What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 22 Jul 2008, 11:00am

Naim NAC252/Supercap

Tested at £9070
100100
5

A superlative preamp, well worth the time and effort it takes to make it really sing: magical!

Write your own review

For

  • Drive, pace and weight
  • just about everything, really

Against

  • Needs a bit of tweakery to be heard at its best
Naim NAC252/Supercap/NAP250 amplifier test – £10,625

Some products inspire endless debate as to their merits and demerits, and lead to internal ‘discussions', usually only solved with liberal use of the big rubber mallet we save for just such occasions. Others just get a ‘wow' from all who encounter them.

This Naim pre/power combination, however, went one step further – everyone who wandered into the listening room when it was in use sort of stopped and stared in slack-jawed wonder, then quickly discovered a big smile was spreading across their face. Yes, the NAC252/Supercap/NAP250 really is that good.

What makes it so? To employ an old TV cliché, let's examine the evidence. Starting from the back end of the combo, the NAP250 really is the classic Naim stereo power amp.

The conservative, no-frills exterior and basic design makes the Naim a satisfyingly understated product to own, rather than a visual attention-grabber like some high-end products.

A lot smaller than the mighty NAP500 flagship, this black box has been refined over its 27-year life, has been turned into a professional version and has been used in studios all over the place – it's a serious piece of kit.

And on this showing you can see why: it might ‘only' deliver 80W per channel, but anyone familiar with Naim equipment will know that there's rather more to it than just a nominal power ?gure.

Will drive just about any speakers you throw at it

This amp will drive just about any speakers you throw at it with almost disdainful ease, taking them by the scruff of the neck and getting them moving in totally convincing fashion.

The preamp, meanwhile, is Naim's NAC252, one step down from the range-topping NAC552, and derived from the design of the legendary NAC52. This is simply one of the most transparent, musically involving preamps in the business, and has taken on board a lot of the development work involved in the design of the 552. It's powered by another Naim classic, the Super-Cap power supply.

On a more practical level, this is also a very usable piece of high-end audio, with separate record and listen selectors on each of the six inputs (two of which are available on conventional phonos as well as Naim's favoured DINs), and a unity-gain input for use when the amplifier is combined with an external AV processor.

And now for the non-science bit. There's a good deal of witchcraft involved in getting this system working at its best, such as plugging and unplugging all the mains sockets 20 or so times, turning any switches on the mains sockets on and off repeatedly, and ensuring the Burndy main connector between power supply and preamp is de-stressed by laying it out flat and then gently forming it to the shape required before connecting it.

Performance to die for
Witchcraft, yes, but it works, further opening up the sound of the system and tightening the bass. We did all this feeling slightly silly and ensuring that no-one was there to see us but – boy! – did it make a difference to the sonics, and not a subtle one.

As for connecting Naim kit to other Naim kit, for donkeys' years the best advice was to use the cable in the box. Now, the arrival of the company's technically advanced Hi-Line interconnect has meant an even more transparent sound is possible.

There's no ‘yes but no but' about the sound of the Naim amplification, as our opening paragraph may have made clear.

What makes it tick? One word: music, music and more music (OK, that's four). Whatever you choose to play on this system, the Naim simply sounds right, and startlingly fun.

This is a truly amazing amplifier package, and one you really must hear if you're in the market at this level. Paired with Naim's CDS3 CD player, with its superb bass, stunning detail and amazing musical flow, you'll  be in aural heaven.

And for the mega-rich, there's the tremendous £15k CD555.One word of warning, though: just make sure the dealer does all the hard cable work for you when the amps are installed – otherwise you'll never be able to look your family or friends in the eye again.

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