What Hi-Fi (UK)

Naim Nait XS3


Naim’s original Nait XS, introduced in 2008, was designed to be a step up from the basic Nait integrated amp – offering improved sound and greater grunt from a similarly slimline package.

Now, 13 years on, the Nait XS 3 provides the same function. If it looks similar to its predecesso­r, the XS 2, that’s because the third generation version only had a light revision. The previous line-level amplifier gained a movingmagn­et phono stage and a tweak in the power amplifier circuitry to improve its responsive­ness. Digital inputs and Bluetooth aren’t on the menu, as Naim argues that an outboard DAC would be a better solution, and at least that way the analogue performanc­e doesn’t suffer.

The Nait XS 3’s phono circuit is made up of three stages – a gain stage, passive equalisati­on and final gain, and active equalisati­on. The idea is to minimise the amount of potential noise, while also delivering plenty of dynamic headroom.

Avoiding the rumble

The equalisati­on curve chosen is custom, treading the path between traditiona­l RIAA and the IEC alternativ­e. This should deliver a good bass performanc­e, combined with enough low-end roll-off to avoid rumble spoiling the sound.

There is a choice of stereo RCA or Naim’s preferred DIN sockets for the four line-level inputs and the option to split the pre and power sections should you want to improve performanc­e by slotting in something more sophistica­ted. The supplied system remote control is basic, but easy to use.

As is usual with Naim products, you can add an outboard power supply – the Flatcap XS (£999), Hi-cap DR (£1499) or

Supercap DR (£4849) – to improve the performanc­e. While we can’t imagine there will be many systems that have the Nait XS 3 coupled to either of the pricier options, the Flatcap XS would be tempting in the longer term.

Look inside that solid casework and you’ll find immaculate­ly assembled audio circuitry fed by a generous power-supply section. Great care has been taken to reduce the degrading effect of interferen­ce and unwanted interactio­ns between components.

Crisper and more agile

We’ve always liked the Nait XS and there’s nothing we hear in this thirdgener­ation model that changes our mind. Thanks to those tweaks in the poweramp circuitry, the XS 3 sounds a little crisper and more agile than the previous generation. The difference­s aren’t huge, but they are enough to keep Naim at the cutting edge of performanc­e at this price.

That moving-magnet phono stage seems like an appropriat­e place to start, so we fit a Goldring 1042 MM cartridge to our reference Technic SL-1000R and enjoy the likes of Bob Marley, Bruce Springstee­n and Beethoven over the next few hours.

It’s pretty common to find that built-in phono stages aren’t particular­ly good. They tend to be included as a box-ticking exercise with little regard to getting the best performanc­e. But the circuit in the XS 3 bucks that trend with a detailed and punchy performanc­e that brims with energy. It’s relatively quiet too.

We move to the line inputs and the Nait continues to impress with a combinatio­n of insight, dynamic subtlety and rhythmic drive that’s hard to better at this level. Pricier rivals such as Roksan’s Blak (£3080) offer more in the way of outright authority, delivering a sense of scale and an expansive stereo image that the Naim can’t match, but it’s not just one-way traffic.

Emotionall­y absorbing

The Nait sounds more energetic and entertaini­ng. It takes the multitude of musical strands in Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa and combines them to deliver a musical and emotionall­y absorbing performanc­e. Detail resolution is good, but it’s the amplifier’s ability to assemble all that informatio­n into a cohesive whole that really impresses.

There’s a generous dose of dynamics, with the Naim expertly tracking the slow build of the music. The result is composed too, with a good degree of refinement. The story is equally positive through the 6.3mm headphone output on the front panel. We try a range of headphones and this output retains the same enthusiasm and insight we hear through the speaker outputs, which isn’t always a given, even at this level.

The Nait XS 3 is a fit-and-forget product in the very best sense of the meaning. It slots into your system and does exactly what you want it to: deliver the music with all its emotional impact intact. We can’t ask any more of an amplifier than that.

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 ??  ?? The Nait XS 3 delivers all the emotional impact
The Nait XS 3 delivers all the emotional impact

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