Speakers for Naim 5i/CD5i that are better than my Arrivas

After many happy years with a small Naim 5i, CD5i and Naim Arriva combo I am ready to upgrade.

Buying a new „chain“/hardware seems like opening Pandoras box to me. 
So without wanting to start a long search I thought about upgrading the speakers only first. 

Placement of the speakers is critical as the room (ca. 4x6m) does only allow close-to-the-wall placement (< 25cm).

Through recommendations in a German forum I bought Spendor 35/2 (a Spendor clone for Germany only which gets rave reviews), a LS 3/5 a clone, Pro Ac Super Tablette…all of which amazingly sounded absolutely terrible compared to my trusty old Arrivas. Sound with the Spendors etc. was completely dead without any emotions, voices sounded very dull, terrible bass etc. This clearly didnt work.

Would the Naim SBL, Credo, Allae, nSat be a safe upgrade? Other brands? Heard good reviews about Neat Motive 2.
But these cost extra money just because of these good recommendations. Price limit about 800 GBP/800 Euros.

So what else works brilliantly with my little Naim combo old or new?

Would you rather buy good old ones or equally priced newer ones? 

Original Post

I can't imagine that you'd have much to gain by spending £800 on new speakers, so I would look at the used market. If you can't try before you buy, accept that you may need to take a risk or two and buy speakers that you can sell on if they don't work for you.

If you intend to upgrade your source and amp, personally I would do that first, then choose speakers to match if you still feel the need, but of course, that's for you to decide.

If you like the sound you have, but want it to be better rather than just different, you'd very likely be better to improve the CD player. Depending on your budget, a used CD5x, CD5XS or CDX 2 would be great. Of the speakers you mention, the Allae would be my choice. The SBL is the best, but you need to be confident in setting them up, and your source and amp really aren't good enough for them. That said, a CDX2, Nait 5i and SBLs would be very nice, as the source is very good. 

I have been very surprised at the difference a few hundred pound spent on a cable or psu upgrade can make so possibly look at interconnect, mains or speaker cable upgrade or maybe a seperate psu for your  CD if the CD5i can accommodate one as I have to admit I don't know your combo personally.

Hungryhalibut posted:

If you like the sound you have, but want it to be better rather than just different, you'd very likely be better to improve the CD player. Depending on your budget, a used CD5x, CD5XS or CDX 2 would be great.

The Cd5x /XS would be a big improvement - fuller and smoother sound and worth a try! 

sjw posted:

The Cd5x /XS would be a big improvement - fuller and smoother sound and worth a try! 

I'm just wondering, when did fuller and smoother become a big improvement? I prefer my sound leaner, punchy, and quick! You know that saying, "different strokes......

My opinion is that different speakers would make the biggest change to the sound of your system, if that's what you're looking to do, I would say you are on the right track to change, upgrade your speakers instead of the CD player, that 5i is a damn fine player, and to improve on it you would have to spend quite a bit more!

We have a NaitXS with a CD5X and a FlatcapXS.  It would make a big difference with your speakers.   We had a Nait5i and it was tame by comparison.   The Nait5i uses a passive volume controller.  The NaitXS has a real preamp and it has real drive and detail.   Real bass.  More of everything.   The Supernait is better yet.   Your Arrivas are plenty good.  It is hard to upgrade them with the amp you have.     We actually use the XS setup to drive the nSats.   Never felt the need for the larger Arrivas with the XS.  I am sure they are an improvement but the XS brings the bass even with the nSats.  

You may prefer the sound you have.  Don't we all?

The 5i/CD5i have an innocent fun factor to them, but if you're looking for more from your system I doubt the Arrivas are holding things back. I'd spend on a box upgrade before speakers, especially given your constraint to near-wall speaker placement. As mentioned above, either the original Nait XS or CD5X offer a significant improvement within your budget likely to further feature the abilities of the Arrivas.

badlands posted:

My opinion is that different speakers would make the biggest change to the sound of your system

Hard to argue that different speakers will change the sound of the system. As far as '"the biggest change" the question to me is whether different speakers are really an improvement or merely a lateral move. I'd keep going for the box upgrades until the speakers reveal their shortcomings. 

Thank you all for your interesting and helpful comments! 

You really made me thinking :-). 

Maybe its best if I try to describe what I really like about und my  system and what I would like to improve upon. 

What I like is the musicality of my system. It plays all kinds of music in a fun way. "Innocent fun factor" is a great description :-). Wonderful voices, nice bass...it's great for classic music, electronic music, songwriter, etc. 

What it lacks is detail, a wider and more clearly defined stage, a more 'in-the-room' - stage, more 'clearness' if that's the right word. Like lifting the proverbial curtain off the speakers if that's the right word. 

As budget is an issue the question is if I could indeed reach that with "new" used speakers or, as seems the bias here, I should stay with the Arrivas and save up for a better amp or CD player? 

Interestingly not a lot of fans of the arrivas here in Germany. They seem to be quite underrated. 

I would not upgrade the speakers now - if at any stage you plan to upgrade your electronics, you will regret upgrading speakers now, to an intermediate solution.

I'm always a fan of 'source firts principle' - I'd focus on the CD player / streamer now. Amp, interconnects, power cables could come next. Speakers and speaker cables right at the end.

Naim speakers are by and large are highly musical and revealing with tight controlled bass and great clarity in the mids. Maybe not the greatest top-end shine.

marruo posted:

What it lacks is detail, a wider and more clearly defined stage, a more 'in-the-room' - stage, more 'clearness' if that's the right word. Like lifting the proverbial curtain off the speakers if that's the right word. 

Detail, clarity and definition will likely come more from 1) a better source, and 2) a better pre/amp than from the speakers, unless you have crappy speakers, which you don't. Then again, for soundstage, Naim in general are not the epitome.

Again very interesting.

Of the little I know from forums etc. I always remember the mantra „always spend twice as much on speakers as on amp/CD!“.

It seems to be your opinion that I should go the opposite way and invest e.g. in a better CD-player or amp. 

I guess there is not much lost if I am buying a used CD-player or amp and resell if it doesnt bring the hoped-for improvements?!

Being so happy overall with my Naim system I am inclined to go and try what you say. Especially as an extremely detailed soundstage is not my no.1 priority but a high fun factor, great voices, a warm and engaging sound. Things Naim is known for.

marruo posted:

Again very interesting.

Of the little I know from forums etc. I always remember the mantra „always spend twice as much on speakers as on amp/CD!“.

 

That advice is as misguided as is front loading with a £10K source with £500 amp and speakers (I exaggerate but you get the drift) . Within budget get the right speakers for your room and system.  My amps would drive bigger/more expensive speakers than mine but the current models fit the surroundings.

Marruo - re the speaker spend aspects, the mantra around these parts is to get 'system balance' with orientation to the quality of the source, as the (sound) base of the system - a 'source first' applies mantra for many (as already mentioned above), with good reason. Some of the reasons are:

1- A relative lower quality of source (vinyl deck/CD/streaming system) will hobble system performance to this level (garbage in-garbage out in extremis). A high quality source and amp set up sounds far better in to relative lower quality speakers than the opposite. The amp plays a vital role (as an extension of the source), in that a higher quality amp will 'grip' the speaker cones far better than a lower quality one e.g. often with lower quality sources, bass can be bloated and general musical flow unfocused in relative terms.

2- IMV, system construction should start with the source/amp end. Increasing the quality of the source can change the character of the replay and introduce things like tighter bass, more bass and far more detail. More bass can introduce room issues.

3- the real tricky equation to solve in hi-fi is to get the source/amp/speakers/room to work to produce the desired/optimum quality, especially the very tricky amp/speakers and room trinity.

You change one variable and it can muck up the overall picture, and then you have to change something else - even re-trace steps. It all costs. And if you're happy with the amp and the room cannot be materially altered, then it's the speakers which sit as the primary variable.

Back in the 1970s and early 1980's, many in hi-fi land advocated heavy relative spending on speakers - now seen as inappropriate and this generates what are referred to here as 'mullet' systems (a la the over-hanging hairdo).

IMV, upgrade your source and you can address the amp next and then the speakers in due course, in line with other views above.

Happy Listener posted:

Marruo - re the speaker spend aspects, the mantra around these parts is to get 'system balance' with orientation to the quality of the source, as the (sound) base of the system - a 'source first' applies mantra for many (as already mentioned above), with good reason. Some of the reasons are:

1- A relative lower quality of source (vinyl deck/CD/streaming system) will hobble system performance to this level (garbage in-garbage out in extremis). A high quality source and amp set up sounds far better in to relative lower quality speakers than the opposite. The amp plays a vital role (as an extension of the source), in that a higher quality amp will 'grip' the speaker cones far better than a lower quality one e.g. often with lower quality sources, bass can be bloated and general musical flow unfocused in relative terms.

2- IMV, system construction should start with the source/amp end. Increasing the quality of the source can change the character of the replay and introduce things like tighter bass, more bass and far more detail. More bass can introduce room issues.

3- the real tricky equation to solve in hi-fi is to get the source/amp/speakers/room to work to produce the desired/optimum quality, especially the very tricky amp/speakers and room trinity.

You change one variable and it can muck up the overall picture, and then you have to change something else - even re-trace steps. It all costs. And if you're happy with the amp and the room cannot be materially altered, then it's the speakers which sit as the primary variable.

Back in the 1970s and early 1980's, many in hi-fi land advocated heavy relative spending on speakers - now seen as inappropriate and this generates what are referred to here as 'mullet' systems (a la the over-hanging hairdo).

IMV, upgrade your source and you can address the amp next and then the speakers in due course, in line with other views above.

Some of us have spent a lot more on speakers than source and been very happy. (I was one such until a recent source change brought its value to something approaching.)

With the limited budget available for speakers, definitely secondhand, and they might need to be quite a bit older to have a chance of finding something siglificantly better to your ears. Meanwhile all people on here can do is suggest things you might want to hear, and buying secondhand obviously limits you to the choice available, unless you have limitless time. Importantly, as speakers make the greatest contribution to sound character of any component, you really do need to hear before buying.

I've been thinking about this overnight.

Given the requirement of near wall placement of the speakers, there are very few speakers that perform better than Naim's offerings.  If you insist on changing the speakers, then I'd suggest trying SBL Mk2s or Allaes- but and this is a very important 'but'; you'll need to change the amp first to drive them properly, they're a more difficult load than the Arrivas.  However this isn't what I'd recommend...


I believe you currently have a well balanced system and the Arrivas are capable of living with better electronics than the 5 series without being a big limit on the sound quality.  As such it's useful to look at where will give the best improvement at the start of an upgrade cycle.  There two approaches here:  The first is to use blind philosophy and always upgrade the source first no matter what; the second is to look for the weakest link and upgrade that.

In you situation of CD5i / Nait 5i / Arrivas, I think they both indicate the same thing:  Upgrade the CD player.  The CD5i and Nait 5i are similar level of quality overall, but whereas the CD imposes specific limits to what can ultimately be obtained, the Nait is less limited in that respect.  A better amp will show the limitations of the CD 5i more than a Nait 5i will impose limitations on a better source component.


My suggestions would be either get a CD5X (or CD5XS) or an ND5 XS and a NAS drive.


Both these give the opportunity of moving up to a Nait XS (or XS 2) before it'll be worthwhile changing the speakers, and both can be further enhanced using an external DAC such as a Chord Mojo or an external power supply can be used on the on the preamp.  Only then would I consider upgrading the speakers.
In any case whatever you choose, either buy second-hand (when you can sell it on if it doesn't work) or carefully audition the upgrade with the rest of your system.

Fantastic advise again thank you very much!

You have made my decision easy: I will certainly go for a CD5X or ND5 XS and will see what happens. Confident that I will improve performance :-)! Now I only have to find one second hand for a good price!

I hope you find what you seek from the upgrade.

The 5i series are great fun, like an excitable puppy.  But an excitable puppy isn't always what you want, sometimes they'll try to insert a dynamic drive that's not actually there in the music.  This can happen, for instance, with the religious reflection of Bach's St Mathew Passion, or the metaphysical melancholy of Dowland's Lachrimae; here something more subtle is definitely preferable.  Don't get me wrong, the CD5 XS and ND5 XS don't lack drive, but they apply it more subtly.

Huge posted:
Christopher_M posted:

I'd be interested to know what a couple of layers of Fraim (or FraimLite) and a couple of PowerLines would give you with your existing speakers.

A very substantial bill! 

Still, a worthy consideration. Proper racking and mains cables will carry their merit through subsequent upgrades and in my mind are more fundamental than box or speaker upgrades.

Stop looking at the back. It can only reflect what it's fed. The amp and speakers are built to work together so maximum bang per buck will happen when you introduce a better quality signal.

Source first applies 100% here. This is the best advice you'll get on this forum 

A secondhand CDX2 fronting the NAIT and Arrivas is what I'd be looking at here.  The Arrivas are huge fun but, more than other Naim speakers, were designed to work with the i series kit and  flatter even poor productions rather than apply a forensic analysis.  To really improve the areas you desire, without losing what you love in the Arrivas, upping the source is the way to go, and the CDX2 here is fantastic.

So I have finally found a nice, near mint CD 5X player for a good price. Hearing it compared to the CD5i was very interesting as you might suspect.

Didnt give it many hours of test listening but only a few tracks I always use for comparison showed the difference can be heard. The CD 5X is more open, more refined. AND even more fun :-)!

Interesting thing was that I suddenly noticed a hissing noise on a Naim reference CD. First I thought this is the CD players fault but comparing it to the CD 5i I noticed the hissing was also there but more subtle, so it came from the CD and was brought out more on the CD 5X.

 

Well, thank you all for your excellent advise. Maybe at some time I will upgrade the amp too and then at some time the speakers. Very happy for the moment!

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