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Lovers of hare-brained acronyms might turn XS into eXtreme Spunk while factual readers will readily admit that this amp is fitted with way-above-average dynamic chops. No matter which, nobody will quip "jolly good, music - hey, what's on the telly?" after first power-up. Rather, Naim's medium-size integrated sez "hey, we're playing music, if you don't like it, veg out on the telly, and now, a'one, a'two, three and four". Forget the generic middle path.

But the Nait XS is no career neurotic with a permanent tick. First, speaker matching is uncomplicated, heavier loads are welcome and my experiments never veered into mismatches. Second, I only spotted a signature trait of élan, determination and timing rather than an eccentric personality. But it's possible that even that won't suit certain folks, for example those who are after holographic image sharpness and endless orchestral layering. Nothing here is two-dimensional or blurry but the recently tested Electrocompaniet Prelude PI-2 for example casts a grander stage with higher back illumination - admittedly an outright strength of the Norwegian which also costs an extra €500. On that count, the Naim is a solid mid-field player. Friends of ultimately extended, supremely resolved treble too might feel a mite shortchanged. Nothing is actively amiss but other amps manage more shimmer on high violin registers, a tick more sheen on cymbals. If that's what you need...

Anything but middle of the road are timing and dynamics and the particular excitement whereby the Nait XS renders the tunes. Particularly attractive was the impression that this sense of tempo and motion arose from the bass (exceptionally wiry and agile) and was not faked up with lit-up hyper presence. The Naim is very fast but realistic. It does not emphasize the leading edge to forget about sustain and decay. Tonally in fact it slightly leans towards the warm but don't mistake that for conventional clichés. Naim's XS is the muscular lean fit type, not the couch potato. And that's how it ought to be - if you ask me. If that has you assume me a sucker for timing, you're spot on. A suspension of disbelief isn't merely a function of properly beaming the sonic picture into the room but having the music come alive. Even though I've read that thousands of times, it doesn't make it trite when it actually happens.

Image is precisely the sensation I get when confronted by systems that ace all the usual parameters but in matters of timing, rhythmic fidelity and dynamics hang behind the beat. It makes for a perfectly exposed, perfectly focused photo with good contrast and 10.000.000 pixel resolution - but nothing more than a picture. Once timing and dynamics enter, the picture begins to move not as any enhancement to the picture per se but by shifting into a new medium of moving pictures or film. It's still imagery of course but on the move and hence more appropriate to capturing e-motion-s than a still photo. Some music lovers become surprisingly tolerant in order to kick their film into gear. Complaints by others that despite their moving pictures, 15 pixels of rez are lacking are brushed off with "just the usual irrelevant hifi criticisms". This type of listener lives for energy, movement and flow. I can readily appreciate that preference even though it occasionally gets expressed overly poetic and vague.

Naim's Nait XS is clearly highly vital and aces that infamous musical flow thang. But there's no premature clipping of tones, no transient-to-transient jumpiness which would be a wrong interpretation of the timing phenomenon, a video-clip aesthetic filled with hard cuts – fast, spectacular but relentless and quickly fatiguing. Not here. While the music rides the timing, it takes proper time to follow each tone to its proper end. Tonally, the Naim Nait XS knows how to differentiate and distinguish. Its tendency is more earthy than airy and bolstered by an extended, stout and quick bass on one end and a somewhat polite treble on the other. There is no imbalance implied since this isn't overdrawn. While some might miss a bit of caramel and lightness on female vocals, the properly grounded voices could be viewed also as an asset - at least if one doesn't listen to sighing elves day in day out. Naturally this signature extends also to instruments. The Naim knows that a guitar is predominantly wood and that's how it sounds. Ditto for piano and double bass. Admittedly, it's not very airy. Its currency is tactile body which many will consider more vital than the former.

In this regard, I found it very enlightening to experiment with Naim's Flatcap 2x upgrade dispatched by our German importer. Whether a €780 upgrade is sensible for a €1.700 integrated isn't for me to decide but this power supply can feed two Naim components to amortize the investment. Technically, the Flatcap merely supplies the first stages with "higher quality" DC. The output stage continues to run off the internal supply. Regardless (or
because), there's a sonic shift, not a complete reinvent but still a different sound. With the Cap, particularly the bass cracks even harder where even without assistance, it already was dry, low and bouncy. But more of a good thing is always nice. Depth layering clearly improved and lateral illumination of the stage increased to support better sorting into the depth. Lastly, the former tendency of "more wood than string" diluted since the upper octaves developed in clarity and resolution for now overall neutrality. I'm perhaps a slightly woody type since I really enjoyed the original character but horses for courses...

Liveliness before counting peas seems to be the Nait XS motto which conforms to my personal notions too. For somewhat tired systems, Naim's integrated is quite the wake up call, injecting a goodly dose of rhythmic drive without going overboard. Besides its sonic virtues, there's extensive socketry, an upgrade path, flawless fit and, not least, a fair price/performance quota. If you're shopping this price class, the Naim Nait XS definitely deserves an audition.

  • The Naim Nait XS is tonally balanced toward the earthy substantial side.
  • The bass is well developed, deep, energetic, growly when necessary and always articulate and on time. Anything but a wallflower or fun killer.
  • The treble is more polite than maximally lit up and illuminated.
  • This amp is very lively, with micro/macro dynamics well above its class. Music gains excitement and, desired or not, commands attention to dish out involvement and get the toes tapping.
  • Equally good then are rhythmic and timing fidelity without intruding into proper flow by foreshortening tones. There's flow and articulation.
  • Soundstaging is realistically proportioned and particularly incarnated body is praiseworthy. The actors rather step towards than away from the listener into the distance which matches the vital core trait. Depth layering is okay but can be improved, image focus is good but not in high relief.


  • Naim Nait XS
  • Category: Transistor integrated
  • Dimensions and weight: 70 x 432 x 301mm / 8,6 kg
  • Trim: Black
  • Output power: 2 x 60 watt into 8 ohm
  • Inputs: Six single-ended (4 x DIN or RCA, 1 x mini or RCA, 1 x DIN)
  • Outputs: Subwoofer (RCA), Tape (DIN), umbilical socket for phono stage (DIN), one pair of speaker terminals (banana only)
  • Other: Pre/power bridge (DIN), upgrade path to Naim external power supply, AV-bypass, remote included, automated input logic optional
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