System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components

 Having received a fair share of experience and impressions from the Great Journey , we will continue to surf the expanses of the universe of "black boxes". Of course, the variability in the switching of Naim components is very extensive and, as a rule, in a domestic environment is dictated by the cost of the components. Today we decided to succumb to the price hierarchy by putting together a very positive (despite the color) setup: a Naim NAP 250 DR power amplifier, a Naim NAC 202 preamp powered by HiCap DR and a Naim NDX2 network player. Where will such a logical path lead us?

Naim Audio is one of the pioneers of British style. Both in sound and in device design. Based on their many years of experience (the company was founded in 1969), Naim engineers continue to work on the development of new devices and directions, but at the same time they do not forget about already released components: from time to time they are also improved according to scientific and technological progress or their own developments. 

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
The black box system looks impressively stylish!

Just in our case, there is such a component that has been upgraded more than once and has already become legendary to some extent - the NAP 250 DR powerhouse.

Naim Audio NAP 250 DR: Discreet Regulation, NA009N and 2 ohms

The first generation of Naim Audio NAP 250 power amplifiers was released back in 1975. Since then, the powerhouse has gone through multiple upgrades, mainly related to increasing the power characteristics of the power supply and replacing the element base with a more modern one.

But years passed, and after the presentation of the quintessence of their capabilities - the Statement line, namely the mono-assistant NAP S1 - Naim designers decided that the relatively budget, but beloved by everyone, NAP 250 simply had to get a new upgrade.

No sooner said than done.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
Work in a load of 2 ohms? No problem!


Let's start with the power supply: here the integrated voltage stabilizers were replaced by discrete ones, Discreet Regulation, which, firstly, made it possible to provide almost 30 times lower noise threshold than its predecessor, and secondly, determined the very two letters in the name of the device - D.R.

From now on, all honest people should know: if you see the letters DR in the name of the Naim component, you will find discrete voltage stabilizers inside the device. You do not see - you will not find. In general, everything is simple here. In addition, thanks to the rest of the power improvements, the NAP 250 DR got the opportunity to work quietly and for a long time into a 2 Ohm load.

Let's continue with transistors: in the same NAP S1, semiconductor transistors with the marking NA009N, custom-made for Naim Audio, were used for the first time. It took more than a year to develop these transistors. After their application in the NAP 250 DR circuitry, according to the manufacturer, the dynamic and frequency characteristics have noticeably increased.

Such an increase is provided due to the fact that the NA009N has noticeably better organized cooling and has a much larger margin of safety: engineers say that the new semiconductors can withstand loads up to 80 A and 350 W! Of course, these transistors are more than enough for the NAP 250 DR, since its declared power is 80 W at a load of 8 ohms.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
There are almost no secrets left inside the black case

Transistor cooling radiators are attached to the device case. The housing, in turn, is assembled from black anodized aluminum and has a certain number of solutions that protect all circuitry from resonances, vibrations and pickups. By the way, the main part of the space inside the case was taken by a flat toroidal transformer - this is a necessary measure, since the NAP 250 DR refused to work without it.

In appearance it is difficult to talk about something new. Have you seen the components from the classic Naim series? So, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Naim that you saw is the twin brother (or just brother) of the NAP 250 DR.

A monolithic black case, which is slightly beaten with a designer chiseled relief on the front panel. In the center is the Naim logo, which is dimly illuminated in green when the device is turned on. The front panel is decorated with a round power button.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
Standard power connectors have their own vibration isolation on all Naim Audio devices - this is one way to close the way for vibrations inside the case


The rear panel is not rich in switching. Its largest element is a label with the name of the model. On the sides of it are two pairs of terminals for connecting an acoustic cable, which are designed only for banana connectors. There is even an old English saying: “If you love Naim, get used to bananas.”

The left side of the rear panel has a network connector, the right side has one XLR standard connector for receiving an analog signal.

This is how the Naim NAP 250 DR turned out. Outwardly - almost like all Naim, but inside - with features.

Naim Audio NAC 202: star, microprocessor and DIN

The next contender for debriefing is the Naim Audio NAC 202 preamplifier.

Outwardly, it differs in many respects from its partner in the system - the NAC 202 has buttons on the front panel! When the device is running, they are also highlighted in a dim green color, as well as the logo in the center. In terms of functionality, the buttons are sharpened for selecting inputs, although they can also be switched from the remote control.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components

The NAC 202 was designed on the basis of a more budgetary preamplifier - NAC 152 XS. The main changes during the upgrade affected the organization of grounding inside the device - new boards were added, the grounding in which is organized according to the "star" type.

The essence of this implementation of grounding is that all voltages in the circuit are measured and measured relative to one specific point. This decision, according to the designers of Naim, made it possible to achieve a more open, transparent and airy sound.


System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
The functionality of the buttons on the front panel is duplicated on the remote control

Then drastic measures were taken: a microprocessor was added to the circuit, which was allowed to control everything that it is potentially capable of controlling (of course, without harming the sound). One of the most important points is that the microprocessor controls protection circuits that constantly monitor all power circuits and, in which case, will safely turn off the NAC 202.

Having resolved the problems with internal power, the engineers set to work: they added a power input for single-brand StageLine and Prefix phono stages. Then the NAC 202 was deprived of almost all RCA standard connectors, leaving only a couple - because the preamplifier cannot be completely without “tulips”. However, by the abundance of branded DIN connectors, one can understand that NAC 202 has a pronounced focus on working with brand brethren.


System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
Contact "pins" on wires with DIN connectors also have a slight deliberate backlash - be careful with them!

To power the Naim NAC 202 with clean, smooth and quiet current, we used a Naim Audio HiCap DR power supply. As you may have guessed by the DR from the name, the HiCap is equipped with the same discrete voltage regulators as the NAP 250 DR.

And this is not at all surprising: knowing how important the issue of proper nutrition is for Naim, they simply could not entrust the role of an external power supply to a device that does not have the letters DR in the name. They used to trust, but then DR had not yet been invented.

Ecosystem

The signal source in the system is a Naim Audio NDX2 streamer, a detailed test of which has already appeared on the pages of our magazine . To avoid long read, we will not delve into the internal arrangement and external charms of this streamer.

In short, the NDX2 can be called one of the exemplary devices that other manufacturers will not be ashamed to focus on. This also applies to circuitry, and elaboration in terms of user-friendliness.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
Icon of modern streaming


System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
Only DIN, only hardcore!

All switching of components between themselves passed through DIN connectors, which, according to the Naim developers, allow to avoid "ground loops". The fact is that the DIN connector carries a common ground for the left and right channels, while the generally accepted RCA or XLR allow the formation of “loops”, since both the left and right channels are equipped with their own “ground”.

Thus, the switching scheme looks like this: NDX2 is connected to the NAC 202 preamplifier, which in turn is connected to the HiCap DR power supply. The NAP 250 DR power amplifier is also connected to the HiCap DR and receives the signal from the preamplifier through it. Having built the connection in this way, we fundamentally comply with the precepts of Naim Audio engineers: no “ground loops”!

Another reality

The acoustic system that participated in the testing is two-way floorstanders Totem Acoustic Forest. They look quite modest, no frills. But with the Totem brand, you should not make hasty conclusions.

The musical material was flown over the network from Tidal - as it turned out, this is not so simple.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
HiCap DR - strong, stylish

The mono-brand system (with the exception of acoustics) seems to hint: I am coordinated, carefully built and ready to demonstrate the result that engineers and developers were aiming for. I must say that, considering the engineers and developers of Naim Audio in this context, it seems that they were set up very seriously.

Naim sound is legendary, no exaggeration. In particular, when the conversation turns to the integrals of this brand, you can hear both enthusiastic exclamations and languid sighs in the dialogue.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components
All connection schemes via DIN connectors are carefully displayed in the instructions for the devices

When it comes to dividing the functionality of an integrated circuit into different "black boxes" - such a dialogue becomes more moderate in terms of languid sighs.

This system perfectly demonstrates how you can grow, educate and make more mature the same sound paradigm. Naim remains recognizable in intonations, but ceases to allow itself some minor excesses, which were allowed due to the "youth" and versatility of the younger components.

First of all, this is expressed in a fair increase in realism to what is happening in the sound picture. That is, if the integral player can afford some edits in the picture, then the system on separate components takes its tasks much more seriously: if the vocal was recorded without deep overtones, this is how you will hear it.

At the same time, a more versatile device can afford to “turn up the heat” and embellish this or that moment. But this does not mean that the same integrated circuit will be worse: I know music lovers who consciously abandoned the separate Naim path and found their perfect world in a company with a Naim integrated amplifier. These are two bordering universes that have common ground.

A system of this level can often serve as a revelation. This is what happened this time too, and more than once.


System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components

It was thought that the inimitable academic vocals performed by Carlos Mena would no longer be able to impress, since they had been listened to many times. What a surprise it was when in the composition "Ave Maris Stella" it turned out that Carlos' vocal cords have different degrees of tension and vibration! Don't think that this was analysis for the sake of analysis - I was ready to accept any result. And he was impressive!

By and large, these vibrations of the vocal cords can be heard on almost any system. But it's one thing when the system just plays - and quite another if it becomes a source of realistic sensations, regardless of whether you were ready for their perception or not. This can be compared to a movie: when an explosion is heard in a film, sometimes we can be scared, but it is unlikely that we will believe that this explosion is real.

This system with Naim Audio components is able to touch those strings of perception that are responsible for the analysis and systematization of real events in real life. As a result, what is happening in the musical material can often be perceived as the presence of a performer or instrument in a room next to you.

Sometimes it is so realistic that a certain amount of discomfort is felt, as the listener's brain intuitively begins to look for a singing person or a playing instrument. Naturally, this search ends in failure, which causes a little dissonance.

Moreover, all of the above can be attributed to any genre or sound range.

System test with Naim Audio NAP 250 DR, NAC 202, NDX 2 and HiCap DR components


Now we can move on to the disadvantages. But they will not concern the setup itself, but the scrupulousness with which it relates to the reproduction of music. The owner of such a system will have to pretty much sort out / update the music library, since the slightest signs of compression in any of the ranges will be heard as clearly and realistically as Carlos's vocals.

As a result, about a third of the material from Tidal's personal playlists, which were carefully assembled for testing setups, was deleted there, "on the spot". Naim is a witness to this

CONCLUSION

Once again, Naim Audio proves that attention to every detail in the design and manufacture of components can enable the listener to experience music that is often difficult to put into words.

To be honest, no one doubted. After getting to know Naim's black box systems, there was only one question left: how good would the listening experience be this time around? At the same time, we were ready for criticism - but, apparently, not fate.

high level of realism when playing musical material; no binding to genres; tonal balance

price; high degree of exactingness to the musical material

Naim Audio NAP 250 DR , Naim Audio NAC 202 , Naim Audio NDX 2 , Naim Audio HiCap DR

: upscale audio

Naim Audio NAP 250 DR - $7,899

Naim Audio NAC 202 - $3,999

Naim Audio NDX 2 - $8,799

Naim Audio HiCap DR - $2,859

Naim Audio NAP 250DR

Type: power amplifier

Number of channels: 2

Power: 2x80 W (8 ohms)

Frequency response: 2 Hz - 65 kHz (±3 dB)

Gain: 29 dB

Input impedance: 18 kOhm

Analog inputs: XLR x 1

Speaker connectors: two pairs (banana type only)

Dimensions (WxHxD): 432x314x87 mm

Weight: 15.8 kg

Naim Audio NAC 202

Type: preamplifier

Number of channels: 2

Analog inputs: 2 x RCA, 7 x 5DIN, 1 x RCA (RC5), 2 x DIN, (RS232 optional)

Analog outputs: 1 x 4DIN

Input impedance: 47 kOhm

Sensitivity: 75 dB/mV

Dimensions (WxHxD): 432x314x87 mm

Weight: 7 kg

Naim Audio NDX2

Type: network player

Number of channels: 2

Frequency response: 10Hz - 20kHz

Harmonic distortion: 0.02%

Supported formats: DSD (64/128), WAV (32/384), FLAC, ALAC, AIFF (24/384), MP3, AAC, OGG, WMA, M4A

Streaming protocols: UPnP, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay, TIDAL, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth (AptX HD), Internet Radio, Roon

Digital inputs: Coaxial 1 x S/PDIF (RCA), 1 x BNC; Optical 2 x Toslink; Ethernet 1 x LAN (RJ45); USB 2 x USB type A; WiFi, Bluetooth

Digital outputs: 1 x BNC

Analog outputs: 1 x RCA, 1 x 5DIN

Dimensions (WxHxD): 432x301x87 mm

Weight: 10 kg

Naim Audio HiCap DR

Type: external power supply

Output voltage: 2 x 24V

Connectors for connecting external devices: 1 x 5DIN, 4 x 4DIN

Dimensions (WxHxD): 207x314x87 mm

Weight: 7.35 kg

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