22 May, 2018
Naim Nait I, 47 Labs 4737, ATC S50
Naim Nait I Revisited
47 Labs 4737 Loudspeaker, Part III
For 47 Labs 4737, you may also want to read Part I (used with Kondo Ongaku) and Part II (used with Flying Mole).
Naim Nait I
This is one of the most famous and influential integrated amplifiers of all times, famously beloved by a die-hard crowd who would not have anything else beside Naim and Linn, for whom the term "Flat-Earth" was coined. For an introduction, I quote from my popular special article on Integrated Amps:
Nait Nait I, II, III
The III is completely different cosmetically. These are excellent but not as neutral as the Cyrus. The sound is bolder and Naim's famed "Rhythm and Pace" is very much in evidence (more than its modern counterparts), but there are things to watch out for: (1) the vital vocal midrange is a little recessed; (2) Lower midrange to upper bass is a little emphasized; (3) Treble is just that little bit reticent. Its primary strength is in its portrayal of the leading edge, an area I have not heard its equal. It is best partnered with its own CD players, which shall yield a sound that is uniquely rhythmic and pacey, not neutral but a paradigm in what it excels in. In a complete set, it can lay claim to a unique sound not heard with other brands, and here I tip my hat. An example is my Nait II and CD2 (TDA1541A) combo. With it, the ATTACK of a single plugged string (like guitar), or drumming, is phenomenally live. Even more surprisingly, the "rhythm and pace" benefits tremendously a slow instrument like the organ. With Bach's organ work, you can literally feel the different degree of attack that the organists applied on the keyboard, and it's a revelation. For a good read click for this TNT audio article. Note that the phonostages are either MM or MC, and they are excellent.
Although I don't count myself a Flat Earther, and am certainly not a proponent of the over-rated and over-priced LP12, I do appreciate these early Naim's. I have heard a lot of later Naim, but imho the very qualities Naim are famous for are found in greater abundance in the early products, be they amplifiers or CD players, and they are rightly legendary.
This is my third Naim integrated. I have used and written about the Nait 2 and 3 before, but they are now gone. For CD replay I use the Tuner Input with my own DIY DIN cable employing Gotham DGS-1.
Subwoofer Connection This created a little difficulty. It would be too involving to make a Tape In-Out DIN cable, so I had to use the high-level (speaker cable) connection. In so doing, I also had to switch my Kondo system from high level out to RCA pre-out for the subwoofer. Before that was achieved, I actually had both the 47 Labs 4737 and the TAD TSM-2201 sounding at the same time, and it was actually very good, showing that the Nait I is capable of driving the TAD.
vs Flying Mole CA-S10 Good as the Flying Mole was, the improvement was immediately apparent. The Flying Mole has very good PRaT, but in comparison is of a tighter, more generalized kind. The Nait I, like the Nait II I used before and mentioned above, astutely distinguishes the (even slightly) stronger beats from the weaker ones, and make things swing.
Even in classical music this is discernible, making for music that is easier to follow. Tonally it is also a little warmer than the Flying Mole. Replay of Currentzis' controversial Le Sacre with his MusicAeterna (Sony, here) fully justifies his claim that he is presenting the rhythms in a different light, and in this system it is highly exciting, not at all "smoothed over", as claimed by some classical critics (likely they have lesser equipment). Yo-Yo Ma's Bach Trios (Nonesuch) naturally just swings. And Esther Yoo's magnificent account of the Tchaikovsky (DG) was very well rendered too, her rich tone very much in evidence (though not quite like the Kondo system) and the way she naturally phrases impressive.
Phono By connecting my humble Pro-Ject RPM3 fitted with a Clearaudio Concept MM, I finally got to evaluate the phono section of the Naim, and it did not disappoint nor call attention to itself.
For some reason, this very humble and make-shift vinyl setup is just too lean for me - and I attribute that to the cartridge (it is just as lean going into the Kondo/Audio Note M7. Adding a small shim (made from expired credit card) between the cartridge body and tonearm effectively slightly increased the tracking weight and changed the VTA, and the sound warmed up a little; Swapping out the Gotham GAC 4/1 cable for the Kimber PBJ had a similar effect.
The Saint Saens Organ Symphony, in the version by Barenboim/Chicago (DG, New Zealand pressing), is undeniably exciting but somewhat artificial, being closely miked, but it plays into Naim's strength - perfect tracking of how the strings scoop, the bass grumble, the tympanis pound and the organ growl, giving the finale that precious take-no-prisoner inexorable feel. Meanwhile, Morricone's Mission is highly atmospheric, and haunting when appropriate. Often, replays I have heard struggled to fully portray the many vocal and instrumental facets of this score, but the Nait I is successful. Simply marvelous for a shoebox!
My friends WSS and JL came to audition yesterday, and they were very impressed by the big performance turned in by the 47 Labs 4737/Naim Nait I, aided by the subwoofer of course! Now, both of these people are Quad 2812 users, and they are contemplating adding a subwoofer now!
Home Visit- ATC S50 and another Ongaku
My friends and I also visited our old friend Andy, whom you last met here. His system has changed a bit.
Turntable: Clearaudio Statement/Goldfinger 2
Phonoamp: Clearaudio Statement Phono
CAS: Aurender N10
DAC: EMM Labs DAC2X
Amp: Kondo Ongaku
Loudspeakers: ATC S50
Gone are the Wilson Alexias. Instead he is using the rare 40th Anniversary Special Edition ATC S50 (official "blib", shamefully without spec's), on which there is almost no info on the internet. Only 10 pairs in the world (probably all for Asia). Basically, it is a take-off on the classic SCM-50 (same internal volume and dome midrange), finished in more "upmarket" fashion.
Surprisingly, Andy is using the Kondo Ongaku (its second coming; the first is here) to drive the ATC S50. That is even more of a tall order than mine driving the TAD TSM-2201. Sound is generally on the super clean side. Digital replay of audiophile tracks were reasonable (DAC-out routed to the Clearaudio Phono preamp, which I personally dislike, rather sterile to me) but the vinyl playback was inconsistent and a little too lean for me. Personally, I'd add a subwoofer.
Andy now enjoys motorcycle riding. His Honda is a beauty!