Naim Classic and Sennheiser Conversation
Naim New Classic Range
The latest in a string of venerable HiFi companies celebrating a 50th anniversary, Naim Audio arrived at CES 2023 with a three-strong New Classic range of high-end electronics, comprising the NSC 222 streaming pre-amplifier, a new version of the iconic NAP 250 power amplifier, and the NPX 300 power supply upgrade. (Naim has long championed the notion that a high-quality power supply is of the utmost importance to the performance of audio gear). These new components will sell for $8,999 each, here in the USA.
From designing in our best-ever performance at this level, to added features and flexibility, to eco-friendly elements – New Classic products use less than 0.5W in standby – we’ve combined our 50 years of experience with the very latest technology to redefine home HiFi.
— Steve Sells, Head of Engineering (Hardware) at Naim Audio
The NSC 222 streaming preamp is a CES 2023 Innovation Awards honoree thanks in part to its uncompromising approach to do-it-all performance. Its streaming platform and internal DAC will handle everything from Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, and Apple Music to digital files up to 32bit/384kHz. It’s Roon Ready, and supports both Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. There’s a built-in MM phono stage for vinyl-lovers, and a state-of-the-art headphone amp taken from the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. A 5.5-inch color display and illuminated volume control make the NSC a pleasure to use, according to Naim.
The new sixth-generation NAP 250 stereo power amp features trickle-down technology from Naim’s flagship 746W Statement amplifier ($100,000), including an eddy-current circuit breaker between the speaker outputs. The amp delivers 100W per channel of Class A/B power with full power regulation. The custom-designed heatsink promises to keep the amp running relatively cool, and true balanced XLR inputs ensure a low-noise connection to the NSC 222 (or the balanced preamp of your choice).
Finally, the NPX 300 power supply promises to upgrade the performance of the NSC 222. When connected to the NPX 300, the NSC 222 automatically disables its internal power supply, reducing the noise floor significantly, according to Naim. The NPX 300 promises to provide cleaner power for quieter backgrounds and a more fluid sound, thanks to a new transformer and six exclusive Naim power regulators with Discrete Regulator (DR) technology. The NPX 300 isn’t just for the NSC 222; it can be used to upgrade a variety of other Naim products. You can even use a pair of NPX 300 power supplies with a single preamp — one for the digital section and one for the analog section. (At $9K apiece, however, buying the NPX 300 in pairs is not for the faint of wallet.)
Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus
As wireless earbuds go, the $850 Conversation Clear Plus from Sennheiser isn’t cheap either, but this new offering has some clever technology at work thanks to Sonova, the Swiss hearing care company that acquired Sennheiser’s consumer electronics division in 2021. In addition to the de rigueur active noise cancellation, the Conversation Clear Plus uses “automatic scene detection” to analyze background noise in real time and improve call quality by applying an appropriate level of speech enhancement processing. In a nod to Sonova’s expertise in hearing aids, the Conversation Clear Plus can also be used to improve speech intelligibility in face-to-face conversations in environments where background noise levels make it difficult to hear. Think noisy restaurants, echoey gyms, or busy city streets. In the latter, you can take advantage of the Ambient Awareness mode, which lets you dial in how much ambient sound you want to hear.
There’s also a “Relax” setting, which lets you choose how silent you want the world to be, while the “Communication” setting automatically optimizes the sound for conversation, and the “Streaming” setting automatically optimizes for media consumption. The 9-hour battery life should get you through your day, and the charging case provides another 27 hours of play time. The Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus should be shipping by the time you read this.
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