It’s easy to be dismissive of Naim’s latest arrival, the NAC-N-272, as simply a top-of-the-tree Uniti. At a price of £3400, it is cheaper than the stand-alone NDX streamer, after all, so its place in the world is pretty clear. As a streamer/preamp, all you need is a power amplifier to complete the set. Upgrade potential is catered for with the option of adding an XPS or even, wash my mouth, the 555PS.
When the NAC-N-172 came along a couple of years ago, we instantly compared it as an analogue preamp against the 152XS and older 122X. Truth be told, we found it wanting. How ironic that, coupled with even ‘just’ the NAC155XS, the NAC-N-172 still managed to offer a proper step-up from the SuperUniti.
And this was the key. As a streamer with a volume control, the 172 turned out to be very accomplished. Despite this, buyers have tended to side-step it partly on the grounds that it is in the smaller XS series box and partly because, as a pre-amp, it does rather lack non-digital inputs.
When presented with the big brother ‘272, we knew that the performance with a proper Naim power amp, even as serious as the NAP 300 was likely to be good. Bettering the 172 would put it in a good place, leaving the proper separate box stuff to rule supreme but adding an aspirational Uniti box to which owners who have already bought power amplifiers can migrate.
That would have been enough. This is something else. Perhaps comically, our initial comparative listening got bogged down in a distressing level of musical enjoyment. It’s bloody brilliant!
Coupled with a (£7+k) NAP 300 power amp and it seems very much in its element but NAPs 200 and 250 make perfect sense too. Revealing speakers such as the Russell K Red 100s are most welcome as are the inevitable clutch of Kudos and PMC alternatives. Add an XPS DR and it gains scale, clarity and refinement but this is not by any means a requirement for enjoyment. As the cliche goes, it makes the 172 sound broken.
How’s this for a paradox: Unlike with the 172, the preamp section of the 272 turns out to be its strength. It will make a very fine job of handling any analogue sources that you may wish to use and feeding an NDX into it (with hi-line, natch) appears to represent an upgrade over the in-built device. As for where in the Naim pecking order this pre-amp actually sits, we are still pondering. Either way, it’s far too good for the price, so expect an inconvenient result.
This is clearly a new wave product. See it as Naim’s Hugo, if you will. It’s stirring things up nicely.
09 April 2015
Please note that this was posted in 2015 and that the NAC-N 272 is no longer in production.