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Naim NSC 222, NAP 250

They’ve taken their time down at the Naim factory in Salisbury: it’s getting on for four years since any new mainstream products were launched, in the form of the still-current Nait amplifiers, although admittedly we have had the eye-wateringly spendy Solstice turntable system – the company’s first record player – and the excellent Uniti Atom HE streaming headphone amp along the way.

Now we see what they’ve been up to all this time, in the form of the all-new NSC 222 streaming preamplifier and the latest iteration of the NAP 250 power amp, a product line going all the way back to the early days of the company, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. First launched in 1975, the NAP 250 was last updated in 2015, but now – as with the NSC 222 – we have a pretty radical reworking.

That’s obvious as soon as you clap eyes on the newcomers: while they’re still recognisably Naim, the ‘triptych’ casework of the design, with an inset central panel in the fascia, has now gone full-on, an inset running front to back across the lid. But that, and the striking illuminated volume control to the left of the NSC 222’s front panel, isn’t the thing that’s been getting the Naim faithful hot under the collar – instead it’s the fact that the familiar company logo, illuminated green across generations of the company’s products, has gone white and bright (though you can dim it or turn it off if you want).

I get the impression many will want to do just that, judging from the ‘get the pitchforks, grab the flaming torches – we’re storming the castle’ reaction that greeted the first leaked pictures of what Naim’s calling its New Classic models. And that’s before they looked round the back…

You see, gone are Naim’s familiar multipin DIN connections – well, apart from a single one for analogue input on the NSC 222, there to maintained back-compatibility with the rest of the company’s range. And that’s also riled some of those who’d finally got to grips with the range of ‘look the same but are actually different’ connections the company’s used up to now for inputs and outputs, sticking to them when everyone else had standardised on those familiar RCA phono sockets and – in the high-end sector – balanced XLR connections. Can’t imagine it’s pleased too much third-party manufacturers making a range of cables to connect Naims to more conventional hi-fi components, either, as launched along with the New Classics is a selection of its own cables.

The new NAC 222 and NAP 250 are so clearly designed to work together – from those balanced connections to system automation to switch the two on and off in unison, either controlled from the streaming pre’s standby button or via Naim’s control app – that it’s almost inevitable that the two will be bought and used together. However, the New Classic products are more compatible with the old than the change of connectors might suggest, and that’s also true of the optional add-on power supply for the NSC 222: the NPX 300 can also be used to upgrade a variety of existing Naim models, while in that model number – note it’s a 300, not a 200 – is a clear sign that more’s to come in this new series.

Naim’s Technical Director Steve Sells says – in a white paper covering the amplifier technology – that ‘New Classic was designed to be our most interoperable, easy-to-use range ever, with improved sound quality and clear upgrade paths,’ and on the showing of these first products, the series certainly delivers. The NSC 222 is as simple to set up and operate as any of the company’s other networked products, thanks in no small part to that excellent control app, while those who prefer their control the old way will like the radio-frequency remote handset, which offers visual feedback on volume control – as if that large rotary on the unit itself wasn’t clear enough.

Aside from network audio, including Spotify, TIDAL, Qobuz, Apple Music, Internet radio and more, the NSC 222 has that single analogue line/DIN input, plus a high-quality moving magnet phono stage for a record player, and four digital inputs – plus USB ports front and back to play music from memory devices. You can even connect a USB CD drive to one port and use the NSC 222 to rip music from it to local USB storage, while there’s also a headphone amp using the same technology as the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, so even ‘head-fi’ enthusiasts are catered for.

Meanwhile the NAP 250 is a dual mono 100W per channel design, having only balanced inputs – so you’ll need adapter leads if you’re using it with a preamp without balanced outputs – and using technology from Naim’s Statement flagship system, With extensive protection to prevent mishaps when it played loud and long, It’s also designed with energy saving in mind: like the NSC 222, the power amp only consumes 0.5W in standby mode.


And best of all, this new pairing sounds superb: it still has a distinctively Naim sound, with speed, detail and real drive when playing music driven by drums and bass, but there’s now the kind of scale and substance previously the hallmark of much pricier models in the range, ensuring everything from thundering rock to ‘big band’ orchestral music sounds full-blooded and dramatic. There’s just so much information in the sound, whether playing hi-res music files from network storage or even radio drama from Internet streams, but it’s all delivered with a marked lack of the kind of showiness that can make some ‘maximum detail’ systems almost unlistenable – instead the New Classic pairing does all the clever hi-fi stuff, from creating a three-dimensional soundstage to a sensational impression of the character of instruments and voices, with total ease.

Meanwhile, for anyone thinking ‘only 100W? That’s not much power, don’t worry: in the tradition of past iterations of the NAP 250, this new version sounds massively powerful, and seems always to have plenty in reserve, however hard you play it and however great the dynamic swings of the music. After all, power’s not just about the ability to ‘go loud’: even more important is the ability to react fast when a full orchestra suddenly goes from subtle strings or woodwind to full-on attack, and the speed with which an instantaneous strike of stick on drum, or finger on the string of a bass, are delivered.

And while the addition of the NPX 300 power supply doesn’t make the system go louder – it doesn’t hike the output power, after all –, what it does bring is even greater focus, and an even crisper view of the tonality of what’s being played. But while these are worthwhile gains, the power supply isn’t an immediate ‘must have’: the NSC 222 is more than impressive enough as is, before you decide whether or not to jump on the Naim upgrade merry-go-round.

What’s more, this new Naim pairing will do all this whether you connect it to your network via cabled Ethernet or Wi-Fi: I stuck to wired for stability, as there’s just so much Wi-Fi going on around these parts, but wireless streaming even of hi-res music is perfectly feasible, thanks to Naim’s in-house network audio technology. 


Combine all this performance with the Naim app, recently renamed ‘Focal & Naim’ as it will also control devices from the French stablemate, and you have one of the slickest and best-sounding streaming amplifier systems on the market: in many ways it’s like one of Naim’s Unitis on the grand scale – that’s how easy it is to use – but it also does a fine job of making true high-end audio totally fuss-free, losing much of the Naim quirkiness of the past while sacrificing none of the performance.


Simple to set-up and use, the Naims still benefit from some care in their installation: tempting though it may be to stack the two, they should really be kept as far apart as possible to minimise any interference between them. Naim (of course) suggests its stylish but pricey Fraim rack system, but any decent stand will do, with the power amp below the streaming preamp. Speakers? Well, the NAP 250 will drive almost anything, but quality is paramount: think the likes of the compact Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3 as a standmount minimum, while good floorstanding matches would start with the likes of the Neat Elite Classic or PMC twentyfive 23i and go upwards from there.

The new Naim classics: NSC 222 streaming pre amp and NAP 250 power amp

Listening notes

Anna Lapwood Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes

The whole of Anna Lapwood’s Images set is hugely atmospheric, being recorded on the organ of Ely Cathedral in the dead of night, but her transcription of Britten’s Sea Interludes, usually an orchestral showpiece, is nothing short of sensational. It flows from the ‘are you sure this isn’t strings?’ opening of Dawn to the massive chaotic thunder of the Storm, bringing out all the detail and power of the Naims.

Bonobo Otomo

This track from Simon Green’s seventh studio album, Fragments, links with the previous track, as the final night of Bonobo’s London residency saw Anna Lapwood thundering in on this track on the Royal Albert Hall organ – the spine-tingling magic can be seen and heard on YouTube. This album version lacks that dramatic intervention, but combines Bonobo’s infectious beats with a swirling choral sample, and throughout the set the superb sound quality gives the Naims plenty to work on.

BBC Radio 3 Between The Ears: Imagining the Permafrost

An appropriately chilling soundscape created for this outstanding BBC radio documentary series, designed to be heard on headphones, and it wraps itself around your ears via the NSC 222’s excellent headphone amplifier. It’s a somewhat unnerving listen, with voices and sounds apparently coming at you from all directions – if only more music was recorded like this.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

Mixing superb performance, solid build and simplicity of operation with subtle, purposeful styling – well, with all the illumination on the NSC 222 dimmed or turned off, anyway! –, Naim’s New Classics combine all the attributes of the company’s range with enhanced user-appeal. This is high-end audio with all the faff and fiddle taken away, and all the better for that.

Video review

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