New to Naim: Nova vs 272 vs ND5XS and 250DR vs 300DR

Even if the streamer bit of the Nova is as good as that of the 272, it looks different from a 250 or 300. If I was spending that sort of money I wouldn't want things that don't match. The Nova is designed as an all in one. Yes you can add a poweramp, but that's surely just a way of upgrading one step at a time to separates. 

Knowing Naim, when you ask them the question they will say 'listen for yourself'. They don't see their role as advising on what to buy - that's what dealers are for. 

I'd take a trip to Oxford Audio Consultants. They can demo the kit you are interested in (and some other non Naim options if needed at that price point) which will help you make up your mind. You've got a healthy budget and some interesting options to make the most of your Focal's 

James

 

Hungryhalibut posted:

Knowing Naim, when you ask them the question they will say 'listen for yourself'. They don't see their role as advising on what to buy - that's what dealers are for. 

Just heard back from Naim minutes ago. I asked them:

If I had to choose between:
1) Naim Uniti Nova + NAP300DR
2) Naim NAC-N 272 + NAP300DR 
Which would you recommend? 

sales@naimaudio.com replied:

"My choice would be NAC272 with NAP300"

james n posted:

I'd take a trip to Oxford Audio Consultants. They can demo the kit you are interested in (and some other non Naim options if needed at that price point) which will help you make up your mind. You've got a healthy budget and some interesting options to make the most of your Focal's 

James

 

Agreed, I've been there before. Very helpful guys. I'll email ahead.

perizoqui posted:
Hungryhalibut posted:

Knowing Naim, when you ask them the question they will say 'listen for yourself'. They don't see their role as advising on what to buy - that's what dealers are for. 

Just heard back from Naim minutes ago. I asked them:

If I had to choose between:
1) Naim Uniti Nova + NAP300DR
2) Naim NAC-N 272 + NAP300DR 
Which would you recommend? 

sales@naimaudio.com replied:

"My choice would be NAC272 with NAP300"

Yes indeed, the Nova is not currently available, and the physical aesthetics are different between the Uniti and the current Classic series amps. I think if you wanted a Star or Nova it would be best to listen natively first. As I said the new Uniti series is designed in part to be an alternate choice to the Classic series. Naim told me the new Uniti series were not designed to neccessarily go on Hi-Fi racks such as Fraim or other, where as the Classic series definitely is..

Hungryhalibut posted:

Well there you go, that's what I recommended previously. I'm glad Naim are on message. 

They must have read your reply on this forum

Wish they'd said why they made that recommendation. Anyway thank you all for your feedback. It's immensely helpful. If I learn more about the architecture differences between Nova and 272 I'll report back. They both seem to use the same Sharc ADSP and the same Burr Brown PCM1791A DAC. I'll keep digging. And I'll listen when next in Oxford.

Aesthetically I like the Nova much better than the 272. I'm not sure I agree with you about a mismatch with the 300. They're both 432 mm wide, so I think one would look quite good on the shelf above the other.

Choices choices. This is fun.

Yes, they do use some of the same components as the standard streamers ( Texas Instruments DACs and Analog Devices DSP engines, but it's the architectures that are different. Those who have been streaming over the internet on the Classic series or who get dropouts on wifi, or SQ differences between different media servers  etc might recognise the benefit of this.

Uniti as far as I see it is aimed at an all in one market and you're talking of going half way between the two. I get the feeling people are expecting too much from the uniti products. 

The 272 is where the serious Naim systems start opening up for us. 

I had a 300dr paired with a Superuniti for a while. It was good but it was always a temporary thing until I upgraded to a dedicated source and preamp. 

Drewy, I thought that until I heard the new series at the invitation of Naim. They are seriously good especially the Nova to my ears (and several other pairs of ears who are also on this forum), but it is Naim Reference class in their words ... you can see why Naim are apparently mightily impressed and possibly surprised with it... I hope the production versions are the same and it wasn't a freak we heard

I was very impressed with the little Atom, so the Nova is sure to be something special. That said, the OP has the Sopra 2 in a large room and is thinking of a 300 to drive them. A key advantage of the 272 over the Nova is that you can add a power supply, which effectively turns it into a new thing altogether and raises its abilities hugely. I certainly wouldn't want to run a 272/300 long term, but at least if the OP starts there, a power supply could be added. I cannot imagine for a second that the Nova will beat a 272/XPS. 

Hungryhalibut posted:

 I cannot imagine for a second that the Nova will beat a 272/XPS. 

Me neither and Naim has already indicated that with the reply to an email mentioned above. 

I feel you should design your system as Naim intends, you "can" upgrade a Uniti with a power amp but that's just Naim doing their clever thing  offering the upgrade path all the way to Statement. 

Hmm, it wasnt such a close call when I heard the Nova, albeit this was in a controlled listening environment at Naim and was using a set Focal Sopra 1 speakers which aren't neccessarily my cup of tea... I will wait for final judgement when I listen at home. Naim reference series components do tend to be rather special, even the Uniti refetence.. certainly excited by the new know how in the Uniti series, and there was certainly a view that some of the new know how will trickle across to new Classic series components in time... I think the new developments in powersupplies and noise decoupling is a real advantage with the new Units.. I just wish they would get them to market.. Also of note was the massive difference in SQ performance between the Nova and Atom... I guess one shouldn't be surprised because of price but it was so significant... and perhaps it was because in part both were driving Sopra 1 speakers.

When I listened I didn't do a direct comparison with the Classic series at the time... but the traits heard on the Nova were consistent with what you hear on the higher end Classic series. I.e. Timing and space around the sounds, vocals and strings sounding natural... and paraphrasing one esteemed forum member who was there with us, it just made more musical sense from the recording (this was comparing a Nova with others in the Uniti range).. and I think he was spot on.

However  SQ preference between models  to my mind can only be done by listening ones self in your home if you can... 

audio1946 posted:

the days of expensive stand alone streamers is fading, the one trick pony to  the all in one units seems to be the theme this year from all manufactures 

Oh, I doubt that very much. Of course you're right as regards the mass-market, but the audiophile community will always want separates. A standalone streamer replaces a CD player and uses much better source data to do it. My attraction to the Nova comes from the updated user interface, airplay integration, and compatibility with higher bit and sampling rates in source (particularly ALAC) material. That said, I have very little that's higher than 24/96 so it won't matter much. Ideally Naim would make a Nova with an off-board PS and PA. My guess is they'll release a new 272 in the near future that is exactly that.

I don't pretend to understand any of that white paper stuff, nor do I really want to, but I do know that the 272/XPS/250 and a pair of decent speakers is very nice indeed. There may be something better coming in a couple of years, but if you wait until it appears, you may die in the meantime. Seize life!

In a couple of years there will still be something better coming in a couple of years. The white paper stuff is fun, especially for nerdy engineering professors! I'd prefer an audition, but in the absence I can read whitepapers and see what makes sense. I'm very attracted to the solid engineering chops apparent in Naim's products. No comment on wires

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

... the million dollar question is whether they will be able to retro fit some of these changes into the older architectures such as the N272... time will tell.

.........  & that is what a lot of fingers are crossed for.    Like you say, interesting times  

Perizoqui, yes thanks quite familiar with the NDX as I own one. Haven't seen the Nova white paper yet with its different architecture... perhaps you have a link? I only have the notes I made from when I met the designer where he was talking about the Nova's more capable DSP and streaming processor compared to the current streamers ( can play upto DSD 128 for example) .... however these were technical functional advantages as opposed to specifically SQ. I also have some notes / graphs from Naim engineering showing the benefits of the new architecture on streaming. Exciting times... the million dollar question is whether they will be able to retro fit some of these changes into the older architectures such as the N272... time will tell. Perhaps they can't do that without upsetting SQ, which has been one of the challenges of the older architectures.

BTW the Nova uses 40 bit DSP and the ram buffer as used in the NDS.

The only published more in depth details of the Nova I have found are here https://www.naimaudio.com/conn...inside-the-new-uniti

Simon

(edit sorry Mike just wanted to re post with a link.. but I agree with your comment)

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

Perizoqui, yes thanks quite familiar with the NDX as I own one. Haven't seen the Nova white paper yet with its different architecture... perhaps you have a link? I only have the notes I made from when I met the designer where I he was talking about the Nova's more capable  DSP and streaming processor compared to the current streamers.... however these were technical functional advantages as opposed to SQ. I also have some notes / graphs from Naim engineering showing the benefits of the new architecture on streaming. Exciting times... the million dollar question is whether they will be able to retro fit some of these changes into the older architectures such as the N272... time will tell. Perhaps they can't do that without upsetting SQ, which has been one of the challenges of the older architectures.

BTW the Nova uses 40 bit DSP and the ram buffer as used in the NDS.

Simon

Hi Simon. The ADSP 21489 found in the NDX, NDS, DAC, V1-DAC, and Nova is code compatible with the older ADSP 21369 found in the NAC-N 272, but not pin compatible. So I believe the non 40-bit parts of the firmware are incorporated in the 272, but the noise reduction from decreased round-off error obviously aren't. To switch chips, Naim will need a re-design of the PCB. No idea how involved that will be without knowing the rest of the architecture in detail (which I'm sure they'll never share). My guess is that Naim says the 272 is better than the Nova because of the analog hardware (DAC, filtering, etcetera) surrounding the streamer, as well as the off-board power-supply and external poweramp decreasing the noise inside the box. The Nova probably has a better streamer including upsampling functions in the DSP. Would love to listen to both side-by-side to see which is better to me, though I know Naim's opinion. 

Unfortunately I don't have a whitepaper for the Nova, only bits gleaned from various websites (e.g. specific DSP in use) and from high-res photographs of the PCB.

Best,

---Pedro

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

However  SQ preference between models  to my mind can only be done by listening ones self in your home if you can... 

Found error in previous post. Corrected re-post below:

Definitely. Alas that's not an option for me. Incidentally, I asked Naim why they recommended the 272 over the Nova as a streamer and preamp and here's what they said:

"Nova is a great all in one unit but NAC272 is a High End Streamer Pre Amp, its like an NDX https://www.naimaudio.com/site...te-paper_oct2010.pdf

Have a look at the link"

So there it is. Slighty slower DSP (400 MHz 21369 over 450Mhz 21489) but same round-off error (both use 40 bit floating-point arithmetic). This matters because (in Naim's own language from the separate DAC white paper):

"As the incoming audio can have up to 24-bit resolution, 24-bit processing will not be sufficiently accurate as it would incur rounding and/or truncation errors of the same resolution as the incoming audio. The normal solution is to use 32-bit floating point processing instead but in 32-bit IEEE floating point arithmetic the mantissa is 24 bits long, so if we have sample values close to 1 – where the exponent will be 0 – we will again achieve only 24-bit precision.

In reality it is very hard to estimate the resulting precision using floating point numbers. The best way to assess it in the context of filter designs is to use real-world signals, send them through the filter and check the outcome to see what precision was achieved. A quick test along these lines verifies that 32-bit floating point processing does not achieve the precision we require. Fortunately, more powerful processors from Analog Devices support a new type of floating point number, 40-bit floating point. Instead of having a 24-bit mantissa these use a 32-bit mantissa with 7 bits of exponent. This gives the resolution we require but keeps memory requirements fairly low (only one more byte compared to 32 bits). If we send music signals through our implementation of a filter with 40-bit oating point and analyse the results, we see that arithmetic noise is at about -156dB, which is well below the noise floor of the DAC chips."

Still trying to figure out how to audition both with Focal's in something resembling my house...

perizoqui posted:

I believe the non 40-bit parts of the firmware are incorporated in the 272, but the noise reduction from decreased round-off error obviously aren't.

My beliefs were wrong. I originally misread the ADSP 21369 data sheet, seeing only the 32 bit fixed point precision. In fact, as Naim pointed out to me this morning, that chip also uses 40-bit floating point precision, just like the ADSP 21489 in other products. Apologies for sowing confusion.

Naim's full reply to my query about the ADSP in the 272:

"We use the same 40 bit floating point algorithm in all our SHARC based products. The algorithm oversamples incoming digital audio to either 705.6kHz or 768kHz and buffers the audio for subsequent jitter removal.

Both the ADSP 21489 and 21369 DSPs can run in either 32 fixed point or 40 bit floating point; we only use 40 bit floating point.

The 489 is a little newer than the 369 and runs a bit cooler for the same rate of math otherwise the digital audio is absolutely identical. We differentiate the sound quality using the DACs, PSUs, analogue components and mechanical treatment such as suspension."

Given all this, I can't imagine the streaming section of the 272 is any different from that on the Nova. The power supply, analog (including DAC), and mechanical treatments are all supposedly better. This explains their recommendation of the 272 over the Nova thoroughly. I'm sure the Nova punches above it's weight, but the 272/300 combo must be better. Especially with a later addition of the XPS so many others have recommended.

Have reached out to Oxford Audio Consultants, let's see if I can verify my assumptions during my next trip!

Kevin Richardson posted:

Whatever you do don't get the ND5. It is just not even close to 272 from SQ perspective.

Never heard the Nova but it's new so probably better value.

I think this is a bit of a sweeping statement keith, many inluding myself regard the ND5 very well and it is cery well reviewed everywhere. It is a stand alone streamer and i doubt if the streaming circuitry in the 272 is better given its an all in one. Additionally it is very well reviewed also that adding a power supply to the ND5 makes it exceed  the performance of ndx or nds i forget which one. Hardly a bad unit if it can do that surely? 

Guys, the streaming approach is different on the Nova than the current streamers... it's far more robust and resilient.. the Nova sucks the media from the server and plays the 'file' effectively from memory... this should bring big  improvements for web streaming and streaming hidef over typical consumer level wifi. Also from what I have seen should bring SQ improvements for these scenarios compared to current streamers. The Nova also has new techniques in noise decoupling so we are told. But as I say it's the SQ of the production units that will count... I have only heard a protype and that was incredible... but it might have been specially tweaked.

Simon

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

Guys, the streaming approach is different on the Nova than the current streamers... it's far more robust and resilient.. the Nova sucks the media from the server and plays the 'file' effectively from memory... this should bring big  improvements for web streaming and streaming hidef over typical consumer level wifi.

Simon

So they’ve finally managed to catch up with Logitech.

That’s exactly how my squeezebox touch works, remove the Ethernet cable from the touch and it carries on playing for 20 seconds or so.

 

My take on this is that the Nova is better optimised for an all in one, and that Naim have achieved a result that has far fewer compromises than with the previous Uniti series.
However it's still an all in one.

So here's my take on the situation...

The SU was better optimised than the U2 (e.g. the SHARC DSP).

The ND5 was better optimised than the SU (standalone vs. all in one - the poweramp puts high demands on the power supply and is hard to integrate)

The 272 is better optimised than the ND5 (some newer tech and a much better analogue stage: Don't forget that the ND2 and NDX also have analogue amplifiers, the only additional things that the 272 has are analogue input switching and a volume control, so not really that much more integration in electronic terms).

The NDX is better optimised than the 272 (slightly earlier tech than the 272, but a bit less integration)


So, where does the Nova fit in?

Well it has newer hardware tech than the 272, but (in electronic terms) it has a quite a lot of a tougher integration job (the poweramp).
But as always with optimisation you're chasing diminishing returns, so whilst being a substantial improvement over the SU, there's no reason to believe it'll be better than the 272.
As for the Nova vs the ND5, well that's an open question; beating the ND5 would be an exceptionally good result - but not unachivable.

Huge posted:

My take on this is that the Nova is better optimised for an all in one, and that Naim have achieved a result that has far fewer compromises than with the previous Uniti series.
However it's still an all in one.

So here's my take on the situation...

The SU was better optimised than the U2 (e.g. the SHARC DSP).

The ND5 was better optimised than the SU (standalone vs. all in one - the poweramp puts high demands on the power supply and is hard to integrate)

The 272 is better optimised than the ND5 (some newer tech and a much better analogue stage: Don't forget that the ND2 and NDX also have analogue amplifiers, the only additional things that the 272 has are analogue input switching and a volume control, so not really that much more integration in electronic terms).

The NDX is better optimised than the 272 (slightly earlier tech than the 272, but a bit less integration)


So, where does the Nova fit in?

Well it has newer hardware tech than the 272, but (in electronic terms) it has a quite a lot of a tougher integration job (the poweramp).
But as always with optimisation you're chasing diminishing returns, so whilst being a substantial improvement over the SU, there's no reason to believe it'll be better than the 272.
As for the Nova vs the ND5, well that's an open question; beating the ND5 would be an exceptionally good result - but not unachivable.

Fantastic reply sir! Thank you. What a great forum. That's exactly what I've arrived at as well in the absence of an actual audition. To that end, I've got tickets in hand and will be in the UK in two weeks. I've asked Naim if they'll allow me a visit to the factory and I'm waiting for a reply.

The 272 vs Nova comes down to 1) power supply; 2) digital streaming to analog conversion; and 3) power amplifier. The first is a clear win for the 272 as it can have an off-board upgrade removing all that manis noise from the vicinity of the sensitive analog preamp. The second might be a win for the Nova, but it's much harder to make an improvement here with the same DSP (Nova's running a bit cooler, but is that audible?) and same DAC. The Naim engineers do say that the supporting hardware and mechanical mounting is better on the 272, so according to them this is another win for the 272. The third is a possible win for the 272 in that you can run left and right channels separately to the 300, whereas the Nova has both channels coming off the same connector. Not sure I could hear the difference on that one, but there you go.

Now, as Simon has repeatedly pointed out: he's heard the Nova (as have I), and it was lovely. It's possible the Nova is so well made that though the 272 is better, my ears won't tell the difference. I should listen, and I will. Now the question is: if I can't hear the difference, will I fool myself into thinking I can so I can justify what, as an engineer, I know to be the better design?

---Pedro

perizoqui posted:
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

Perizoqui, yes thanks quite familiar with the NDX as I own one. Haven't seen the Nova white paper yet with its different architecture... perhaps you have a link? I only have the notes I made from when I met the designer where I he was talking about the Nova's more capable  DSP and streaming processor compared to the current streamers.... however these were technical functional advantages as opposed to SQ. I also have some notes / graphs from Naim engineering showing the benefits of the new architecture on streaming. Exciting times... the million dollar question is whether they will be able to retro fit some of these changes into the older architectures such as the N272... time will tell. Perhaps they can't do that without upsetting SQ, which has been one of the challenges of the older architectures.

BTW the Nova uses 40 bit DSP and the ram buffer as used in the NDS.

Simon

Hi Simon. The ADSP 21489 found in the NDX, NDS, DAC, V1-DAC, and Nova is code compatible with the older ADSP 21369 found in the NAC-N 272, but not pin compatible. So I believe the non 40-bit parts of the firmware are incorporated in the 272, but the noise reduction from decreased round-off error obviously aren't. To switch chips, Naim will need a re-design of the PCB. No idea how involved that will be without knowing the rest of the architecture in detail (which I'm sure they'll never share). My guess is that Naim says the 272 is better than the Nova because of the analog hardware (DAC, filtering, etcetera) surrounding the streamer, as well as the off-board power-supply and external poweramp decreasing the noise inside the box. The Nova probably has a better streamer including upsampling functions in the DSP. Would love to listen to both side-by-side to see which is better to me, though I know Naim's opinion. 

The way I see it ... how / if the 272 (and other Classic streamers) can be upgraded depends on two factors.  (1) if the "streaming" subsystem of the streamers is modular from the rest of the unit and if the same I/O to that subsystem can be compatible and if the physical layout of the classic streamers allow for upgrade with minimal effect on SQ and (2) if the UI (the mono-scream and 9-button control) can be utilised / adapted for a newer platform.

Both questions only Naim know the answer to!

Hungryhalibut posted:

The existing streamers cannot be upgraded to accommodate the new platform. So it's a matter of waiting for the replacements for the NDS, NDX, ND5 and 272. 

Yep, that's my sense as well. By upgrade I meant a new version of 272, rather than a refurbishment of the existing units. It seems like it would be straightforward for Naim to take a Nova, remove the PA, allow for an external power supply, and release it as the new 272. The big screen from the new Uniti series would be nice to have as well, but I guess that's a personal choice. 

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