Want to get on the audiphle ladder, unable to audition kit

Newbie audiophile partnering equipment for KEF E3 Metas

  • Used NAIM streamer, pre- and power-amps

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • System in a box - NAIM Uniti Atom o Cambridge Audio etc

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Mixed system, the best of Rega, Arcam, Cambridge...

    Votes: 3 60.0%

  • Total voters
    5

SohoAudiophile

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Hello Audiophile Friends,

I was an avid What Hi-Fi reader in my teenage years and spent many hours salivating over the Temptations pages! Fast forward 20 years and I seem to have caught the bug again... but this time I have a credit card.

Due to illness I am unable to leave my flat to visit a hi-fi store and audition equipment. However, I am likely to buy the KEF R3 Metas with accompanying stands, based on the revews and the great looks of the indigo variant. You can pick up the speakers and stands for £2,199.

I am therefore in the market for some combination of music streamer (or laptop to USB-DAC) and amplification., to cost around £1,600. The idea is that I will be able to upgrade the streamer, pre and power sections bit by bit as I get more money in.
Choices:

- The NAIM route

Stream/pre - It is possible to pick up the NAIM NAC N-272 with a DIM cable included for around the £1,000 mark. This is from 2016 and so the streamer is basic, but consdering you're controlling this with the NAIM app it shouldn't matter?
Power - Used NAIM NAP 200 from 2003 costs about £600, with the capacitors all replaced recently. Is this still a good amp in modern terms?

Is the NAIM sound really as impressive and passionate as advocates believe? Is this single-brand route too constricting? I am a bit nervous of taking the leap with NAIM due to all the idiosyncracies with needing to service it, using the right speaker cables or the amp will oscillate...

It feels like NAM is the Alfa Romeo of the hi-fi world - very fussy and problematic, but amazing if you get it right.

- The All-in-one route

Picking up a used NAIM Uniti Atom is an options. Apparently they give an audible hum!? It may also be a bit underpowered for the speakers, although I live in a flat so won't be going loud much.

I am into the kit as much as the music, so my heart says I won't get as much out of a single box, but if the sound is better then I will do it!

- The wildcard route

I very much like the look of the Rega and Arcam amps, and these seem to give good bang for buck. Cambridge Audio also seems to have great streamers. Is it better if I go with new, reasonably priced kit to get the benefit of modern refinement?

Buying British is a big factor for me. My music tastes are eclectic but include classical, rock, pop, house, eighties - I want a system that can really rock and is very dynamic. Bass to stir the soul. Is that the NAIM stuff or should I look elsewhere?

Any advice on starting out my audiophile journey would be greatly appreciated as I am sadly housebound for now!

J
 

twinkletoes

Well-known member
Hi there.

The r3 meta's are some of the most difficult to drive speakers out there. Personally Id spend less on the speakers or get something that in future wont be so picky with amplification if you decide to upgrade.

Out of your options id get the NAIM/ NAC combo. if sticking with the kef
musical fidelity would be better value for money though British by name only.

Your wild card route isnt so wild in all honesty! all very good stuff.

Sticking with British is a mistake and wouldn't get hung up on it at all. Arcam is British by name only owned by Samsung, who owns harman and JBL. So a good place to start with new gen Arcam is JBL, they use arcam tech in there JBL branded amps and the other way round, Jbl are easier to drive and can be listened to at low level very easily which seems to be an important factor for you, not all speakers can do this.

Heck Naim is now French owned by focal so the atom and some focal speakers would be a good shout.

IAG a china company owns mission, wharfdale and a few others.

I can only think of a few 100% British tech companies these days Sugden, maybe B&W, ATC, harbeth

Actually ATC would be a good shout for you as you live a in a flat they have sealed cabs so bass wont penetrate the building in the same way. Naim ive heard is a good combo with the brand but they also sell house made amplification.

As for listening and demoing, explain your situation and any good dealers will be happy to oblige and facilitate a demon session for you. Probably have to be local to you though, having said that the dealer I use is in Scotland I live in Suffolk and when going through the buying process loaned me assorts of stuff to listen to, just ask the worst they will say is no.

Hope that helps a little.
 
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SohoAudiophile

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Jun 5, 2024
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Hi there.

The r3 meta's are some of the most difficult to drive speakers out there. Personally Id spend less on the speakers or get something that in future wont be so picky with amplification if you decide to upgrade.

Out of your options id get the NAIM/ NAC combo. if sticking with the kef
musical fidelity would be better value for money though British by name only.

Your wild card route isnt so wild in all honesty! all very good stuff.

Sticking with British is a mistake and wouldn't get hung up on it at all. Arcam is British by name only owned by Samsung, who owns harman and JBL. So a good place to start with new gen Arcam is JBL, they use arcam tech in there JBL branded amps and the other way round, Jbl are easier to drive and can be listened to at low level very easily which seems to be an important factor for you, not all speakers can do this.

Heck Naim is now French owned by focal so the atom and some focal speakers would be a good shout.

IAG a china company owns mission, wharfdale and a few others.

I can only think of a few 100% British tech companies these days Sugden, maybe B&W, ATC, harbeth

Actually ATC would be a good shout for you as you live a in a flat they have sealed cabs so bass wont penetrate the building in the same way. Naim ive heard is a good combo with the brand but they also sell house made amplification.

As for listening and demoing, explain your situation and any good dealers will be happy to oblige and facilitate a demon session for you. Probably have to be local to you though, having said that the dealer I use is in Scotland I live in Suffolk and when going through the buying process loaned me assorts of stuff to listen to, just ask the worst they will say is no.

Hope that helps a little.

Hi - thank you so much for taking the time to give me such a detailed reply! It is incredibly useful.

Point taken on 'buying British'. I guess I just like the idea of the UK having such high-skilled individuals here who do something so well - though I realise the ownership may be abroad.

I do quite like JBL speakers including those new retro-looking bookshelves. Will take a deep dive into JBP and Arcam.

I'll take a good look at Monitor Audio and ATC, also point taken on better value. I'll call the dealer and see if they can arrange an audition in my home. A bit worried that this will put me under pressure to buy there and then!

Very exciting times!

Thanks,

John
 

twinkletoes

Well-known member
Hi - thank you so much for taking the time to give me such a detailed reply! It is incredibly useful.

Point taken on 'buying British'. I guess I just like the idea of the UK having such high-skilled individuals here who do something so well - though I realise the ownership may be abroad.

I do quite like JBL speakers including those new retro-looking bookshelves. Will take a deep dive into JBP and Arcam.

I'll take a good look at Monitor Audio and ATC, also point taken on better value. I'll call the dealer and see if they can arrange an audition in my home. A bit worried that this will put me under pressure to buy there and then!

Very exciting times!

Thanks,

John
Just talk through your options with them on phone or even arrange a zoom or whats app chat and get them to show you different functions and products (after all its not just about sound the product has to work for you form a functional standpoint doubley so if you're a little infirm), before you have a home demo of a system you may think you will like. There will be no pressure im sure.

If you get no joy its there lose at the end of the day.

a proper left field option would be active speakers from the likes KEF and buchardt audio (I always butcher that name link below)


They offer a 45 day home trail, and they charge you a 100 quid restocking fee if you don't like them. So basically rental for a month.

Amazon is is even better they. have some stuff but everything.
 
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Hi there.

The r3 meta's are some of the most difficult to drive speakers out there. Personally Id spend less on the speakers or get something that in future wont be so picky with amplification if you decide to upgrade.

Out of your options id get the NAIM/ NAC combo. if sticking with the kef
musical fidelity would be better value for money though British by name only.

Your wild card route isnt so wild in all honesty! all very good stuff.

Sticking with British is a mistake and wouldn't get hung up on it at all. Arcam is British by name only owned by Samsung, who owns harman and JBL. So a good place to start with new gen Arcam is JBL, they use arcam tech in there JBL branded amps and the other way round, Jbl are easier to drive and can be listened to at low level very easily which seems to be an important factor for you, not all speakers can do this.

Heck Naim is now French owned by focal so the atom and some focal speakers would be a good shout.

IAG a china company owns mission, wharfdale and a few others.

I can only think of a few 100% British tech companies these days Sugden, maybe B&W, ATC, harbeth

Actually ATC would be a good shout for you as you live a in a flat they have sealed cabs so bass wont penetrate the building in the same way. Naim ive heard is a good combo with the brand but they also sell house made amplification.

As for listening and demoing, explain your situation and any good dealers will be happy to oblige and facilitate a demon session for you. Probably have to be local to you though, having said that the dealer I use is in Scotland I live in Suffolk and when going through the buying process loaned me assorts of stuff to listen to, just ask the worst they will say is no.

Hope that helps a little.
You forgot the likes if Exposure, Creek etc., in the amplifier department that is.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I was wondering if you had friends or family that could help you out a bit John.
If they were to pick up and return home loan items - you wouldn't feel so pressured.
If you state your location, somebody here could even be nearby.

With your £1600 budget for streamer and amp you've got plenty of choices.
You mentioned the possibility of using a laptop - in which case the necessary USB DAC could either be standalone or built into the amp.

My own amp is from Cyrus, an all-English brand not mentioned so far - it's got the sort of lively, clear sound that you're after.
However, I must point out that I've currently got a Fosi V3 amp on loan.
It may be Chinese and cheap, but it contains high quality components - and, importantly, myself and others have found that its sound compares favourably with MUCH more expensive amps.

My point is, that using that and one of the very good sub-£100 USB DACs, depending on your speaker choice, I think you might be amazed at the performance you could get from laptop FLAC files.....for around £200 for DAC and amp.
I realise that seems ridiculous - but, now more than ever before, low cost does not (necessarily) mean low quality.

When it comes to steamers, I agree that the CA CXN 100 would be a nice choice.
Wiim and Eversolo have better value options - the new Wiim Ultra (£329) is coming out in a few weeks.

In your position I'd seriously consider a CXN100 running balanced into 2 soon to be released, Fosi V3 monoblocks - total probably £1300, leaving you an extra £300 for your speakers of choice.

Very tempting to buy based on reviews alone John, even when you're not housebound - but home loan is wise - especially when it comes to speakers and their interface with your room.

Enjoy what you end up buying - and get well soon 👍
 
I was wondering if you had friends or family that could help you out a bit John.
If they were to pick up and return home loan items - you wouldn't feel so pressured.
If you state your location, somebody here could even be nearby.

With your £1600 budget for streamer and amp you've got plenty of choices.
You mentioned the possibility of using a laptop - in which case the necessary USB DAC could either be standalone or built into the amp.

My own amp is from Cyrus, an all-English brand not mentioned so far - it's got the sort of lively, clear sound that you're after.
However, I must point out that I've currently got a Fosi V3 amp on loan.
It may be Chinese and cheap, but it contains high quality components - and, importantly, myself and others have found that its sound compares favourably with MUCH more expensive amps.

My point is, that using that and one of the very good sub-£100 USB DACs, depending on your speaker choice, I think you might be amazed at the performance you could get from laptop FLAC files.....for around £200 for DAC and amp.
I realise that seems ridiculous - but, now more than ever before, low cost does not (necessarily) mean low quality.

When it comes to steamers, I agree that the CA CXN 100 would be a nice choice.
Wiim and Eversolo have better value options - the new Wiim Ultra (£329) is coming out in a few weeks.

In your position I'd seriously consider a CXN100 running balanced into 2 soon to be released, Fosi V3 monoblocks - total probably £1300, leaving you an extra £300 for your speakers of choice.

Very tempting to buy based on reviews alone John, even when you're not housebound - but home loan is wise - especially when it comes to speakers and their interface with your room.

Enjoy what you end up buying - and get well soon 👍
Good comments however he has already budgeted for the speakers so the £300 should buy the required interconnects.....
See how I cunningly avoided mentioning cables...... Doh!

Still not sure what an audiphle ladder is though... :)
 
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SohoAudiophile

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Good comments however he has already budgeted for the speakers so the £300 should buy the required interconnects.....
See how I cunningly avoided mentioning cables...... Doh!

Still not sure what an audiphle ladder is though... :)
Yes I've been looking into the weird word of cables and interconnects.

I think I've settled on non-shielded speaker cables. Beyond that I have more research to do!
 

SohoAudiophile

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I was wondering if you had friends or family that could help you out a bit John.
If they were to pick up and return home loan items - you wouldn't feel so pressured.
If you state your location, somebody here could even be nearby.

With your £1600 budget for streamer and amp you've got plenty of choices.
You mentioned the possibility of using a laptop - in which case the necessary USB DAC could either be standalone or built into the amp.

My own amp is from Cyrus, an all-English brand not mentioned so far - it's got the sort of lively, clear sound that you're after.
However, I must point out that I've currently got a Fosi V3 amp on loan.
It may be Chinese and cheap, but it contains high quality components - and, importantly, myself and others have found that its sound compares favourably with MUCH more expensive amps.

My point is, that using that and one of the very good sub-£100 USB DACs, depending on your speaker choice, I think you might be amazed at the performance you could get from laptop FLAC files.....for around £200 for DAC and amp.
I realise that seems ridiculous - but, now more than ever before, low cost does not (necessarily) mean low quality.

When it comes to steamers, I agree that the CA CXN 100 would be a nice choice.
Wiim and Eversolo have better value options - the new Wiim Ultra (£329) is coming out in a few weeks.

In your position I'd seriously consider a CXN100 running balanced into 2 soon to be released, Fosi V3 monoblocks - total probably £1300, leaving you an extra £300 for your speakers of choice.

Very tempting to buy based on reviews alone John, even when you're not housebound - but home loan is wise - especially when it comes to speakers and their interface with your room.

Enjoy what you end up buying - and get well soon 👍
Thank you I'm grateful to you for taking the time to give me this intel!

The USB DAC amp idea is pretty appealing actually! That way I can run in the speakers and get to know them before committing to a bigger amp in a year or two.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for the WIIM Ultra. The CXN100 does look fantastic - will see if I can find a good local dealer and audition that and the KEF speakers!
 
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Stuart83

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Home demoes seem to be the way to get you where you want to be🙂

I too flicked through the what hifi magazine salivating as a youngster whilst saving up my £1.40p a week pocket money to get my first ever new piece of kit.
(Mission 760i) speakers and I loved em.

I feel I must say this despite it going against everything I know and have learned since but I've bought completely blind twice as a youngster on reviews from what HIFI and my father's advice combined.

Up to then I had acquired most of my knowledge through my father's repairing of older, what's now classed as vintage kit and had never bought new then but wanted to try the newer stuff 😁
I was of the mind that the various accolades and others liking an item in line with my preferences was enough and all I can say is, I was maybe lucky but the result was something I loved and stayed with for years.

It's contrary to everything I know now making a few mistakes here and there with things being different at home to what they are in a demo room etc.

I think that's where the psychological part comes in.
When I bought blind I was more interested in getting the CD on and listening to it through what I knew was quality kit.

The feeling I only get briefly now I got all the time, the excited euphoria of knowing you have a cd in your bag that you love and it was going straight on when you got home.
I was more willing to accept what I had bought and knowing it was good enough for others on line with my preferences was all I needed to know.
The love for the system wasn't hard to acquire, it's imperfections that I'd now not accept were just instantly forgiven.

I miss those days........

Now I can say after much time demoing and box shifting that Arcam is a good route to take and again "home demos" seem to be your way forward.

Richer sounds and others welcome it.
I recently went to an Arcam sa30 (after hanging back until arcam actually finished the firmware) one box solution, all be it still connecting other anciliries like a decent cd player, Bluetooth receiver, record player, decks etc

My preferences are to have music thrown at me with an openness and clarity that's usually lost at such volumes.
It took many demoes and box shifting through all the favourites in my set budget to get me to a modern hifi I love again.

As far as bass is concerned I've actually had a problem with too much with the Arcam after replacing the QA3050i with fyne audio f502s and needing to dial it in via the onboard Dirac.

The sub woofer ran off to gather even more dust in another room.

Aw far as age and capacitors, recaps etc go it depends on the type used and what condition the old ones are in.
So many variables at play with the longevity of electronics.
Many an item ruined by someone with a bag of cheap ebay caps etc and a soldering iron trying to magically improve on already working electronics to either break it or only psychologically improve on it.

If it ain't broke..............

Im listening to a favourite 32yr old amp now that regularly shocks me on how good it is.
Hearing the recent favourites and owning a few gives me a fresh perspective on how good it actually is.
 
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SohoAudiophile

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I too flicked through the what hifi magazine salivating as a youngster whilst saving up my £1.40p a week pocket money to get my first ever new piece of kit.
Exactly! Haha. I too was a kid who saved up to go to Our Price and pick up a single CD, popping into the Technics store next door where I'd stand and stare at the hi-fi separates.

I guess it's just a nice, largely harmless hobby (aside from the neighbours and bank balance). I think there's something about music and childhood that we are accessing with this hi-fi obsession.

Having all the music of the world available at a click does detract from the sense of an 'event' happening when you play a song. But Tidal is very good at surprising me with unexpected new artists.

I have just spent the entire day in a deep dive in the speaker cable world. I have read about mettalurgy, dielectrics, capacitors, inductors... I know everything about the ranges at Chord, QED and Van Damme and I'm still no closer to actually selecting a cable

Perhaps I will also be less forgiving of imperfections over time and maybe get less out of it, but for now I've got the bug and I'm happy. Keeps me out of mischief anyway.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I have just spent the entire day in a deep dive in the speaker cable world.
...An exciting day to remember John.
and I'm still no closer to actually selecting a cable
No surprise there.

Go for your required length of Van Damme (minimum 2.5mm) and fit your own gold plated 4mm banana plugs - have a look at those from Fisual - good quality, with 2-screw fixings.

For interconnect cable you could do a lot worse than Van Damme again, with Neutrik plugs. Well screened, flexible and durable, available in various colours as well as black.

'Starquad' cable for balanced interconnection.
75 ohm cable for digital.

Fit, forget, lasts forever, enjoy the music 👍
 
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Stuart83

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...An exciting day to remember John.

No surprise there.

Go for your required length of Van Damme (minimum 2.5mm) and fit your own gold plated 4mm banana plugs - have a look at those from Fisual - good quality, with 2-screw fixings.

For interconnect cable you could do a lot worse than Van Damme again, with Neutrik plugs. Well screened, flexible and durable, available in various colours as well as black.

'Starquad' cable for balanced interconnection.
75 ohm cable for digital.

Fit, forget, lasts forever, enjoy the music 👍
Agreed it's always been van damme for me.
Tried different cables over the yrs never heard a difference so I go for the stuff that doesn't drop to bits.

I'm trying to resist putting the meerkat qoute "simples" oooooops
 

Fandango Andy

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Hello Audiophile Friends,

I was an avid What Hi-Fi reader in my teenage years and spent many hours salivating over the Temptations pages! Fast forward 20 years and I seem to have caught the bug again... but this time I have a credit card.

Due to illness I am unable to leave my flat to visit a hi-fi store and audition equipment. However, I am likely to buy the KEF R3 Metas with accompanying stands, based on the revews and the great looks of the indigo variant. You can pick up the speakers and stands for £2,199.

I am therefore in the market for some combination of music streamer (or laptop to USB-DAC) and amplification., to cost around £1,600. The idea is that I will be able to upgrade the streamer, pre and power sections bit by bit as I get more money in.
Choices:

- The NAIM route

Stream/pre - It is possible to pick up the NAIM NAC N-272 with a DIM cable included for around the £1,000 mark. This is from 2016 and so the streamer is basic, but consdering you're controlling this with the NAIM app it shouldn't matter?
Power - Used NAIM NAP 200 from 2003 costs about £600, with the capacitors all replaced recently. Is this still a good amp in modern terms?

Is the NAIM sound really as impressive and passionate as advocates believe? Is this single-brand route too constricting? I am a bit nervous of taking the leap with NAIM due to all the idiosyncracies with needing to service it, using the right speaker cables or the amp will oscillate...

It feels like NAM is the Alfa Romeo of the hi-fi world - very fussy and problematic, but amazing if you get it right.

- The All-in-one route

Picking up a used NAIM Uniti Atom is an options. Apparently they give an audible hum!? It may also be a bit underpowered for the speakers, although I live in a flat so won't be going loud much.

I am into the kit as much as the music, so my heart says I won't get as much out of a single box, but if the sound is better then I will do it!

- The wildcard route

I very much like the look of the Rega and Arcam amps, and these seem to give good bang for buck. Cambridge Audio also seems to have great streamers. Is it better if I go with new, reasonably priced kit to get the benefit of modern refinement?

Buying British is a big factor for me. My music tastes are eclectic but include classical, rock, pop, house, eighties - I want a system that can really rock and is very dynamic. Bass to stir the soul. Is that the NAIM stuff or should I look elsewhere?

Any advice on starting out my audiophile journey would be greatly appreciated as I am sadly housebound for now!

J
If you are looking for a British company have a look at the Audiolab 9000A. They are now Chinese owned, but then so are lots of other hifi companies.

It has all the power you need to drive those speakers, and a decent DAC.

Not sure you need to spend a fortune on a streamer, give a WiiM a try. Buy it from Amazon, and you cab return it if you don't like it.
 
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SohoAudiophile

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So I now have a NAIM NAP 200DR power amplifier (70W/channel @ 8Ω) and NAC N-272 streamer/pre/DAC winging their way to me in the post. I've selected Van Damme cables, and I'm excited to get it all set up.

However - i am now getting a bit of cold feet about forking out £2,200 on the KEF R3 Meta speaker and related stand.

From what I've read the KEFs can be somewhat dull, analytical speakers with their metal drivers. Also the R3 Metas are a lot more expensive than the older R3 and apparently the metamaterial sound improvement is beyond human hearing?

With the home demoing, the dealers say 'yes' but they want you to pay the whole value of the speakers up front and then request a refund if you back out. Is this normal? I feel like it might be difficult to get £2,200 back once I've 'used' the speakers, even for a day or two.

Also I'm strugglng to find a more affordable speaker that I can get excited about. People have posted some great ideas in this thread - maybe a Spendor or ATC is the way to go. Is a sealed box design really constraining?

I'm excited about the dynamic aspects of the NAIM gear. I did strongly consider an Audiolab 9,000 with its DAC etc but went for NAIM to get a bit of fun out of it.

Will the NAIM components inject some life into the KEFs?
 
So I now have a NAIM NAP 200DR power amplifier (70W/channel @ 8Ω) and NAC N-272 streamer/pre/DAC winging their way to me in the post. I've selected Van Damme cables, and I'm excited to get it all set up.

However - i am now getting a bit of cold feet about forking out £2,200 on the KEF R3 Meta speaker and related stand.

From what I've read the KEFs can be somewhat dull, analytical speakers with their metal drivers. Also the R3 Metas are a lot more expensive than the older R3 and apparently the metamaterial sound improvement is beyond human hearing?

With the home demoing, the dealers say 'yes' but they want you to pay the whole value of the speakers up front and then request a refund if you back out. Is this normal? I feel like it might be difficult to get £2,200 back once I've 'used' the speakers, even for a day or two.

Also I'm strugglng to find a more affordable speaker that I can get excited about. People have posted some great ideas in this thread - maybe a Spendor or ATC is the way to go. Is a sealed box design really constraining?

I'm excited about the dynamic aspects of the NAIM gear. I did strongly consider an Audiolab 9,000 with its DAC etc but went for NAIM to get a bit of fun out of it.

Will the NAIM components inject some life into the KEFs?
"Only Naim Audio speaker cable should be used to connect a loudspeaker to the output of the NAP 200."

Read the manual! Thats where this extract came from. As a discontinued model the documentation is harder to find. Download here...

 
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As for the speakers, well I like KEF. They aren't dull or analytical. The dome material doesn't have a sound; that's another myth.

But a more obvious match might be from Neat or PMC which are often partnered with Naim.

Happy listening, but with the right cables only!
 

SohoAudiophile

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"Only Naim Audio speaker cable should be used to connect a loudspeaker to the output of the NAP 200."

Read the manual! Thats where this extract came from. As a discontinued model the documentation is harder to find. Download here...

Thanks - I investigated this.

I think I'm right in saying that earlier NAIM amplifiers needed cables with a minimum amount of impedence to stop the amp oscillating at inaudible frequencies and running hot. In the more modern amplifiers they added some kind of network to the output stage to prevent this, in line with other amplifiers. Anyway I have ordered 5m length directional cable that should meet those requirements even if they were needed.

If I'm wrong about all that then I guess the amp will run hot or have noise and I'll have to investigate further.
 

SohoAudiophile

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As for the speakers, well I like KEF. They aren't dull or analytical. The dome material doesn't have a sound; that's another myth.

But a more obvious match might be from Neat or PMC which are often partnered with Naim.

Happy listening, but with the right cables only!

Thanks, good to know! I'll take a good look at all the Neat and PMC speakers and try to audition some.. Maybe it's just cold feet! Such a big cash outlay. Exciting though!
 

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