Totems respond well to very good amplification - I'd recommend giving Primare's I22 a listen (£1250). I can also suggest their I32 for £2200 which I heard up against the XS - much better imaging, IMO, as good as the Naim was.
A Denon 355UK, a fraction of the price, imaged better than the Naim ...
Its not what the brand is about but I agree, technically it should be easy to get better both for less or more. That is the problem with Naim, they are, in some ways infuriatingly inferior yet expensive (though it has to be said that is relative and there are far worse examples out there). At the same time they are unique, both visually and sonically. The latest products, streamer/amps have addressed the needs of the life style conscious but they are still true to their design/technical philosophies as well as pricing!
I understand why people get hooked on the brand and I understand why others fail to see any value in it. It is also pointless to argue the point either way.
Pretty ... and pretty proud of it
I recently demoed the Rega Brio-R, Cyrus 6, Audiolab 8200a and Naim Nait XS. All connected to Monitor Audio RX6 speakers and a Rega DAC.
I found the Brio-R a real disappointment, not particularly exciting or articulate to my ears. Cyrus 6 was OK, although not an all rounder. The Audiolab was the surprise of the bunch bearing in mind you can pick it up for between £630-£650. I was mainly auditoning with rock music to give the amps and speakers a real work out. I preferred the Nait XS over the Audiolab, it had more control, however it's more than twice the price. For less money than a new XS, you could get an Audiolab 8200a + 8200p pairing which would possibly equal or exceed the XS for control? I should point out, given the WHF review, I didn't find the Audiolab treble at all bright, I actually found it quite smooth sounding. The Rega DAC would have played a part in that working it's magic.
You need to listen with your speakers, all the above amps sounded very different with B&W 684's connected, albeit the final result was the same for me.
I was captivated by the XS sound and picked one up secondhand.
interesting. Was that with the MA RX6s? I demoed the 8200P/CDQ with Neat Motives, which I quite liked (very detailed and crisp) but was concerned that raspiness might creep into the top end. Never did a side by side with my set up or tried different combinations to moderate certain attributes but ended up going for what i thought was the smoother sound of the rega.
And no, I would never drop big cash on the XS (even used which is what i would do as well) without trying it with the Totems. Even demoing individual components in different combinations in different shops is not a helpful substitute for a home audition.
Rega Brio-R, Rega DAC, Totem Model-1 Signature
Clearly you are fairly content with your Brio-R, so is there a slight back-of-the-mind niggle or pure curiosity?
Amp: Leema Pulse; Source: Naim CD5i-2, Denon 260MKII, Pro-ject XP I; Speakers: PMC TB2i
Formerly known as plastic penguin
Was that with the MA RX6s? I demoed the 8200P/CDQ with Neat Motives, which I quite liked (very detailed and crisp) but was concerned that raspiness might creep into the top end.
Yes, the RX6's. The Audiolab 8200a was being fed from a Marantz player, but the decoding was via a Rega DAC. If it had been an Audiolab M-DAC or the a CDQ doing the decoding, I suspect the result from the RX6's would have been more clinical and maybe harsh. On the other hand, if an M-DAC had replaced the Rega DAC in the demo, the Brio-R would have probably come to life a bit more for my ears.
The Nait XS definately beat them all, as it should given it's price difference. As I said I picked one up secondhand, luckily with a 12 month warranty from a Naim dealer. I say that as I am in silence at the moment, the left channel gave up completely recently. It's with Naim at the moment.
Sound: Naim Nait XS | PMC GB1i | Avondale Black Link speaker cable | PC with J River MC19 | Teac UD-501 DAC + Vetere D-Fi USB lead | Audio-Technica ATH-M50
Vision: Oppo BDP-105 | Pioneer PDP-LX5090 | Yamaha YSP-4100 | BK XLS300/PR Subwoofer
The problem I have with Naim kit is that nearly every shop, when asked about amps automatically mentions that brand first, often without many alternatives. I also mistrust the idea that various upgrades will improve the sound - I'm not doubting that is true but prefer to buy equipment that's designed from the start to sound as good as it can do for the price/objectives of the maker. Naim equipment seems to be designed to be nearly good enough but needs that extra box - at a price! One thing Naim do better than almost everyone else is marketing!
My experience has shown that there's nearly always better SQ for less - if one is willing to do some digging. I'd love to like the brand - they are assembled near Salisbury, if not entirely made in Blighty. The only bit of kit I own that's English is my M-DAC - but hell - it's made in China!
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds - the pessimist fears this is true."
James Branch Cabell
MAIN: Apple TV2, Mac Mini (controlled from various iThings using Remote), CA Azur 751BD & Panasonic P42V20B into audiolab M-DAC, feeding a Primare A34.2 class D power amp via XLRs, 2x 5m of Atlas Ascent 2 firing up Totem Arros. DALI Kubik Free in my kitchen
ON THE HOOF: iPhone 5S/Sennheiser MM450.
I think the Nait XS is a great sounding amp, but at £1500 it's overpriced. I wouldn't pay an £800 premium over the Audiolab 8200a for the increase in performance of the XS. Especially when you factor in additions and upgrades to the 8200a could improve it further and still not take the total cost past that of a new XS! I got my used XS for £925 with a 12 month warranty from a dealer, if you buy privately, you'll get it for as little as £800. At those prices, it was worth it over the Audiolab for me.
Good question PP. I am definitely happy with the Brio-R, but was speaking to a dealer (and have read some confirmation of this from others online including apparently Totem themselves) who said that Totem's and Naim's are particularly well suited. So yes it is more out of curiosity to see if I could get clearly noticeable improvements or if it will just be diminishing returns.
I also take your point (and busb's) that I could get more out of my speakers with a more powerful amp so that is in the back of my mind as well. I have to say that for my typical listening levels, I think the Brio-R is doing and fine job at driving my speaker. This wasn't the case with my previous speakers so i do know what it sounds like when the amp is struggling. Nonetheless, I am curious about this as well.
I blame this all on the forum effect, but fortunately I am still able to enjoy my music on my grail quest for kit perfection
It sure is an expensive business being an audio-snob!
Tricky one - only you can really decide. A dem of a Naim amp is essential, especially if you're curious about Nait 5i. I've heard the 5i so many times with PMC, MA and MonoPulse speakers and it does need careful matching IMO.
Like you I've heard good things about Naim/Totem but not personally heard, and I wouldn't say go and buy. Have heard the Totem Arros with my Leema and it sounds terrific, however, you'll need to discover whether the Naim is worth the extra cash over the Rega.
you know it!
and sadly it is the kids that suffer most as their educational fund is depleted.
There was a great internet clip of audiophiles around europe talking about their gear. The most memorable part for me was when one (Greek?) chap was asked how much it all costs. He replied 60,000 pounds i think. His wife was sitting beside him and clearly had no idea. It looked like she was going to pass out. Quite funny.
I first heard Arros fed by Naim pre/power/CDP about five years ago in AudioT, Reading. To say that I was completely gobsmacked by the sound would be an understatement. AT also connected up other Totems but... I evenually bought a pair of Arros, then ATVII, then DAC, then amp!
© 2014 Haymarket Publishing