Review: A Naim New Classic Stack—NAC 332 Preamplifier/NPX 300 Power Supply/NAP 250 Power Amplifier

Does anyone really review Naim gear or does Naim gear review us?

I suppose you can ask this question of any piece of hifi kit but I feel Naim makes a stronger case. From a purely personal perspective, Naim gear used to feel a bit prickly to me, kinda porcupine-esque what with their proprietary connection scheme that demanded sticking with the company’s own cables (and gear). For some audiophiles, the mere suggestion of these kinds of restrictions were less bearable than straight-jacket-packing men in white coats knocking at their cellar door.

But these are admittedly old and well worn concerns better voiced by Art Dudley in his review of the Naim Nait from 2016 in his much loved and much missed “Listening” column for Stereophile along with these observations:

In the beginning, a few of Naim’s most conspicuous US dealers were condescending assclowns, as were some of the first US reviewers to write about the brand.

I miss Art.

You could write a book about Naim and their long rich and well respected history in hifi which officially began in 1973. The first version of the Naim NAP 250 Power Amplifier arrived in 1975, the same year I entered high school. The gear here under review are all part of Naim’s New Classic Series, which is split between the 200 and 300 Series, which fall in the middle, price-wise, of the rather large Naim product lineup.

The NAP 250 Power Amplifier in for review is now in its 6th generation and belongs to Naim’s 200 Series of products and offers 100 watts of fully regulated Class A/B power per channel. Inside resides a number of Naim goodies including “DR (Discrete Regulator) producing low-noise power supplies for the amplifiers regulated output stage”, eight NA009 Naim custom designed power transistors originally developed for the Naim Statement (4 for the PSUs and 4 for the output stages) are mounted on ceramic insulators “for ultra low capacitive coupling”, polystyrene capacitors in filter circuits for low dielectric absorption, and through-hole components “reducing microphonies picked up via the circuit board fluctuations”.

still a bit prickly after all these years

No binding posts for you! (those “speaker sockets” accept banana terminated cables or Naim’s proprietary NAC A5 multi-strand loudspeaker cable) and a single pair of True balanced 47k XLR inputs are all you get connectivity wise other than a USB diagnostic service port and Remote In/Out connections for tying multiple Naim components together to allow for single remote control. An 8-step intelligent fan helps keep things cool along with the side-long (and rather sharp-edged) aluminum heat sinks.

The NAC 332 Preamplifier and matching NPX 300 Power Supply hail from the 300 Series and are wrapped in matching thick black aluminum chassis just like the other products in the New Classic Series. Mix and match. A 1.5W discrete transistor Class A headphone amp with a 1/4” headphone jack up front awaits your ‘phones while the NAC 332 does away with previous Naim preamp’s ALPS volume control in favor of an in-house designed fixed resistor volume control “with super smooth fly-by-wire optical encoder with precision ball raced bearing”.

I can confirm, after more than a few months of use, that this volume control is in fact super smooth. The front panel volume knob has tiny circular lights that show volume level as well as balance when using the remote’s balance control that mimics these tiny lights on its own matching control wheel. Nice.

The relative level of each input is adjustable (-10dB to +10dB), you can change the re-assign the front panel input buttons to the input of choice, and you can set a Max Volume level for both headphone and speaker output. All of these functions are accomplished using the front panel buttons in conjunction with the volume control. For the light sensitive, you can also adjust the brightness of the illuminated white Naim logo, I admit to missing the green but I can be nostalgic, with a button located on the rear panel or using the included remote. If you’re also using a Naim NAC 332 and NAP 350 amplifier connected via System Automation, the brightness setting will sync up so every Naim shines the same.

From the NAC 332 manual:

Naim products are hand-crafted from a carefully selected range of high-quality components. Your NAC 332 will sound superb out of the box, but its performance may improve further still as all these various components power up and interact in their first few weeks of use. Keeping your system powered up will assist this process.

Some people don’t believe in “Running In” electronics even though, by necessity, everyone ‘Runs In’ new gear once they power it on. It’s kinda like not believing in air while breathing.

In addition to the three proprietary Naim DIN inputs, 5- and 8-pin DINs for connecting to other Naim gear, there are 2x XLR and 3x RCA inputs for venturing outside the world of Naim along with the same USB and remote connections as found on the NAP 250. The optional NPX 300 power supply comes with Naim’s Type 3 and Type 4 power supply cables to connect things together.

These are ‘keyed’ connections, meaning there’s only one way to insert them properly, which is not an issue at least for me as I spent many years, years mind you, terminating, testing, and installing all manner of ‘communications cables’ early on in my former life as an IT guy. It is no joke nor an exaggeration to share that I’ve terminated, tested, and installed thousands of cables so figuring out how to plug in Naim’s Type 3 and Type 4 power supply cables was a breeze and took me back to Chemical Bank’s main data center at 55 Water Street circa late 1970s, a data center that occupied an entire floor populated by refrigerator-sized IBM mainframes (with tape backup!) that all told had less processing power and storage than my new iPhone 15 Pro. I am that old.

I paired the Naim stack with two pair of speakers during its 3-month+ Barn stay—the review Fyne Audio Vintage Classic XII Floorstanding Loudspeakers (more info) and the Barn resident DeVore Fidelity O/96 (review). Front end duties were handled by the Barn resident Mola Mola Tambaqui (review) acting as streamer and DAC with everything wired up with cables from AudioQuest plugged into an AQ PowerQuest PQ707 with everything, except the PQ707 and speakers, sitting on a Box Furniture MS4M [4 shelf Maple] Rack (see full system and Barn details).

Nearly every word I planned to say about the Naim stack’s performance sounded trite and borrowed from the 50+ years of reviews and owner comments which gets me back to my opening question—Does anyone really review Naim gear or does Naim gear review us? Or perhaps better stated as—does anyone need another Naim review? Obviously, If you got this far, I’ve already answered that question and will endeavor to persevere.

Above all else and regardless of the speaker in play, the Naim stack offered superb control (note: both speakers are easy loads), supreme delicacy as if the noise floor was buried deep under ground out of earshot, while sounding about as uncolored as any amplification I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy in Barn. In a sense, I’m tempted to say cool, clean, clear power but with an important clarification that music sounded rich and rewarding and not cold or off-putting. In my experience, this is a rather delicate balancing act that speaks to an accomplished design and implementation. I know. All of this should come as no surprise to all but the most skeptical teetering on the precipice of paranoid people. One last word on the Naim stack’s performance—boogie power.

The first track “Guilty” from Moor Mother’s The Great Bailout, released on Anti- back in March, opens like a film with guest artists Lonnie Holley and Raia Was adding their voices to a harrowing story told in song. This is beautiful dense music stretched out on a large stage with Holley’s spoken/sung lines coming from behind, out of time?, while everything unfolds around him. The Naim stack driving the DeVore O/96 painted this picture with stunning clarity and rock solid forms perfectly placed in space, allowing the story in song to take up residence in all it’s powerful and menacing form. The clarity of each element and the perfect stride of the entire workings as a whole made for a moving experience that felt damn near vital. Stunning. Moving.

I am still infatuated with Album of the Week Still House Plants If I don’t make it, I love u for its jangly, wiry sound, Jess Hickie-Kallenbach’s oddly operatic vocals and the three piece’s propulsive drive. Played through the impressive Fyne Vintage Classic XII (review in the works), the Naim stack excelled at delivering a perfectly timed groove, putting me deep in the pocket of Still House Plants’ angular funk. Once again each player felt fully formed and fixed in space, more like nailed to the floor, so the music emerged with pinpoint clarity, full voice, and full funk.

With most of the music I played through the Naim stack during its Barn stay, I found myself turning the volume up and up again to hit that sweet spot of level/room/music groove. I also found that listening at higher than normal levels added more than a dash of real excitement to the system sound, where low level listening felt like a bit of a let down. I attribute this phenomena to what I’d describe as a flatness to the Naim stacks’ presentation in comparison to the nearly psychedelic 3D-ness of the less expensive and less powerful Riviera Labs Levante Integrated (review) or their more expensive Riviera APL10 Preamplifier/AFM25 Monoblock stack (review) or the mind-blowing refinement of the similarly priced Soulution 330 integrated amp (review) where music felt fully formed in every dimension offering a very high level of excitement at any volume level. To put it another way, while the Naim stack excelled at most of what makes music come alive in Barn, it took a bit of extra volume to grab all of my attention and my sense is this was due to a relative lack of dimension to singers’ and players’ perceived physical form.

I’m not a huge fan of listening to classic blues from digital sources as the experience typically feels lacking in some essential quality compared to the LP. That being said, when I saw that Skip James’ Today! was available in a new remaster from Craft Recordings on Qobuz I hit ‘Play’ without hesitation or trepidation (I’m not militant about the LP thing). Part of what always seems a bit off with digital replay of classic blues is timing—as if digital replay can’t tap its foot in time with Skip James’ masterful singing and playing. So you can imagine my surprise and delight when the Naim stack presented Skip James through the DeVore O/96 in what felt like perfect toe tapping time perfectly placed in space as sound source separate and apart from the speakers and system. Skip James was also realistically sized, not too tiny or too huge, and this intimate music that lives and breathes in the subtlest of shadings and finger-picked time came alive in Barn with stunning clarity and focus. Very nice.

Of all the Album of the Week picks over the past 10 or so years, it was actually called ‘Download of the Week’ back in my AudioStream days, King Hannah’s I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me from 2022 elicited the most reader responses (in the positive) so I’m happy to report that Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle are back with Big Swimmer, released on City Slang last month.

From the liner notes:

Big Swimmer finds King Hannah on the other side of their first act with a newfound understanding of their sound, their strengths, their gratitude, and their vision for the future of the band’s music.

Or as my dear friend and music-picking machine Stephen Mejias shared along with his #NewMusicFriday selections for May 31, 2024 about Big Swimmer: “Sonic Youth-y guitars.” And if there’s higher compliment to pay, I am unaware. Crunchy, big and bad(ass) with Hannah Merrick’s hardly bothered vocal style, this is a record that’s meant to be played loud, loud enough to kick up some dust and the Fyne Vintage Classic XII with Naim behind the drive delivered a Barn-shaking and rich rendition with the now familiar solidity, clarity, and that perfectly timed sense of pace. Think perfectly propulsive, so much so I found myself out of the comfy B-Side’s couch, slinking around the Barn to King Hannah time. Nice.

I let Keeley Forsyth’s The Hollow tell me about the NAC 332 Preamplifier’s headphone amp and guess what? It told a story very similar to the entire Naim stack. “The spectacularly lovely aching oddity that comes out of The Hollow” was perfectly portrayed through the Barn resident Meze Audio 109 PRO ‘phones, with not even a hint of noise, allowing this haunting music to fully unfold inside my noggin. There was also a lovely sense of delicacy and fine-grained resolution along with that addictive Naim swing that had me cue up Parliament’s 1978 classic “Flash Light” for some tethered dancing. Delightful.

For the closing days of the review period, I ran through a few dozen tracks from my “Test Track” playlist from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, New Age Doom, Lonely Guest,Tara Jane O’Neil, Pelt, Devin Hoff and more and the Naim stack driving my DeVore O/96 proved more than up to the task of turning recorded music into tactile and physically present music form with a solidity, clarity and drive that drove me to forget the concerns of the moment moving me directly into music-time. Bravo!

In the end, the Naim NAC 332 Preamplifier/NPX 300 Power Supply and NAP 250 Power Amplifier taught me a thing or two about how important physicality and timing are when it comes to delivering music’s moving message. If clarity, control, rock solid sound images, all delivered in what felt like perfectly timed timing are important items on your hifi to-do list, Naim has got your groove.

Naim Audio NAC 332 Pre Amplifier: $10,999
Naim Audio NPX 300 Power Supply: $8,999
Naim Audio NAP 250 Stereo Amplifier: $8,999

Company Website: Naim Audio

NAC 332 Specifications

Product Type: Preamplifier

Bi-directional ZigBee remote and front panel.
Inter-product communications with NSS 333 via ZigBee
Optical 3.5mm output for synchronised control of compatible products
e.g. NAP 250/350

Audio Inputs Analogue:

1 x 8-pin DIN (47kΩ, 2.2V typical, 9.5Vrms Max)
2 x 5-pin DIN (47kΩ, 2.2V typical, 9.5Vrms Max)
3 x RCA pair (47kΩ, 2.2V typical, 9.5Vrms Max)
2 x XLR balanced pair (100kΩ, 2.2V typical, 9.5V max)
8-pin DIN compatible with 5-pin DIN
8-pin DIN has +/-18V (for compatible external phono stages e.g. NVC TT)

Audio Outputs Distortion

Line: 0.003% @2.2V input volume at 0dB, 1kHz
(Line: 0.018% @2.2V input volume at 0dB, 20kHz)
Crosstalk: Line: 90dB at 1kHz, volume at 0dB | (Line: 70dB at 20kHz, volume at 0dB)
Analogue: 1 x XLR pair (balanced 10Vrms max), 1 x RCA pair (10Vrms max), 1 x 6.35mm headphone jack (1.5W into 16Ω)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: Line: 104dB ref 2.2V A-wtd volume at 0dB
Frequency Response: Line: 3Hz to 40kHz -3dB
Gain: Preamplifier at max volume: 15.5dB

Connectivity: 1x Micro USB socket (for updates)
Physical Weight: 24.25lbs (11kg)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 35/8x17x121/2″ (9.15×43.2×31.75cm)
Power Mains Supply: 115V or 230V, 50/60Hz
Power Consumption: Typical use consumption: 20W
Network standby mode consumption: <2W
Standby mode consumption: <0.5W

NAP 250 Specifications

Product Type: Power Amplifier
Damping factor into 8 Ohms: 36
Signal to noise ratio ref 100W 8 A-weighted: 111dB
Signal to noise ratio ref 1W 8 A-weighted: 91dB
Input signal for clipping: 1V RMS
Peak current into 1 (1kHz 1ms): +/-28 amps peak (780W peak power)
Burst power 2: 300 Watts 2 @1% THD+N (1kHz for 20mS, repeat 500mS IHF)
Audio Inputs: 2 x True balanced via XLR, 47k, 34k singled ended via legacy adaptor lead
Audio Outputs:

Crosstalk: 60 dB
THD + N: at 2/3rds full power 8 @1kHz (0.013%)
Power Output: 100 Watts 8 @0.1% THD+N (100W @0.1%) | 190 Watts 4 @1% THD+N
Frequency Response: -3dB @ 1.4Hz to 100kHz
Gain: +29 dB


Weight: 37.04lbs (16.8kg)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 35/8x17x121/2″ (9.15×43.2×31.75cm)
Power Mains Supply: 115V or 230V, 50/60Hz
Power Consumption: Passive consumption: 26W (idle), Standby consumption: <0.5W