Naim NAIT integrated amplifier RH 1989 part 2
The evaluation system consisted of Vortex Screen speakers, a Marantz CD-94 CD player, and an AR turntable with a Linn K9 cartridge (MM) and Ortofon MC 2000 (MC). Monster Interlink II interconnect cable was used, except with the NAIT 2, where its DIN inputs forced me to use a DIN-to-RCA adapter.
I must admit that I approached the NAIT 2 with a slight prejudice. Its unusual styling, DIN connectors, relatively high price, and poor performance on the bench did not endear me to it. That was before I listened to it. Seconds into the first record, I knew this amplifier was different. The soundstage was huge, open, three-dimensional, and transparent. Instruments floated in space, with center images presented solidly between the speakers.
The amplifier's most striking characteristic was the depth of the soundstage. Instruments were separated by a feeling of "air." Through the NAIT 2, the speakers tended to disappear into the music. During the listening sessions, I had been playing the Reference Recordings LP Eileen Farrell Sings Harold Arlen (RR-30). Like other Keith Johnson recordings, this record has a large amount of spatial detail, allowing the listener to hear exact placements of instruments within the room. Through the NAIT 2, all the spatial cues of this recording were preserved. The NAIT 2 provided the most detailed ambience presentation of the review amplifiers, especially with this recording.
In addition to the best soundstage of the group, the NAIT 2 also had the smoothest tonal character. There was no trace of edge or harshness. Instead, timbres tended to be soft, warm, and liquid, very much like tube amplifiers. There was a slight loss of detail in the high end, but I tended to prefer this presentation. When listening to the NAIT 2, I forgot about reviewing and sat back and enjoyed the music. All adjectives aside, how musically involving a product is ultimately says the most about it.
On the down side, the NAIT 2 won't play very loud. At moderate to high listening levels, I felt it was underpowered. It didn't have the weight and authority in the bass of the Arcam Alpha 2, Creek 4140, or Audiolab 8000A. Playing the James Newton Howard and Friends disc through the NAIT 2 revealed its lack of low-end punch. In other respects, the bass was slightly mushy, without the tautness and control exhibited by the Creek and Audiolab. On most music, at moderate listening levels, this did not detract from the musical experience. Overall, the excellent soundstaging and warm tonal balance made the Naim NAIT 2 the most musically satisfying amplifier of the group.
In terms of soundstaging and tonal balance, the Naim NAIT 2 was the clear winner. Despite the low power, lack of punch, and somewhat ill-defined bass, it is the amplifier I would choose for overall musical satisfaction if price were no consideration. These compromises may be too much for some listeners, however. In addition, the soft high end may not suit everyone's taste or speakers. Furthermore, with the NAIT 2's $795 price, one may be inclined to investigate a low-cost preamp/power amp combination such as an Adcom GFA-535 ($299) with one of the under-$400 preamps reviewed in Vol.11 No.12. If your budget can stretch a little, the PS Audio 4.6 ($659) with the small Adcom, at $960 for the pair, are worth auditioning.