Naim Nait XS 3 Integrated Amplifier

hfncommendedNaim's latest version of its classic Nait amplifier features not only improved overall performance, but also a built-in phono stage. Whatever will they think of next?

While it could never hope to match the seemingly annual product replacement cycle of some mass-market brands – and nor, I suspect, would it care to – Naim still maintains a continuous programme of product development that goes on 'behind the scenes' of some of its more attention-grabbing launches. So while all the big news from Salisbury has concerned network-capable audio, as Naim rolls out its 'Future Platform' from the latest Uniti products to new ND-series network players [HFN Apr '19] and second-generation Mu-so models, in the background the company has been working on its core integrated amplifiers, the Nait series.

There have been Naits in the Naim range for more than 35 years, the original 'Naim Audio Integrated Amplifier' being launched in 1983, before which the company made only pre/power amps. The latest arrivals are the £2199 Nait XS 3 we have here, and the more substantial Supernait 3, at £3499.

And just in case you think Naim isn't following a path of regular updates, the new amplifiers replace the Nait XS 2 [HFN Jun '14] and Supernait 2 [HFN Nov '13] along with the entry-level Nait 5si, which continues in the range. They, in turn, replaced the original Supernait [HFN Oct '07] and 5i [HFN Jun '06], and 2008's Nait XS. So it seems every five or six years the company reckons it has something new to bring to the integrated amplifier party.

Pick-Up Artist
Though most of the action in Naim's mainstream separates range is in multibox amp systems, from the entry-level NAC 202 and NAP 200 in its Classic series, through the 500 range [HFN May '16] to the flagship Statement preamp and monoblock power amps [HFN Jun '15], it's clear that there's still a vital role for the integrated amps in the lineup. Not everyone wants a rack full of boxes just to play music and the integrateds offer a relatively affordable entry point into the Naim eco system.

So, what's new for the XS 3? Well, a cursory glance won't tell you much, for there's still the same simple front panel on the slimline casework, which stands just 7cm tall, a volume knob to the left, selector buttons to the right and a main power switch at the rear. There's been some renaming of the all-analogue inputs, including 'stream' for one of Naim's network players and another labelled 'phono'. So the XS 3, along with the Supernait 3, is one of the first Naim integrated amps for many years to have onboard phono provision.


The XS 3 has five line inputs, on a mix of RCA sockets and Naim's preferred DINs, while the front panel also has a mute button and, beside it, a 6.3mm headphone socket, driven directly by 'hot-rodding' the preamp stage when a plug is inserted.

Star Turn
That MM phono input, while not the only extra here, is definitely the star turn. While Naim isn't making a direct link between this phono stage and the design of its standalone Stageline units, it's clear that experience underlies the thinking. Asked why there's no MC provision, the company says it wanted to avoid complicating matters with a switchable phono stage, much as it makes separate MM and MC Stagelines. It answers the opinion that anyone spending £2199 on an amplifier, let alone £1300 more on a Supernait 3, will want to use a 'clearly superior' moving-coil cartridge by saying that, in its experience, there are some very fine upmarket moving-magnet designs out there, and it's not as clear-cut as MM good, MC better. It adds that if you really want to go for a moving-coil, you can always add on one of its Stagelines, for which the XS 3 has an input also capable of delivering 24V power for the phono stage.

Boxing Clever
On which subject, the input provision isn't quite as simple as phono sockets paralleled with DINs. The MM phono is, of course, only on RCAs, with a separate ground post, while there's also one DIN-only 'aux' input. It's also worth noting that both the AV and stream sockets function as both inputs and outputs, and that the AV input can be switched into unity gain, bypassing the volume control, with a rear-panel switch.

Remove the familiar Naim link plug at the rear and you separate the preamp and power amp sections, for example allowing an additional power amplifier to be added, or the amp to be upgraded with an external power supply for the preamp stage. However, you might want to think long and hard before considering the addition of an external power supply to the XS 3, especially given that it'll cost you in the region of £1000 or more, or almost half the price of the amplifier itself. Having done some brief comparative listening between the XS 3 with and without an offboard PSU, and Supernait 2 and 3 amplifiers, I'd suggest the money for a power supply for the XS 3 would be better spent on going for a Supernait 3 in the first place. After all, if you find yourself missing an extra black box, you can always upgrade the Supernait 3 later!

Naim Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Naim Audio Ltd
01722 426600