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King99
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Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

Hi,

I am fairly new to high-end audio, and am in the market to upgrade my current mid-fi system (i.e. big box mass market components) to something in the lower end of the hi-fi market. Here's my question: In doing some research I have come across numerous positive reviews for the Creek 5350SE, Exposure 2010S and Naim Nait 5i. In a 2001 Stereophile review of the Creek 5350SE, Rob Reina said it was the finest $1500 integrated amplifier he'd ever heard. I've read equally positive reviews about the Naim Nait 5i, and the cult-like following it enjoys. More recently, Stereophile reviewed the Exposure 2010S (Art Dudley, November 2005) and gave it a very high recommendation. However, this review left me a little perplexed as it concluded with the following: "I know and like a lot of the folks whose products compete directly with the Exposure 2010S, but they're going to have to work harder than hell to beat this thing." I found it interesting that Mr. Dudley did not mention any of these other amps by name, but I'm guessing this would include both the Creek 5350SE and Naim Nait 5i, though I can't be sure as they do retail for a few hundred more than the Exposure. A little more clarity on behalf of Mr. Dudley would have been helpful. So I guess my question is this, is the Exposure 2010S superior to the 5350SE and Naim Nait 5i?

I have narrowed my shortlist to these three, but am in an area where I cannot audition all three.

My main music interest is pop/rock, followed by jazz.

In terms of speakers, I'm looking at Gibbon 3s, Epos M12.2, Harbeth HL-P3ES-2, and the Tetra 120U.

Thanks

rabpaul
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

I am one of those who believe that amp and speaker are like a horse and carriage. Assuming you have done the minimum power requirements and minimum impedance compatibity thingy, some speakers just go better with some amps.
Is the Exposure a better amp than the Creek or Naim? Its hard to say as the equipment used in the reviews are different, in particular the speakers. The question you should be asking is will any of these amps match better with the speakers your are considering.
Based only on the type of music you listen to I would suggest you go for the Naim. I don't know how well they will match with the speakers you have selected.
I have heard of the Creek and Epos being a good combination and the Exposure and Tetra being another.
I have probably been of no help but all I am trying to convey is that you need to listen to those speakers you have selected with the amps that go best with them. Typically speaker vendors will have something in their stable that would bring the best from those speakers.

linden518
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

Hi, King99. I went through a similar process very recently, in trying to pick out an amp. The important thing here is, that when you read that such & such amp represents the finest that such & such reviewer has heard, it's a subjective opinion after all, even though it's an expert one. That's why Reina might prefer something over Dudley's recommendation, and also why you might prefer something over your friend's. If you read other reviews, you'll discover a certain critic can't stand the Creek sound or some other critic lamenting Naim's soundstaging, or Exposure's blah-blah... you get the picture. You'll read about other critics go ga-ga over Primare or Plinius, and even in this Feb issue of Stereophile, you'll discover that according to Sam Tellig, LFD Zero Mk III is the best integrated amp EVER... but again, that is his opinion. There is simply no way of ranking gears over the other in a strictly objective hierarchy; the only reliable barometer is your preference, what your ears tell you. I say go to a dealer with your reference CDs & listen to Creek, Naim & Exposure, and come out with the one which you fall in love with. Good luck!

tom collins
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

if you are in a major metropolitan area, go do some listening. i agree that you may not be able to tell everything at the store, but you will get an idea of features and general sound. if you are serious, the owner may let you take the thing home for a tryout. it doesn't cost anything to ask.

tom

dbowker
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

Up until a year ago I owned some sort of Creek integrated for the last 20 years and loved it! Still think they were great but I upgraded to a Krell and well, let's just say it's another league (and should be based on price). But again- Creek makes very well built, no BS gear that sound like music should IMO.

I also used some Epos M12.2s and they were great too! They are sister companies and all so they really have a nice synergy. I upgraded my speakers too recently, but now the Epos are the front channels of my surround system and still sound excellent.

Honestly it's been a while since I heard anything from Naim and I've never heard Exposure, but I can at least give a long time endorsement of Creek and Epos. Good luck!

dorokusai
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

The speaker selection is easily driven by any of those choices but I would lean towards Creek as well. NAIM was one of my favorite rooms as CES2006 but I can't stand proprietary connections and they love them. I understand the idea behind it but no thanks.

Creek started out with volume controls and head-amps....and they have really picked up the pace and created a solid product. Good for them. The base model integrated amp they offer is fantastic and sonically reminds me of NAD and Cambridge Audio.

I've never heard of Exposure, so I can't comment on them.

Mark

King99
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

Thanks for the input everyone. I certainly do plan to audition as many of these components as availability in my area allows for. That being said though, it would be great if the reviewers at Stereophile, and elsewhere, made more of an effort to make direct comparisons of components they are reviewing to others in similar price categories. More often than not, I find they compare the gear to components that are way above the price range of the gear that they are reviewing. Not terribly helpful. In the case of the Exposure, the reviewer makes some very impressive claims about the amp's capabilities compared to its competition, but then fails to mention any of these by name. Gee, if ever there was an argument for perceived, if not real, bias, the Exposure review would be it. I know we're supposed to listen with our own ears and make decisions based on our own preferences, and that subjective reviews shouldn't decide this for us, but it would still help if they at least provided a little clearer direction by offering specific comparisons between competing brands. I mean, when I read a review on a car, I don't see too many that compare a Civic to a Porsche, and all of them offer very detailed comparisons between similarly priced models.

linden518
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

I think if you're looking for more of a comparison type of reviews, you should look toward some of the British audio magazines, like Hi-Fi Choice or something. Sometimes, their star-system or percentage-grade score-making can seem a bit reductive, but those UK mags generally are less gun-shy about putting down the word. I think in this past month's issue of one of those magazines, they actually had a integrated amp "shoot-out" or something, in which they pit 4 or 5 amps against each other and chose the winner. (They have these shoot-outs monthly; one month it's budget system, the other it's the affordable speakers... you get the picture.) I think the winner was Primare I30; which is probably a bit out of your price range, but is really excellent... I was very impressed when I heard it paired with ProAc 152 speakers; there was one on Audiogon pretty recently for $1300, which seemed like a good bargain & I almost pulled the trigger, but decided to pursue other amps instead...

jezrant
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

The Creek 5350se and the Naim Nait 5i are both excellent, but sound very different from each other. You should really try to find a way to audition them first. My guess, judging from your musical tastes, is that you'd like the Nait. Don't know the new Exposure, but the original UK Exposure amps sounded more like Naim than Creek but were not in the same league. Naim also has excellent resale value if you decide it's not for you. Personally, I prefer Creeks, but I like classical music.

emptystring
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

King99,

For what it's worth - I am currently using the Exposure 2010s Integrated amp with Epos M5 speakers, and I absolutely love it.

I used to have a Naim Nait 5i, but sold it and bought the Exposure. That's not to say that the Nait 5i is bad - in fact, I would highly recommend it.

I sold my Nait 5i for two reasons - one is that in my listening environment, both the Nait 5i and the Epos M5 produce "thick" sounds - prominent mids, good lows and highs, and I felt like it was getting a bit heavy, so I got the Exposure, which has a more neutral sound. The other is that with Naim, my upgrade options are more or less gone - because I feel like I can't take full advantage of the Nait 5i unless I buy more Naim equipment, and my financial situation does not allow that at the moment. If I had the money and a spare room just for listening to music, I'd buy myself a full Naim setup.

Hope this helps.

cydgene
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

King99,

Hope this is helpful.

I have listened to all three, in different places, at different times. These are my limited impressions.

I agree with AD about the Exposure. It does have a human quality about it. When it produces music, I don't get an impression of the sound comming from a machine. I like that. It is also explosive in terms of stopping and starting musical phrases. I like that. It moves me emotionally ( I cannot say why). I like that. Some people say it places you closer to the event. I agree, but that is a matter of taste. Another reviewer said there is some sonic fuzz that rides along with the music. That was my experience, however I was only aware of it after hearing equipment higher up the food chain, and I wonder if a power line conditioner might help. Maybe. It is like hearing a singer with the sound comming from her throat vs. comming from deeper in her chest. Another reviewer said the integrated ever so slightly removes a tiny piece of the leading edge of the sound. That is my experience. However, for me, it may be that the effect on impact is inconsequential, and I have more access to musical texture. I like that. People say that Exposure is related in philosophy to Naim. Sounds like it to me. They both seem to emphasize PRAT.

I listened to the Naim 5i integrated when I was looking for a cd player about a year ago. I did not get the Naim cd because I could tell the music was being reproduced by a machine, although less machine-like than others. The integrated I thought passed the signal through, and might be good with difficult loads. But other than that I have nothing particularly strong or weak to say about the integrated. Maybe that is a good thing? Probably it may have not connected with me (conveyed emotion) as well as Exposure. Maybe there is less sugar in the presentation? I don't know. I have this impression of Naim equipment as getting a 5 minute song over in 4:55 though. I may have some bias.

The Creek seems powerful and agile to me. It presents musicians with a nice soundstage and air in the stage. I feel as if I am an observer of the event. Not as emotionally connected as the Exposure, although I really enjoy violins on both. Maybe this is the more true to life presentation, that is, when you go to a concert.

I come to the conclusion, at present, that I like the Exposure. I like the humanness and the emotional connection/nuance. I do not worry about the fuzz, or the soundstage too much, and I feel the most direct access to the violin of the three. To me it is a different presentation of music than the other two. I hope that difference is something that is in harmony with long term satisfaction.

linden518
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Re: Creek vs Naim vs Exposure

Some excellent observations, Kronos! If I were in a place looking for an amp, I'd have heeded your experience. I really feel that the primary consideration should be about how an equipment lets you connect to the music. The discussion of critical and analytical criteria, i.e. soundstaging, etc., should take place only after that most important consideration is met.

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