Firstly, Let’s just look at the Naim NAC-N 272. Quality comes with the badge. Weighing in at a hefty 13kg this is an exercise in marrying the analogue world with the modern digital era and this is a product to last a lifetime. Noticeable is that the board at the back for the connecters and interconnectors is suitably loose, to reduce vibration in the case and enhance performance, nothing is left to chance in the pursuit of quality. I have no remote but I’m sure there is one, as there is with my Uniti2, and it will be nicely weighty too and supports the quality you would hope for a this price.
There is a headphone output at the front, a satisfying 6.35mm headphone jack, that I prefer.
A further nod to the quality of the product is shown by the sophistication of the ‘mute’ button which I found when the phone rang whilst I was listening to some music. I had a hunch leaning on the backlit logo on the front might do something and sure enough this is a mute button. Very cute.
The analogue wirings in the box itself are all connected by hand to ensure quality is delivered consistently. The board itself is raised on shoulder bolts, as we can see to the right, to reduce vibrations and tertiary interference.
The volume control comes from the Naim flagship product, the Naim Statement NAC S1, £57,000 pounds worth of pre-amplification. This is digitally controlled analogue volume mechanism that ensures the highest control is maintained.
The Naim NAC-N 272 is familiarly muscular and it goes without saying it is beautiful to look at (if you like that sort of thing, I do). It is a pre-amp so a power amplifier is required. I have the legendary Naim NAP 250, the perfect partner. Combined with the best interconnectors and a Naim supplied DIN analogue connector to the NAP there is no better combination.
There is a wide array of inputs that will allow a new entrant to this game put this product at the front and centre of their adventure. There are six 24 bit /192kHz digital inputs, three of which are optical.
The onboard DAC supports a broad range of music formats: WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, AAC, DSF64 and DFF64, Windows Media-formatted files, Ogg Vorbis and MP3. The Naim NAC-N 272 supports the DSD through SPDIF and UPnP. DSD is the single bit but very high sample rate format that is used in SACDs. The SACDs I’ve heard have been sparkling and so this could be the next phase of digital music. Although the file sizes are very big, I gather.
There is a Bluetooth AptX audio codec in here as well, the ariel is at the back, and also a USB input at the front, that is ‘Made for iPod’. This is all neatly on the front for accessibility.
The network connection is at the back and the UPnP can be controlled with ease using the Naim App.
DAB/DAB+/FM is available as a £295 factory-installed option
Power Supply upgrades for the NAC are available.
Naim NAC-N 272 Phono Input
Output to the NAP 250 is through a Naim DIN style interconnect. There are a couple of RCA outputs as well.
I’m testing the Naim NAC-N 272 alongside the Naim NAP 250. Using well run-in Atlas Macros speaker cable into some trusty B&W CM7s, at their limit with this input but poised and familiar enough to count. I have played a variety of sources including a NAS drive full of 24 bit and other FLAC sources, iPod, Bluetooth from Android, Vinyl through RCA connectors and Tidal Music Streaming.
Naim NAC-N 272 Performance
I have played with this a good few weeks now on either iPad, iOS or my Android Nexus 5. Control is good, although I am familiar and happy with the App anyway. Volume control from the front of the machine is smooth and satisfying. There is a mute button on the logo at the front for when the your neighbour phones and you’re bouncing to ‘Knife Party’ and you have the volume at ’55’ (more of a reflection on the NAP, tbh).
Class A Headphone Amplifier
The headphone output is good, not exceptional for me, but little is lost in presentation. If you love your headphones, you may be doing different things anyway. I was listening with Focal Spirit Classics and Oppo PM-2s. I must say, it is nice to have the 6.35mm jack for a change.
Quality from the ‘Made of iPod’ USB is good enough, although I’m not sure why you would use this regularly . The sound always loses a bit in translation from source to rip to iTunes to playlist to lead to USB input. I heard a good close comparison using an ALAC copy of Daniel Barenboim’s Chopin Nocturne No.2 in E♭Opus 9, 2 on the iPod and a FLAC copy on the NAS drive and there was a good result really. If I was choosing, I would always goto the UPnP stream, App control is so simple that any thoughts you may have on the convenience of the iPod are dismissed using the App. Playlists are very simple to set-up.
I’ve got a Rega RP6 at the moment (beautiful, see review next week). Because I cannot use my Stageline Phono stage I am using a rather limited alternative. However the depth of presentation from wonderful vinyl is passed on beautifully by the NAC and I have no complaints at all, using the best RCA interconnects I have.
Overall Performance using FLAC and other Digital Sources
The level of detail on offer from the Naim NAC-N 272 is to behold; sounds are translated and come across in crystal clear form. Listening to ‘Life After Deaf’ on Tidal, Ryan Adams’ Cork concert, the soundstage is wide and deep, his voice at the rear of the stage; a cough in the right hand speaker, during ‘Blue Hotel’ makes you look right in annoyance at whoever interrupted the moment. Wonderful. The fact that you hear everything suggests to me that the NAC is just doing its job and staying neutral to the artist and his producer. I think this is good.
Dynamically, and given the transparency emerging from the NAC, I have no complaints over the sound. I do understand that a Naim set-up can come across as angular or overly muscular but I hear little of this. Since I am used to the speakers I have I can hear they are on the edge but the tones are warm and clear and Chopin’s Nocturnes have seldom sounded better.
I’ve been recently been using ‘Telegraph Road’ by Dire Straits, the fourteen and a half minute mini rock opera, as a bit of a test bed. It has power and pace and dynamic range. The NAC handles the track with ease. There is so much to enjoy in the music and hear that there is no time to worry about how it sounds, you just enjoy the moments.
My Naim NAC-N 272 Highlights
it had a phono supply, good job it does not!
it was cheaper
Naim NAC-N 272 Verdict
I have, and love, the Naim Uniti 2, which is an all in one streamer/CD with an integrated amplifier , therefore has the pre and power bit in it. It is limited and these limitations are laid bare to hear when listening to the package on test above. It does, however cost 40% as much. If I was starting again, and had the money, I’d start here, for sure. But you would then need to buy a power amplifier to do it justice, a CD player, maybe server to match up the source quality to the delivery. But it’s lovely and I really want one.
The Naim NAC-N 272 is retailing at £3,300 plus £295 for the FM/DAB/DAB+ module. A NAP 250 DR (the latest one) is £3,495.