Naim Audio NSS 333/NAC 332/NAP 350 DAC/Pre/Power System Page 2

A new heatsink design and fan keeps the amp cool when working hard, and niceties of the construction include through-hole components in the hand-wired layout, and an 'eddy current divide' between the speaker terminals on the rear panel.

sqnote Naim... Nuanced
Reviewed as a system, the four Naim boxes answer several questions in very short order. Yes, the NSS 333 network player more than justifies its place in the range with a big, fast and exceptionally involving sound that puts it ahead of the NDX 2 [HFN Sep '18] – though fortunately some way off the ND555 [HFN Apr '19], which still sets the standard in this sector of the market. And while some may speak of Naim's latest amplification becoming rather warmer and more cultured than the 'classic' Naim sonic stereotype, what changes exist are subtle, and for the better – the clarity of the NAC 332 preamplifier more than complementing the power and poise of the new, partnering NAP 350 monoblocks.


Illuminated keys on Naim's RF 'Zigbee' remote allow full access to its menu and features, even in low-light conditions

Even used with the highly revealing B&W 801 D4 Signatures [HFN Sep '23] in PM's listening room, the Naim amplification shows it has not just the power to drive the speakers cleanly, but also more than enough grip to keep them under control and realise all that the NSS 333 can deliver, whether from network storage or online services.

There's more body here than many might associate with the 'Naim sound' – though I have to say I have never found the company's amps, going right back to the early '90s NAC 52/NAP 250, to sound overly bright, even though there's no shortage of sheer boogie factor. What the new amps seem to do is make the sound just a little bit fuller and more substantial, without losing any of that pace and definition.

Classic Concert
For example, with the recent The Look Of Love Live release to mark the 40th anniversary of ABC's The Lexicon Of Love [Live Here Now; download], the Classic 300 system makes the most of this skilfully compiled concert version, complete with orchestra, to deliver a performance that's both exciting and sonically rewarding. There's a real spark and drive to the music, plus that abiding sense, a visceral presence, of being at a live event.


The NAC 332's toroidal transformer [bottom right] feeds 4x PSUs supporting the Class A input buffers [top left], balanced to single-ended preamp [centre], R-2R reed relay volume circuit [bottom left] and ARM microprocessor [bottom right]

Compare and contrast with the latest Steven Wilson remasters of the original album [Neutron Records/UMC download; 96kHz/24-bit] and it's clear the Naim network player and amplification can dig deep to unearth detail in the mix. Comparing back with an original CD copy of the album [Mercury 810 003-2] shows that it's the new mastering working with the system to bring out much more of the excellent production here.

The same goes with the raucous rock of Alice Cooper's 'My Stars' from the School's Out album [Warner Records/Rhino R2 681029]. Bob Ezrin's big, bold production all but conceals the instruments behind Cooper's snarling vocal, but listen carefully and you soon appreciate the way the piano riffs and percussion are kept both audible and full of punch, driving the track along in the hands of the rich but fast Naim amplification. Clearly Ezrin is as much a part of the band here as Cooper himself: more than 50 years on, he's still working the magic with the showman's latest album, Road [Ear Music/Edel/Alive 0218744EMU], which sounds just as big and magnificent.

The High Notes
That's not to say Naim's 'New Classics' can't deliver lightness of touch and breathtaking imaging when required. With Handel's aria 'Rejoice Greatly', from the Bach Aria Soloists' Le Dolce Sirene [Reference Recordings FR-750], the system majors on the space and ambience around the voice, with a fluid, well-defined account of the accompanying ensemble. Yet it does all this with a total lack of effort, and no sense of stress or compression even when soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson hits her highest notes.


The NAC 332 has its own RF 'Zigbee' remote control for input, volume, etc, but can be sync'd with the NSS 333 for simplicity

That same mixture of fluidity, speed and crisp detail makes this system an excellent match for UK-based jazz ensemble Five Way Split's 'Asymphonatic', from All The Way [Bandcamp download]. The sound is wide open and three-dimensional, again with no restraint on the top notes of the brass. The trumpet of Quentin Collins is delivered with a real rasp and blare when required.

Not everyone would immediately associate Naim amplification with classical music, the company's demonstrations sometimes seeming to favour rock music or 'tumbleweed on the prairie' alt-country tracks, but the NSS 333/NAC 332/NAP 350 system shows it has all-round ability with the likes of the Minnesota Orchestra/Eiji Oue recording of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances [Reference Recordings RR-96].

Here, the andante con moto waltz reveals the presence of the large orchestral forces even in the muted opening. But then the sound just keeps getting bigger and louder as the piece progresses – there's that fine light touch on the solo instruments, and then a great surge, again with a feeling of power being held back before being unleashed.

Sweep And Swagger
Similarly, with the dramatic Hallé/Elder recording of Holst's The Planets [Hyperion CDA67270], this Naim quartet delivers a real explosion of power on 'Jupiter'. There's 'hell for leather' speed and rhythmic acuity, plus fine insight into the percussion, along with the ability to conjure up the big stately chords and light and shade of the orchestra. The sweep of what would later become 'Thaxted', the tune for 'I Vow To Thee My Country', kicks in with thrilling weight, and then the amps unleash thunderous brass in the final section.


Massive toroidal transformer and reservoir caps for input/voltage stages [top] and output stage [bottom] feed Naim's proprietary DR (Discrete Regulation) PSU [left]. Two pairs of its custom NA009 power transistors are used in the PSU and two pairs in the audio power amp [on fan-assisted heat tunnel, centre left]

Finishing the listening back in what many would consider the system's comfort zone, but with a similar balance of detail and attack to the Holst, it crashes out The Who's 'Baba O'Riley', in the SACD release of Who's Next [Polydor UIGY-9596], with magnificent swagger. Moon's powerhouse drumming is laser-locked with The Ox's growling bass, those arpeggiating keyboards underpinning Townshend's power chords and Daltrey's raw vocals to relentless effect.

Suggest that Naim Audio's New Classics have a more cultured sound than some earlier offerings and you won't get any argument from me. However, even more impressive is that this has been achieved at no cost to the company's musical tingle-factor, which thankfully remains entirely intact.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The 300 series from Naim's New Classics range fully lives up to its promise – its presentation combining a shade more warmth and culture when required with the ability to let go and power out the music when let off the leash. From the closely-detailed NSS 333 streamer/DAC to the effortlessly punchy NAC 332/NAP 350 amplification, this is the 'Naim sound' with broadened appeal, albeit never quite tamed!

Naim Audio Ltd, Salisbury
Supplied by: Naim Audio Ltd
01722 426600