Naim’s fierce reputation upheld on this ruggedly constructed, finely tuned amp which features all the famous split-second timing and attention to sonic detail one expects from the company.
For as long as I can remember, Naim has had a reputation for producing audio equipment with a definitive sonic signature – pace, rhythm and timing. Known affectionately in hi-fi circles as P.R.A.T, Naim gear has always had these attributes in spades – possibly at the expense of a certain rose-tinted aural warmth when delivering its take on the musical truth.
Times have changed in the last few years though, as Naim’s audio boffins have steered the family sound in a slightly warmer direction, and although still extremely pitch accurate and super-detailed, their components are more forgiving of the differing partnered equipment used in many systems.
Rated at a modest 60wpc the Naim Nait XS is actually quite a powerhouse, and can deliver 90wpc in to 4 ohms, its spartan appearance belying the technology within the heavyweight casework. The amplifier is actually the little brother of Naim’s flagship Supernait integrated, and the lengths that Naim has gone to all but eliminate resonance and vibration is quite phenomenal – newly developed PC board mounts ‘float’, enhancing their resistance to vibration and microphony, and even the casework is formed from non-magnetic aluminium for purely sonic reasons.
A row of RCA inputs is supplemented with Naim’s favourite DIN connectors. These sockets were very popular back in the 1970s and although practically extinct (Naim being one of very few manufacturers to continue with them), they do provide better sound quality – especially as Naim have continually developed them over the years by working on aspects such as RF rejection and the aforementioned vibration research.
Auditioning the XS at Shore Hi-Fi in Auckland brought the attributes of aural musicality and warmth combined with exceptional speed and detail home to me, and as a testament to the easy going adaptability of the XS the system was anything but an all-Naim one.
Supplying vinyl heaven was the new Avid Diva 2 turntable, while a pair of Auditor M loudspeakers from the Italian speaker maestro Sonus Faber completed this sophisticated system, with occasional digital forays from Naim’s CD5i CD player providing the icing on the cake.
First up on my musical smorgasbord was an entrée of Massive Attack, ‘Karmacoma’ has an atmospheric mix combined with a sly dub bassline. The XS handled this track beautifully with excellent detail retrieval and that moody bassline underpinning the whole performance.
Changing tempo somewhat to Shelby Lynn’s ‘Just A Little Loving’, and the XS-based system really came into its own – the vocals seemed to just ‘hang in space’ beautifully between the loudspeakers, while the decay of the drumstick sound from each snare drum ‘rimshot’ created excellent ambience in the listening room.
It was great stuff, and certainly one was aware the XS was a cut above your average integrated amplifier, both in terms of resolving power and musicality. I decided some vinyl was in order, and in turning to the Avid Diva 2/Naim Stateline phono stage duo on to the platter went Ernest Ranglin’s Memories Of Barber Mack. Now things were starting to really swing! It was so easy to pick out micro-detail such as the percussionist’s clave, while the hammers inside the piano were easy to hear as they struck the strings with every note. That was superb enough, but more impressively the music had great swing and pace – very involving and upbeat indeed.
I can’t recommend the Nait XS highly enough; certainly it could be used in systems even more upmarket than the one I heard during the audition. GARY PEARCE