Integrated Amplifiers

Naim Audio, SUPERNAIT Integrated Stereo Amplifier with DAC

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

Naim gear has always looked understated in photos. In person it is well, simple and plain, yet it does have a charm and aesthetic unique to Naim. Build quality is exceptionally high. Every aspect of the unit from the solidity of the casework to the smoothness of the rotary knobs exude quality. This extends to the remote control. Most high end components either have overly lavish (and expensive) remotes milled of metal, or incredibly cheap plastic remotes. The SUPERNAIT's remote is plastic but with a very solid case, great feeling buttons and no creaks. The remote has a very wide transmission angle, easily being able to bounce the beam of my rear wall and have the SUPERNAIT receive the signal. This strong IR performance is very welcome, many audio products have unusable remotes as they have to be pointed right at the device.

The SUPERNAIT has some very modern and useful features and also some very traditional quirky Naim main stays. In the traditional column you have DIN connectors for both input and output use, and linking the preamp section to the amplifier section. It's not possible to use the SUPERNAIT as an amplifier (disabling the preamp) directly by using RCA inputs. DIN connections must be used. One work around is to use the home theater pass-through function if you desire to bypass the SUPERNAIT' preamp.

I was curious as to why NAIM has steadfastly used DIN connections for so long. The following is information provided by Naim's US importer as to the reasons NAIM prefers DIN connections.

"Naim Audio uses a DIN-5 180° connector for interconnections between source components and preamplifiers. These can be configured for playback only (CDd and tuner inputs, lower left quadrant of pins) or for record and playback (tape and AV, lower right quadrant of inputs). The pinout adheres to a European standard which relies upon a common signal ground for single-ended audio channels (Note that Naim uses single-ended, rather than balanced, audio signal interconnections).

The self-cleaning pin-receptacle interface makes contact in only two places, minimizing the surface area of the connection and improving performance significantly. In addition, the chassis-mount Preh DIN sockets used on upper-level Naim products feature contacts which are fully de-coupled from the housing, providing additional anti-microphonic isolation.

Naim's preference for the DIN as a superior audio connector has driven the development of their own fully-isolated DIN connector (with floating connector pins), which is used on the Hi-Line reference interconnect. This is also compatible with the Preh-manufactured PCB-mounted DIN connectors used on the NAIT integrated amplifiers (including the SUPERNAIT), as well as DIN-5 180° connections used on other European manufacturer's legacy equipment (including Quad, Bang and Olufsen, Tandberg, etc.).

Other DIN plug configurations are used for dual-rail Naim preamp power supplies (DIN-5 240° connections, which carry two signal channels, two +24VDC power rails, and a low-impedance, combined signal + power supply ground) and Naim power amplifier input connections (DIN-4 270° connections, carrying two signal channels, an optional single outboard +24VDC power rail, and a low-impedance, combined signal + power supply ground). These also provide significant performance improvements over alternate / traditional separate signal / supply / ground routings using multiple interconnects / conductors / connectors, etc."

The front panel is dominated by the two large knobs. One is the balance control, the second volume. Can I say just how much I welcome a balance control (purists please avert eyes). There are many speakers that regardless of price have a 1.5 dB to 3 dB level mismatch in the pair. Not to mention that room placement can also shift the balance of even closely matched pairs (0.5 dB). Having the ability to match speakers as closely in volume is critical to getting the best imaging possible.

To the right of the knobs are parallel rows of the chiclet input and record buttons. The top row controls the audio input you are listening to, the bottom row selects the signal going to the record outputs. The green glow around the buttons is very attractive. One problem is a difficulty reading the input selected from any distance more than 5 feet from the SUPERNAIT.

A very unique feature (and one I'm sure most other similar units do not have) of the SUPERNAIT is the 3.5mm 1/8" input on the front panel. This can be used to connect a PMP from its headphone out or using a line out cable. Uniquely this is also a mini-Toslink connection, allowing you to feed a digital signal through the front panel. It's a very useful feature if you are temporarily hooking up a device, in my case my MacBook Pro laptop on an occasional basis.

There are no vents in the casework. The case also doesn't get particularly hot, this ideal for tight quarters and for stacking components on top of the amp. With such a reduction in components (amp, preamp, DAC, and cable count), this has the potential of being a very sleek setup. As a music-only system, the SUPERNAIT could be paired with a Sonos or Squeezebox streamer, or Mac Mini, for small, simple, excellent performance.