Naim Audio has been perfecting their dead simple approach to music-first high fidelity for decades (heavy-duty chassis, simple circuitry, quality components, emphasis on vibration and electrical isolation, superlative power supplies). The latest iteration of their famed Nait series of integrated amplifiers – the Supernait 3 – along with another Classic-level component, the NDX2 network streamer/DAC, are capable enough to sonically bump against their ubër-swish 500-Series offerings of separates. Notable because owners tend to fanatically clutch Naim 500 components until prised from their cold dead hands.
Naim components operate within my preferred frequency spectrum. While they look deadly serious – like hi-fi dreadnoughts – they always play to a music-first beat.
Naim components operate within my preferred frequency spectrum. While they look deadly serious – like hi-fi dreadnoughts – they always play to a music-first beat. Even the Nait 5si, the company's entry-level integrated amplifier offering has the ability to make one listen to every piece of music on hand again, and again. Jump up a performance level, and I practically adore the Naim XS3. Having had the Supernait 3 and NDX2 on-hand at home this summer and fall, I can tell you both damn near never left. So, seeing this system I knew what I was in for on every front except how the Focal Kanta No.2 loudspeakers were going to present.
I needn’t have fretted, as the Kanta delivered surprisingly powerful bass notes that had the weight of an anvil. The crushing vocal and electronic snarl I have come to expect from Massive Attack’s “Angel,” off their system-destroying album Mezzanine, was kept well in hand with a sure grip. Bottom end extension was ballsy, as was scale and sound stage placement. The Focal ably produced the requisite deep-v holographic stereo sphere of sound I know the Naim kit can deliver.
Naim is always associated with PRaT. I can say that the Focal kept up with the lightning transient response the Supernait 3 possesses, and acquitted itself in translating all things propulsive, detail-obsessed and pitch-related in playback via the NDX2. While the specified output of the Supernait 3 is rated at 80 watts, it feels more like 250 when pressurizing a room. There’s a down-the-well, black velvet underpinning to the foundation of Hans Zimmer’s Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack. The top end exudes a ripple-free openness to high notes that is the essence of ‘air and transparency’ with gossamer ‘decay’ reflecting off high hat, cymbal and piano notes. Sinew and muscle in the midrange came across as textured, with those human qualities to playback that fool our brains into believing real people live inside our loudspeakers. All that, balanced with delicate timbral and tonal shadings, speaks to the British midrange magic often gushed about by the press when it comes to the UK hi-fi marques of renown.
Sustained electronic synth notes were pitched exquisitely, and Zimmer’s ethereal keyboard work floated lightly between the two Kanta. Cohesive, rhythmically-propelled, with the ability to follow individual instrument threads – regardless of density – without losing sight of the song’s overall fabric, these are hallmarks of the Naim sound. This system presented powerful dynamics, headroom, and an easy way of connecting the listener emotionally with the music, regardless if it was unraveling complex instrumental and vocal passages or stark acoustic solos.
Read the next Virtual Audio Festival post covering Linn, Bowers & Wilkins and Transparent Cable HERE.