- Written by Michael Jude Galvin
- Published on 27 February 2014
Introduction to the Naim Supernait 2 Integrated Amplifier
1983. The compact disc is introduced and record companies everywhere rejoice at the prospect of selling everyone worse sounding versions of music they already own. The universe, however, seeks a balance. The same year, Naim unleashes the first Nait integrated amplifier and the product category is never the same. The runtish, low-powered amplifier was controversial on many fronts, but its astonishing degree of musicality was never in dispute.
As I write this, Naim has again caused a stir in the form of its $200,000 Statement system unveiled at the 2014 CES, but in 1983, Naim didn't just surprise the industry, it defied it. Naim never published an official power rating for the original Nait (13 WPC?), the two line-level inputs were available via DIN (#WTF) socket only, the volume knob was on the left, the speaker outputs were reversed (left to right), and they would only accept speaker cables terminated with banana plugs.
It was the embodiment of some firm convictions, to say the least. It also had the good fortune of being born into a time of some truly amazing music. While most everyone was still picking up the pieces of their blown minds over 1982's Thriller, Sonic Youth, Tom Waits, David Bowie, The Police, Violent Femmes, REM, Talking Heads, The Fall, New Order, and Depeche Mode released important new albums throughout 1983. And fittingly, U2 released War (because, like, Naim was declaring war, get it?).
The Naim Supernait 2 integrated amplifier does not deviate from their unique path that began more than three decades ago.
NAIM SUPERNAIT 2 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Integrated Solid State Stereo Amplifier
- Output Power: 80 WPC (8 Ohms); 130 WPC (4 Ohms)
- Dimensions: 3.5" H x 17" W x 13" D
- Weight: 29.5 Pounds
- MSRP: $4,900 USD
- Naim Audio
- SECRETS Tags: Naim, Integrated Amplifiers, Amplifiers, Stereo
Design and Setup of the Naim Supernait 2 Integrated Amplifier
The Nait was very successful over the years. Naim regularly updated it and eventually expanded the Nait line to three models. Coinciding with its 40th anniversary, Naim released redesigns of all three models late last year. The current line up includes the Nait 5si (60 WPC / $1800), Nait XS 2 (70 WPC / $2900), and the reference-level Supernait 2 (80 WPC / $4900).
Compared to their predecessors, all three models feature upgraded components and revised electronic designs. One of the biggest changes from the prior version is found in the Supernait 2. Naim decided to forego the Supernait's internal DAC and, for the first time in one of its integrated amplifiers, Naim has implemented its Discrete Regulator (DR) technology in the power supply.
Because Naim is a big advocate of reducing noise as much as possible (crazy-obsessed), both the XS-2 and Supernait 2's preamplifier sections can be upgraded by adding one of several optional power supplies. Additionally, those two models can accommodate a subwoofer via stereo RCA. The 5si, as the entry-level model and direct descendent of the original Nait, keeps things more simple. All three Naits feature headphone outputs (Class-A in the Supernait 2 and XS-2), full remote control, and both DIN and RCA analog inputs.
My own romance with Naim began around 2010. I picked up the Nait XS-2 (then 60 WPC) and simply put, I had never heard a more captivating amplifier. After hundreds of hours of music, movies, and video games, I have come to adore what I can only describe as its jubilant musicality. It does this rhythm thing you may have heard about (PRAT). After a while, I added a Flatcap 2X power supply and, while often invisible, gains in clarity and precision were noticeable after pairing the Nait with the Focal Micro Utopia BE. I was happily hooked, but mindful of my civic duty in a consumerist society, I rang up Naim's distributor (The Sound Organization) to get my Black Friday on for the Supernait 2 soon after it was announced.
The Naim Supernait 2 Integrated Amplifier In Use
It will take a few months, but the day will come when the sound you hear from the Supernait 2 will grab your attention and not let go. It's easy to notice the Supernait 2 is a mile quieter than the previous XS-2, but that's really just the most obvious of the improvements. The trademark Naim energy is there, but the Supernait 2 grips each sound with much greater control and sounds even faster than the old XS-2.
If you really want your jaw to drop, you need to experience the way this amplifier assembles a soundstage. Play "m.A.A.d city" from Kendrick Lamar's 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d city. It is downright spooky hearing (to the point of creating the illusion of seeing) MC Eiht's vocal go from the left to the right speaker. The Supernait 2 is virtual reality like I have never heard before.
If you were throwing a party to celebrate the original Nait's defiance (and why wouldn't you), surely M.I.A. has earned an invite. On Mantagi (2013), after she mockingly asks "what world peace?" on "Karmageddon," you get the sense that whatever else she intends to do on this album; she will take apart, piece by piece, every hater and hypocrite she can find. By the time you get to "Boom Skit," the Supernait 2 is an accomplice in what can only be described as an assault: "Brown girl, brown girl, turn your shit down, you know America don't wanna hear your sound, boom boom jungle music, go back to India with your crazy shit . . .." Where the XS-2 made you snap your fingers and tap your foot, the Supernait 2 makes you dance.
It would be a mistake to think that all the new Supernait 2 can do is pound out electronic and hip hop. It seems only appropriate then to play "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" from Me'shell Ndegeocello's 2012 tribute to Nina Simone, Pour une âme souveraine to hear how refined and delicate the Supernait 2 can be. Thanks to Linn's 24 bits of Christmas promotion, I downloaded the flac file for free, converted it to Apple lossless through Audirvana and voilà. This song, a confessional really, features a very upfront, breathy vocal paired with a somber 1970s-sounding keyboard. This track really lets you hear the recording space and the Supernait 2 renders it so incredibly quiet, yet vast, that it takes the intimacy off the charts ("If I seem edgy, I want you to know, I never mean to take it out on you. Life has its problems, and I get more than my share, but that's one thing I never mean to do").
If you just want to sit down and listen to an entire album and be astonished at what the Supernait 2 can do with all sorts of well-recorded music, put on Random Access Memories, Daft Punk's perfect-sounding (not exaggerating) 2013 album. If the nine-minute "Giorgio by Moroder", doesn't convince you the Supernait 2 is one of the most dynamic, exciting amplifiers you have ever heard, check yourself for a pulse. Seriously. The textures with which the Supernait 2 can render the human voice is remarkable.
Conclusions about the Naim Supernait 2 Integrated Amplifier
With any brand that has such a devoted user base, there is, understandably, a fear that subsequent generations of equipment are not improvements per se, but part of a business strategy to capture more market share. Predictably, that often requires sacrificing something in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience. Once you hear the Supernait 2, any such fears are laid to rest. It sacrifices none of the hallmark Naim qualities. Instead, it adds real muscle and improves clarity by, among other things, significantly lowering noise. Having watched it murder my XS-2 and Flatcap combination at every turn, it is my new reference.
Focal (JM Lab) Micro Utopia BE; JL Audio F112 subwoofer; Naim Nait XS-2 (60 WPC, 2010 vers.), Naim Flatcap 2x power supply; NAD M51 DAC; Oppo DV-980H; Apple TV; XBOX 360; Naim NACA5 speaker cable; Well Tempered Labs Simplex turntable; Dynavector 20X2-L moving coil phono cartridge; Musical Surroundings Phonomena II phono pre-amplifier; Audience Au24e (low) phono cable; DH Labs Air Matrix interconnects; Audience PDC power distributor; PS Audio Dectet Power Center; Naim Tibia and DH Labs Encore power cables, HDMI, USB, and optical cables by DH Labs, digital coaxial cable by Analysis Plus, computer playback software by Audirvana.