They sound different but both are very capable. What do you intend to connect to it source wise as the Naim DAC doesn’t support USB DAC functionality unlike the Qutest ? The Naim DAC does have 8 digital inputs (4 optical) so makes a very flexible digital hub and can be upgraded with an external PS too. For a 10 year old design it’s still very relevant and is a bit of a bargain these days.
p.s. I have a Naim DAC and a Chord Hugo. Both excellent, but a bit different. If all I listened to was classical music I would probably favour the Hugo (even though I really dislike how fiddly it is to use), but for my wide ranging tastes the Naim DAC wins out. The fact that it’s so flexible and has so many inputs seals it for me.
As I can’t comment directly, not having heard either of these, my nearest personal equivalent experience having been Chord Hugo 1 vs the DAC in ND5XS (Hugo significantly better to my ears, in particular more natural sounding), I thought I’d balance FR’s usual posting of reviews with ones for the other machine:
As the OP noted, self-evidently the nDAC is likely to mesh well with Naim amps - however quite a few people use Chord Hugo DAC and others in the same family happily with Naim amps. However which the OP would prefer is down to personal preference for sound, so auditioning is the appropriate thing to do, unless there is some particular feature of one not present in the other that is needed, such as any particular connectivity.
Good move - and now there is an even more complete picture, which surely is good. I haven’t read the review - the ones you posted or the ones I did, so I’ve no idea which might come across as ‘superior’ - however as I indicated reviews don’t indicate which one he or she would prefer.
I have found with the Hugo, if you keep it cool, and don’t allow the case to get warm, the batteries last longer… I discovered on my second change of batteries.
From SQ I have yet to hear a Chord DAC that betters my Hugo mk1 overall musically , and that includes DAVE and other Hugos. (BTW I am, talking musically, not technically here, as the DAVE is very impressive, but in the end just does not do it for me… I wrote about this on the forum)
However not all Hugo’s and DAVEs for that matter sound the same and there are sometimes fairly prominent sample to sample variations I have discovered. Therefore with those Chord architectures I can only recommend try before you buy… and if buying used it can make it challenging.
What I can say is that my Hugo is like gold dust… and I fear for the time if it ever fails beyond repair. I suppose I got lucky with it. Oh yes I have changed the PSU for a third party one that is specifically optimised for the Hugo mk1… now that was a nice uplift too, albeit subtle, in terms of low frequency tonal definition amongst other things… it effectively reduced the SQ performance difference I had noticed between running on batteries or on charge in submersive listening sessions.
I used a Naim DAC and then a Naim DAC with 555PS for quite a few years and replaced it first with Hugo (which I now use as a portable), then DAVE and finally Blu2 DAVE.
I have not heard Simon’s Hugo, but DAVE definitely sounds more musical to me than my own original Hugo and Blu2 DAVE is the endgame: I have not heard more realistic digital replay. What I find is even when the source material is less than ideal that Blu2 DAVE extracts the most enjoyable replay I have achieved. I will not be changing again as the level of replay it gives is perfect for me.
The Naim DAC has better ergonomics than Chord’s idiosyncratic designs, but in terms of musical presentation, it has to be Chord for me. It’s lack of sonic signature and greater dynamics are probably responsible for my preference.
Please don’t think I’m saying the Naim DAC is anything other than very good, but the technology has moved on.
I have heard a Qutest and was very impressed and I would choose it over Hugo if I had no interest in portability. The advantage of Hugo or Hugo 2 would be its variable output enabling you dispense with a pre-amp if you don’t need analogue inputs.
I have heard Blu2 DAVE with pre-amps (including Naim NAP552 and Chord Ultima) and definitely did not like having the additional electronics. In fairness the Ultima seems to have no effect so it would have been £35k for nothing. The NAP552 seemed to impart a sonic signature, which did not appeal to me.
However, these are my opinions and you may not share my preferences. So try to listen to both. Ignore subjective reviews (and my opinion) and choose the one you prefer.