£3,648 for a volume knob (i.e. why not DAC into Power Amp)?

Posted by: perizoqui on 10 January 2019

Dear forum colleagues,

A couple years back I fell into this whole Naim thing after hearing a Nova at an audio show paired with my Focal Sopra II speakers. Fully intending to buy a Nova, I came here for advice and ended up buying a NAP 300DR several months later. For the source I couldn't decide between the 272 I auditioned and loved, and the Nova's ability to play the latest file formats and so on (i.e. both airplay and roon). So I got neither, and bought a used Classť streaming preamp as a place holder until a new option came on the market to drive my 300.

This afternoon, I placed an order for a new NDX 2, which I'm very very very excited to get. Of course I know I shouldn't plug the output of the NDX directly into the 300, I must have a volume knob betwixt the two! The least expensive way to get one from Naim is with a 202+HiCap for £3,648 in the UK, or $6,390 in the USA with the good old trans-atlantic markup. That's a lot of money for a knob, when the NDX will be my only source.

Options:

1) Naim NAC 202 + HiCap DR (£3,648 / $6,390)

2) Use the DSP volume in Roon (Free! and lossless for CD quality audio)

3) Schiit Saga preamp ($349)

So, I know the correct answer is supposed to be option 1, but I can't wrap my head around why. Thought I'd come here and ask for instruction from my betters.

Thanks in advance!

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by ChrisSU

The new Naim streamers now have a digital volume control built in, so even the cheap Schiit might not be necessary! The serious answer, though, is that your dealer should be able to advise you, and help you to decide with your own ears what sounds best to you for your budget.....which may not be a NAC202!

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Richard Dane

Perizoqui, the preamp is a bit more than just a volume control. Itís one half of the amplifier chain, and whatís more itís the more important half! Iíd rather run a NAC552 with say a NAP100 or 200!than a NAP300 fronted by an NAC202; it will sound much better. Do the demo and hear for yourself.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Timo

Try Chord Hugo TT2? 

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Fueller

Itís worse than that in Naim world, unlikely anyone here will say option 1 is correct as the natural naim partner for a 300dr ( to get the best from it and the ndx2 ) would be a 282/supercap or 252/supercap at considerable expense.

I canít comment on the other options - a cheaper naim option is a 272 into 300dr but that route is cut off as you want the new streaming platform and have already got an ndx2. Not much to lose by experimenting with 2) and 3) and Iím sure others wiser than me will give the benefit of their experience shortly.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Ardbeg10y

If you are in for an adventure, get a Nac 72 and a hicap of your choice. I got mine somewhere between 600 and 700 GBP.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Halloween Man

Before ordering extremely expensive gear it's always a good idea to know your onions first!

Naim don't recommend third party preamps going into their power amps. 

Perhaps a 272 (or its impending replacement) might have been a better option?

Personally, I don't see the point of a dedicated preamp at all unless you have analog sources.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by ROOG
perizoqui posted:

Dear forum colleagues,

A couple years back I fell into this whole Naim thing after hearing a Nova at an audio show paired with my Focal Sopra II speakers. Fully intending to buy a Nova, I came here for advice and ended up buying a NAP 300DR several months later. For the source I couldn't decide between the 272 I auditioned and loved, and the Nova's ability to play the latest file formats and so on (i.e. both airplay and roon). So I got neither, and bought a used Classť streaming preamp as a place holder until a new option came on the market to drive my 300.

This afternoon, I placed an order for a new NDX 2, which I'm very very very excited to get. Of course I know I shouldn't plug the output of the NDX directly into the 300, I must have a volume knob betwixt the two! The least expensive way to get one from Naim is with a 202+HiCap for £3,648 in the UK, or $6,390 in the USA with the good old trans-atlantic markup. That's a lot of money for a knob, when the NDX will be my only source.

Options:

1) Naim NAC 202 + HiCap DR (£3,648 / $6,390)

2) Use the DSP volume in Roon (Free! and lossless for CD quality audio)

3) Schiit Saga preamp ($349)

So, I know the correct answer is supposed to be option 1, but I can't wrap my head around why. Thought I'd come here and ask for instruction from my betters.

Thanks in advance!

I have a similar challenge to you and contemplated a Schiit pre amp and have thought about a NAC 72. I also have a hankering to build a Nelson Pass B1 buffered volume control, or some such similar buffered volume control as that is all the functionality I require.

still looking.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by The Strat (Fender)

Well you have to try it.  First off - compare a NDX/SN2 vs 272/250DR.  And go from there.  

Regards,

Lindsay

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Matteo

Get a s/h SN2 or a 272 to use only as a pre.

They have the same dimensions of both NDX 2 and NAP 300.

M.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Bob the Builder

NDX2/Olive82/HC/300DR would sound pretty good and the 'Knob' only cost you about £1200.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
ChrisSU posted:

The new Naim streamers now have a digital volume control built in

Really?!? I didn't know this. Could you please point me to where I might learn more about this built-in digital volume? Thanks!

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
Richard Dane posted:

Perizoqui, the preamp is a bit more than just a volume control. Itís one half of the amplifier chain, and whatís more itís the more important half! Iíd rather run a NAC552 with say a NAP100 or 200!than a NAP300 fronted by an NAC202; it will sound much better. Do the demo and hear for yourself.

Well, of course you know much more about Naim than I 

That said... I agree with what you've said about analog sources which require some amount of amplification, filtering, and buffering. But a digital source with a line-level output has already had all the amplification, filtering, and buffering it needs. I believe the only thing it needs is attenuation and perhaps impedance matching to the load? I'm not arguing that a 202, or a 282, or even a 252 might not be better, only about the ratio between the degree of "better" and the price?

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
Timo posted:

Try Chord Hugo TT2? 

Thought about it long and hard but: no streamer, no airplay, and no roon support...

And in the end I'd still be left with digital volume control, which I can do with Roon. So what's the benefit?

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
Ardbeg10y posted:

If you are in for an adventure, get a Nac 72 and a hicap of your choice. I got mine somewhere between 600 and 700 GBP.

Very interesting idea! Let me see what I can find online...

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
ROOG posted:

I also have a hankering to build a Nelson Pass B1 buffered volume control, or some such similar buffered volume control as that is all the functionality I require.

Another very interesting idea! Thanks! Might be a fun inexpensive thing to try, though I'd need IR volume control to avoid the dangers associated with exercise.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
Halloween Man posted:

Before ordering extremely expensive gear it's always a good idea to know your onions first!

 

Yep, I think I know my onions. Plan right now is to start with 2, and end with 1 if that doesn't satisfy. I'm posting to learn what to expect and why. I know it's taboo to drive power amps with DACs, but I've never gotten a good technical explanation as to why. Many times in the past I've felt that way about things (like run-in for an amplifier) and learned a ton by asking on this forum. So here i am!

 

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Richard Dane
perizoqui posted:
Richard Dane posted:

Perizoqui, the preamp is a bit more than just a volume control. Itís one half of the amplifier chain, and whatís more itís the more important half! Iíd rather run a NAC552 with say a NAP100 or 200!than a NAP300 fronted by an NAC202; it will sound much better. Do the demo and hear for yourself.

Well, of course you know much more about Naim than I 

That said... I agree with what you've said about analog sources which require some amount of amplification, filtering, and buffering. But a digital source with a line-level output has already had all the amplification, filtering, and buffering it needs. I believe the only thing it needs is attenuation and perhaps impedance matching to the load? I'm not arguing that a 202, or a 282, or even a 252 might not be better, only about the ratio between the degree of "better" and the price?

Try the comparison with a digital source (I did).  The result is the same.  As I say, the pre-amp and the power amp are two halves of the overall amplifier, and the more critical half is always the pre-amp.  I'm not an engineer, so I'm not even going to try to explain why, particularly at this time having just got back from a night out (a concert at the RCM), but I do trust my ears.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Timo
perizoqui posted:
Timo posted:

Try Chord Hugo TT2? 

Thought about it long and hard but: no streamer, no airplay, and no roon support...

And in the end I'd still be left with digital volume control, which I can do with Roon. So what's the benefit?

TT2 plus something like SOTM 200 Ultra would offer a very versatile transport (including Roon Endpoint), DAC and preamp; and a very well respected Naim dealer praised the old TTís ability to drive Naim power amp. And it would come out only a little more expensive than the NDX2...  As a plus, you would also get a very capable headphone amp...

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by perizoqui
Richard Dane posted:
Try the comparison with a digital source (I did).  The result is the same.  As I say, the pre-amp and the power amp are two halves of the overall amplifier, and the more critical half is always the pre-amp.  I'm not an engineer, so I'm not even going to try to explain why, particularly at this time having just got back from a night out (a concert at the RCM), but I do trust my ears.

Will do. Certainly loose nothing trying. Perhaps I'll get a used 282 in for a demo at some point somehow... I agree that the ears are the ultimate deciders, and I am an engineer. Drink some electrolytes and sleep well!

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by No quarter
perizoqui posted:
Halloween Man posted:

Before ordering extremely expensive gear it's always a good idea to know your onions first!

 

Yep, I think I know my onions. Plan right now is to start with 2, and end with 1 if that doesn't satisfy. I'm posting to learn what to expect and why. I know it's taboo to drive power amps with DACs, but I've never gotten a good technical explanation as to why. Many times in the past I've felt that way about things (like run-in for an amplifier) and learned a ton by asking on this forum. So here i am!

 

The taboo is driving ďNAIMĒ amps with DACs,I drove my Anthem amp directly from a Hugo 2 and it was sublime.May I suggest selling the 300DR,still getting the NDX2 as a source.Then buy a Chord Mscaler/Hugo TT 2 and drive your Sopraís directly off the TT2ís 18 Watts.Thats What I will be doing with my Sopra 1ís.

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by ChrisSU
perizoqui posted:
ChrisSU posted:

The new Naim streamers now have a digital volume control built in

Really?!? I didn't know this. Could you please point me to where I might learn more about this built-in digital volume? Thanks!

This is an optional setting which, if I have understood correctly, was included only because it is required in order to obtain Apple Airplay certification, and Naimís recommendation is to disable it for best sound quality. 

Posted on: 10 January 2019 by Simon-in-Suffolk

Absolutely, for best overall performance (minimum digital quantising distortion/errors) the output should be fixed and one uses the preamp to attenuate the analogue signal.

Posted on: 11 January 2019 by ROOG
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

Absolutely, for best overall performance (minimum digital quantising distortion/errors) the output should be fixed and one uses the preamp to attenuate the analogue signal.

Hi Simon, Is it your understanding that the Chord, Hugo, TT2 and Dave suffer loss of quality as a result of including digital volume control?   

Posted on: 11 January 2019 by OuYang

If you want to try option 2, my suggestion is upsample everything in Roon then using it's DSP volume as a temporary solution.

Posted on: 11 January 2019 by Innocent Bystander

My understanding is that the Naim preamp contributes most towards the Naim soundĒ. If that is what you crave, then you may well need the Nsim preamp to achieve it.

I run a DAC with volume control (Chord Dave) direct to a power amp (not Naim) with great success, and did do previously with Hugo.

As long as the volume controlled DAC has appropriate output impedance and drive capability, and HF filtering to stop high energy ultrasonics (Dave does, but I donít know about NDX2), it should be perfectly fine. However some who have tried a Chord DAC direct into s Naim power amp say they prefer with a Naim preamp - but whether that is simply due to the sound signature of the preamp Ot some other effect I cannot say..