Naim has always gone its own way – and that's one of the reasons the company is widely acknowledged as one of the premier British high-end amplifier brands, and attracts such a loyal following from its devotees.
Qualities such as transparency and stereo imaging have always taken a back seat to the all-important boogie factor, and the company has long stuck to the use of DIN sockets rather than phonos, simply because it thinks they sound better.
Oh, and its preamps don't have built-in power supplies – they're designed to take their juice from a Naim power amp or an offboard power supply, thus providing the buyer with a simple upgrade path
But just as there are signs of some softening of approach in the preamps, with the arrival of phono sockets on the current models, so things have changed in the power department.
Works with non-Naim cablesIn the past, Naim's NAC A5 speaker cable would not only have been the best choice to connect one of the company's power amps to your speakers; using anything else would have invalidated the amp's warranty, due to the way the amp uses the speaker cable to stabilise its circuitry. The same get-out still exists in this amp's manual, but the NAP200 responds well to the use of alternative cables.
More after the break
We tried it with DNM Reson speaker cable, which brought gains in subtlety and resolution, while van den Hul's D352 went even further in the right direction. Compared with either option the Naim cable sounds crude.
Paired with the NAP202, the NAP200 stirs the soul with hard-charging tunes such as Massive Attack's Angel, where it hammers out the beats with the best of them. It's rated at just 70 watts per channel, but it had no trouble driving a range of speakers, including Wilson Benesch's Arcs, ATC's SCM 50s and Proac's Response 2s, to high levels. No wonder Naim says this amp is happy driving speaker loads right down to 2ohms for long stretches.
Limpet-like gripBut it's the limpet-like grip at low frequencies that really impresses, though rhythmic drive isn't far behind. So far, so Naim, but listen longer and those changes become clear: the balance is more natural and lacks the aggression of earlier designs. Naim fans may mourn the resultant loss of excitement but the rest of us can enjoy a more convincing performance.
Detail resolution is right up to class standards: the presentation is cohesive yet it's easy to follow individual instruments, even when the mix gets complex.
As a way into the Naim brand, this is a very fine power amp. And partnered with the NAC122x, it's capable of true magic.