Three improvements

My current system consists of cd5xs,  ndac and 152 / 155 / flatcap xs. all Naim interconnects, 7.5m naca5, neat motive 2,  dedicated CU.  Components are on a home made rack with isolation spikes and chips (which made a noticeable improvement when changed from previous cheap av stand.

Room approx 5m x 3.5m. Speakers firing across room and I'm confident I've optimised position. Room seems well damped.

Have gradually upgraded from CD5i / Nait 5i,  speakers have remained the same (just like the song) 

Overall I love the general presentation from a relatively modest system and I am amazed at how good it can sound. 

There are three aspects that I have been trying to improve over the past 8 years 

1. more refinement in treble frequencies

2. being able to follow bass lines more easily and better definition of bass eg between bass drum and guitar for example (I'm not requiring more or deeper bass particularly) 

3. better separation of instruments on more complex tracks particularly at higher volumes (above 9 o'clock) 

I am wondering if retaining my speakers and upgrading the electronics will improve these aspects or are the speakers at their limit? 

I have considered numerous options but the one that currently is at the forefront of my thinking is to trade my amplification and speakers for a supernait 2 and maybe pmc twenty5 23s which my dealer stocks.  

This would be about the limit financially.

Other considerations would be to trade all the electronics for 272 xpsdr and 250Dr whilst maintaining the speakers.

As a wild card I did consider merely adding a 282 and stopping there for financial reasons but I guess this would lead to an unbalanced system and leave me wanting more  

I have demoed various speakers recently and pmc came out on top  

Also heard the 272 xpsdr 250dr and was very impressed (but not with my speakers)  

Further demos are in the pipeline (I do tend to take my time before committing to upgrading).  I have a great local dealer who offers great trade in deals for new and has been generous with home demos in the past.  

Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I'm sure there are alternatives I haven't considered  

Regards 

Stuart 

 

Original Post

I was set on getting started with streaming but the firmware update on the ndac has left me reluctant to offload it.  I'm quite happy with cd at the moment. 

I would prefer to try and make a one off change rather than hankering after more upgrades over time (got more guitars to buy)!!!!

I guess there are always compromises to contend with until you reach the top which is out of reach for me and most I guess. The trick is getting to place where your happy to stop. 

I've always been cautious about buying second hand but obviously many people do without any problems  

Hi Stuart

I can comment on your speakers with SN2. I used to own Motive 2 and they were outstanding drven by the SN2 and I enjoyed every aspect of the sound. I then had the opportunity to upgrade to the latest Motive SX2 and the sound got even better. The SX2 is a significant upgrade over the old 2. You get more transparency overall and more silky smooth highs in comparison with tighter bass.

Moussa

If you have such a great dealer, why not just spend some time there and decide?  It seems that you are after specific things that I never think about - do you actually enjoy music on your system at the moment? Maybe that's enough? Are you searching for a holy grail that doesn't exist? Will upgrading actually make you more satisfied? 

Moussa posted:

Hi Stuart

I can comment on your speakers with SN2. I used to own Motive 2 and they were outstanding drven by the SN2 and I enjoyed every aspect of the sound. I then had the opportunity to upgrade to the latest Motive SX2 and the sound got even better. The SX2 is a significant upgrade over the old 2. You get more transparency overall and more silky smooth highs in comparison with tighter bass.

Moussa

Thanks Moussa

I did consider the sx2 but thought it more of a sideways move. However you have obviously noted a significant improvement and they may well be worth a listen. I also considered the momentum sx3i but being rear ported I may have problems with placement. 

 

sn 2 with hicap is a great amp

to go for the 282 I would first go for CDX 2 if you can afford it use it with a XPS

i just picked up a ex dem CDX 2 for £3600 and a ex dem XPS for £3300

my next move will be the 282 + 250

my dealer has  a 282 for £3300

but until funds allow I will stick with my supernait 2 with hicap

i only got the CDX 2 and XPS yesterday evening so I am not expecting any vast improvement over my CD5 XS with hicap for a week or two.

Hungryhalibut posted:

If you have such a great dealer, why not just spend some time there and decide?  It seems that you are after specific things that I never think about - do you actually enjoy music on your system at the moment? Maybe that's enough? Are you searching for a holy grail that doesn't exist? Will upgrading actually make you more satisfied? 

Hi Hh 

I have had a few demos over the last couple of months and will do more in the new year  

I do really enjoy my system and like most of us am looking for improvements in certain areas that would enhance my enjoyment 

I am totally realistic in terms what I would like and what I might end up with in relation to my budget. I recognise things will never be perfect but hopefully improved.   

Having been in numerous bands since my teens I have developed the habit of listening to music in terms of what each musician is  playing and how they are plying it. This is something that is important but I'm not on an endless search for perfection.... I can't afford that!! 

Regards 

Yes, it's tricky when there are so many options. I just went for something on the basis that it would have no more than two mains leads, and didn't even listen to it beforehand. Then I got some secondhand speakers that are absolutely brilliant - I'd owned some before so knew they were good - added a few swanky wires and forgot about it. If you listen hard it will of course do your three things but is just so musical and enjoyable and I never even think about them. 

You can overthink these things, and everyone will say something different and at the end of the day you often need to go on gut instinct. 

Naim hiline = 1. refined treble + 2. distinct bass + 3. better separation

They're pretty cheap used.  

I do think you should ultimately buy a proper equipment stand as well - Quadraspire racks are very good and rather affordable.  Strongly recommended.  

Hi Stuart

If you like the Neat sound, I would stick with it. Personally I rather like the SX1 -- great soundstage and certainly a balanced sound with Naim. Down-firing ports make them relatively easy to position. I tried PMC -- the old Twenty and the new Twenty5 series -- great speakers too, but to my ears the treble is a bit harsh. I mainly listen to classical music, and something like Allegri's Miserere doesn't really work well with PMC.... 

If I had your system and liked it as you say you do, and assuming you are running the CD5XS through the Naim DAC, I would try any of the Naim PSs on the DAC, or I would slot in a 202 or 282 on demo, to see if the effect is what I was looking for.  Sometimes it isn't, but the result is often positive in unexpected ways.

Nick

It's always a bit tricky to decide where to make changes, in a system that looks pretty well balanced just now. If you want to make the move to streaming, I would consider swapping your CD player for an NDX, and playing that into the NDAC. However, you might first benefit from buying a NAS and starting to rip your CD collection, so that when the streamer arrives, you have at least some of your collection ripped and ready to go.

The other option would be to upgrade the preamp to 202 or 282, then you are likely to want to add a Hicap  (or change the 155 for a 200DR) to get the best from them. 

Which of the 2 options works best for you is something you can decide with the help of your dealer.

Thanks everyone 

I have considered a new stand but I think my DIY rack isn't a bad effort.  obviously not as good as a commercial rack. I've always thought this would be one of the last purchases I made once I wasn't far off my end goal - to refine the sound even further.  This may be the wrong philosophy.  

I've read numerous threads regarding the hiline in the past and considered its benefits better suited to higher level equipment. I may be entirely wrong and it would be easy enough to try one. 

Initially my intention was to reduce the boxes but I'm happy with 5 shelves worth. Less would be OK  

I've recently listened to a cdx2 as part of a demo and it is a great cdp but I didn't feel it was better than the 5xs with ndac  

It would be great to move to a 282 but I can't help thinking I would then hanker after a 250 and it all becomes out of reach  as I do want to stop at some point - honestly?! 

Also worth trying xpsdr for dac  

I've tried to xp5 previously and didn't think it made a huge improvement.

Thanks again for all your suggestions 

 

Stuart, can you post photos of your rack?  It might be really good or maybe not.  Tap on the rack shelf (glass on which component sits, for example) with your finger tip.  If the shelf rings (vibrates) at bass frequencies, then this could cause "mudyness" in the bass, and reduce articulation and separation of musical notes.  Also tap near one of the three supported corners of a shelf.  It should sound tight.  If there is any rattling, this can seriously degrade articulation, note separation, and make treble sound harsh - and the harshness will get worse at higher music volume.  What? Your rack doesnt have three point support or glass shelves?  Hmmmmm......

While putting an XPS on the DAC, as has been sensibly suggested, will potentially pay dividends in the three areas you seek to improve - these improvements will not be fully realized if you rack is misbehaving.

You have a good system, and it deserves a proper rack to deliver its best.  I hope your rack is already that good, but if it is not then it should be improved before investing in upgrades.  Perhaps you dealer could pay a house call and help you assess the situation.

Charlie

Hungryhalibut posted:

I'd say it would be lost on the amp and speakers. 

Ahhh - yes - the amp - missed that part. Hmmmm... 

SuperNait2 will work well, but that allmost calls for a HiCap DR. A lot of boxes.

To quote from The Police - 'every girl I go out with becomes my mother in the end'. Meaning - he really needs N272 + NAP250dr

Certainly a difficult decision to make. Eventually any upgrade to a better source or amplifier will yield the improvements that you are seeking. For the three aspects that you intend to improve, they can be achieved by a source, amplifier or rack upgrade, or a combination of any of these things. From my opinion and personal experience, refinement in the treble is more toward the source, but it can be due to other factors as well such as rack, cables etc. Better quality bass in texture and definition and the separation of instruments, these are more toward amplification (pre and power). In the end it is the sum of the components that will contribute to the overall sound quality.

You can receive good recommendations as a guideline but eventually you will need to decide on the best option with your own ears, to be able to make the most cost-effective upgrade and get the best out of your money. I believe this is the goal for everyone. It is good to hear that you know what you want to achieve in your system with your given budget, and that a perfect sound does not exist.

A word on hifi racks. The system will surely benefit from a good rack and it's just a matter of getting the best out of your money, as usual. It's a subjective thing when it comes to the degree of improvement a good rack is able to bring to the system. Some say the improvements are massive, some feel the improvements are subtle, and some don't care at all. Case in point :-

Good luck.

CharlieP posted:

Tap on the rack shelf (glass on which component sits, for example) with your finger tip.  If the shelf rings (vibrates) at bass frequencies, then this could cause "mudyness" in the bass, and reduce articulation and separation of musical notes.

Charlie, I'm struggling with the idea that you could ever produce a bass sound by tapping a small sheet of glass! I'm probably just being dumb and missing the point, but maybe you could elucidate?

stuart posted:
Moussa posted:

Hi Stuart

I can comment on your speakers with SN2. I used to own Motive 2 and they were outstanding drven by the SN2 and I enjoyed every aspect of the sound. I then had the opportunity to upgrade to the latest Motive SX2 and the sound got even better. The SX2 is a significant upgrade over the old 2. You get more transparency overall and more silky smooth highs in comparison with tighter bass.

Moussa

Thanks Moussa

I did consider the sx2 but thought it more of a sideways move. However you have obviously noted a significant improvement and they may well be worth a listen. I also considered the momentum sx3i but being rear ported I may have problems with placement. 

 

I auditioned the SX3i but they excited my small room 3x4m with bass. They SX2 bass is much tighter and engaged me more with the music. They just worked better in my room and I think momentum and ultimatum probably do better with power amps more so than integrated 

ChrisSU posted:
ryder. posted:

That's the first photo I've ever seen on the forum where the amp is the right way round on the rack! (Shame about the speaker cables, though)

The right way is the back? i dont get the picture, is the rack turned for photo purposes or something?  or .....  is it a "marriage ender", "instant divorcer", "siglematic" type of placement?   

 

ChrisSU posted:
CharlieP posted:

Tap on the rack shelf (glass on which component sits, for example) with your finger tip.  If the shelf rings (vibrates) at bass frequencies, then this could cause "mudyness" in the bass, and reduce articulation and separation of musical notes.

Charlie, I'm struggling with the idea that you could ever produce a bass sound by tapping a small sheet of glass! I'm probably just being dumb and missing the point, but maybe you could elucidate?

You can get upper bass frequencies if there is no glass and components sit on softly supported wood shelves.  You are correct in assuming the lowest vibration mode frequencies of the glass will be in the midrange.  It could be possible, if glass sat on poorly supported wood shelf, that the entire sheet of glass and the supported component could vibrate at apper bass frequencis as a "rigid body."  This would certainly not be an adequate support shelf, and I am not suggesting that the OP's diy shelf behaves this way.

in any case, the amount of vibration and any sound radiated, are quite low amplitude.  My point is that one MIGHT learn something about the suitability of a hifi rack by tapping with ones finger.  If you have full fraim, try this.  It should sound good.  Then go about the house and tap on maybe some wooden shelves, likely unsuitable for hifi, and hear how that sounds.

Charlie

It must be shocking for the guy to find nice "presents" in the ports.

About 14 or 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase a used SF Extrema from a dealer. At that time, he had the Extrema and Grand Piano Concerto for sale. I bought the Grand Pianos as I did not have the budget for the Extrema at that time. From what I was told, the value of the speakers had increased by almost twofold throughout the years.

Unfortunately, while there is overlap in the cause of your three problems, I suspect that the largest cause in each case is from a different aspect of the 'system'.

1  The Neat Motives don't have the most refined treble out there.  They are  optimised for excitement and musical energy rather than resolution and smoothness, and at the budget concerned, that means there has to be an 'engineering compromise' in HF refinement.  You may be able to make some changes here by altering the 'toe in' of the speakers and/or putting absorbing material at the 'first reflection points' on the side walls.  Failing that you may need to find speakers that 'fit' better for you (but this can be a very tough challenge if you particularly like the presentation of the your current speakers).

2  The biggest factor here is likely to be room resonances.  Have you done anything to actually measure the response of the room (without this info we're really all guessing on the bass front)?  Do you have any bass traps?  The other place you may look to improve this (after measuring the room and adding any bass traps needed) is with the pre-amp; in Naim systems the pre has a profound effect on the overall 'shape' of the sound envelope.

3  This is a very typical limitation in preamps and source components, upgrading the pre will almost certainly help here (with the NDAC, your source is certainly up to the job for even a much better amp than you currently use).

Thanks for all the input 

I will try and post some pics tonight of the rack and room. I am pretty sure I have optimised speaker position although moving them away from the rear wall may help with bass definition. At the moment they are approx 15-20cm, I will try 20-30. 

My inclination has been to improve the amplification and I haven't heard the supernait 2, this is on the list of the next round of demos. I wonder if anyone has moved from xs separates to s/n2 and can comment on the difference. A home demo will be requested of course. 

A trade in for the s/n2 would also allow funds for a rack if mine isn't up to the job and new speakers. I do enjoy the presentation of the Neats - very dynamic and giving a feeling of listening to a live performance. Maybe the newer versions would give me some of the  improvements I'm  looking for.

I certainly haven't taken any acoustic measurements. Not sure where to start with this really but would be interested in trying this out. I will have a search for previous posts to point me in the right direction  

Thanks 

CharlieP posted:
ChrisSU posted:
CharlieP posted:

Tap on the rack shelf (glass on which component sits, for example) with your finger tip.  If the shelf rings (vibrates) at bass frequencies, then this could cause "mudyness" in the bass, and reduce articulation and separation of musical notes.

Charlie, I'm struggling with the idea that you could ever produce a bass sound by tapping a small sheet of glass! I'm probably just being dumb and missing the point, but maybe you could elucidate?

You can get upper bass frequencies if there is no glass and components sit on softly supported wood shelves.  You are correct in assuming the lowest vibration mode frequencies of the glass will be in the midrange.  It could be possible, if glass sat on poorly supported wood shelf, that the entire sheet of glass and the supported component could vibrate at apper bass frequencis as a "rigid body."  This would certainly not be an adequate support shelf, and I am not suggesting that the OP's diy shelf behaves this way.

in any case, the amount of vibration and any sound radiated, are quite low amplitude.  My point is that one MIGHT learn something about the suitability of a hifi rack by tapping with ones finger.  If you have full fraim, try this.  It should sound good.  Then go about the house and tap on maybe some wooden shelves, likely unsuitable for hifi, and hear how that sounds.

Charlie

Thanks Charlie, that makes sense, I think! Not that I actually have glass shelves, as I'm using Isoblue, but I might just go round the room and tap a few shelves some time when my wife isn't looking!

Emre posted:
ChrisSU posted:
ryder. posted:

That's the first photo I've ever seen on the forum where the amp is the right way round on the rack! (Shame about the speaker cables, though)

The right way is the back? i dont get the picture, is the rack turned for photo purposes or something?  or .....  is it a "marriage ender", "instant divorcer", "siglematic" type of placement?   

When the amp is facing that way round, the L and R speaker sockets are the right way round, so the speaker cables don't cross over. Apparently it's a hangover from Naim's early amp designs for pro use which they continue to use. I wonder how any thousands of speakers have unknowingly been connected the wrong way round over the years as a result! 

Stuart,

Your 152XS is probably better than my 112 was; but when I swapped in the 202/NAPSC for the 112, the effect was that the NAP150 seemed more powerful than before.  I had been told to expect this by my dealer, but did not believe until that day.  

Therefore, my advice is, if the amp is capable enough for the speakers, leave it alone and upgrade the pre -- which might even include  trying a HC on your 152, with and without the FCXS.

Nick

NickSeattle posted:

Stuart,

Your 152XS is probably better than my 112 was; but when I swapped in the 202/NAPSC for the 112, the effect was that the NAP150 seemed more powerful than before.  I had been told to expect this by my dealer, but did not believe until that day.  

Therefore, my advice is, if the amp is capable enough for the speakers, leave it alone and upgrade the pre -- which might even include  trying a HC on your 152, with and without the FCXS.

Nick

very true.

I'm stuck with my mobile at the moment as laptop hard drive has died I don't seem to be able to add pics although I have added some pics on things I love in my profile if anyone wants to take a look  

I moved speakers another 5cm from rear wall tonight and this has improved bass slightly. Also hung a couple of table cloths on walls and trebble seemed a little better - not a long term solution but I have a few ideas - as long as they are given the go ahead  

Stuart,

Your rack looks well crafted and likely performs pretty well.  Compared to Fraim, it lacks holes in the shelves (which raise mode frequencies a bit, aid ventilation and reduce acoustic excitation); significantly it lacks the glass shelves.  Consider getting a sheet of toughened glass and place on a shelf with three capnuts.  There are threads that discuss this at length, and some (including me) report favorable results.  Try it under CD player, then preamp.  If that works well, more glass can be added as budget allows.  If you tfy this, please report how your music is affected.

Charlie

 

As table cloths have very little absorption and yet still make a noticeable difference, that does suggest that the the room reflections are a very significant part of your problems at HF.

My suggestion is that at the first reflection points, you use some wall hangings behind which you put some acoustic wadding (25mm - 50mm deep).  This will also 'tighten up' your stereo image slightly.  Yo may also find it very beneficial to put a diffuser on the rear wall behind your listening position.  To test whether this is worthwhile, use some more of the acoustic wadding (or a duvet!) and see what happens.  If the quality of the HF improves but sounds overdamped then you need a diffeser; if it improves but doesn't sound overdamped then you need an absorber (as for the side walls).

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