DAC confuzzlement - Supernait 3

I hate to create another thread but after quite a few days of researching I am absolutely no closer to knowing what to do.

Basically, I am looking to create a system that is the best I can achieve for the money I am willing to invest. I created another thread asking for speaker advice - this is easier as I am lining up a demo with various speakers that interest me. The other parts of the system is where I am struggling to understand.

Currently, I have the supernait 3, Bluesound NODE 2021 and a Topping E30 DAC. I feed USB into the DAC from the NODE and then the DAC into SN3 via RCA.

The Topping E30 DAC is very much a Chinese budget gizmo. I am struggling to hear any difference between the E30 DAC and the internal NODE DAC. Maybe they are of similar performance.

The other thread I created had replies of my source been the a weaklink with the SN3 and I should be looking to upgrade my speakers and DAC with a bias of more ££ towards the DAC. Now, the Bluesound NODE gives me just what I am after - Amazon Music, some online radio stations and NAS access to my high-res music. I really don’t want to change this setup as it just suits me perfectly. I know there are much better Streamers out there but I also know i’ll probably end up in a situation where the functionality isn’t as good as I have now and this is something I want to avoid at all costs.

Am I correct by saying the NODE via USB does not use the internal DAC at all? So even if the NODE DAC is rubbish I am not losing performance by going to another standalone DAC via USB?

The next question is what advantages does the Naim connectivity have over mixing and matching different OEMs? Is the Naim designed in a way that a grouped Naim system will outperform anything else due to its propriatary connectivity? Do I just get a Naim DAC and use the DIN leads as opposed to a non-Naim DAC using RCA.

Aesthetics are also important to me. I like black and plain.

I’ve literally spent all day on a certain forum that specialises in taking measurements from DACs etc. It’s a mindfield of opinions, technicalities, recommendations and egos.

I started by saying I wanted the Naim SN3 and new bookshelf speakers. Now I am wondering if I should be looking at DACs and Floorstanders. Obviously my potential budget needs to increase and I am fine with that but I don’t want any regrets.

Starting this whilst COVID is rife wasn’t my finest moment. Demos are limited, family keep testing positive, it is just hardwork.

Anyone else who went down a similar route have any thoughts on where I am with all this? I am thinking to increase my budget to 6k for a DAC and new speakers/stands. Great if I don’t need to max out but im open to using my allowance if it gives me the best gains for years to come.

Yes, if you use an external USB DAC then the NODE would just be supplying the digital signal into the DAC.

This depends on who you speak to. Some people believe that ‘bits are bits’ and that different digital transports will sound identical into the same DAC. My experience with the original Naim DAC is that different digital transports had a big effect on the end sound quality. Following this line of thought it’s possible that a Naim streamer could give you better results even when used purely as a digital transport. The best way to know which camp you agree with is to try for yourself.

Note that the Naim DAC can’t be used as a USB DAC as you’re suggesting however the Naim DAC-V1 can. You could always try and buy a 2nd hand DAC-V1 to try with your Bluesound Node and you’d be able to resell it for pretty much what you paid if you don’t like it.

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I only have Naim amplification with a non Naim record player and phono stage and also a Non Naim digital front end both of which I’m very happy with.

I can’t speak of Naim’s new streamers but I used to own an ND5XS 1 and a Chord 2Qute fed by a Raspberry Pi bettered it.

Perhaps try a better Dac with the Node something like a Chord Hugo 2 or a Qutest.

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I had a pair of ProAc D30RS with my SN 2 and they sounded fabulous.

You may want to look at ProAC Response speakers either stand mounted or floor standers. Their are also folks who use the ProAC Tablet speakers with the SuperNait and report excellent results.

Best thing to do is go sit at a dealer and listen if you can. Good luck with your decision.

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Get a secondhand Chord Qutest (use the optical output of the Node to the Qutest as recommended by Rob Watts the designer). If you don’t like the sound then sell it for what you paid for it. A pair of quality bookshelf speakers should do you fine.

You seem intent on changing a lot of items at once. Maybe one item at a time will show you what you are getting.

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The node doesn’t support USB audio only spdif via coax and optical. I would spend more on the DAC. Highly recommend the RME ADI 2 DAC, highly rated and equal if not better than the Qutest and it’s less money. I have one and used to Run a node 2i through it sounded very good. As I didn’t need all what the node did as I only use Roon I sold it on and only use a raspberry pi feeding the DAC now.

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Having seconded advice from @Bobthebuilder and @badlyread, £6k also gives a lot of options X)

I think you need to work out what sound you prefer from your front end, Naim, or Chord, or Denafrips. And if you’re happy with two or three boxes, or would prefer one.

I found a £500 second hand MK1 Hugo utterly amazing into a XS3. Either fed from my phone via USB, or latterly a Primare NP5 streamer via optical. But I now have a little ifi power supply, the Primare and the Hugo, all just to stream.

I prefer the Hugo to my Mojo, either through phones, or my XS3, so I think you should be able to demo a few exemplar DACs and work out which you prefer.

Or, I bet £6k would get you a lightly used NDX2 & a pair of Proac Tablettes. A combination that’s supposed to sing. The NDX2 plays well with the SN3. I don’t see anything on your list of Node functions that the NDX2 cannot also provide. You’d get £300 for the Node any day of the week too.

Not sure any of that helps either! Anyway, very best of luck wending your way through all this advice :slight_smile:

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What do you mean by saying the Node doesn’t support USB audio?

The new Node was launched saying USB out would only be supported in a future software release.

That release is now allegedly imminent…

Not sure I’m allowed to post links, but a bit of Googling will tell you more.

That update is already out. I’ve been enjoying USB audio for a couple weeks now.

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Give this a wide berth. Listen to a variety of DACs and choose the one you like the sound of. You might like distortion or colouration, in which case measurements are of no consequence. The RME that @CrystalGipsy mentions measures brilliantly, but personally it did nothing for me. I found it quite lifeless, but if the measurements do mean something to you then the RME/Benchmark route could be the one to go for.

You mention Covid as an issue but dealers are still demoing. Your budget would get you a used TT2 which is a world class DAC and is a proven paring with Naim equipment. Perhaps you can find one to demo. You’re also mentioning Denafrips, but these are R2R DACs and so have a totally different presentation. So once you determine which ‘type’ of DAC you like, choose the best one you can afford.

The Node is a fine transport. In so far as transports go. It’s the DAC which does the work. USB is noisy, so if you’re using USB then choose a DAC with good isolation.

The simplest solution, of course, is to just get an NDX2. Then all the bases are covered, including aesthetically, since the SN3/NDX2 are designed to work together.

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Oh so they added it to the latest incarnation. Didn’t know that.

The E30 is a rather good DAC. If you supply it with clean power it steps up a notch. I supply one with the Uptone Audio LPS 1.2

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Second that (after having demoed various configurations over the Christmas Holidays).

By the time you have a streamer, possibly upgraded, a dac, and cables, you’re already into the price level of pre-loved current line-up Naim streamers. In this market at least (NL), and to my ears, XS3 / SN3 with ND5 XS2 / NDX2 just work fabulous together as if designed that way (which they probably are :slight_smile:

For that same reason I’m tempted to go for a Uniti Atom HE with a NAP200. This could be another option for you.

Whatever you decide, don’t forget to have fun not stress exploring the various options!

Maurice

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If you are happy with the Node and it does what you want, then i would stick with that and add a better dac. You say you use Amazon HD, can you stream this via a naim streamer (i don’t know, as i don’t use a naim streamer).

The qutest dac is well thought off, so that is a good place to start. You have a decent amp, so I’d parked the speaker upgrade until you have got the front end sorted and then you can tackle that long list of speakers!

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  1. stick with the Node. Great piece of kit that you have to spend a lot more to solidly beat.

  2. what aspects of performance are most important to you? Sound stage width? Depth? Air? Texture? Bass impact? Tonality/tambre?

I found a great solution with my SN3 but that may not be your preference.

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