Naim Nait XS 3 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

Finally, the XS 3 has a remote control input, allowing its input selection and volume to be controlled using the Naim app via one of the company's network players. Of course, a conventional NARCOM-5 remote handset is also supplied and there's a mini USB socket for future firmware upgrades, located below the amp's four 4mm speaker output sockets.

In other words, in these respects the XS 3 is just like the XS 2 it replaces, as are other elements of the internal layout, from the reed relay switching for inputs to the motorised ALPS Blue Velvet volume control, the ceramic isolators under the power amp transistors and the galvanically isolated microprocessor used for volume and input control. Naim claims that the XS 3 and the Supernait 3 are its 'best ever' Nait amplifiers, as one might hope. However, both the XS 2 and SN 2 were kingpins of the company's amplifier range, so some justification is required for replacing them, even though they've had a pretty good run.

sqnote Shiver-Inducing
Fortunately the Nait XS 3 more than justifies its existence, and does so even if you're never even going to use that phono stage, strange though it may seem to overlook what is clearly one of the headline features of the new arrivals.

1219naim.remYes, the XS 3's phono stage is very good indeed, as was shown throughout the time I spent with it and my Rega turntable trawling though my LP collection. There's a lovely warmth and richness to the sound from vinyl, allied to fine detail and a smooth, easygoing quality that makes it a delight to listen to. Playing The Police's Regatta De Blanc [A&M AMLH64792] showed the way the XS 3 can track even the fastest of beats while still driving the music hard, and proves just how tight a rhythm unit Sting and Stewart Copeland were, at least until they decided to stop playing nicely and start fighting each other! The Nait XS 3 powers through the title track with real warmth and impact, while the guitar of Andy Summers jangles through 'Walking On The Moon' against the deep bass figures and syncopated drumming. Eee, but it takes y'back…

That ability to create a rich, solid sound while still displaying huge amounts of detail is just as much in evidence with a much more recent LP release, The Dunedin Consort's 2013 recording of Mozart's Requiem [Linn CKH549]. Here the simple purity of the violin and the choir on the 'Lacrymosa' is totally shiver-inducing with the XS 3 driving my Neat Iota Xplorer speakers [HFN Jul '18], and helping them deliver their characteristic 'hanging in space' sound, plus a powerful sense of the surrounding acoustic and the way the building scale of the orchestra fills it.

Turn Of Speed
Mind you, the Nait XS 3 is no one-trick pony. As I said, the phono stage is the eye-catcher, but that sonic balance is maintained across the line inputs too, and slotting it into my system in place of the Naim Supernait 2/HiCap DR I've been using off and on for quite a while now, was less of a hardship than I was expecting – or is that dreading? True, the XS 3 doesn't quite have the resolution and swagger even of the Supernait 2 alone, let alone when HiCapped, but this is a decidedly fast and punchy little amplifier by any standards. It certainly has a useful extra turn of speed over the XS 2, as was confirmed by a recent brief back-to-back listen, despite also offering a richer, more solid delivery of lower frequencies.

Playing Mista Savona's 2017 album Havana Meets Kingston [Baco Records BR-CD/17026], which opens in pure Cuban style with the 'Chan Chan' then gradually infuses the music with increasingly obvious Jamaican reggae beats, the Nait XS 3's low-down power and clean, controlled midband and top end were just the thing, crunching out the rhythm section of 'Vibracion Positive' with an impressive mix of big weight and good-time snap.

This is a wonderfully atmospheric album, and that's just how the Nait XS 3 delivered it, even though the deep, deep bass of which the Supernait line is capable was more hinted at than slammed home with firm determination.


What the Nait XS 3 does so well is clarity, that usual foot-tapping Naim thing with an insight that draws you into whatever's being played. And that was the case within about a minute of playing the latest blossoming of Neil Hannon's acerbic view of modern life.

The Divine Comedy's Office Politics [Divine Comedy Records Ltd DCRL112CDX] opens with the jaunty rhythms of 'Queuejumper', the words to the song taking down those drivers of German cars who really do own the road, before the album takes a swerve into deeper satire. Here the Naim Nait XS 3 manages to deliver Hannon's catchy ability with a tune while – vitally – ensuring the cutting lyrics are kept smile-inducingly clear.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
While the most obvious attribute of the Nait XS 3 is its inclusion of a phono stage, and a rather good one at that, there's rather more to this amplifier. Naim has also given the power amp a tidy up, delivering better speed and clarity, and thus improving the ease with which music is communicated. It's not a radical change from the old XS 2, but it's a worthwhile gain and adds greatly to the amplifier's appeal.

Naim Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Naim Audio Ltd
01722 426600