This is a review of the Naim NAP 250 DR, the DR being the bit we are considering. Whilst a review of a power amplifier, such as this, with an on button at the front and just speaker terminals and an analogue input at the back, may appear to be a relatively simple task, the legendary status of the NAP 250 (pre-DR), first introduced in 1975, makes this an altogether more challenging proposition. I propose to undertake my review by highlighting (and necessarily re-assessing) my listening philosophy and methodology before proceeding to the review itself. I will compare the NAP 250 DR to my own NAP 250-2, which I can only say I used to be totally in love with, until recently, now I just love it!
I am reliably informed by a local Naim dealer that the arrival of the NAP 250-2, the new looking one which came out in 2002, was a step forward in style and presence but it was not quite as ‘Naim’ as the old Olive 250 to the legion of ‘Naim fanboys’ that made the brand what it is today. Those who talk about ‘Naim’s PRaT’, I gather will agree that the new NAP 250 DR is what the 250-2 should have been 14 odd years ago. In other words, it is a further leap forward ‘back to the old days’, from the previous upgrade, I hope to hear this for myself in the coming days. Tough job.
In 2011, Naim undertook its biggest project yet which led to the introduction of the Statement, a no holds barred pre and power amplifier combination that would set a new high benchmark for the amplification arena.
In developing their flagship project it was clear that two major component developments were required to deliver the very best that were worthy of Naim’s flagship product. The first was the co-development (with a semi-conductor manufacturer) of a ceramic insulated
transistor. The ceramic material provides consistent temperature control and therefore performance. The second was the development of a new Discrete Regulator (the DR bit), which stabilises and smooths out the power supply to the electronics in the power amplifier. A quick look at Naim’s website will show you how important power supplies are to the efficient and effective performance of high-end electronics.
A natural progression of this R&D was to trickle down the technology and learning to the other power supply and amplifier products and the 250 on review here is a result of these brilliant innovations.
Overall, of course, the power amplifier should be doing just that, amplifying the signal from the pre-amplifier and driving the speakers and so really it should be adding little or nothing to the end result presented. Of course, it will and it does and this presents the characteristics of the electronics.
The NAP 250 DR is a blockbuster with plenty of power, 80W into 8 Ohms, and a very low noise floor from the new electronics. The lower noise floor promotes musical
I suppose the only issue some may have with this NAP 250, or any Naim power amplifier is the connectivity, there is only a single DIN style analogue input designed to come from a Naim pre-amplifier using the cable included. Once Naim has got you, as I know only to well, they have you and a journey begins.
Reviewing the NAP250 DR
I was struck by the fact that I generally listen to the same bits of music and listen for certain characteristics so that I can critically compare, for example, different DACs. I think this gives me, basically as a consumer with experience, the opportunity to talk about Resolution, Soundstage and Tonality, etc. without turning into a parody of an audiophile reviewer. For example, I use the Ryan Adams’ ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ for listening to Resolution because the recordings are so clean (they’re live) and there’s so much atmosphere to hear in the tracks and the Hall (and I really love his music). I have the high-quality PaxAm downloads.
This way of listening is something of the philosophy I have for this site, I’m trying to be as real world as possible and not use daft jargon whilst talking about three and a half thousand pound boxes.
The Joy of DR – First Impressions
Having said all that, I just plugged in the DR, let it warm up for a couple of days and let rip playing random music I have not heard for years, such was the ‘Joy of DR’. For example, I went from Amos Lee to Zomboy; BB King to Yo Preston; then it was back to James Bay’s ‘Chaos and The Calm’ then Queen’s ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ (all of it)!
The first impression is of an ease of delivery with the speakers seemingly warmer in parts. The presence is tremendous with the soundstage dominant. Bass presentation is simply epic with all forms of music, though I think I woke up the sheep in the nearby field playing Zomboy’s EDM anthem, ‘Terror Squad‘. What a sound and what a joyful couple of hours just playing any and all music again.
If you can listen to the superbly versatile NAC-N 272 in combination with a 250 DR, then get a lottery ticket
My set-up for this review is the Naim NAC-N 272 pre-amplifier, Atlas Mavros speaker cables and Atlas EOS power leads (RF shielded). The speakers used are KEF R700 floor standing speakers. I have my own NAP 250 so the comparison is with this.
First off, I’m bound to report that the KEF R700 speakers are at their limit here and whilst they have been great servants for several years now, they’re probably out of their depth, such is the power and dynamic performance offered by both my own NAP 250 and the new 250 DR. So with that in mind (I’m working on some other speakers), how does the DR compare?
Without a doubt the DR delivers a more forceful bass, it is deeper and punchier, and I love it, though the R700s struggle to keep up with pacier tracks. I suppose the cleaner and more forceful drive from the DR is moving more air than before and thus giving greater power in the bass. This is the case with all types of music, classical, vocal or rock or pop. Mid-ranges and vocals are superbly and evenly delivered and this is where the R700s can keep up, with the beautiful KEF Uni-Q driver.
With the bass presentation comes a more forceful Soundstage as I have already mentioned. It is deeper than the 250, maybe further back but not pushed out of the way. I like it (a lot more); it is very open and enjoyable for me, anyway.
In my view, the Resolution is an improvement on the old 250. In Ryan Adams’ ‘New York New York’, I can actually hear the pedals as he plays the piano and moves his feet, something I have not noticed before. The atmosphere of the ‘Carnegie Hall’ recordings crackle, as I’m sure they did on the night of the recording. Turning to Yo Preston’s explicit recording of Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’, you can clearly hear great finger movement on the electric guitar and the clicking fingers of his accompanist (Kelly Kiara).
The key improvement with the DR is the Dynamic performance from the amplifier. On complex pieces, delivery feels seamless from quiet to loud. There is plenty of power and pace here. I usually dive in for a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughn here. Channel separation is at least as wide and separate as the original 250; using Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’.
How do I go back to the 250? Well I have no choice but I’m not too hard up am I? Because most of my listening is indie, vocal and acoustic, I can probably cope for a while non-DR. The only problem I have surely highlighted is my speakers now need to upgrade to the stellar leagues of the NAC-N 272 and the NAP 250 (DR).
If you can, get yourself a listen to the superbly versatile NAC-N 272 in combination with a 250 then get a lottery ticket, but this really is high times for listening to great music, beautifully.