November 22, 2020 § Leave a comment
“While I was writing this, I thought of the many reviews I have read that use descriptive language used to describe the sound of component both inexpensive and stratospherically costly that I have used in this review. Many of the same words can be used to describe the sound of a vast number of components. But none of them have the Satri circuit in them. This technology is the real deal and not just a company catch phrase. It proves it in the listening. In an email to me, Mr. Chae mentioned that this combination of amplifier and speakers are affectionately called Bonsai to them. Well little in stature and big on performance I say.”
November 15, 2020 § Leave a comment
Once the M8xi had been hoisted, with assistance, onto my rack, I did some thinking about power conditioning. I’d already inquired about the use of a power conditioner and received an email that said that while Musical Fidelity had striven to build “a power supply with very low internal impedance in order to achieve maximum possible dynamics,” conditioners that didn’t limit current and squash dynamics could possibly improve things further. After listening and comparing, I opted for the same AudioQuest Niagara 5000 I use with the Progressions. I also used the same Ansuz Darkz T2S support feet I use with the D’Agostino monos. I continued to use them because they enhanced the depiction of air, depth, and space—what stood out most was the clearer depiction of space between vocalists, instrumentalists, and the wall behind them—but I should note that the M8xi did quite well on its stock feet.
November 13, 2020 § Leave a comment
‘She’s Leaving Home’ places Paul’s vocals in front of massed strings, with John Lennon prominent among the group harmonies, making it easy to assess this using LP and CD. Textures – not levels – changed from mode to mode. They are trade-offs, not mutual exclusion, simply differing in the way sound can vary subtly with moving-coil cartridge loading.
It was, however, the loopy ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite’ which further exploited the dichotomy, a crowded recording which everyone knows is a masterclass in studio-created artifice. Calliope swirls, crisp cymbals, thumpingly hollow bass – rare are the occasions when I’ve heard such a glorious soundscape recreated from so compact a system. Remember: this amp only delivers between 18 and 35W per side, while the speakers are the same height as an LP sleeve. Yet it was monumental.
November 7, 2020 § Leave a comment
I began this review discussing selling a lot of Naits 30 years hence. The sound of Naim has changed since then. Those who want a time machine instead of an amplifier prefer that more characterful, chummy sound, but that sound may have been well suited to the loudspeakers and music of 30 or 40 years ago. The XS 3 is perfect for someone who might also want to listen to music recorded after 1986… and some of that music is really quite good too!
The reason why I used to sell so many Naits 30 years ago was down to one big thing; it sounded damn good. Thirty years on, the core concepts have not changed: the Nait was a damn good amplifier then, and the Naim Audio Nait XS 3 is a damn good amplifier now. If we’ve come full circle, that seems like it’s a good thing… although sadly I’m not holding out for Nirvana reforming any time soon.
October 27, 2020 § Leave a comment
“When the Masters M33 arrived, I connected it to my home network with an Ethernet link, updated its firmware, and from that point on it worked without incident for the entire review process. After moving it back and forth between my two systems a few times, I found it easier to access my network with the Wi-Fi connection. I had no problem setting up and using the Masters M33, so intuitive and simple is its interface.
I used the M33 mainly with Qobuz as a streaming service, with either Roon or BluOS to manage playback. I also used its digital and analog inputs: the MM phono input with my Pro-Ject X1 turntable, and my Oppo Digital UDP-205 4K UHD universal BD player through its balanced (XLR) analog outputs. Although I primarily used a MacBook Pro computer to control the M33, I also installed and used the BluOS app on my Apple iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones.”
October 26, 2020 § Leave a comment
“Having definitely answered, at least for my own purposes, the question “Is 50Wpc enough?,” I moved on to more typical audiophile fare to assess other aspects of the Essence’s sound. I went straight to what I’m sure has appeared in the recent Qobuz playlists of many audiophiles: Lido Pimienta’s Miss Colombia (16/44.1 FLAC, Anti-/Qobuz) and its first track, “Para Transcriber (Sol).” The Gryphon painted this track with vivid colors, impressive depth of soundstage, and with all its minute details intact. There was a magnificent amount of space around Pimienta’s voice at the beginning, with soundstage depth for miles, and enough ambience retrieval to make my listening room completely transform into another acoustic environment. Pimienta’s voice was also smooth and tonally perfect — the Essence reproduced this track with finesse and fidelity.
October 19, 2020 § Leave a comment
“The Naim put on full display the great sound of Lady Gaga’s Chromatica (24/48 FLAC, Interscope/Qobuz). This wonderful album is personal and cathartic, but is nonetheless upbeat and punchy. The Supernait 3 had no trouble keeping up with the album’s immense and pulsing dance beats. The album’s sweeping electronic flourishes highlighted a huge soundstage, the Naim assertively positioning deep, well-defined synth notes between the speakers in a dense and dizzying wall of EDM sound. But even as the dance beats pounded through hectic electronica, the voices were still clear — when Elton John enters 1:42 into “Sine from Above,” I was caught entirely off guard by how present his voice was. The slight processing on his voice didn’t keep the Supernait 3 from presenting it with an arrestingly crystalline quality that was vivid and commanding in the best possible way.
The Supernait 3’s headphone output was also extremely satisfying. The many-layered vocals in Sting’s “Desert Rose” were well defined, and benefited from a bit of warmth that made this recording sound big and inviting through my Sennheiser HD 580 headphones. Although the sound wasn’t quite as clear as through the headphone output of my Oppo UDP-205 — my reference for built-in headphone amps — small details were still audible, and there was a touch more bass. And despite the signal having to travel through a pair of Nordost Quattro Fil interconnects to get to the Naim from the Oppo, the sound from the Naim’s headphone output was always clean and authoritative. I suggest that, unless they’re very serious about their headphone listening, those considering buying a Supernait 3 think twice before spending more on an external headphone amp.
October 18, 2020 § Leave a comment
Still, it’s the ability to impart bass weight and slam that marks the XPA HC1 out from less powerful amplification, and this encouraged me to frequently step upwards on the XSP-1’s volume ladder. There’s tangible power here and you’ll want to use it, because at lower listening levels the XPA HC-1s’ star attractions – their dynamism and scale – are dimmed. ‘Too Young To Know’ by UFO [Phenomenon; Chrysalis 50999 5 04440 2 1] bounced along amiably enough at a family-friendly volume, but gained a fizzing energy and midrange crunch when the amps were given a push.
Happily, these amplifiers are just as adept with music that seeks to stir emotions through orchestral swells and charismatic crescendos. John Williams’ ‘Theme From Jurassic Park’ [Tidal Hi-Fi] may have no driving rhythm behind it, but its melody hit like a tidal wave made from string, brass and wind instruments, while the soaring violins and diving cello of Max Richter’s ‘On The Nature Of Daylight’ [The Blue Notebooks; 130701, CD13-04] had me breaking out in goosebumps. Value these amplifiers for their muscularity, but don’t discount their musicality too