Cabling upgrade for Naim Audio
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Naim & The Chord Company
Naim & The Chord Company cable review
Although Naim Audio fit RCA sockets to many of their more recent source components and pre-amplifiers, they have long since advocated the use of DIN connectors wherever possible, as they believe they offer superior performance. Their view is reinforced by the lack of non-DIN options on their external power supplies and power amplifiers, as in these cases low level power, signal and earthing are all carried via a single connector/cable making DIN the most practical choice, too.
This can make it tricky to compare full looms of alternative manufacturer’s cables in a Naim system, as Naim are one of very few brands to still use DIN connectors – in various configurations – therefore, there’s not the wealth of choice in cable manufacturers out there. One brand that fully support Naim on this is The Chord Company who have offered all manner of DIN configurations in pretty much all of their ranges for many years, and as we’re receiving a steady stream of cost-effective upgrade enquiries from those who are confined to their homes at the moment (April 2020), we thought we’d put together a review of our findings when comparing the standard cables supplied by Naim and their NACA5 loudspeaker cable to The Chord Company’s Epic series.
The system we chose was a staple Naim combination comprising an NDX2 as source, NAC282 pre-amplifier with HiCap PSU and a NAP250DR power amplifier. Loudspeakers came from ATC with their incredibly capable SCM40. The cabling used was as follows:
- NDX2 → NAC282 180° 5pin DIN to 180° 5pin DIN
- NAC282 → HiCap 270° 5pin DIN to 270° 5pin DIN
- HiCap → NAP250DR 4pin DIN to 3 pin XLR
Having left the system running overnight to warm up, we kicked off these sessions with some classical music, namely the Allegro from J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Violin, strings and continuo No 2 in E Major BWV 1042.
We began with the standard Naim interconnects and NACA5 loudspeaker cables which served up a familiar and pleasantly realistic presentation of this piece, however, on changing only the loudspeaker cable to Chord’s Epic XL, there was an immediate improvement in clarity, with the violin becoming less harsh and nasal sounding. There was also appreciably more ‘air’ around the instruments, and a sweeter, more natural tone overall. Swapping back to NACA5 confirmed our feelings and revealed that it also seemed to roll off the extreme treble by comparison.
Next step was to change all the interconnects to Epic, and out of interest, we chose to keep the NACA5 in the system for this swap. Despite the NACA5 bottlenecking the improvement a touch by being further down the signal path, this change still allowed the superiority of the Epic interconnects to show through. The change had the effect of further revealing the acoustics of the hall, smoothing out the treble and removing a degree of congestion.
Keeping the Epic interconnects in place and changing the speaker cables to Epic XL gave the biggest single improvement, which is unsurprising as this change allows the benefit of the others to fully show through. We were treated to a much more significant increase in clarity and openness, with the acoustics of the venue even more in evidence. Indeed, there was a low-frequency thrum revealed by the Epic XL – basically the inherent background sound of the acoustic space (the airy thrum one hears when walking into a cathedral or large church when there are no otherwise obvious sources of sound). Also, the lower registers were firmer and easier to follow, and the treble while smoother and better revealed was somehow more crisp and defined but without edginess.
Next, we swapped musical styles, to I love being with you from Diana Krall’s album ‘Live in Paris. We began with the Naim loom and NACA5, playing this for a while to adjust back to the sound of the standard cables and this recording.
Changing only the loudspeaker cable to Epic XL provided an immediate lift in realism and presence, while the performance had greater punch and speed. Even the audience sounded clearer and more convincing – like the crowd in a football match on TV where you can almost pick people out in HD against the blurry clump of standard definition. The heightened sense of drama made a significant improvement to the sense of engagement, and the overall sound was tauter and more lively, without being harsh.
As before, changing the interconnects to Epic and retaining the Epic XL speaker cables introduced a big lift in audio quality and musical presentation. Now there was an even more realistic rendition of the applause and a richer, fuller, more open sound, without the apparent top end lift noticeable with the Naim DIN interconnects combined with Epic XL speaker cable.
We swapped the combinations back and forth a few times and concluded that the rolled off nature of the NACA5 balanced well with the peakier Naim interconnects, to create an acceptable tonal balance. This means it’s possible to get a system such as this up and running for a very modest cost (only the loudspeaker cables need purchasing).
This confirmed to us that replacing the standard Naim interconnect or NACA5 loudspeaker cable with something such as Chord’s Epic series makes an appreciable improvement on its own, but changing the entire loom amplifies the gains significantly. Furthermore, the biggest single improvement is offered by the last cable of a complete loom going in, as whilst changing a single interconnect and keeping everything else standard usually results in an improvement, its full merit would be concealed by lesser cables before and after it.
We’ve used other brands and ranges from Chord above Epic with Naim systems before now, but we decided on Chord and their Epic series for this feature because to us it feels like the first sensible step up the cabling ladder for a system of this calibre, and with the necessary connections being off the shelf with the manufacturer, it’s easily acquired.
As with all of our equipment the option to try cables in your system and in your home is always available, so please drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to audition any of our products this way.
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Naim & The Chord Company cable review Although Naim Audio fit RCA sockets to many of their more recent source components and pre-amplifiers, they have long since advocated the use of DIN connectors wherever possible, as they believe they offer…