Review of Kudos Titan 808s with Active New Naim NAP 250s

I was asked by Ross from Acoustica to pop to his house and review his new active system powered by the recently launched New Classic Naim Nap 250.  As a friend of Ross’ and of Acoustica’s I willingly agreed.

His system is ND555, 2x 555 DR power supplies, S1 pre amp and formally a Nap500 DR.  And of course Kudos Titan 808’s.  He uses a Chord M6 mains block and interconnects are a mixture of Chord Music and Chord Signature.  To keep things more Simple the Rel Subs were off for the duration of the listening.

Even though the NAP250’s had been set-up for a few days, before my arrival he had plugged in his NAP500 DR.  He had configured the system back to passive to let me familiarise myself with the room and the rest of the system.  The room is a fair bit larger than mine, the ceilings tall.  Ross hasn’t been in this house long so the sound treatment and room where mostly but not completely finished.  The system while still all Naim is different to mine as I have an ND555 with Nac 252, Supercap and Nap 300 DR.

From the off the 808’s were clearly doing their thing of grooving with the music.  808’s don’t jump out and grab you, they pull you into the music and envelope you.  I was struck by the width of the sound, maybe because the 808’s are designed to be forward facing with virtually no toe in, but instruments seemed to be coming from places well outside the speakers.  Lovely.  The system was striking a great balance between attack and refinement.  There was a spaciousness and scale to the sound that I attributed to the S1, having heard Acoustica’s demo unit at their shop.

You want it darker by Leonard Cohen was vivid, his deep soulful voice hanging in the air slightly above the speakers, the texture and richness of his voice was soul stirring, while the bass like was tight and rhythmic.  A bit of Allen Taylor showed a more flashy side to the system, cymbals and bells flicking from speaker to speaker, bass rumbling deeply below, while his voice confidently remained in the centre of the stage projected out far towards me.  With involvement like this I wondered could active even bring anything more to the table.  A few more songs and it was time for Ross to do the reconfiguration to active.

Once the Nap500 DR was removed and the necessary spaghetti junction of cabling to connect up the three Nap250’s was tidied up, I flicked on the same tracks.  For the first 5 seconds or so I wondered if Ross had cabled it up correctly, so different was the presentation.  Then as I became a bit more used to the sound I realised with slight disbelief I was having to reconfigure myself to adjust to the step change in sound.  Where the Nap500 had impressed the active configuration took things to a new level.

Active systems are not common things, and certainly in my case my ears are accustomed to hearing one amp driving a pair of speakers over the full frequency range through a passive crossover.  Seemingly, once you enable the amp to concentrate on just amplifying a set frequency range and connect it ‘directly’ to the speakers drive unit, it is nothing short of extraordinary.

This time Leonard’s voice seemed about a meter higher in the soundstage, more urgent and vivid.  The simple bass line that runs throughout this song seemed lean at first.  Then I realised that it was actually deeper, and just so much more controlled.  Effortlessly controlled in fact.  That’s a huge factor in the presentation change, everything no matter how loud you play it, how hard to push it, is effortless.  There is a level of transparency and accuracy that was simply missing with the passive configuration – as good as it was.  Looking at the specs the New Classic Nap 250 is even more powerful than a Nap 300 DR and having three of them on tap means there’s an almost unlimited amount of power – or that’s how it sounds to me.

The second time round Allen Taylor seemed to be playing slower, but this I think is  due to the fact that everything is operating with so much more precision and therefore sounds less ‘cluttered’.  My ever so slight scepticism of 10 mins earlier had disappeared and I flicked through tracks consuming one after the other in foot tapping bliss.  This is a hobby that an hour or two disappears in the blink of an eye if the system is doing what it should!

While I certainly won’t go as far as saying the new NAP250 outguns a Nap500, it is a deeply impressive amp and three of them active with Titan 808s does.  Whether that was the intention of Kudos or just the fact that an active crossover doesn’t suck out a decent proportion of power from even very powerful amps, I don’t know.  But I do know that if I owed 808’s I would absolutely have them active.

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