Naim NAC 52

I have an Olive active system. Primarily play Roon ALAC rips via DAC-V1 into 82/Supercap/SNAXO2-4/Supercap/4 x 135s/Allaes.

All amps have been recently serviced and the system sounds great. I love the Olive sound and anyway can't afford to get more modern kit, but keep wondering about the 52 vs the 82. Given I primarily use ALAC rips and rarely CD or vinyl am I going to get a big improvement with a 52 over the  82? 

What say you? My heart says do it as then there's nowhere else left to go in Olive, but my head says it can't make that much difference.

Original Post

IMO, the 52 is significantly better than the 82, doing everything the 82 does, and a lot more besides! It offers greater musical insight, a more effortless performance, and is easily as upbeat, well-timed, rhythmic and dynamic, but also sounding, to my ears, more natural and even more expressive and engaging; an altogether more revealing, involving and sophisticated performer.

A recent discussion seemed to suggest that a few find the 52 less good with Rock than the 82, but that is not my experience at all.

One potential caveat is that I ran an 82 with a Hi-Cap, rather than a Supercap, so maybe there would be less of an improvement for you, than I found?

However, your source already looks rather modest for the system that you already have, IMO, but if you're happy with it, that's all the matters, but bearing in mind that the 52 will be even more revealing, only you can decide if the 52 is to your liking/worth it.

I would echo the above. Think of the 52 as having the ability to unglue the the delicate layering of music. A 72 will give you 3-4 lavers whilst an 82 may give you 5-6. The 52 will, on a good day, give you at least double that. It has a beautiful ability to show you where everything is placed in space, ensures everything is in perfect time, and gives everything a sense of musical realism that very few pre-amps can match. It takes a 552 to take it to the next level but I could still live happily with a 52 if I had to. One of Naim's all-time greats but remember it is super sensitive to what it's fed. And only the best will do.

Interesting comments, thanks all for replying.

On the subject of a modest source my source is either a CD2, a Gyrorbe/RB330/Ania or the Macbook Roon ALAC Naim DAC-V1 route. I use the latter as genuinely think the quality is as good if not better than the CD2 and while I love vinyl I am lazy so Roon is my friend.  What could I use to improve this side of the source or is it just not the way to go in your eyes? I am just asking as for me it's a great compromise between quality and convenience.

I have only very limited experience of a 52, but I think if I was in your position, I would be prepared to take a punt on one, if a good used one came up. The worst that can happen is that you decide it's not worth it, and sell it on to get your money back.

The only issue you would then have is that, good though the V1 is, especially for hooking up to a computer, your system would then be plenty good enough to show up any source improvements. In fact, it probably already is with your 82. If you want a Roon solution, I would consider putting it on a dedicated computer that you can leave on. Roon is a hungry beast if you use a lot of its features, and it might perform better for you on dedicated hardware, plus you have the convenience of not needing to turn on a laptop every time you want music. With Roon Core running on that, you can then begin the search for the perfect Roon Endpoint.

Then again, you could just go for the best streamer ever made, the Olive NAT01 

If I remember, when I traded my 82 for a 52, it was really the start of a long journey into hi-Fi obsession.  There was a big step up, but I cant recall exactly the steps from CD2 / NAC82 / NAP180 / SBL to CD2 / NAC52 / SNAXO2-4 / NAP250 / NAP250 / SBL.  But if you are doubting the 52, let me just say, of the many components over the years I have traded on, I could not let the 52 go and now run it in a second system with an Olive 250 into some Linn Kans.  Still sounds pretty good.  (And I really like that classic Olive look).

I think that I too would improve your source wether or not you do it before upgrading to a 52 is entirely up to you but I would definitely do both if possible.  Replacing the MacBook first would be my choice if you have CD's then an Innous Zen Mini would be great as that will allow you to rip them and add them to your Roon library as the new Zen's are Roon ready,  you could trade in your CD2 to help fund it.  I dont know about the Dac V1 but that could be upgraded later to either a used Chord Dac or a used NDAC.

Innous Zen >> Chord Hugo >> 52/SC/4 X 135/Allaes  would be one hell of a system.

I went from 82 powered from a 180 to 82 powered by two HiCaps. Then I swapped the HiCaps for a Supercap, which was one of, if not the best upgrades I've ever done. I later swapped the 82 for a 52. I was using 2xNAP135 into SBLs at the time.

I found the difference to be quite subtle. Overall I'd say it was a bit more laid back and relaxed than the 82, perhaps more refined. From memory I'd say that it didn't excite like the 82 and that's why I've said on here before (as noted by Alba1320, above) that I felt the 82 to be better on rock and the 52 better for classical (especially chamber music) and jazz. But these things are highly subjective. Besides, if it's a good price, has recent service history and is in good condition (check it has the POTS-8 mod), then why not give it a try ? As you say it's the top of the olive range.

I think most on here would prefer the 52 over the 82 and whilst I also think the same, for me it wasn’t the massive difference I’d expect for the silly 2nd hand prices the 52 now commands. Even if an excellent 52 came up at rock bottom price, I doubt I’d change (I’d be more tempted to a complete change from Naim)

Moderated Post:  Ian I have edited your post.  Please note that discussion of unauthorised modifications to Naim equipment is not allowed here.  Thanks.

 

 

I have used a 52 for many years now, and with several sources that most here would consider too low quality to match the 52. Mid level Sony cdp and lately a bare ND5XS to name two. Even if it does show what a better source can do, it certainly sounds VERY good (imho) also with more modest sources. 

Claus 

Clive B posted:

I found the difference to be quite subtle. Overall I'd say it was a bit more laid back and relaxed than the 82, perhaps more refined. From memory I'd say that it didn't excite like the 82 and that's why I've said on here before (as noted by Alba1320, above) that I felt the 82 to be better on rock and the 52 better for classical (especially chamber music) and jazz. But these things are highly subjective. Besides, if it's a good price, has recent service history and is in good condition (check it has the POTS-8 mod), then why not give it a try ? As you say it's the top of the olive range.

This is more how I remember (once the 82 has the supercap).  Although I would still recommend you go for it, as you hear more of the music with the subtler presentation. 

Well, it looks like a 52 will have to be had at some point.

On the subject of sources why is the Macbook not as good as a piece of dedicated hardware? Surely the asynchronous DAC removes any major reliance on what is feeding it as long as it can keep up with the DAC's average requested datastream rate. I did listen to the Chord when I bought the V1, but I preferred the V1 sound wise. Not questioning any of the above, just interested in your opinions.

Nothing wrong with the MacBook as a source I used mine into my Chord 2Qute for a while but I have to say that even the lowly Raspberry Pi sounded better.  I think the collective wisdom for this is that another computer which is what any streamer is dedicated solely to playing audio is better for SQ.  On the subject of your Dac if you prefer it then that is all that matters no doubt it is a fine piece of kit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Working in IT as I do I cam not sure why a Macbook should be worse than a Raspberry Pi when an aysnchronous DAC is involved. Perhaps someone can explain why bits taken from the same CD rip and controlled by the DAC should sound better from one device than another as I cannot find a technical explanation. The DAC is providing the buffer and the timing, all the hardware is doing is sending a bitstream down the wire as they say. 

If you do buy a 52 it is worth checking with Naim it has been updated to 'final' spec and also get it serviced.

I understand there were various mods over the product lifetime that are worthwhile and seem to recall Richard commenting that early builds especially were a bit variable in terms of performance and the service/update can iron that out. I guess you'll find some details if you search.

I have never heard an 82, but I am old enough to remember when buying a 52 was seen on this Forum as the height of musical performance (and extravagance). When I tracked down mine s/h it did not disappoint. Naim may have headed off into the stratosphere with products but the 52 remains an iconic product.

Bruce

tiggers55 posted:

Working in IT as I do I cam not sure why a Macbook should be worse than a Raspberry Pi when an aysnchronous DAC is involved. Perhaps someone can explain why bits taken from the same CD rip and controlled by the DAC should sound better from one device than another as I cannot find a technical explanation. The DAC is providing the buffer and the timing, all the hardware is doing is sending a bitstream down the wire as they say. 

This is one of the great mysteries in Hi-Fi. Why does something 'sound' better when there's no logical reason or solid scientific explanation? Unfortunately, for some reason, it does. I played around with CD transports for a while. The digital information was sent to an Ndac and then to my pre-amp. Believe me every transport sounded very different.

Try changing the.wire you are sending your bitstream down and listen to the difference. It's easily detectable.

Bruce Woodhouse posted:

If you do buy a 52 it is worth checking with Naim it has been updated to 'final' spec and also get it serviced.

I understand there were various mods over the product lifetime that are worthwhile and seem to recall Richard commenting that early builds especially were a bit variable in terms of performance and the service/update can iron that out. I guess you'll find some details if you search.

I have never heard an 82, but I am old enough to remember when buying a 52 was seen on this Forum as the height of musical performance (and extravagance). When I tracked down mine s/h it did not disappoint. Naim may have headed off into the stratosphere with products but the 52 remains an iconic product.

Bruce



More information on significant changes to the NAC52 throughput its production life can be found here:

NAC52 significant changes

Geko posted:
tiggers55 posted:

Working in IT as I do I cam not sure why a Macbook should be worse than a Raspberry Pi when an aysnchronous DAC is involved. Perhaps someone can explain why bits taken from the same CD rip and controlled by the DAC should sound better from one device than another as I cannot find a technical explanation. The DAC is providing the buffer and the timing, all the hardware is doing is sending a bitstream down the wire as they say. 

This is one of the great mysteries in Hi-Fi. Why does something 'sound' better when there's no logical reason or solid scientific explanation? Unfortunately, for some reason, it does. I played around with CD transports for a while. The digital information was sent to an Ndac and then to my pre-amp. Believe me every transport sounded very different.

Try changing the.wire you are sending your bitstream down and listen to the difference. It's easily detectable.

Sorry, but transport differences make engineering sense whereas digital bitstream differences do not really do likewise. Even if there were difference why should a 5 quid Raspberry Pi sound better than a more powerful professionally engineered laptop? Snake oil at work here I suspect. 

A friend recently moved from a 282 to a 52. Can't recall offhand if the 282 was still running off two hicaps or if it had already migrated to a supercap. Either way he reckons it was the most "musical" upgrade he'd ever made in his system (LP12/Snaxo/Supercap/250s/SBLs).

Willy.

Pev posted:

I went from 82/SC to 52/SC and was underwhelmed - it was better in some ways but not that much. I was much more impressed with going from 250 to 135s. Maybe mine wasn't to top spec although it had been serviced.

My experience of going from 282/SCDR to 252/SCDR is that the latter is very fussy about setup. I had to upgrade my racks to use Naim isolation glass, cups and balls. I also had to get the boxes well separated with longer legs and took the opportunity to get the 300DR Burndies off the floor and likewise the DIN XLR without relying on pipe insulation. 

The 282 sounded much better as well. The 252/SCDR is actually quite awesome 😎 when given the opportunity to perform. I’m sure 52 can be also. I found even more excitement in the 252 than the 282. It reveals more.

Phil

I have done the 82/Hi vs 82/Super vs 52 comparison maybe 20 times in different systems. The 52 is much, much, MUCH better than the 82, regardless of what is powering the 82. Speakers used were as diverse as Sonus Faber Extremas, passive Tukans, active Tukans, DBLs. 

I found there was a much bigger improvement going from the 82 to 52 than there was from a 102 to the 82. 

The 82-52 change for me was also more significant than the 52 to the 552-which I also did. 

It is years ago since I moved through the 82 --> 82+S/C --> 82 +(2xS/C) --> 82 + S/C

--> 52 + S/C

However, the move to the 52 + S/C was the most significant improvement and by a fair old margin.

The improvement was across all inputs - vinyl, CD, Aux, Tuner etc

Make sure the 52 is a late model, or budget for modifications and a service in addition to the purchase price.

A no-brainer IMHO.

Hi

From my experience moving from 32.5/hIcap both recently serviced at Class A and fitted with all the latest revision NAIM Cards feeding active SBLs (NAC A5) via CB NAP250s all serviced recently, the move to 52/SC was mind blowing. The 52 has  POTS7 and revision 3 on the main 521 board.

I couldn't go back I would be missing out on too much soul and life in my music. The 52 just removed a thin veil of mist over everything. Don't get me wrong I was more than happy with my 32.5; it gave me an amazing listening experience. It's just that you don't miss what you've never had!

Move to a 52? A no brainer IMHO.

 

 

Well, I've just bought one. A 2001 52 with original packaging, remote etc.

Should arrive Friday and I will see how it compares pre-service to the 82 (recently serviced). Then the plan is to get it serviced and see how much better it sounds after that. If it is the improvement some have described will move the 82 on. Otherwise will just re-sell it.

Will report in due course.

tiggers55 posted:

Well, I've just bought one. A 2001 52 with original packaging, remote etc.

Should arrive Friday and I will see how it compares pre-service to the 82 (recently serviced). Then the plan is to get it serviced and see how much better it sounds after that. If it is the improvement some have described will move the 82 on. Otherwise will just re-sell it.

Will report in due course.

I suspect your mild scepticism is based on a handful of lukewarm appraisals of the 52 in response to your question. Everybody hears things differently but I would predict that out of the box the 52 will sound better than the 82 in all respects but particularly in terms of musicality.  If it does need a service the sound will be very significantly better than an 82 with which ever  power source you care to chose. Enjoy.

Ron Toolsie posted:

I have done the 82/Hi vs 82/Super vs 52 comparison maybe 20 times in different systems. The 52 is much, much, MUCH better than the 82, regardless of what is powering the 82. Speakers used were as diverse as Sonus Faber Extremas, passive Tukans, active Tukans, DBLs. 

I found there was a much bigger improvement going from the 82 to 52 than there was from a 102 to the 82. 

The 82-52 change for me was also more significant than the 52 to the 552-which I also did. 

Your comments re the 52 to 552 are interesting.  Ive avoided listening to a 552 for years in case I decided it was indispensable

Good luck with your 52. I’ve had several Naim pre-amps, including 282 and 252. The 52 with my now serviced 135s are where I am sticking. No plans to change despite the rollercoaster ride the 135s gave me post service. Now everything has settled down and the 52/135s are making wonderful music again.

Peter

Pedro posted:

Good luck with your 52. I’ve had several Naim pre-amps, including 282 and 252. The 52 with my now serviced 135s are where I am sticking. No plans to change despite the rollercoaster ride the 135s gave me post service. Now everything has settled down and the 52/135s are making wonderful music again.

Peter

Love the Olive sound so hopefully this will be more of the same only better. It's feeding active 135s that I just recently had serviced and have now settled down nicely.

For what it's worth I am not really sceptical of the 52 upgrade per se, but always listen with my own ears before deciding on any piece of equipment so why should this be any different?

tiggers55 posted:

Well, I've just bought one. A 2001 52 with original packaging, remote etc.

Should arrive Friday and I will see how it compares pre-service to the 82 (recently serviced). Then the plan is to get it serviced and see how much better it sounds after that. If it is the improvement some have described will move the 82 on. Otherwise will just re-sell it.

Will report in due course.

Was that one of the 52s currently/recently on that well known auction site?

Nice!

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