What Cable You Upgrade First?

The job of a cable is to get signal from A to B without any loss or distortion. A good cable will minimise loss/distortion without altering the signature of the sound. Since any distortion will get amplified, it makes sense to first focus on where the signal is weakest when buying cabling. This means starting at the source and working towards the power amp as the signal (and any distortion) may travel through multiple boxes, being amplified at least 2 times.

This would be great advice if you were using any brand other than Naim, but because they are unique in using the DIN system, so are the design flaws that inherent to it. This is not to say there aren’t advantages to using the DIN system which fit Naim’s philosophy in building amps, but negating the associated issues can make a big difference. This was the essential start point of the Hatpin range, to correct Naim’s pitfalls with clever engineering. Now, with our new Morgana range, we’re really pushing the boat out!

Below is the order we recommend you should be upgrade your interconnect cables. If you don’t have the component, simply skip it until you do.

  1. Signal only XLR for NAP250, 135, 300, 145, and 500

When Naim created the 250, it decided to break its habit of using DIN for the popular XLR plug. However, this was only because it was a convenient 3 prong connection and not because they wanted the balanced design (Naim wire L/R vs 1/-1). The reason this is unique to the 250, 135 and later 300, 145 and 500 is because these power amps don’t have the capability to power pre amps and thus don’t need the extra pin.

So far so good, until you find out that they used no shielding whatsoever. In fairness, this was done at a point when Naim didn’t believe cables could make a difference, but this is an issue which has not been corrected in 44 years. Maybe they don’t want to admit they were wrong, maybe they don’t want to go through the R&D process again, who knows? What is known is that the original cable is highly susceptible to interference and simple shielding makes a huge difference.

  1. Burndy for 52, 252, Superline, SNAXO and Possibly 552

One of Naim’s core beliefs is that power is king and everything should be grounded to it. This is why all audio signal goes through the preamp’s power supply before it continues to the power amp. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea though I am not sure our engineers would necessarily do the same with a blank sheet.

The problem is that they send all of the audio and power down that big burndy (the SNAIC is used for digital power supplies) and whilst it is shielded from the outside world, the audio is not shielded from 8 rails of power also going through the cable. In our Hatpin 18, we used a dual shielding method of first shielding the audio independently and then the cable as a whole. We are planning to release an upgrade version for our Burndy in the next 12 months which we are very excited about.

  1. Power Supply SNIAC for Preamps, Superline, NAXO, SNAXO

As with the Burndy cable, Naim sends both the power and audio down this 240-degree 5 pin DIN connected to a Hicap or Flatcap before it goes onto its destination. Even with the NAITs, Naim treats the preamp and power amp as separate so the audio signal still travels through the power supply. As the audio signal is vulnerable to internal interference, it needs independent shielding.

In some instances, there is no audio signal going through the Hicap. This is typically with 82/282 where there are methods of setting it up to avoid that happening. In these, there is no point of upgrading the cable. If you are unsure whether it would benefit from an upgrade, please contact us and we can advise.

  1. 4 pin DIN Interconnects

If you are using a power amp other than the 135, 145, 250, 300 or 500 then there are live power lines going from the power amp into its source device. This is handy if you don’t have an external power supply powering the pre amp, but even if you don’t, the power lines are live going the power supply; they just don’t connect. This means that in either case there is the potential for internal interference coming from power lines which both tiers of our cable protect against.

  1. Source Signal Only Cables

The standard lavender cable doesn’t have any inherent flaws to improve upon. So the cable needs to have an advanced signal conductor or shielding to get any sonic improvement. The signal is at its weakness here though so extra care should be taken to prevent distortion from being amplified through both the pre and power amps.

If cost is a factor then you should invest in the source that you listen to most as that’s what will give you most benefit but turntables are the most vulnerable as their signal strength is weaker than digital sources.

  1. Other Signal Only Interconnects

Finally, we have the signal only interconnects. These are few are far between in a full Naim system because as explained at point 4, even when the power amp isn’t powering the pre, the power rails remain active. There are instances such as with the Uniti Atom and when you connect Naim to non-Naim where phonos are in use. These are signal only and will only benefit from our new Morgana range as we use an upgraded signal conductor and dielectric.

  1. Power Only Interconnects

It’s worth mentioning that there will be no benefit from upgrading power only interconnects unless you wanted the secondary factors such as improved flexibility and usability. This is also true for Burndy cables (except the HP18 for Supercap) so it’s best to invest elsewhere.

Our New Morgana Interconnects have launched today for preorder and will be 20% off until midnight on Monday 22nd April. If you are purchasing 3 or more you can get 25% off and there is an additional discount if you are directly replacing one our older cables. Click the link here to view the store or email directly on mitch@witchhat.co.uk if you have any questions.

2 thoughts on “What Cable You Upgrade First?

  1. Roger Staton says:

    Are the morgana cables set to replace the hatpin cables or are they an upgrade? I can’t find any prices for the morganas.
    Is there a trade in scheme from hatpin cables – I use 4 with my 82/2xhicaps/135s – to the morganas?

  2. Andrew Boarder says:

    I notice that the Naim 202/200 combo didn’t get much of a mention in the article. My 202 is powered by a HiCap and NAPSC. Is there anything here that will make a difference? Thank you.

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