Naim NAC-N 272
Naim NAC-N 272
Naim NAC-N 272

Naim NAC-N 272: Compact and slim preamplifier

The Naim NAC-N272 features a signature slim design whose elegant simplicity is commendable. The die-cast aluminum façade is divided into three zones. The central one, slightly recessed, at first glance seems purely decorative – there is only a green-lit logo located here. On the right is the indication zone – a five-line OLED display capable of displaying a lot of data about the track being played or the status of the player (the readings are large and easy to read from a long distance even with strong external light). Nearby is a control zone, so to speak, for discrete functions: track selection buttons, menu options, input and playback mode.

On the front panel there is a USB A input for gadgets and flash drives (on the rear there is a mini-USB for software updates), plus a headphone output (6.3 mm) and volume control borrowed from the Nait XS2. In this arrangement, the desire of the developers to separate the digital and analog signal processing units is clearly visible.

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In an effort to minimize signal interference, the designers divided the switching area into two parts. On the left side there is an input for a wired connection to the Internet/LAN (Ethernet connector RJ-45), antenna jacks for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an optional FM/DAB tuner unit, three digital audio signal inputs each – optical (Toslink) and electrical (2xBNC and RCA), RCA output. Plus service ports: input/output of remote control signals, as well as a miniUSB port for software upgrades. The right half of the panel is given over to analog inputs/outputs, organized in accordance with the preferences (the language dares not say “prejudices”) of the company, not only on RCA connectors, but also on 5-pin DIN sockets (experienced audiophiles remember them very well – they were equipped with Soviet tape recorders of the 70s).

Fairly believing that the sound of any audio component is largely determined by the quality of the supply voltage, the developers equipped the NAC-N272 with the ability to operate from an external proprietary Naim XP5 XS, XPS or Naim 555PS power supply (it connects to a non-standard socket located between the outputs and inputs). The interests of the owner of the vinyl turntable are also taken into account: it is possible to disconnect the “ground” from the turntable chassis.

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There is not an inch of free space under the hood. About a fifth of the space is occupied by a toroidal linear power supply transformer, and this is for a device that consumes just over 20 W! It is the same as that of the Naim ND5 XS player – 380 VA, as well as seven secondary windings, which made it possible to organize separate power supply for digital and analog circuits (there is optical isolation between them). The board topology is optimized; the signal circuits use custom film capacitors and resistors with a tolerance within 1% (as the company writes, they are hand-selected from the original batch with a 5% tolerance). Much attention was paid to optimizing the circuit topology – signal paths are made as short as possible, wiring is kept to a minimum.

For digital-to-analog conversion, the following algorithm is used: the input data is read into a buffer, then subjected to 16 times oversampling and digital filtering using a 32-bit SHARC processor. This is necessary to maximize the matching and reduce noise of the signal entering the DAC (Texas Instruments PCM1791a chip). The analog preamplifier is assembled according to a traditional design based on discrete elements selected as a result of expert listening. The volume control is hybrid. It is a mechanical switch of logical signal levels, i.e. combines the advantages of analog (ease of operation, lack of distortion) and digital (smooth control, ideal level matching) regulators. By the way, the same one controls the volume of the flagship Statement NAC S1 preamplifier.

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The headphone amplifier is a separate circuit – single-ended, operating in class A, which should provide close to ideal sound quality. A special circuit matches the amplifier to the impedance of the connected headphones. All analog input connectors are secured using vibration-sensitive mechanical decoupling (such as an LP player) to ensure that vibrations are not transmitted through the cables to the connected component. The motherboard is attached to the chassis with specially designed bolts that provide a high degree of damping. Assembly takes place by hand at the Naim plant in the UK, in the city of Salisbury, about twenty miles northwest of the ports of Southampton.

As you can see, the digital-to-analog converter and preamplifier path of the Naim NAC-N 272 are assembled according to all the canons of H-Fi science. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the capabilities of this device. When connected to a local network, the Naim NAC-N 272 is capable of playing audio files up to 24-bit/192 kHz or DSD64 stream from an audio server, network storage device or any computer. Records of almost any type are read – WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis and MP3.

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Audio from a personal gadget can be played via Bluetooth with support for the latest aptX codec or via a USB interface. Connect your player to the World Wide Web, and it gives you access to millions of songs stored on the popular Spotify service, or thousands of Internet radio stations through vTuner 5. Pre-setup is quick and painless. The menus are simple and intelligible, and the player connects to the local network literally in the blink of an eye. Of course, high-resolution files are reliably played only with a wired connection.

There are no complaints about the included remote control, but most users will probably prefer to control the player from a portable gadget through a proprietary application. It has already been modified several times and now works almost flawlessly – for both Android and iOS devices.

Characteristics of Naim NAC-N 272

Audio inputs: 3 linear stereo (1xDIN, 2xRCA), 6 digital (1xBNC, 2xRCA, 3xTosLink), 2 USB (front USB B, rear miniUSB for upgrade)
Service inputs: Ethernet, IR receivers
Audio outputs: linear stereo (1 x RCA), from preamp (2xDIN, 1xRCA), to 6.3 mm headphones
Digital audio outputs: coaxial (BNC)
Operating frequency range: 4 Hz – 40 kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: 87 dB
Playable audio formats: WAV and AIFF (up to 32bit/192kHz), FLAC (up to 24bit/192kHz), ALAC (up to 24bit/96kHz), WMA (up to 16bit/48kHz), Ogg Vorbis (up to 16bit/48kHz), MP3 , M4a (up to 320 kbps), Playlists (M3U, PLS), DSF64 or DFF64, tear-free playback on MP3, M4A, AIFF, WAV, FLAC and ALAC.
Consumption: 21 W
Dimensions: 87x432x314 mm
Weight: 12.5 kg