"What a refreshingly honest blog about listening to music through hi-fi. So happy to see views based upon the enjoyment of music rather than so-called sound 'quality'." - Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design at Mission / Wharfedale

Friday 1 December 2023

Acoustica Show: New Naim 200 and 300 Series. November 2023 - Pictures and Review

 In the past Chester dealer Acoustic has put on some enjoyable small shows at the DoubleTree hotel, featuring up to 20 rooms and covering most if not all of their portfolio of products.  You can read about them here:

April 2019

April 2018

This time was different.  It was promoted as a hifi show, but in reality it was a showcase for the new range of Naim "Classic" products - streamers, pre-amps and power amps in the Naim middle ground.  Naim range from their all-in-one Unity products, through 200 series, 300 series, 500 series and up to the stratospherically priced Statement pre-amp and amps.  So the new 200 and 300 series were featured here, in kind of a local "launch" event.  So rather than 15-20 rooms, there were 5, each with a different combination of the new electronics and a pair of speakers available from Acoustica's range.  A number of Naim "ambassadors" were on hand to answer questions.

I suppose this might have been a bit traumatic for long term Naimists - the transition from green lights to white lights is probably the most controversial parts of this new range.  That and concern about the perspex parts of the kit getting scratched like turntable covers.  I had a couple of Naim system owners along with me for 2nd and 3rd views on what we heard.

Below are images of the various systems on offer. I won't be reporting against each one this time, rather I will summarise my thoughts on the whole of the show, after the images. Worth noting that each room had a list of the equipment in use (minus cables) which is very helpful, but still oddly unusual at hifi shows.

NSS 333 Streamer / NAC 332 Pre-Amp / UnitiCore / 2x NPX 300 PSUs / 2x NAP 350 Mono Power Amps / B&W 801 D4 Speakers. £90,000 plus cables, rack etc.

NSC 222 Streamer & Pre-Amp / NPX 300 PSU / NAP 250 Power Amp / Focal Utopia Diablo Speakers. £37,000 plus cables, rack etc.

NSS 333 Streamer / NSC 332 Pre-Amp / 2x NPX 300 PSUs / Innuos Server / Exposure VNX Active Crossover and its PSU / 3x NAP 250 Power Amps / Kudos Titan 808 Speakers. £86,000 plus cables, racks etc.

I didn't get an image of the components here, but probaby NSS 333 / NSC 332 / Innuos Server / 2x NAP 350 / KEF Blade 2

KEF brought their own rug - it depicts the pattern of the "meta" component of their speakers which is a rear reflection dispersal technique for their tweeter / midrange unit

NSS 333 Streamer / NAC 332 Pre-Amp / UnitiCore / 2x NPX 300 PSUs / 2x NAP 300 Mono Power Amps / Dynaudio Confidence 60 Speakers. £81,000 plus cables, racks etc.


If you're a fan of Naim's earlier "chrome bumper" and "olive" electronics, you might say that this new equipment is a return to form for Naim.  If you're not, then you'll consider that Naim has taken a step backwards.

Curiously, despite the hefty price tags of all the above systems, most of them were using Naim's lower cost (and in my experience, rather rough sounding) NACA5 speakers cables rather than the excellent Naim SuperLumina cables, which would've added £2,500 or so to the simplest of these systems.  The official explanation for this was "to prove that Naim kit doesn't need fancy speaker cables to work well".

Here's the thing about this collection of systems - every one of them was unlistenable.  Harsh, shouty, edgy, everything that those who didn't like earlier Naim systems would have criticised them for was in evidence here.  The Focals demonstrated this to the greatest extent, the Kudos Titans the least.  It was possible to listen to 3 or 4 tracks with the Titans (I normally find Kudos speakers in systems I enjoy at shows, including those with the previous Naim Classic electronics) but they were essentially part of the "least worst" system at this event. More than 3 or 4 tracks would've been far too much effort.  We didn't even last a whole track in any of the other rooms, going around twice to make sure that our conclusions weren't down to a bad choice of music. All 3 of us came to the same conclusion.

So maybe the new electronics is a return to Naim's previous approach, or maybe they do need cables better than NACA5? On this evidence we can't tell, but its not a good start.

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