Hi there - hoping I can get some clarity about running my Innuos Zen MK III vs simply running my NDX2 with the Naim app.
I have owned an NDX2/XPS DR alongside an Innuos Zen MK III and always enjoyed the platform of Roon as a way mainly to see all of my streaming library (Qobuz) alongside my FLAC files (loaded into the Innuos or ripped from CD).
When Innuos did the recent upgrade to the Sense app, any improvements as a “player” app were limited for NDX2 users as long as the Sense app only recognized USB output and not ethernet from the Zen unit. So I have set up the Zen as a “Roon Core” only and continued to use Roon with little to no change EXCEPT the sound quality in Roon has noticeably degraded compared to the Naim app.
When setting the Zen up as a “UPnP Server” rather than Roon Core and using only the Naim app, the difference is quite jarring. Roon (Innuos as Roon Core) seems to have degraded quite a bit, or the Naim app has improved both on streaming (Qobuz) and local files on the Innuos. Over the past year I have noticed little difference if any in sound quality between Roon and Naim app so I always stuck with Roon.
Now however the difference is stark enough that I can’t just accept it as a trade-off to Roon’s superior interface… I won’t go back to Roon as long as the difference in sound is so pronounced between the Naim app and the Zen/Roon Core.
So that makes me wonder - with the Innuos being used as nothing but a UPnP server at this point - is there ANY reason to hold onto the Innuos when I could simply move all my FLAC files to a portable SSD and plug that into the Naim, and then stream both Qobuz and my local files directly from within the Naim app, and do away with the Innuos Zen completely?
I can’t see what advantage it brings to the table if I’m using the Naim app based on sound quality and even if/when Innuos updates the Sense app to include ethernet, the multi-room capabilities of the Naim app are still a bit of a Zen-killer I would think.
Any thoughts? Am I off-base in the way I am looking at things?
Well for one thing the Innuos doesn’t have a DAC so I’d still be plugging in the Zen to the NDX2, the only difference is the Zen would be configured as the streamer and the NDX2 would be the player. But that also assumes the Sense app sounds better into the NDX 2 than the Naim app with the NDX 2 as a streamer/DAC. And since there is no Ethernet implementation yet no one can say what if any improvements it would offer.
Thanks - Roon has always sounded similar to the NDX2 app to me in the past, or at least where the difference was close enough that I would still use Roon for the interface even if I noticed .0001% higher fidelity from the Naim app. However now, it’s clear as day. I set “Roon Core” in the Innuos settings and listen and it sounds totally fine. Then I switch back to UPnP Player on the Innuos settings and open the Naim app and it’s a totally head-scratching and immediate lift in fidelity.
One thing that may make this difference more noticeable is that in the recent Innuos updates, the improvements have been in the Sense/UPnP side of things and possibly at the expense of Roon fidelity, although I can’t see how that would benefit anyone. The other difference is I’ve recently upgraded my amp and preamp and it’s possible the differences were there all along but the new gear has made the changes more obvious.
I guess there is no reason to jump the gun and dump the Innuos until I can make a real comparison to the Sense app with ethernet versus the Naim NDX2 with ethernet (Naim app). However I’m not holding my breath for Innuos to get the ethernet update rolled out, I am sure they have quite a bit on their hands with just the new platform and I expect it to be months before any update that allows a player connection through ethernet.
I see what you’re saying but it does seem backward from my original post of the NDX2/Naim app sounding better than the Innuos. If that is what I am hearing, doesn’t it make sense to be less inclined to go “all-in” on the Innuos and sell the NDX2? If I am hearing better fidelity from the NDX 2? Sorry if I have not explained properly what I am hearing.
Well I went ahead and conducted an experiment with a G Force USB SSD I had sitting around. Clearly the Innuos as a UPnP server is also much better than using the USB input on the NDX 2. I heard a similar “grey” sound that seems a little softer and less resolving than the identical FLAC file I had stored on the Innuos UPnP server. So it seems like I’ll be waiting for Innuos to update their Sense app to allow ethernet as a player connection to see if that improves things.
No there’s nothing different in my Roon connection since upgrading to the latest Innuos OS. I have always used a touch of DSP in Roon (PEQ settings) but I have tried both on and off and still hear an improvement when using the Zen as the UPnP server regardless if DSP is engaged or not.
I am ready to agree with you based on my experiment with the USB drive and my trial using the Innuos as a Roon Core. I think it’s just better with the Zen handling server duty and the NDX2 acting as the player and leaving Roon out of the equation. And so it seems I’ll have to be patient waiting for Innuos to update their player software to include ethernet support. I am locked into the Naim streaming platform big time, I love it and run whole-house audio with my other Muso 2/QB 2’s so I don’t think I’ll be swapping out the NDX 2 for a DAVE anytime soon. Although maybe a gently used ND555 down the road isn’t out of the question!
I’ve zero experience with Innuos, apart from reading good impressions from some folks here on the forum… so we are that as the grain of salt here!
As you have time to wait for the next upgrade to revert to Ethernet output, perhaps you could try other source / server comparisons? I mean putting Roon core in any other computer in your house and seeing whether that makes a difference. Same for putting a UPnP server anywhere else and listen to the steaming for differences. It might not tell you much, but it might tell you whether Roon core functionality on the Zen got worse, or if their new UPnP implementation really did get better. Same goes for the USB disc attached to your NDX2: can you hear a difference using USB input vs local UPnP content (you don’t need to enable the server mode on NDX2 unless you wish to serve other devices, like your Qb).
I have not seen any comments on the Roon forum about degraded audio quality of Roon vs UPnP… not is there a strong view that UPnP sounds better (or worse) than USB direct input on the new gen platforms, so you might want to try a few combinations that are easy to set up using what you have in the house (assuming there is at least a pc or Mac or NAS or whatever that you could try just for fun).
Good luck with your experiments and finding a way to have your content curation cake and eat it again without dull and gray sound!
One totally objective difference I can confirm is that I just did a 400Hz test tone from within Roon and measured the output in my listening chair at 86dB. I then changed the Innuos over to UPnP configuration and played the same test tone and it measured 87.5 dB from the exact same spot. So I’m not claiming that 1.5 dB difference in output is really noticeable (though I still detect a clearer sound from the UPnP configuration vs Roon). However it is conclusive proof that there is some difference in output from Roon vs UPnP in the NDX2. I don’t know what extent there may be other changes but I feel like it does confirm my ears believing there is a change in fidelity. All DSP is turned off of Roon and it is in the “Core Only” configuration.