Naim has given its Classic series streamers a radical shake up, bringing them up to speed with the all the features that have been developed in the ten years since the original NDS was launched. Three new models will be coming in the summer and I have had the opportunity to get a good idea of what engineers Roy George and Steve Sells (below) have been doing to improve the range and the opportunity to hear them in Naim’s Salisbury HQ listening room.
The new models consist of the ND5 XS 2, the only model without an onboard display, the NDX 2 (below) which has onboard power supply but can be upgraded with an XPS or PS555 and the range topping ND 555, the first new product to hit the 500 series in 12 years.
The fundamental change that all three models incorporate is a new streaming engine offering access to streaming services from Spotify and Tidal, wireless connection for Airplay, Bluetooth (aptX) and Chromecast and readiness for Roon operation. With full app control via the Naim App and remote handsets provided for the two larger models, an aluminium clad one in the case of the ND 555 these three are designed for multifunctional ease of use as well as top notch sound. In their quest to make better streamers than the previous range Roy and Steve have been going through the whole circuit from input to output with their fine tooth combs and building new power supplies, DAC and analogue circuitry for each model. BurrBrown DAC chips are employed but purely as converters with all other functions handled discretely, while the clocking removes the separation of clocks for streaming and conversion by running both functions from the one source, always a good move.
The ND 555 (above) gets the lion’s share of the upgrades with only the mass loaded, spring isolation system coming over from the NDS. This is the first source product to incorporate DR regulators which are placed beneath the DAC circuit to minimise distance and the potential for noise in one fell swoop. Roy George talked about cable placement and tying methods, not to mention the fact that he compared the sound of different torque settings for the bolts that hold the lid on the streaming engine case. There’s attention to detail and there’s OCD, but you don’t get consistently great sounding products without the latter.
Steve Sells explained that all the connections inside these streamers are balanced, again to minimise noise, and the same goes for conversion and filtering. The ND 555 uses two BurrBrown DAC chips to create a balanced output for this purpose, he says that they’re getting 130dB dynamic range out of these DACs, a pretty phenomenal figure even by digital standards. A SHARC DSP chip provides 16x integer oversampling and the converters are good for up to 32/384 or DSD128. Inputs include optical, coaxial (BNC and RCA) and Ethernet with dual Wi-Fi antennas for a solid wireless connection. Roy is currently working on multi-room operation across the ND, Uniti and Muso ranges which will make Naim one of the very few who can offer such a breadth of streamers with this functionality.
I also got the opportunity to listen to these three streamers in the cosy environs of the highly damped Naim listening room with its appropriately green leather sofas, here Jason Gould played a couple of his alt country favourites (Ryan Adams and Lyle Lovett) with each ND through 500 series amplification and a pair of Focal Utopia Scala V2 floorstanders. A slightly OTT system for the ND5 XS 2 but it proved more than up to the task with a nicely timed, clean and open sound that had my foot tapping from the off. Moving up to the NDX 2 saw a substantial leap in detail resolution, harmonics became clearer and the bass instruments better defined, things were getting very good indeed.
But the best was naturally kept till last, the ND 555 is a killer streamer with phenomenal transparency and, equally important, a powerful sense of coherence that makes everything you hear on it immediate and essential. It brings out the depth of the soundstage and separates everything out so that you can hear right into the mix, it really is quite a thrill to hear so much from a technology that Naim has managed to get so much out of. I only wish I could have had more time with it, but a sample has been requested as soon as they are in production and I will be looking forward to discovering what’s hidden in my music collection, expectations are very high.
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