Bluesound Node N130 vs Naim vs Alternatives

@anon27418182 Yes, it is a luxury of choices in some ways - bewildering! When I bought the UQ2 a few years ago, the options were simple and fairly few and far between, the options are now many.

Linn was not even on my radar, so thanks for that pointer. Assuming a very different sound signature to Naim, but certainly worth more investigation. I do like the design of the new casework but (guessing) that will be out of budget. More homework!

@daddycool I’ve found Asset to be very stable, fair play - just wish it was a little more user friendly in terms of choosing and setting up the browse tree.

@QlderBrad Very interesting. So an almost identical ripping station and server to my Mac. If you experienced such an improvement when playing the Zen ripped CDs then I’m assuming that would be dbPoweramp that isn’t as effective? Hard to understand how, as their software compares online rips for accuracy - perhaps that the problem? Wonder how much the RFI Mac & NAS noise factored into the equation as well. The thought of re-ripping 1500 CDs doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm though - blimey!

So how does the Zen work with your 272? Assuming its just a line level analogue input, and full control of music stored on the Zen is controlled via the Pulse App, and the Naim App just used for source selection and volume?

Have to admit, from the opening main question about a BS Node’s ability to read local files, this thread has gone in an unexpected direction with new possibilities opening up - literally from the ground up in terms of organising and setting up a music library. Blimey!

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When I just asked about adding a budget streamer I ended up with half of my system revamped :wink:

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@YetiZone
Just caught up reading your thread. Interesting read.
Have you considered budget yet…

So far, you’ve mentioned several things that imply figures for budget. Such as pre-loved SuperNAIT 2 or maybe NDX2 pre-loved or new ?

Do you have any thoughts on likely budget ?

Kind regards
R

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@daddycool This indeed could now be happening in my system. In some ways I’m starting to think a clean sheet approach may well be the best bet.

@ratrat Budget currently stands at 4.5K, plus the value of my current equipment, and I’m also now considering letting both the UQ2 and Nait2 go.

Choices so far are exactly as you mention - a used SN2 & NDX2 are very high on the list, although I could also go source heavy and consider a power supply or even an N-DAC for the NDX2, and run that with the Nait2.

Of course my budget doesn’t factor a Zen into the equation, but that could be added at a later date.

The set up of NDX2 & SN2 would allow my streaming options to be established and chosen, local streaming taken care of by the Mac & Asset for now, and also give my Dynaudio’s a little more control as well.

I’m going to the Acoustica show tomorrow and that may help with a few more pointers, with either set ups there or talking to bods at the show.

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Okay. Roger that.
Another question - do you intend for one good system, or move towards two systems?

R

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I’m aiming towards one good system in my work room (its on all day) and if I keep the UQ2, then that will form the basis of the second system - to be used for casual listening like internet radio, plus local streaming too, but I can see the UQ2 being primarily set to Radio 4 and 6 Music most of the time.

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Understood :+1:
BTW, always liked the UQ2 and what it does

Great that you have the chance to go to that show tomorrow. When I get home - situation now reversed, currently out and about - I’ll try and share some thoughts for you and ideas to explore and take to that show…

First of all my respect for coming to terms with this so quickly, took me a week :slight_smile:

Then allow me to stir it up a bit more and make a prediction / recommendation, based on your profile and what I’ve read (trust me you don’t need/want a SN2 is an underlying premise):

Next system 1:
Nait XS3 amp, ND5 XS2 streamer plus nDAC via DC1 cable BNC > BNC , Rega turntable with MM directly into XS3, your wonderful Rega Ela speakers (you should have these restored/refurbished though) via NACA5. A Fraimlite would accommodate al that nicely.

Next system 2:
UnitiQute2 with your also wonderful Rega Kyte speakers (you should have these restored/refurbished though), the inevitable Innous Zen Mini + PSU, via DC1 cable RCA>RCA or equivalent, also serving the whole house with music as a NAS via network. Three nice shoeboxes there, fit the Ikea Kallax (with the divider insert) quite well, UQ on top.

And:
We won’t hear from you for a while since you’ll be 1) re-ripping 1500 CDs and 2) selling off quite a bit of gear and recouping a considerable amount to extend your budget and 3) your house project.
You don’t need the AV system, I’m totally amazed at what an Apple TV with AirPods Pro does when watching a movie, let alone the Max pods. Also, find some hifi headphones for the main system, more fun than you might think.
Finally, to use up the last remainder of your budget you could find several used Naim Powerlines.

Enjoy the ride and do keep us posted!

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Hahaha
@daddycool you made me smile :joy:

Just got home, having considered a few ideas, during this afternoon. But you beat me to it. Okay, I’ll now reconsider and maybe offer value with some other and different ideas then.

Your posts are always with good humour too.
Like your style sir

Having supper. So, more to follow, later…

R

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@daddycool Thanks for that sentiment :slight_smile: as it is sometimes hard to let things go, but it is slowly dawning that wholesale change may be the key. The Nait2 is a beautifully flawed little box, and in chrome bumper guise I think it is the best looking product Naim have ever made. I’ve held on to mine for twenty (plus) years as it does have ‘something’ that is beguiling.

Ah, now that is interesting re the slim line Classic boxes… hadn’t considered the XS amps or the ND5XS either, especially as I can afford the NDX2 and SN2. I like the idea of system 2, but have Monitor Audio R252s mothballed which match very well to the UQ2. A couple of practical questions…

  • 1 Can full system automation be employed if the N-DAC sits between ND5SX2 and XS3 to control the streamer inputs, amp volume and select line level inputs?

  • 2 What’s the best way of connecting the Zen to system 1 and 2 for local streaming when sited in different rooms?

I really like the diminutive little Dynaudio Emits! So I think they will stay for a while. Rega speakers are lively and dynamic and they work so well in the AV system. Agree, the Kytes and Elas could probably do with new tweeters and a crossover refresh given their years, but it would be challenging as the original boxes are in poor condition, unless a dealer could do repairs on the premises. I set up the AV system when we first bought a flat screen TV and it’s proved really effective, benefiting everyone in the house, from watching movies to the children using the PS4 for gaming, and even improves regular terrestrial TV as well. I know soundbars have improved, but it’s all plumbed in, working a treat so it’ll stay as is. Headphones are not on the agenda for now!

@ratrat Please feel free to share any other potential system thoughts or ideas :grinning:

Forgot - Acoustica tomorrow, so even more options then no doubt :crazy_face: I’m off to watch a movie and have a glass of red!

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Hmmm :thinking:
What’s your network situation ?

I mean, do you have just Wi-Fi or maybe CAT5 / CAT6 or even CAT7 wired network ports. Can you get network ports to where you want your network devices ?

Router and switches ?
Do they have capacity for extra traffic

That might be important to consider for what follows

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Yes, you basically ignore the nDAC for SA, use one of its inputs only. Plug the SA jack cable between streamer and amp as per usual. No matter that the signal passes via the nDac.

You hook up other digital sources to the streamer, then, not to the nDAC. Think of the combo as a two-box version of the ND5 XS2 now (that’s why you won’t need a NDX2 anymore).

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@ratrat Yes, network fully ethernet wired from router to work room. A couple of 4 port Cisco switches (just the basic units) in the work room and one 8 port Cisco next to the router to enable the whole of the downstairs to be CAT5 wired. Upstairs is Wi-Fi only on a BT Whole Home Mesh system.

@daddycool Excellent, that would be ideal as I really like using the App to control the UQ2.

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Okay
Where would you put UQ2 and any other items. Did you say Kitchen ?

Yes, the UQ2 will be in a kitchen diner, streamer & amp in my work room.

As i’m out all day tomorrow, on Monday, I’ll sketch out a room layout to show how the systems will be sited, and also the ethernet cable layout too, as that will clarify the two installations.

@YetiZone
Really like your studio workspace.
It looks a great space to spend your day.

Several elements to a well rounded system, with music streaming at its heart. Streamer - server - external DAC - amplifier, maybe an integrated amp. Also user interfaces for access and navigation and the internet music streaming platforms. Power supplies too, if you wish to get into that. (Maybe not PSU’s . So, leaving that for another day).

At the budget end of the streamer market, there is a plethora of offerings. Some are mentioned at the beginning of your thread. All offer something interesting. However, now your budget is better understood, thoughts would start some where else instead. On balance, spending on source first, as a priority with the budget.

Here are a few thoughts about what I’ve learned over recent years - experience and experiments ….

Digital sources : Reference points
Just focussing on sound quality only, here are a few reference points …

  • Naim NDX2 is better than ND5 XS2

  • ND5 XS2 + nDAC is better then bare NDX2. (Can be achieved for half the cost of NDX2). Albeit two boxes, instead of one.

  • Also, ND5 XS2 is better than (streaming component only in ) NSC222

  • ND5 XS2 is better than Innous ZENmini + LPSU, (when using their respective internal DAC’s)

  • ND5 XS2 and Innous ZENmini + LPSU - both used as transport with nDAC - both almost equal. ND5 XS2 edges it. Just.

  • Innous ZENmini + LPSU is better than ZENmini bare.

  • Innous Pulse is better than Naim ND5 XS2. Same or similar costs. ( Note : Pulse is streaming transport only. No internal DAC. So needs to be partnered with a decent external DAC ).

  • I am told, (not auditioned this myself) Innous Pulsar is equal to NDX2. Innous costs less.

  • Chord Qutest performs same or similar as Naim DAC. Maybe slightly different presentation, it’s subjective. Qutest has limited number of inputs, compared to nDAC.

  • Chord Hugo TT is better than nDAC and Qutest.

Now let’s look at whole solutions…
So, looking at Naim system ideas. (After all, this is a Naim forum).
Note : Suggested prices, from Nov 2023.

Naim XS Series
Two or three boxes. As already suggested by @daddycool, the XS slim boxes solution would be Nait XS3 and ND5 XS2. And yes, maybe add a nDAC too. Perfect matching form factor. All that might be achieved with a budget of around £4,500.

Sorted for phono. The XS3 has an internal MM stage. It’s a good one.

I started my Naim journey with the Nait XS2. A perfect partner to our Rega RP6, which we improved from stock, over time. Added a HiCap to the XS2. Also added CD5 XS as transport with nDAC. Was happy with this for years.

Naim Original Classic
Two boxes. NDX2 + SN2 or maybe SN3 is the obvious place to be, with OC, subject to pieces available at the right pre-loved prices. Pairing a pre-loved NDX2 + SN2 might expect to be around £5,500.

Pre-loved SN3’s tend to go for £ 2,500-3,000. Maybe too much. However…
The SN3 has an internal MM phono stage. It’s a good one. The benefit of using your Rega record player directly with SN3 and losing a box (separate phono stage) might be worth pushing the budget and stretch to the SN3.

Naim New Classic
Two boxes. The new Classic NSC222 is a great option. You might prefer what is offers.
There is a pre-loved New Classic NSC222 - at Acoustica - for just under £4k. Maybe find and add an OC NAP200 DR for around c.£1200. So you could get going with latest NC system, for just around £5,200.

Sorted for phono. The 222 has an internal MM phono stage.

Thoughts about vinyl
Assuming you intend to keep and carry your RP6 forward with you.

Like you, we also have the Rega RP6. I love mine and wouldn’t ever consider being parted from it. Actually, I’m not sure I could really say anything that might improve on the very capable Ortofon Black 2M, probably one for the best MM cartridges around.

Are you using the original TT- PSU supplied with the RP6 ? If yes, there is an inexpensive upgrade open to you, by swapping in the newer NEO PSU. Honestly, for just over £250 it’s a steal and one of the best upgrades for your RP6 out there.

One thought is to maybe go to MC with such as Dynavector 20x2 or Rega Ania or Ania Pro. Also requires an extra box, an MC phono stage, like Rega Fono MC or better Aria. I only mention this, as the better amplifiers will show you the small differences or gain from these several ideas.

A recommendation
My opinion FWIW, putting all that together.
With what I have learned and know, would probably pursue one of these two solutions. Both are three boxes.

(1) ND5 XS2 + nDAC → SN3 ( Budget around £5,500 )
Note : There is some redundancy here, as the streamer has an internal DAC which has been paid for, but isn’t being used. This idea leads to another option…
(2) Innous Pulse + Chord Qutest → SN3 ( Budget around £ 6k )
Note : At this price point, probably the best streaming SQ out there, right now.

TBH, think the nDAC and Qutest are interchangeable in this regard. Select the one that suits you best.

If the all Naim option 1 appeals, all same form factor, then look to Moorgate Acoustics, in Sheffield. They currently have both pre-loved or ex-demo items ND5 XS2 and SN3 available. Also, look to Signals, in Ipswich for a pre-loved nDAC. It’s an older item, but better priced. Check out their websites. This superb all Naim three box solution could be achieved for just less than £ 5,350 from available items.

Another way forward, with this option, is to take your time. Start with ND5 XS2 and SN3 for maybe around £4,500 for now. Later, add an external DAC for a nice upgrade, when you are ready.

If you don’t so much mind mixed items, from different brands, maybe think seriously about the Innous Pulse, which is so seriously good. With any decent DAC, like the nDAC or Chord Qutest, with a SN3.

What do to about your CD collection?
Consider continuing using the Mac mini, or any other NAS - as upnp - on your LAN. The streamer can then access your CD collection. Alternatively, transfer all onto a USB memory device and attach directly to the streamer.

Diminutive shoe boxes
When funds allow, add the ubiquitous Innous ZENmini. It’s an absolute darling. Transfer your CD collection archive across. The ZM can become your server, for the whole house. Also offer local streaming, in one room, for the UQ2. (If you wish, go on a journey with the ZM and add LPSU and external DAC over time ). In the meantime, add the natty NAP100 to your Uniti Qute 2 for a perfectly formed shoe box system. The ZENmini is the obvious choice to match with Naim UQ2 + NAP100. Perfect matching form factor.

At this point, it is worth noting an advantage here for the user, if both digital sources are Innous the result is a single UI - Sense - for both devices.

Think about UI
Think about user interface. FWIW, my opinion is Naim App is good. Works perfectly well. Innous Sense is better. For me, Roon is best. Maybe look at Roon further down the line.

Knowledge is good
Have a long chat with the guys at Acoustica
Do some more research.
Go look at alternative products and ideas, with Innous and Chord products, in particular.
Look for opportunities to use some of the items you’re not familiar with. Particularly the user interfaces.

Maybe sign up for the free trials with the music streaming platforms (Tidal, Qobuz, etc) and see how they work too

Good luck
R

p.s. just listening to The National, “Laugh Track”, (2023).

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I was happy with the rips dbpoweramp did, and then out of curiosity I asked Innuos if there was any benefit in re-ripping with the Zen, Innuos advised there would be improvement. I did 6 re-rips of the albums I use as a reference every time I make a change to my system. And there was definitely an improvement, so I re-ripped all my CDs. I can’t give you a technical reason, I was of the belief that bits are bits, but my ears thought differently.

The Zen works like any other upnp server, using the Naim app you just select the Zen as the server and play your music as you would with Asset. I just plug the 272 into the network port on the back of the Zen, no different to how you would be plugging your Unitiqute or Mac mini into a switch. To me one of the attractions of the Zen, I could plug my 272 directly into the Zen that way there is no other device in between the upnp server (the Zen) and the streamer (272) to add noise. You don’t need to use the Innuos app to play music, but I use it occasionally to check for software updates, to shut the Zen down when a storm is coming through. You can also use the app to edit your rips if you want to edit metadata, album covers etc (but if I need to do an edit I do it from my PC using a web browser to get to the interface of the Zen). But you would need to use the Innuos app to play music if you connected the Zen directly to a DAC .

I was able to borrow one from my dealer to demo at home, it makes a lot more sense once you can do that.

I also demoed the entry level Melco network player, it was similar to the Zen with the network port on the back that you could plug your streamer into. To my ears though it wasn’t close to the Zen, it was about the same quality as the Mac mini. The other thing to keep in mind is that the Mac is designed to multi task, so it will have a lot more processes running, dedicated music servers would have an operating system optimised to only store and play music. Dedicated music servers would also have a circuit board and power supply designed to generate less noise, the Mac mini wouldn’t. Apologies if this is a little long winded.

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@QlderBrad
That’s a cracking post.
Great insight. I’ve just learned something new too.

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Indeed @QlderBrad , and the same goes for your post @ratrat!

Informative and subtle, as opposed to my “other-side-of-the-Channel” directness. Which I try to be very aware of, but which still sometimes gets the better of me when talking to a fellow Nait 2 owner like @YetiZone or @anon27418182.

There seems to be only one point where we have different views and that is on amps. A minority perspective I guess, but to my ears there is a huge difference between the XS2/SN2 and XS3/SN3 far beyond the added (indeed wonderful) phono stage.
For years I’ve been open to alternatives for the Nait 2, that little box of wonders, that does have its quirks however. I really could not get along with the mk2 iterations of both amps, preferring the 152/155 over the XS2 for example. Then the mk3s came along and there is something new there, some hard to define speed, joy, aura that makes all the difference (to me).

Within that, as a metaphor, I see the Nait 2 as an expensive beach outfit, the XS3 as some really nice casual outfit, and the SN3 as a form of nice suit. I demoed extensively and was very impressed what the big amp brings, dragging the speakers along to great depth. Yet, I enjoyed the XS3 much more, able to be playful like the Nait 2. Perhaps the step was too big.
The SN3 improved considerably in that respect with the DR HiCap, with that IMO more a necessity than an option (just like the NDX2 needs its PSU in my opinion), this should be included in the budget calculations I think. I just realised it’s likely also speaker dependent, your EPOS14s were often paired with NAP250s in the day so probably like all the grip you can give them.

All this to say that because @YetiZone comes from both a Nait 2 and a UQ2 (which I know well and also has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi) with smaller speakers I would not be surprised if also for him the SN3 would be a step too far. The 3-box slimline XS combination is already a quantum leap and mildly source first, which IMO is a good thing. All this in my experience via my ears in the settings here, so I understand well if his or your mileage would vary.

As you correctly point out, there’s now also the NC series to consider! It is an inspiration to read your posts and the forum as a whole is now quite a good source of information on this. Which is a necessity given that many are getting their heads around all the choices.

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At the risk of committing some kind of heresy, and as an original owner of a Nait 2 ( now serviced) which will probably be pried from my cold dead hands, I cannot understand the sq comparison with anything that Naim has subsequently released. Even my Nait5i gives a vastly superior sq. I love my Nait2 for its appearance ( so stylish), its sq from such a small box, and its history and part in my life. It will never compete with my xs2, let alone an xs3 or sn3.
I will continue to enjoy my Nait2 with some near field speakers for late night listening when Mrs Bruss is in bed early, but it isn’t any competition for modern Naim equivalents.

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