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Differences Between LFD and Naim

Discussion in 'audio' started by ryder, Jan 6, 2018.

  1. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    For the record, I have tried the LFD Zero MkIII LE before moving to the Naim NAC 202 / NAP 200. We often read about amp A sounding superior to amp B or amp C wiping the floor with amp D etc. I also noticed that there are few ex-Naim users who recommended the LFD over Naim for its superior sound quality. I am not really interested in all the talk about LFD sounding better than Naim or vice versa as in my experience they just sound different, not necessarily one better than the other. This goes the same with any other amp comparison. The LFD Zero MkIII LE did some things better while the Naim NAC 202 / NAP 200 did some things better. I can surely live with both but picked the Naim in the end for its superior build quality. The deal breakers of the LFD for me were the lack of a remote control and poor build quality.

    What I am interested in is genuine experiences of those who have compared or owned both LFD and Naim. I got to know from the Naim forum that a user actually moved from the top-flight NAC 552/500 to the LFD, presumably the NCSE Mk II.

    My question. Does the NCSE Mk II or later generations of the Zero Mk IV or Mk V LE sound significantly different from the Zero Mk III LE or all they all sound fairly similar? I am guessing no night and day difference between the Mk III or Mk IV or V of the Zero LE?

    One thing I noticed is the internal build quality of the LFD Zero Mk IV has improved quite a bit. I'm not sure if these are actual pictures of the internals but here goes :-

    LFD Zero Mk III LE :

    LFD Zero Mk IV LE (significant improvement in neatness) :

    NCSE Mk II :

    From the photos, the Zero Mk IV seems to have a smaller casing than the Zero Mk III. Or perhaps the parts and transformer have grown in size. Are the dimensions of the Zero Mk IV the same as the Mk III?
  2. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed pfm Member

    Can't comment on main amplification but I had a £3K LFD phono stage on loan to replace my Prefix (Orbe/Five/Helikon and Koetsu Blk.). Totally uninspiring and dull as ditchwater. Phoned the man to see why, and gathered that filtering may have been incorporated into the design. Went to Superline after; chalk and cheese as regards the LFD (and the Prefix to some extent).
  3. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Using my exceptional knowledge of teh electronics I can tell you the bottom one has two more boards of stuff in it.
    graystoke4, pjdowns, foxbat and 2 others like this.
  4. Cyreg

    Cyreg pfm Member

    MkIII casing is larger than MkIV or MkV.

    I had a MkIII with separate MM phonoboard (+ its own small transformer) in the same casing.
    Within the MkVI/MkV casing is no place for a separate phonoboard, as you can see.

    The smaller casing however had less contribution to the sound of the amp.

    NCSE is a different kind of amp with much more powerful sound and also in a bigger sturdier casing

    More than a year ago I went to a used Exposure XXXV
    Sounds not as refined as LFD but has more bottom power and is fleshier and is much easier on the ear when sound gets somewhat louder
    Wilson likes this.
  5. Yomanze

    Yomanze pfm Member

    Interesting about the poor build quality comments. Yes they are rather cottage industry in appearance, but the build quality inside is exceptional. It is done for sonic reasons...

    For my tastes and speakers I find the Zero (as well as Mistral and PA0) a bit underpowered. A fairer comparison with the Naim would have been an LFD NCSE mk2, or an LFD PA2M dual mono power amp. These indeed bring more weight, effortlessness and especially in the case of the PA2M (SE) deeper and tighter bass.

    The Zero IMO needs sensitive speakers to work best, for my 84db speakers the big power amps are welcome.
    Mullardman likes this.
  6. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    I purchased an LFD Zero Mk V a year or so back. I didn't compare it to NAIM. My comparison was between three amps at broadly similar prices which all had a good rep.( Sugden A21, Sonneteer Orton)
    in my room and system. The LFD simply sounded better in areas which matter to me. More open, better defined soundstage, overall clean and balanced sound That's about it. Nothing wrong with the bass control. My Speakers are around 84db but not a difficult load and no nasty impedance dips. I don't listen especially loud. I'm happy with my purchase, but wouldn't rule out trying the NCSE. It's the same old story.. you buy to the max of what you can afford.. then a short while later you find that maybe you could afford a bit more.... It's so annoying... :(
  7. wylton

    wylton pfm Member

    You'll have to forgive us, but it's difficult not to be rude. For some people on this forum, Naim is terrible (any Naim), so based on their superior knowledge, I would definitely recommend you NOT to buy Naim!

    On a more serious note, however, you would have been better of entitling you thread 'Differences Between LFD Zero Mk II/II/IV' rather that bringing Naim into the question.

    Oh, and by the way, yes, Naim is snake oil! (it must be true)....
  8. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    Are you one of the 'Usual Suspects'? :confused:
  9. wylton

    wylton pfm Member

    I have no idea what you mean, but I am virus ridden and a trifle grumpy this morning..
  10. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

  11. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    That's the NCSE Mk2. The two additional boards and added stuff must be useful.
  12. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    Those people questioning LFD 'build quality' are seemingly incapable of distinguishing between 'build quality' and 'cosmetics'. The build quality is superb. Very neat internally and featuring proper components, properly put together on proper boards.

    Admittedly, the back panels can look a bit 'cottage industry' as they feature pretty basic graphics and hand written serial number etc. I personally find that reassuring. Also, I tend to listen to, rather than look at, my LFD. Also, when I look at it, it is mostly at the rather pleasing and minimalist front panel.
  13. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    Ahh.. my sympathies. 'The Usual Suspects' apparently pour vitriol onto NAIM and its adherents. I have no idea who they are, hence the question.... ;)
  14. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    Well obviously. They are there to reduce internal casing resonances by minimising the volume of air in there.. Do you people know nothing?
  15. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    So it's true the MkIII casing is larger than the MkIV and MkV. That explains it. The Zero MkIII LE looks rather bare inside while the MkIV looks compact (and much neater!).

    Yomanze, the comment on poor build quality is mainly on the Zero MkIII LE. The appearance (casing and fit and finish) looks a bit cheap, more like DIY but it's not too bad looking. From the photos above, the insides of the Zero MkIV and possibly the MkV appear to have improved. In the end it's the sound that counts and the LFD surely sound quite unique. I'm not afraid to say that I would consider the LFD Zero over the Rega or Exposure equivalents (Elicit-R or 3010S2-D etc.) or even the Naim Supernait 2 if the LFD comes with a remote and an overall better packaging.

    I still recall comparing the LFD Zero MkIII LE to my much costlier separates (Audio Research LS16 / Plinius SA-100MkIII) about 9 or 10 years ago and you guessed it right - the cheaper (and cheap looking) LFD put the costlier and much classier looking hifi to shame.
  16. ks.234

    ks.234 pfm Member

    Stuff. Now that's the sort of expert knowledge I understand. When it comes down to it, everything is made up of stuff. Some things are made of different stuff, some things are made of stuff that's difficult to see, some stuff can't make up it's mind what sort of stuff it is, and some stuff appears to be in more than one place at once, but in the end, it's all stuff. I think.
    psd122 likes this.
  17. YNWOAN

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    A few threads (as of now) below this there is a thread whose title appears to question whether Naim is ‘snake oil’ - well compared to LFD Naim is extremely prosaic in terms of its electrical engineering. LFD are very much believers in components having a sound of their own and the upgraded version of an amp often differs only in that it has some different internal wire or a different brand of capacitor in one part of the circuit. If you look at the the pictures of the LFD internals you can see that the + and - of the speaker outputs are wired with quite different cables, for example. Many (most) electrical engineers would class this kind of design feature as actual ‘snake oil’.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
    ryder likes this.
  18. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    I didn't compare the LFD Zero MkIII LE and Naim side-by-side as the LFD was gone before I got the Naim. Nevertheless, I have the impression that the LFD (Zero MkIII) will be more spotlit and tube-like than the Naim. The Naim (202/200 and 282/250DR) sound a bit darker but I suspect the larger difference between the LFD and Naim will be with the bass. The bass of the LFD is taut and tight but rather light (one-note). The bass of the 282/250DR is fuller, textured and will likely go deeper and sound more controlled than the LFD (the NAP 200 doesn't have the layering and texture of the NAP 250DR as well).

    I understand the NCSE MkII addresses the "lightness" of the Zero LEIV or V by giving a meatier sound or fuller bass.
  19. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    You were doing so well.. then you went and admitted that
    No place for that sort of thing here.. please don't do it again... ;)
  20. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    It's an interesting proposition and I too have heard that the NCSE produces a 'more of everything' sort of sound. That said I don't tend to listen to rock etc., too much and my concentration is usually on vocals and instruments such as brass, woodwinds and piano.. so maybe I don't notice bass quality so much.

    I think I'm going to have to get Steve at Brady's to let me borrow the NCSE for a play... I do hope I don't like it....

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