Upgrade from DAC-V1 + NAP 100 + KEF LS50 - 4 grand UK (hopefully) to spend - suggestions please

I don't post here much, mainly because I don't upgrade very often - probably because I spend most of my disposable income on music (I post in the music room a fair amount).
 
The system is as per the subject line. The DAC-V1 is gets a digital signal up its USB port from a dedicated music server running Daphile. The boxes are on an Atacama rack and the speakers are on Atacama stands (ones with 3 pillars - one pillar is bigger diameter than the others and is full of the weight material). Speaker cable is Chord Odyssey (I think its called that), but I plan to get some NACA5.
 
I have no complaints about the current system, as I have no experience of anything better. But I do want to experience something better! I have been saving my pennies and I reckon in a few months I will have about £4000 to spend on an upgrade to move up the Naim upgrade path (if there are no unexpected bills or changes in circumstance).
 
Given all the above, I am looking for suggestions as to upgrades to test at a dealer if I get the bottle to drop that amount of cash.
 
I have an idea of what I might do, but I won't skew any suggestions by saying it quite yet. One thing I will say is that I would like to consider this upgrade a step to bigger things, so it hopefully won't be the end game and I will be happy with a mullet for a while.
 
I want to buy new, as I would rather be the first owner. Also I won't be doing any trade ins, as I hope to use the current system to make a second one in the office.
 
Thanks for any ideas
Original Post

You already have a terrific system that will be hard to beat. You're now in the territory of the laws of diminishing returns. 

My suggestion would be to demo some speakers, at home in your own room is a must. ATC SCM19 and SCM40 would be first on my list but you will need a more powerful amp such as NAP250 or ATC P1. I've listened to a lot of speakers over the last couple of years and imho ATC are in a league of their own for the money.

A 200 works well with the V1, and would use about half of your budget if you buy new. Remember, though, that the new 200DR would be a little wasted in that its DR power supply is for a Naim preamp, which at the moment, you don't have. A good used non-DR 200 would therefore be much better value.

An amp upgrade would also open the door to a much wider range of speakers. My only recommendation there is that you should only consider speakers that work in your room, and nobody on a forum can help you with that.

Sooner or later, you will no doubt want a source upgrade. An NDAC is the obvious Naim choice, but with your current setup, you would need to decide if that is practical, as it does not have the USB input of the V1. Plenty of non-Naim DACs to consider, too, or maybe a streamer?

 
 
I have an idea of what I might do, but I won't skew any suggestions by saying it quite yet. One thing I will say is that I would like to consider this upgrade a step to bigger things, so it hopefully won't be the end game and I will be happy with a mullet for a while.
 
 
Thanks for any ideas

So a Nova fits the bill ?

Thanks for all replies – most informative and some suggestions that were completely outside what I was thinking about, which has given food for thought (and was the reason I posted). Some specific replies:

 ATC speakers – never really heard of them before but a bit of research reveals they have a great reputation – definitely worth considering when I have a few more quid

 Very interesting remark about the odyssey cable and the NACA? Are they about as good as one another?

 Nova – interesting - I didnt know what it was so I had to look it up. Great reviews I see.

Like the comment about wicked LS50s - I am certainly happy with mine. Placement is a bit finicky but they can be refined and move a lot of air at the same time!

 As to end game – no idea what the end game is but I think a reasonable mid term aim is 272/250. At the moment I can only afford one of these so if I did this the other component would have to be what I have already – i.e. 272/100 or DAC V1/250. Hence the comment about mullet!

Thanks again - much appreciated

I don't think you can go wrong with a 250 power amp. Other than streaming capability, not sure how much better sound quality a 272 will give you over a V1 for digital music. Once you've saved your pennies you might want to upgrade your V1 for another DAC with build in preamp (volume control and remote control), such as 272, or even a third party product such as Chord Hugo 2 or Benchmark DAC 3. One thing to be aware of is that as you are going direct into a Naim power amp (250) you will be limited to Naim products only as Naim do not recommend connecting third party preamps directly into a Naim power amp. You have no need for a dedicated Naim preamp as you only have digital source/music.

I would guess a 272 mK2 is not that far around the corner.

A couple of years ago I was also looking to upgrade my DAC-V1, NAP 100, PMC twenty.23 system. I seriously considered switching to ATC's Active SCM40, the SCM40A. Ultimately they didn't deliver enough of the Naim sound. I explain my experience here

I ended up getting a NAP 250 DR. Which I've been happy with. My logic. The 250:

- has the power to drive a wide range of speakers;
- is a classic in Naim's lineup;
- can provide a good base on which to add additional Naim components like a streaming pre;
- holds it's value quite well.

I wanted to add a better Naim DAC or streaming pre but I wasn't convinced Naim's streaming platform was either robust or feature rich enough for my needs. I stuck with the DAC-V1 using the USB input for a Sonore microRendu and UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1 power supply to handle streaming and Roon.

In the next year or two I'd like a Naim streaming pre with an asynchronous USB input like the DAC-V1. I would also consider a second generation NAC-N 272. It's clearly been a difficult birth, but to their credit Naim now have a very competitive streaming platform, one that matches their great audio quality.

I was deeply impressed with ATC's Active SCM40 and my DAC-V1. Unfortunately it didn't quite have the Naim sound I love. So what I'd really love is a Naim integrated Pre/DAC/Streamer and two Naim active speakers! With Naim's history, I think they could do a great job

Halloween Man posted:

I don't think you can go wrong with a 250 power amp. Other than streaming capability, not sure how much better sound quality a 272 will give you over a V1 for digital music. Once you've saved your pennies you might want to upgrade your V1 for another DAC with build in preamp (volume control and remote control), such as 272, or even a third party product such as Chord Hugo 2 or Benchmark DAC 3. One thing to be aware of is that as you are going direct into a Naim power amp (250) you will be limited to Naim products only as Naim do not recommend connecting third party preamps directly into a Naim power amp. You have no need for a dedicated Naim preamp as you only have digital source/music.

I would guess a 272 mK2 is not that far around the corner.

Much obliged for this and the earlier reply. Re ATC, I found a video on youtube about ATC and it shows they really know their stuff and pay real attention to detail (you can find it if you search for "ATC factory tour" on youtube - I thought it was very interesting).

I have actually got a chord hugo 1 that I use for portable - commuting and at work etc. (I was playing it today at work and there was a fire drill and I didn't hear it because I had the music on!) I haven't tried it into the NAP 100 but as you say there needs to be a preamp in the middle.

I think it might be a toss up between 250 or 272. All other things being equal my thinking at the moment is 250 first because in the interim while I save up some more an updated 272 might come out - it is more likely to be updated due to the type of its technology.

All this said, I am still saving up for the first upgrade and then I have to summon up the courage to spend the money!

GregW posted:

A couple of years ago I was also looking to upgrade my DAC-V1, NAP 100, PMC twenty.23 system. I seriously considered switching to ATC's Active SCM40, the SCM40A. Ultimately they didn't deliver enough of the Naim sound. I explain my experience here

I ended up getting a NAP 250 DR. Which I've been happy with. My logic. The 250:

- has the power to drive a wide range of speakers;
- is a classic in Naim's lineup;
- can provide a good base on which to add additional Naim components like a streaming pre;
- holds it's value quite well.

I wanted to add a better Naim DAC or streaming pre but I wasn't convinced Naim's streaming platform was either robust or feature rich enough for my needs. I stuck with the DAC-V1 using the USB input for a Sonore microRendu and UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1 power supply to handle streaming and Roon.

In the next year or two I'd like a Naim streaming pre with an asynchronous USB input like the DAC-V1. I would also consider a second generation NAC-N 272. It's clearly been a difficult birth, but to their credit Naim now have a very competitive streaming platform, one that matches their great audio quality.

I was deeply impressed with ATC's Active SCM40 and my DAC-V1. Unfortunately it didn't quite have the Naim sound I love. So what I'd really love is a Naim integrated Pre/DAC/Streamer and two Naim active speakers! With Naim's history, I think they could do a great job

Very interesting - much appreciated. Good to hear from someone who has gone through a similar process, and it is encouraging that you are happy with DAC V1 + 250. Re an updated 272 - I would add one analogue input to the list of requirements, but deffo a USB input.

Active is interesting and I get all the benefits completely - no phase problems etc. I wonder if DAC V1 -> hicap -> SNAXO -> 2x NAP 100 would work?! That would just about be within budget. Then all I would have to do is butcher my speakers to take the crossover out! This is just a flight of fancy from the half bakery but it would be interesting to know if it works...

sjt posted:

Much obliged for this and the earlier reply. Re ATC, I found a video on youtube about ATC and it shows they really know their stuff and pay real attention to detail (you can find it if you search for "ATC factory tour" on youtube - I thought it was very interesting).

I have actually got a chord hugo 1 that I use for portable - commuting and at work etc. (I was playing it today at work and there was a fire drill and I didn't hear it because I had the music on!) I haven't tried it into the NAP 100 but as you say there needs to be a preamp in the middle.

I think it might be a toss up between 250 or 272. All other things being equal my thinking at the moment is 250 first because in the interim while I save up some more an updated 272 might come out - it is more likely to be updated due to the type of its technology.

All this said, I am still saving up for the first upgrade and then I have to summon up the courage to spend the money!

Thanks for the ATC video heads up, I enjoyed watching it. I can testify ATC's in-house 75mm mid driver and tweeter are pretty special. The tweeter is a unique design in that is it a dual suspension design rather than the usual ferrofluid cooled that dries and loses performance with time. ATC's tweeter is modelled on their own 75mm mid driver. The proof of the pudding though is in the sound quality. For me, that's where ATC excel.

The 250 will allow you to drive a greater range of speakers so I'm sure will be a good move for the future, if not provide a big leap in sound quality over what you already have. I wonder if a 250 could drive ATC SCM40 speakers?!

Just a quick follow up to this thread I started a couple of months ago to say what happened. Well I saved my money and I eventually got enough so yesterday I went to the dealer and spent a morning listening to all sorts of music on a 272 / 250 system, with my chord hugo thrown in on a few numbers. Very enjoyable and enlightening. The outcome is that I have 2x5m of NACA5 cable + 1 powerline lite at home now, and a NAP 250 on order. So for the near term the gear will be DAC-V1 + NAP250 + NACA5 + KEF LS50. Now I will start saving again for the 272 (or hopefully its successor).

One strange thing I found at the dealer was that we started with some speakers that cost 5 grand, and I didn't like them - too shouty. Then we replaced them with some ones that cost £1100 and I preferred them much more.

The NACA5 is like fighting an angry boa-constrictor to install, but once I wrestled it into place there is a noticeable performance increase, which I am pleased about. I am seriously looking forward to the 250 turning up!

Actually getting Tidal has helped me save money! I used to spend about £100 on music a month, now it is £20 + exceptional albums that I must have.

Thanks to all that replied to the original thread, I thought you might like to know what happened.

Another update - my 250 turned up yesterday. The dealer got it on Tuesday (14 Aug). Not bad since I ordered it on 3 Aug! It is now installed with my Dac-V1 feeding it and its output is going into Kef LS50 speakers. The 250 is an upgrade for a NAP 100 and overall I am very pleased so far.
 
General impressions of the amp
  • Feels like a piece of military equipment - very high quality finish
  • Smells like plastic / PVC / glue!
  • Very heavy on one side (transformer)
  • Needed a bit of a clean when it came out of the plastic bag!
  • Signal cable that comes with it plugs right into my Dac-V1
 
The NACA5 speaker cables I had did not have the Naim connectors on the amp end - they were just banana plugs, and I noticed that the stiffness of the cable was actually making the plugs come out of their sockets on the amp end. I chopped the plugs off and soldered on the Naim connectors today and the fit and security of the connection is much better with the Naim connectors. Putting the plugs on is a bit of a pain due to the stiffness and spring in the cable and you have to have the right tools - I bought a cheap 100w soldering iron specifically for this work off amazon (£10) and it worked fine - the joints are good solid shiny solder joints. I do not see how you could do this with anything less than a 100w iron, as it would take too long for the heat to get into the plug pins and things would start melting. I did grab the iron's element by mistake at one point and I have a burn on my hand now!
 
Some audio impressions with some favourite records:
 
Blank & Jones - Dom
  • Beats easier to follow
  • Sound is crisper
  • Bass has more power but amp is not overall louder than the old one
  • Lots more details I never noticed before
 
War Requiem (Original 1963 Decca recording - 2013 remaster 24/96)
  • Clearer imaging - singers and orchestra more precisely placed - confounded my previous perception where Pears and Fischer-Dieskau are placed and according to the wikipedia article, the new amp gets it right
  • Complex crescendos easier to follow
  • Real power on the crescendos as well
  • Everything sounds more real
 
Tangerine Dream - Hyperborea
  • Wide image
  • Dead centre imaging on first song
 
The Lion in Winter soundtrack (original)
  • More space around different elements in soundscape
  • Easier to hear different parts - especially different voices
 
So in summary, more details, more reality, wider and more precise imaging, better resolution of complex bits and I am hearing stuff I never heard before on records I have listened to for 30+ years in some cases. Real oomph when it needs it as well - Its like getting a more powerful engine in the car.
 
I am expecting the amp to settle in and improve over time - according to other posts on this forum it takes a few months. I will be interested to see if I can actually hear an improvement or whether I will think it is my mind playing tricks.
 
It took me about 2 years to save up the money for this amp, so it was not a purchase taken lightly. So far I am well pleased and it should last a long time and sustain a lot of other upgrades (money permitting).
 
I have a vague plan to start saving for a 272 now - the aim is 272/250. The reason I got the 250 first was that in the time it takes me to save up there might be a replacement for the 272.
 
Anyway thanks to all who replied to the original thread. Hope this is interesting!
GregW posted:

A couple of years ago I was also looking to upgrade my DAC-V1, NAP 100, PMC twenty.23 system. I seriously considered switching to ATC's Active SCM40, the SCM40A. Ultimately they didn't deliver enough of the Naim sound. I explain my experience here

I ended up getting a NAP 250 DR. Which I've been happy with.

Did you test 250 with the passive ATC SCM40?

I think the 250 is a good bit better than the inbuilt active amps in the SCM40A. 

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