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Audio Affair - A Very Modern Affair (Part 3) - System 3– My Naima is...

12/11/2013 8:53:36 PM
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System 3– My Naima is...

For this ultimate demo of the Audio Affair portfolio the speakers come courtesy of KEF whose Reference range is a very popular part of the store lineup. Although this is a system with a fairly substantial price tag, the dimensions are still something that a standard lounge could take without being dominated.

Description: $3,074.61 Naim ND5 XS

$3,074.61 Naim ND5 XS

The minimal controls, the multitude of glowing logos and the acres of brushed black metalwork combine to give a palpable sense of purpose to this front end. The choices are interesting, though. The NAC 252 preamp and attendant Super Cap power supply are from a good deal further up the range than the ND5 XS Streamer that fronts the system. The consensus among the Audio Affair team is that Naima’s baby streamer does an awful lot right and there is more to be gained by spending out a bit more on the amplification than on the digital. The ND5 XS takes its files from a UnitiServ rip NAS that allows for ripping, tagging and storage in one smart and compact package.

Description: $8,832.52 Naim NAC 252

$8,832.52 Naim NAC 252

Towers of power

Fronting the system is the KEF Reference 205/2. The middle of three floor standers in the Reference range, the 205/2 does an impressive job of hiding its mighty dimensions. Built around a pair of substantial 8in drivers and the distinctive housing that contains a 6.5in Uni-Q driver that mounts a titanium dome tweeter coaxially in the time-honored fashion of KEF speakers, the 205/2 is business-like in a refined sort of way. The satin walnut finish is handsome and discrete, but if this is all a bit grown up, you can order them sprayed fire engine red.

Description: $3,433.98 Naim unitiserv

$3,433.98 Naim unitiserv

One of the more surprising things I realize when sitting down to listen to this system is I don’t recall ever hearing these two brands combined before. Like the first system, the behavioral traits of the two brands are still readily identifiable, but they complement each other in a way that is to the benefit of both.

Description: $6,061.37 Naim super cap

$6,061.37 Naim super cap

With Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder’s Talking Timbuktu, the Naima accuracy and agility is all there – indeed it is quite uncanny how these electronics come across as like the SuperUniti, but enhanced, extended and simply more visceral. The KEFs take these traits and add the focus and exceptional sound staging that the carefully evolved Uni-Q driver is renowned for. There is also a clear demonstration that there is no substitute for cubic capacity when it comes to the bass. The twin 8in drivers take the detailed and substantial low end that the Naima stack can generate and lends it an authority that is only apparent when you switch to something less capable.

Packing a punch

It is perfectly capable of a bit of wanton aggression, too. Switching to the high-res FLAC of Scratch Massive’s Communion gives the bass drivers something to chew on and the way that this system pounds through the massive slabs of live electronica is deeply entertaining. There is something impossibly entertaining about the way this concentrated collection of fastidious engineering will let loose and hammer out bass lines like a PA system if you want it to. The sheer grip that is exerted over the bass is truly outstanding.

Description: $9,583.20 Kef reference 205/2

$9,583.20 Kef reference 205/2

The price tag is not inconsiderable, but spend any time with this system and you won’t find yourself questioning it. The way it can go from outstanding delicacy to pile-driving force in an instant without losing tonal accuracy or shrinking that phenomenal soundstage is deeply addictive. When you consider the superb build, easy upgradability and handsome appearance, it is easy to see why the Audio Affair team puts this at the top of the tree.

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