Curious dem situation on Saturday. Customer looking for low cost upgrade to elderly Rotel amp, Arcam CD and more recent Whafedale Diamond system.  He wants streaming and digital inputs for TV, so the Naim UnitiQute seemed ideal. Trouble was that simply swapping the Qute as an amp for the Rotel bought mixed results. Very detailed, refined and civilised but lifeless too. Very un-Naim.

Replacing the £150 Diamonds with £400 Epos K1s brought some improvement to the Naim but, paradoxically, rather more to the Arcam / Rotel. Weird.

Time for desperate budget-busting measures. Dig out the Russell K Red 50s. This brought tremendous gains to the Rotel system. It really was getting decidedly ‘proper’. In fact, it seemed far better than a system of this age and price level should sound.

What would the little Naim do with this?

It flew. More control, resolution, musicality and ‘spirit’. A proper fully fledged music system that takes up minimal space.

Turning to Spotify brought much better-than-expected results but Tidal through the integrated Naim ‘app’ was the unexpected gem. Swapping between network WAV rips of the same album and the Tidal version elicited an unexpected and irrational preference for the Tidal stream. Very odd. But then we started this process late in the afternoon and were getting just a bit weary!

A final rummage for an Arcam r-blink (things are congested round here) brought the unsurprising news that streaming Spotify via bluetooth from an iPad sounds no better that OK in this context. I know, we could have done this straight into the ‘Qute’ (giving similar difference) but customer wanted to see how it worked on the Rotel.

The stars of the dem were the Red 50s. Priced comfortably below £1000 they could be the (almost) budget system upgrade you’ve been looking for.

I really must put something about them on our web site. Chuffing obvious really.