Firmware updates and sound quality

Can someone please explain to me how a firmware update changes sound quality?
I haven’t noticed any difference.

Apparently if people are hearing changes it is subtle changes to the electrical floor noise in the Core processor…after a firmware is fixed for release the sound team tweak the noise floor to ensure it is the same or better.

Any source that requires decoding (e.g compressed streams from the Internet, AirPlay, etc.) will require processing by the firmware. If any changes are made to the decoding algorithms then it could have an effect on the sound quality.

I am listening to Radio Paradise this morning and I don’t feel there is any change in SQ (I did a factory reset after the 3.5 update).

1 Like

I have a 552/ND555 system and updated to the latest firmware about 5 days ago. It went smoothly but as i indicated in another thread, overall SQ has diminished. I have rebooted the whole system several times although I never did a factory reset on the ND555.
I am disappointed. The prior firmware update improved the SQ in my opinion,hence I don’t think this some sort of update bias.
Should I try a factory reset? Any other thoughts?

I had similar issue after the update. A factory reset mostly helped, but powering down completely for around 10 mins seems to have done the trick. It’s not quite where it was, but the sq has improved over the last 12 hours or so, and it is not so bright and digital…Hopefully things will settle down.

Mines started to get some intermittent distortion crackling. Sounds like it’s clipping at certain frequencies. Stated whilst watching a movie earlier I started to hear a distracting crackle and noise. Its continued whilst playing music.

My simple understanding is that any code changes can affect device control processing in ways that potentially create new/different ‘noise/effects’ in the streamer unit which can then affect the digital processing software or circuitry - whether we call it jitter/timing effects, noise or whatever, it probably doesn’t matter but is real and I suspect @Simon-in-Suffolk could probably provide a more elegant explanation.


Sorry to read that.

The 3.4 firmware update was indeed a significant step up in terms of SQ.

How would you describe your perception of SQ from 3.4 to 3.5 ?

Hi AC, yes on the right path… the firmware changes can change the code execution timing which in turn controls the timing of digital currents read and writing to memory or CPU execution… this in turn changes or ‘shapes’ the conducted noise in ground planes, electro magnetic coupling and internal powerlines.
This reshaped noise can interact with digital clocks and analogue circuitry to produce an audible affect.
I understand a few years back Naim had pretty well managed to control this to almost act as a ‘tone control’ or eq. I understand however, despite this, it is still somewhat inexact, and results not always deterministic.

1 Like

I know this may be heresy, blasphemy even, but how about adding a couple of ‘tone controls’ to the Naim App for minor tweaking & sound optimization for the listening environment?

BlueSound includes, and I must admit, that I use at times to tame either excessively bright/brittle or bloated bass recordings and streaming stations.

The tone control are probably better placed on the pre-amp (eg Luxman), but minor tuning via the app may satisfy many who have issues with version to version SQ changes.



I don’t disagree, what with room colourations such things can be really useful.


Thanks for the replies fellas. Interesting stuff and above my head. The tone control option on the app is a great idea and one I have mentioned, amongst others, on the forum before. That one can have user control on tone and frequency response on sound rather than the somewhat “random” effect of a firmware update would be a bonus and a marketable asset for Naim when selling their products in my view. I have considered Roon as a possibility just because of this and even though I have resisted so far it would be nice to have it “in house” so to speak.

Where would this have the most impact? Usb inputs or on streamed services like Qobuz?

It’s common to all inputs… It happens on the digital/DSP/clock circuitry rather than the streaming circuitry.

I’m not great at describing subtleties in SQ but it seems that I have to increase the volume relative to prior to get the same “involvement “ and detail but then sound becomes somewhat harsh. Low volume quality has suffered.
Thanks for asking @Thomas

1 Like

There is a considerable number of posts about SQ change resulting from firmware updates. Whilst I think I did hear some subtle differences, my mind tells me it may be temperature or even humidity that may contribute to the difference. I am sure firmware development team is not doing anything intentional with regard to SQ but merely addressing reported issues and adding features as they are ready. I don’t believe there is built-in machine learning that gets flushed by firmware update. Please tell me if I am wrong.

Really appreciate these two comments from @Simon-in-Suffolk and @Gazza. I don’t really understand processor electrical noise floor but timing seems completely plausible. Perhaps someone from Naim can provide some insights, please. Thank you.

1 Like

There is no machine learning in the normal sense in the Naim streamers. But yes the firmware code is optimised for best sound performance/balance as determined by Naim before it is released.
Usually beta releases are not optimised, and so there can be an audible shift between beta and release firmware with the latter being optimised.
The code execution sound performance optimisation is undertaken for each device, as the electronics and digital underlay varies between models.

As far as noise, when digital logic gates are operated, such as in buffers, CPU, shift registers and memory small amounts of electro magnetic noise pulses are created. This is natural physics due to the rapid change of states. When aggregated up over a digital system this creates a sequence of noise bursts, almost like a rhythm, as if you were shaking out a rhythm with some maracas. (But extremely quickly). By undertaking certain machine operations at precise times, the induced rhythm of noise, or shaped noise can be optimised to interact with the audio and clocking subsystems in a way that modulates any induced artefacts to act, as as I have been told by Naim, to almost act as tone controls.


I imagine it must be frustrating for developers and Naim not to have full control over dsp such that every update produce predicable, identical sound signature. Especially when users have very sharp hearing. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

But they have full control over the DSP, which in terms of oversampling, reconstruction, and low pass filtering is relatively straightforward, it’s only a few lines of SHARC assembler code, and has been, I think, consistent since the days of the Naim DAC.
What we are talking here are the effects of interaction on audio in the analogue domain … not in the digital.
And I understand Naim have developed a tool/jig to help with the optimisation now… I guess Naim very much have the golden ears as well… at least they know how they want it to sound :grinning:

@Simon-in-Suffolk, please excuse my ignorance and lack of knowledge. Thanks heaps for the insight. I frankly don’t know about SHARC but will do some reading. Anyway, as far as I have experienced, the differences are minuscule and haven’t bothered me.

We have done so well industrialising hardware manufacturing capable of producing in mass quantity, maintaining high quality with consistency. Software development otoh is still a very creative art. :sweat_smile: