Bartók's best connection to a Naim NAC 282 Preamp

Whilst I wait for my new Bartók to arrive, and as part of my cables upgrade, I thought it may be good to get the best connection possible, between the Bartók and my Naim NAC 282 Preamp.

I am given to understand that dCS prefer a balanced output if using a preamp. The issue I have, is that all Naim preamps are ‘unbalanced’. Unless of course, you opt for their ‘big boys toy’…The ‘Statement’.
I’m thinking you can’t, or it’s not ideal, to have balanced connections on one end, and unbalanced connections on the other end. Correct?..If this is the case, then RCA is the only option.

Until my Bartók arrives, I have an AudioQuest ‘Victoria’ RCA, from my DAC to the preamp. Can I better the Victoria, without going overboard?

Thanks :+1:

Correct. It is not just a question of the connectors ( you could construct a cable with RCAs one end and XLRs at the other but it will not be balanced).

A balanced connection requires implementation in the output/input circuitry of the components being connected by using additional components or transformers. This is because the signal is split into two inversely polarised ones at the send end. At the receive end you effectively only amplify the difference between the two phases as that is the wanted signal whereas any spurious noise picked up will be the same for both and is rejected. You cannot do this with just the wire and connectors.

Note that some preamplifiers offer XLR inputs/outputs but are still not balanced.

BTW, do not use adaptors of the RCA one end, XLR the other variety. You still will not achieve a balanced connection and will pay the price with impaired sound quality.

Try the AQ cable and if you like it keep it. There is an almost endless choice of alternative coax cables all with their individual flavours which may or may not best suit your tastes, not only taking account of the dCS/Naim connection, but also in respect of their contribution to the overall sound of your system.

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Thank you Pete for that information. I will do that.

Is it to do with the manufacturer’s own preamp DNA? One wonders, if balanced is known to be better, why do they even bother with unbalanced?

The answer is cost and complexity. Further many manufacturers, including Naim, have felt that given the relatively short runs of cable in domestic set ups there is a smaller chance of spurious noise being a problem making the added complexity of balanced connection excessive. The continually increasing levels of RFI and EMI experienced these days, especially by city dwellers, may make that debatable.

Of course the introduction of balanced connection for home audio is a recent phenomenon. Go back thirty years and it will only be found on a selection of very high end equipment predominantly from US manufacturers. Only since then has it become more common and to be found on some less costly products. Of course whilst some equipment offers only balanced differential connection other products are fully differentially balanced throughout. This effectively doubles the component count of the circuitry hence it is mostly restricted to more costly gear.

Of course as balanced connection is not universal most makers providing balanced connection also have to cater for single ended.

Finally not everyone generally likes the sound of balanced connection anyway finding it darker and more closed in than single ended ( they say. I respect their subjective opinion).

Chord Co. Cables are your friend. Most of us with non Naim streamers use their RCA>DIN cable. While I would not recommend it I have been using a Chord Music RCA>DIN cable between my 552 and Linn KDS, and now Rossini, for years. For the 282 I would use something from one of Chord’s lower ranges such as Signature.
By the way I have owned every Naim pre - imho the 282 hits the sweet spot for value performance…



I think I can make a small contribution here: I found, connecting a dCS Puccini to my pre-amp/headphone amp (Benchmark HPA4), that I could hear the difference between the Signature interconnect and the Sarum Super Aray. Rats! I thought, and reluctantly paid the extra. However, looking on the bright side, Sarum is a darn sight cheaper than Music.


Well Merlot52 did say that he didn’t want to go overboard with the cable. I guess that many of us would think 2,000 gbp ( “Prices from”) for an RCA to DIN cable could reasonably be considered overboard. I am not knocking the idea just wondering if it meets Merlot52’s brief ?

If he does want to try an RCA/DIN connection he could try the ever reliable Designacable where they make one using Mogami cable for marginally less expenditure:

I have ATC SCA2 preamp and have always used a balanced XLR connection because ATC recommends it first (the same is true for dCS). But recently I was given RCA cables for a while and I was very surprised that the RCA connection sounds better and louder (louder is a minus for me).
Now I’m trying to figure out why this happened. But I like the way the music sounds through the RCA connection.

More details and more foundation. It seems that the power has increased. I tried to raise the volume level higher with a balanced connection, but still I do not get such benefits as from the RCA connection.

Thanks Pete for that Link. How long is a piece of string? Or, in this case, a piece of cable! I would be looking to spend around £500-£600. Not £2,000.
AQ do some cables around this figure. Yes, I do appreciate that it’s not all about the price of something.

Rather than RCA to RCA, would there be any benefit in RCA (Bartók) to DIN (Naim) ?

The main questions to ask are ; are the RCA and XLR cables the same and what is the power amp that is connected?

I too have an ATC SCA2 amongst my preamps and I also have available two sets of long interconnects for connection to the speaker amps both Harmonic Technology Truthlink , one RCA/RCA single ended, the other XLR/XLR balanced. It is some years since I compared them but recall hearing no significant difference in sound quality so long as the volume control was used to equalise the output levels.

Perhaps I ought to go back and repeat the comparison but I am loath to undertake a re-installation. So, unless you advise me to the contrary, I assume that what you are hearing in part may be the difference between two different cable formulations.

The reason why RCA is louder than XLR is if the input sensitivity of the connected amplifier is higher for RCA than XLR or if the the XLR cable has a higher resistance than the one used for RCA ( or both). However If everything is working correctly the SCA has a higher output for balanced than single ended ( quoted by ATC as 15V balanced and 7.5V unbalanced both into 600 ohms).

Or are you in fact talking about the input connections? The RCA inputs on the SCA2 are more sensitive than the XLR ones so , yes, it will be louder.

NB: louder often seems to provide better sound even if it actually isn’t as there is a psychoacoustic effect at work. You need to use a meter to ensure that the comparative volumes are within <1dB of each other.

Hi Pete, I don’t have identical RCA and XLR cables. But I checked 5 RCA cables and the same amount of XLR. The RCA was always louder.
It’s not even about the volume level, but about the music playback in general. Connection using RCA sounds more complete.
I want to measure the Bartok’s output level for RCA and XLR. And also measure the inputs and outputs of ATC peramp.
As an amplifier, I have amp-packs of active ATC 50. It is always a XLR connection between amps and preamp))

I have been using the XLR connection for a long time and tried to listen with different levels of loudness, tried to use different gain levels, different XLR cables. But now I hear the improvement precisely from the use of the RCA connection between the DAC and the preamp. And I can’t explain it yet.

I will investigate further and inform you about the results. Until you need to get SCA2 preamp from the pantry) Unless you want to help me figure this out))

From a theoretic point of view this is not the best arrangement but this is not available to you ; DIN/DIN. There is a good explanation of some relevant points on the Naim Forum:

However this mainly indicates why RCA/RCA is not the best solution to connection in general. However, for historic reasons we are currently stuck with it as a de facto standard.

A very practical point however is that RCA/DIN cables are as rare as hen’s teeth. I think that will more or less limit you to Chord or Designacable. If you like AQ from prior experience then perforce you will need to use RCA/RCA. That consideration goes for most other brands .

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Yes, that is exactly what I mentioned :

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I don’t have any experience of the ATC pre-amp. A glance - and it was only a glance - at the manual and a Hi-Fi News review did not turn up anything to suggest that the amp has balanced circuitry all the way through. If that is the case, perhaps it explains why the RCA connection sounds better. It would actually be the more ‘direct’ of the two types of connection.

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Interestingly, both ATC and dCS recommend using a XLR connection if possible. I also asked this question to them - they were surprised and offered to carry out measurements and a deeper investigation.

If this is the preamp peculiarity, then maybe I should use a XLR to RCA cable?

The reason for recommending XLR over RCA is that it offers lower noise due to common mode noise cancellation. It isn’t to do with sound quality in the sense of bass, treble, midrange, imaging or any of those considerations.

No. I explain why not in some detail to Merlot52 above in this thread ( it’s about 10-12 postings above this) so I won’t repeat myself .


It is indeed balanced all the way through.

However when using a dCS DAC one for such a comparison it is not just comparing some kind of conceptually ideal XLR connection with a conceptually ideal RCA one. Unlike most products offering RCA and XLR outputs dCS do not simply use one half of the same output circuitry for RCA ( which is why the specified output voltage is exactly half that of the balanced XLR output). dCS DACs actually use different specially designed output circuits for RCA or XLR.

I would not say that RCA sounds better than XLR or that XLR sounds better than RCA ( though balanced will have better noise performance). I would, however, agree that individuals may express a preference for one over the other. So it is with just about every aspect of audio.

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Of course I do not claim that all RCA sound better than all XLR.
This is exactly my particular case that surprised me. If all the equipment is in good working order, then I will simply replace my lovely XLR by RCA and will listen further, with even greater pleasure.
Therefore, in another topic, I suggested to a “colleague” to try both types of connection and choose the best one.

Thanks for the explanations, Pete. They are very detailed as always))

P.S. I didn’t know that SCA2 preamp is fully balanced. As far as I know, the entry CA2 preamp has an unbalanced design.

Pete…I appreciate It’s not difficult, but I’m confused. :grinning: what about these AQ RCA to DIn?
Advert not intended.

I was unaware until your post that AQ did RCA/DIN. I can’t actually have an opinion on them as I I have not heard the current AQ range so its really down to you. I don’t want to advertise either but I do have lots of experience with Futureshop and they are very knowledgeable and go out of their way to be helpful. A big tick from me.

The thing that you need to be aware of is that there are 3 different pin configurations for 5 pin DIN plugs so you need to be aware which is used by Naim for the input you want to use. I am pretty sure that the 270 degree one is not what is used but you need to check if it is the 180 or 240 degree socket at the Naim end and if the AQ is the same plug. Frankly I am not sure what you will gain over a straight RCA/RCA Yosemite interconnect given that the Naim does provide some RCA inputs ( these days).