What Hi Fi Sound and Vision
Tue, 11 Sep 2007, 10:00am
- Fast and punchy sound
- plenty of bass grip
- impres-sive composure when pushed hard
- Controls feel horribly vague
- sound not the last word in finesse or subtlety
THE NAIT HAS long been Naim's only integrated amplifier: as the entry point of the range.
it's always been the smallest, least powerful and most basic Naim amp, and that remains
true for the extremely likeable Nait 5i.
The new Supernait is a rather different beast: get past the relatively hefty price tag and you'll find this is arguably Naim's most flexible and market-aware product to date.
Here's a Naim integrated with digital-to-analogue conversion, five digital inputs, a front-panel MP3 input and even an unfiltered subwoofer out.
Round the back, you'll still see the brand's favoured lockable DIN con-nections, five pairs of standard RCAs, as well as coaxial and optical digital outs.
And as with other Naim products, you can still upgrade the performance with a range of offboard power supplies or even biamp with an additional power amp, as we explain in the panel below.
Used with a Naim CDS3/555PS CD player, the Supernait turns in a performance Naim fans will admire.
It has a fast and punchy presentation with plenty of grip at low frequencies.
A power output of 80 watts per channel isn't particularly impressive by today's standards, but it's enough to drive a wide range of price-compatible loud-speakers to decent decibel levels.
Play Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave Op.31, and there's no denying the sonic fireworks on offer or the composure in the face of musical complexity. Give the likes of Beverley Knight's Affirmation a spin, meanwhile, and you'll hear precise timing and a crisp sense of drive.
Try the onboard DAC, and it's good enough to trade blows with the digital-to-analogue conversion built into the Award-winning Primare CD31 CD player (ú1500).
It delivers greater resolution, albeit at the expense of slight brightness and a little edginess. However, the results are close enough to be down to personal preference.
With computer audio, the source - not the Naim - is the limiting factor.
If the original material is in a lossless format, and you have a decent dock or sound-card, it's acceptable. Anything less, and you'll be rather disappointed.
We do have some criticisms
So, the Supernait is a fine performer, but it isn't flawless. It paints in broad strokes, missing out on the fine detail that the likes of Moon's I-3 RS and AVI's Lab Series integrated reveal with ease. Low-level dynamics are also downgraded, diluting the emotion in voices.
These shortcomings are enough to ensure it won't get five stars.
Finally, we normally praise Naim's build quality, but the review sample's volume and balance controls felt disturbingly vague. We expect and get better from sub-£200 integrated amplifiers these days.
Naim fans will love the Supernait, and rightly so. It's a versatile product, and shows a sense of adventure other specialist manufacturers would do well to follow.
However, for us it still needs more sonic honing before we can recommend it unreservedly.