Tight on space? This superb vinyl and streaming hi-fi system is ideal for smaller rooms

Rega, Naim and Neat compact vinyl system composite image
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We often base our systems on the source we want to use, and add appropriate equipment from there. This time, though, we are looking at things from the other end of the sonic production line, and using the speakers as our kick-off point.

What if, for example, your listening environment is a little smaller than average, and you simply cannot accommodate a large pair of floorstanders? Or, perhaps, you have no desire to have your room dominated by a couple of large speakers, whether you can house them comfortably or not? Your best option then – without going stupidly expensive and burying things in walls – is to go for some smaller speakers that outperform the promise of their dimensions by a considerable margin...

The system

  • Standmount speakers: Neat Petite Classic (£1995 / $2500 approx / AU$3999)
  • Turntable: Rega Planar 8 + Rega Exact (£1870 + £295 / $3495 + $675 / AU$3999 + AU$650)
  • Music streamer: Naim Nait ND5 XS 2 (£2499/ $3999 / AU$5750)
  • Integrated amplifier: Naim Nait XS 3 (£2499 / $3999 / AU$5250)
  • Total price: £9158 / $14,668 approx / AU$19,647

Standmount speakers: Neat Petite Classic

Neat Petite Classic standmount speakers on wooden desk in front of purple background

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

So here we are. Neat’s Petite Classic, as their name should tell you, are small speakers – a foot (30cm) tall. Don’t make the mistake, though, of thinking that their bijou size means they aren’t real hi-fi. Very far from it. These are serious speakers; which, as it turns out, is a somewhat ironic descriptor, as the sounds they produce are anything but “serious”. These little boxes will provide you with some of the most fun, toe-tapping, downright enjoyable listening experiences you are likely to hear. Which is why, along with the space advantages they provide, we think it’s appropriate to build the system you see here around them.

Clearly, when you are starting with a pair of speakers costing this much, you need to look at a fairly costly, ‘proper’ two-channel hi-fi set-up to match them with. We marry the Neat Petites here with a trio of electronics that nicely complement the speakers for ability as well as cost.

Integrated amplifier: Naim Nait XS3

Naim Nait XS3 integrated amplifier from front on white backdrop

(Image credit: Naim)

And, when you have that amount of money to invest, it pays to take your time to make sure all the components in your system gel together perfectly. (Or, of course, allow us to do that for you.) That vital requirement for synergy, though, is why we have two Naim products in the system. At around the two to two-and-a-half grand price point (or three in the US, four in Australia), Naim tends to hit pretty hard as far as performance per pound goes; hence the Naim Nait XS 3 amplifier, and the ND5 XS2 network streamer below.

The Naim amp might not be the most feature-packed product on the market, but it is sufficiently well endowed to serve our purposes beautifully here. It has a good moving-magnet phono stage to bring the turntable into the set-up, and will connect to its brother streamer using the company's favoured Din connection or more conventional RCA connectors, allowing the ND5 XS 2 to take care of all source duties. 

Our review of this amplifier sums things up pretty efficiently: “The Nait XS 3 is a fit-and-forget product in the best sense. It slots into your system and does exactly what you want it to, and that’s deliver the music with emotional impact intact.” Can’t really say fairer than that – especially when it fits in so wonderfully with its streaming sibling.

Music streamer: Naim ND5 XS 2

Naim ND5 XS 2 music streamer cut out on lilac backdrop

(Image credit: Future)

The ND5 XS 2 is Naim’s “entry level” streamer (i.e. its least expensive). Which, for our purposes, means it has exactly what we need: excellent sound performance without any unnecessary bells and whistles. There isn’t a great deal of need, for instance, for a display on the unit, when all controlling and selection of music and so on will be done on a smart device, via the rather good Naim app. 

All the important stuff, as far as a fine hi-fi streamer goes, is present and correct. Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast are all catered for, and the UPnP-enabled ND5 XS 2 can stream files up to 32-bit/384kHz from any outboard NAS device or home computer. 

And, like its amplifier sibling, the ND5 XS2 does its thing without fuss, yet really impressively. Tonally it is even, with the ability to dig deep into bass frequencies with ease and tempering that with rich and insightful mids and treble. It possesses that neutrality required to paint an honest picture of a track, refusing to force its own presentation simply to catch the listener’s ear. 

And let’s not ignore the impressive detail on offer here. The ND5 XS 2 is as masterful at conveying timbre as anything you could hope to find for this kind of money.

We say in our review: “It is clear in the way the ND5 XS 2 handles rhythmic patterns, conveying intensity as a track ebbs and flows, and also in the subtleties of a performance that bestow upon it an element of humanity. Naim has proven again the possibility to provide truly great sound irrespective of genre.”

Turntable: Rega Planar 8

Rega Planar 8

(Image credit: Rega Research)

And when you add the stunning Rega Planar 8 into the mix, you are edging towards as perfect a set-up as you can buy for ten grand. 

The Planar deck delivers a level of clarity and insight more reminiscent of far more expensive high-end turntables – probably because Rega has built this deck inspired by the limited edition £30,000 Naiad turntable, rather than build up from the Planar 6 turntable below it in the Rega hierarchy. The impressively out-there looks, with its angular shape and aggressive cutouts, are there with the intention of minimising plinth mass while increasing rigidity. And the concept clearly works. 

Once up and running, with a Rega Exact moving magnet (£295 / $675), the Planar 8 puts clear air between itself and the less expensive decks in Rega’s catalogue. The Planar 8 usually ships with one of Rega’s moving coil cartridges but as the Naim’s phono stage is moving magnet-only, we would suggest going for the Planar 8 (£1870 / $3495) on its own and then adding the Exact. We’re sure the selling dealer would be happy to fit the cartridge.

As we say in our review verdict, “In being so ambitious with this record player’s engineering, Rega has pushed the boundaries of performance at this level and has given premium rivals positioned above it plenty to worry about.” If there is such a thing as value for money in a product at this price, the Rega Planar 8 is it.

Indeed, the same could be said for the other products that make up this hugely impressive quartet. When it comes to music reproduction, this considerable amount of money cannot really be better spent.


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Jonathan Evans
Editor, What Hi-Fi? magazine

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for 17 years or so. He has been a journalist for getting on for three decades now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.

  • Charlie Vayas
    Hello and thanks for the great article!

    Quick question: Why did you chose a separate streamer and integrated amp from NAIM, over the Uniti Nova, or Uniti Nova PE?