker side of Neutral. Well, perhaps compared to his chosen alternative, or perhaps the DR is far more transparent. Either way, I would never say the 552DR is dark/er. It provides a great amount of upper register information, YES, but I believe itís providing exactly whatís been recorded, whereas lesser amps are simply not able to pull it of in quite this manner. The layering, the speed, the timbre the weight and speed of bass. Nothing seems disproportionate. Everything seems just right.
Onto the NAP 135s, which I found a gorgeous 2002 model of????. I have to say I love the look of some vintage hifi. Itís pure pornography. Like a well maintained E Type Jag (Drooling).
NOW, the sound of the NAP 135s is something I havenít been able to wrap my head around just yet. Iím sure that it is more neutral sounding than all the previous NAPS. Iím sure of it. It is very energetic and provides a level of control that perhaps even the NAP 300 wasnít able to muster. Itís fast as hell. It brings a lot of qualities to the table but this is where Iím getting stuck....
I feel like there is more bass than the previous NAPs. But then on other tracks I feel like there isnít as much. The 250DR was a great example of speed and weight. Now I know the 135s probably has it on speed but does it have it on bass authority.
now you may be thinking how can I be judging the power amps when most of the time I have always used a different pre and even sometimes a different DAC not to mention speakers. Well this is where I shall annoy a lot of you and say that I believe I can. Bear in mind that at times I did try different NACs or integrated amps with the NAPs, so that I could get a bearing on the tone and overal performance characteristics of the NAPs. And partly itís what Iíve read from all you good folks. Let me explain, I would read a description of what people heard of any amplifier and then I listened out for those characteristics in the sound. My setup is in my bedroom, with very good diffusion and absorption. This is due to wallpapered walls, large bed and an open wardrobe with scattered shelves to diffuse and absorb. Not to mention large foam pieces that I place at the first reflection point. What I mean to say is that I have a good measure of even the slightest of changes in my setup and I really can hear the most subtle changes. I can tell blind if my speaker has been moved an inch let alone a change of component.
So finally my question to anyone who has bothered to read through all of that. Whatís your impressions of the tone of the NAPs, 135s, and the higher echelon of Classic series 250DR and above?
Happy New Year