Ask an expert: STAX 2020 + NAIM CD5-X

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I have a Stax 20/20 basic system which I have acquired from a friend recently. My problem is when directly connected from my Naim CD5X CD player (RCA output) I get some distortion in sound as I crank up the volume to higher level on the energiser. My interconnects are QED approx £20 according to my friend who let me have them with the 20/20. Could this be my problem – or could I need attenuation to the cable given the output level of the CD5X ?

First, although I'm not particularly familiar with Naim equipment as I'm not a retailer of theirs (I'm just too much of a free-thinker for their tastes I guess) I do know than sonically all Naim CD machines I have heard in use with any STAX system work magically together. Around 20% of my entire customer base use Naim digital and amplification. Personally speaking I find that the STAX brings out sonic qualities in Naim equipment that their ghastly loudspeakers haven’t a hope of doing.

You may not be aware of this but all STAX energisers (except the extraordinary 717) accept only a fixed output signal from a preamp, DAC, integrated CD player and so on. This is typically the tape output of a preamp, integrated amp or receiver. This is because variable outputs tend to overload the inputs of STAX energisers – and this is what I suspect is happening with you. But then again, I may be wrong about this – but I don’t think so.

If your Naim CD player has a fixed output (i.e. independent of a volume control) then this should be used. But again, not knowing the output voltage of your CD player, this might not alleviate the problem and for all I know, you might be doing this already.. If you are using a fixed output, then rather than muck about with the output voltages of the Naim or the input sensitivity of the STAX, just use a pair of Rothwell in-line attenuators. That will solve the problem and to date I have no sonic degradation whatsoever with these. Mind you, Salisbury might well excommunicate you if they ever got to hear of this impertinence.

Finally, the state-of-the-art professional STAX 717 energiser does accept both fixed and variable outputs from sources.

Would I benefit from a Stereovox HDSE interconnect? and if so what kind of other improvements could I expect.

Well yes – once the situation re overload is resolved. The Stereovox is a transformation. I use it throughout my demonstration room. It’s that good. The pace and rhythm of the Naim will in no way be altered according to my customers who are Naim users but they also report that the slight murkiness of the mid-band of the lower-priced Naim digital units is alleviated to a major degree.

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