Our third UK-rooted hi-fi system from British Hi-Fi Week 2023 is a heady mix of styles from the great £1600 single set-up, and the cutting-edge mid-range digital system. Admittedly a bit more expensive mix – but there’s certainly still a lot of value in this turntable and compact disc system. This impressive setup takes four What Hi-Fi? Award winners from over the years and brings them together in a wonderful musical system that should provide years of listening pleasure.
Turntable: Green DG-1S (£3550/$4995/AU$7000)
CD player: Naim CD5si (£1499/$1999/AU$2950)
stereo amplifier: Naim SuperNait 3 (£3799/$5699/AU$8650)
Loudspeakers: ATC SCM19 (£2400/3249/AU$5500)
Total: £11,248 / $15,942 / AU$24,100)
Turntable: Vertere DG-1 S
This new generation Vertere DG-1 S builds on the excellent original deck to stay ahead of the best turntables at this level.
It brings a musical sound, as you’d hope – one as rhythmically determined as they come. But it also has a bounce when it comes to displaying dynamic nuances, and with that an appealing sense of energy about the way it reproduces sound.
Listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in our review of the DG-1S, Cave’s bold yet vulnerable vocals come through with impressive clarity and we never doubt the feelings he’s trying to convey. The backing instruments all fit neatly into place, each note neatly organized to form a cohesive and musical whole. Despite the Vertere resolving a huge amount of detail, we’re more likely to get lost in the music than encouraged to analyze the recording or production. And that’s certainly what great hi-fi should be about.
We continue to Four Tet’s There is love in you an album that could have been made to highlight the strengths of the DG-1 S. The mass of instruments shows off the deck’s excellent resolution and its ability to keep up with a large number of musical parts without getting confused. Just as importantly, unlike some other highly dissolving products, the Vertere doesn’t sound like it diminishes the music’s sense of freedom or life, despite all that control. This is a fine balancing act that few manage to get right.
There’s no shortage of punch and drive when the music calls for it. We especially like the way this Vertere delivers bass frequencies; they are tight, agile and melodic but also beautifully textured.
We’ve yet to come across a comparably priced alternative that sounds as entertaining and informative as this one.
CD player: Naim CD5si
And we could say much the same about the CD player in this system.
The CD5si bends over to deliver an exuberant and enjoyable performance, with an unparalleled enthusiasm and concrete drive that we immediately look for. It is correct in terms of musicality and coherence. This is a solid delivery; detailed and confident with dynamism, it gracefully embraces the quieter parts of a piece before climbing up to crescendos of explosive drama and intensity.
The Naim CD5si is a highly capable performer with an authoritative understanding of rhythms and enough punch and power to truly transform your music collection.
Integrated amplifier: Naim Supernait 3
It makes sense to pair one of the best CD players we’ve tested at this level with its stable amp – especially one that’s so well regarded. The winner of Which hi-fi?s Awarded for Best Stereo Amplifier over £2500 in 2019, the Supernait 3 looks to offer everything we love about the company’s much more expensive pre/power combinations, but in a neater package and at a more affordable price.
Sure, an integrated amp costing £3800 is still clearly premium, but when we question whether we should be spending more it suddenly seems like good value.
This is about as well equipped as an all-analog amp needs to be. There are four line level inputs, each with a choice of conventional RCA or Naim’s preferred Din options. We prefer Dins simply because these inputs tend to sound just a bit better, especially when using Naim’s Din-equipped sources.
Given an adequate amount of time to settle in and a suitable quality source, this amp delivers a remarkably confident performance.
The Supernait 3 sounds solid and muscular, never sounding like it has to go out of its way to bend the speakers to its will.
Such confidence does wonders for the listener. When that subliminal messiness of a struggling amp isn’t there, it’s easier to focus on the music. That’s what the Supernait, regardless of generation, has always done best.
We’re going back to Four Tet’s There is love in you set up and the Naim sounds as happy as a toddler in a sandbox. It has a fast, punchy sound that’s backed up with real weight at low frequencies. We’re impressed with the organization on display and the amp’s ability to follow a multitude of musical strands yet tie them together as a cohesive and musical whole. We can’t think of a more capable alternative when it comes to rhythmic drive and precision. It brilliantly conveys the changing momentum of the music and captures the different mood swings between songs with conviction.
The detail resolution is good and it is easy to understand a shot and the production methods used. But it never feels like the Naim makes this a priority. Again, it’s simply about getting to the heart of the musical message and feeling the emotion the artist intended.
Stereo Speakers: ATC SCM19
And on that apt note, we move on to the rather gorgeous speakers in this premium system. We’ve always been fans of ATC speakers, and the SCM19 you see here is romping home Which Hi-Fi? Best Standmounter £1500+ Award in 2019.
Listen to Light of the moon, we get a clear idea of how big the shooting location is, the SCM19s pick up on the subtle acoustic cues that allow us to perceive that size. Piano notes are delivered with solidity and finesse. We’re struck by the layers of harmonics the speakers resolve and the natural way these standmounters reproduce the varying intensity of keystrokes. The leading and trailing edges of notes are sharply defined without sounding artificially hyped. These speakers sound right at home, delivering a presentation that is as tonally convincing as it is dynamically dynamic.
Those dynamic skills come into sharper focus when we play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. These ATCs have no trouble conveying the crescendos of the piece with power and an impressive degree of composure.
We also like the SCM19s’ ability to reproduce a large-scale soundstage and fill it with well-focused instruments. Things stay steady even as the complexity of the piece increases.
These boxes are also very happy to party, delivering relentless rhythmic momentum with gusto. The bass kicks hard and the vocals are handled with clarity and eloquence, but it also lacks nothing in the way of body or natural warmth.
These ATC speakers have the remarkable ability to be analytical without ever sounding clinical or passionless. It’s a tricky balance, but the SCM19 apparently manages it easily.
Together, this quartet forms a wonderfully musical, cohesive stereo system – and again one that will provide faithful, joyful service for many years to come. Obviously 11,000 plus is a decent investment, but if you’re in the lucky position of being able to invest that kind of money in your passion, you’ll struggle to beat the system we’ve put together here.
Read our British Hi-Fi Week 2023 news, features and reviews
Why the 1970s were the perfect time to start a UK hi-fi company
11 of the best British record players of all time
These are the best stereo amplifiers: the best integrated amplifiers for every budget