Naim is arguably the premier British high-end amplifier brand, and has got to that position by following its own path. Qualities Naim NAC 202 such as transparency and stereo imaging have always taken a back seat to the all-important boogie factor.
Naim’s use of DIN sockets (because it thinks they sound better), minimal controls and austere appearance has earned it a loyal following, but also alienated many people who didn’t buy into the philosophy.
The Naim NAC 202 preamp has two pairs of RCA sockets alongside the usual array of DINs, and two of the inputs can be configured as DIN or RCA phono input. A remote handset and sophisticated control system, including an RC-5 input for hideaway operation, are standard, and you can have optional RS-232 control connections for use in multiroom systems.
There’s also the provision to convert one input to unity gain, for use when running the preamp with an external AV processor, such as Naim’s AV2 or simply the front channel preouts of an AV receiver.
Naim NAC 202 combines first-class sound quality with flexibility, style and excellent value. Significant improvements in technology led to an entirely new range using new high quality star-earthed circuit boards, combining the classic Naim values of musicality and power with flexibility and value.
Naim NAC 202 – Performance
The Naim NAC 202 may either be powered by a NAP 155 XS or NAP 200 amplifier or significantly upgraded by adding Naim power supplies to independently feed the analogue audio and digital control circuits. Low-resonance circuit boards and anti-vibration, resonance controlling feet minimise the effect of microphonic vibration on the highly sensitive electronic components. Carefully matched precision rotary potentiometers with precious metal wipers are used to preserve musical integrity and ensure long-term stability.
Classy but understated styling
The usual Naim qualities also apply here: the styling classy but understated, the build is as solid as ever, and we’ve no doubt that this preamp will prove as reliable as any other Naim. And also take as long to run in!
Once fully warmed up – which can take at least a week – this preamp combines with one of Naim’s power amps to give a sound that’s refined at the top-end and lacks any form of hardness. Detail resolution is right up to class standards and the presentation cohesive yet it’s easy to follow individual instruments, even when the mix gets complex.
Criticisms are few. The soundstage is reasonably wide but its depth isn’t particularly impressive, and the sound can be a little mechanical, too, lacking the fluidity of the very best. However, spend a bit more on the NAPSC outboard power supply, rather than powering the preamp from a Naim power amp, and performance takes a major leap forward.
This compact, featureless box only powers the preamp’s control circuitry, leaving the power amp to feed the audio sections, but the gains are significant in all areas and the weaknesses cease to be an issue. We see the NAPSC as a must-buy, pushing the performance from good to great. And if you can afford to go to Naim’s Hi-Cap power supply, the Naim NAC 202 would become truly magical.
The intelligent balance control combines a high quality motorised potentiometer for the best performance with intelligent circuitry to indicate the centre position. The NAC 202 features a silent microprocessor that sleeps during listening and controls all aspects of the amplifier including: protection circuits that continuously monitor the power supplies ensuring safe shut down in the event of a power cut; user-configurable ‘Smart IR’ remote control for simple easy and control of the Naim system. The Naim NAC 202 introduced a new level of technical and musical performance, along with elegant new styling.