Headphones vs Streamer upgrade

I had some great input this week on Sonus Faber Sonetto speakers to add to my old but recently refurbished set up: Linn LP-12 Hercules 2/Linn Itok LV-11/Ortofon Red Cartridge; Naim CD1; Naim 82 pre-amp; Naim 180 power; Naim Hi-Cap; Nakamichi DR-3; Naim 03 Tuner.

If all goes to plan with the speakers I may have a small bit of my budget to invest, approx €3,500.

I am looking at two options, a new streamer or to upgrade my headphones.

I have an entry level pair of Stax L300/SRM252, which whilst I love the sound, I have found uncomfortable for long listening sessions and also generating heat. I upgraded the pads but still have similar discomfort.

On the streaming front I only have a Sonos bridge. I still purchase a lot of vinyl and CD’s and I do not use the Sonos at all with the hi fi, probably due to the low sound quality. However, I do use Tidal around the house and I like their “My Mix” for discovering new artists so could see my self being a convert.

The question is which to do first, upgrade the Stax to something more comfortable like the Stax SR 007 MK2 or another brand like the Meze and purchase an entry level streamer like the Bluenode or just go full in on the ND5 XS2.

Some of the topics here suggest a new Naim streamer is due soon with new technology and therefore I should wait 12/24 months for this.

Both purchases would be final upgrades to my system as I possibly head into retirement in six/ten years time if I’m lucky, and will probably then have other priorities.

Any thoughts or insight very welcome.

It would also be worth looking at the Linn streamers. With their recent changes, there are some good pre-used ones around.



Was trying to keep to Naim but a second-hand entry streamer may be a short-term fix and thanks for the pointer to Linn.

Just seen in another post that the ND5XS2 streamer of the year in What HiFi magazine.

1 Like

I think you really need to get a feel for how far you want to go with streaming. If you take to it as a source for your main system, your amp deserves something along the lines of NDX2/XPS if it’s to be used for more than just background listening. An alternative to this might be an ND5XS2 with a separate DAC upgrade.

If streaming is a lower priority an ND5XS2 might be a good move, or maybe an Atom would be enough. I mention this because an Atom HE might be just what you need to drive a new pair of headphones as well as adding to your main system.

Maybe an Atom HE with Focal Clear MG?

I use the Atome HE as streamer/DAC in my Nain system (52/SC/250). I also have a Naim nDAC but the the Atom HE is not far behind and lots of fun. Volume is set at fixed 80 to provide sufficient headroom for the 52preamp.

And it offers an amazing headphone amp for my Clear MG.

1 Like

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the advice, I’ll look into your suggestions.

I’m thinking that streaming will become more important for me but at the moment I am still committed to vinyl and CD’s.


Hi Restock,

Thanks for your suggestion, I’ll look into this configuration too.


Hi Chris & Restock,

As a streaming unit in my set-up is there much difference between the ND5XS2 and the Atom HE?

The reason I ask is that I am looking for this purchase to last for a decade or more as it maybe my last.

Also, how does the Atom compare with the Headline?



Sorry, I haven’t compared the ND5XS2 to the Atom directly. As a streamer/DAC I would expect the ND5XS2 to be a better performer, although you should be aware that these entry level products are not in the same league as your amp.

When I bought the Atom HE I didn’t assume too much and also thought of it as an “entry” level type performance streamer which I had planned for a second system. Well, to my almost disbelief, it turned out to be so much more and anything but basic entry performance.
Although I’ve not compared directly to the HE, I’ve sequentially owned the ND5XS2 and the NDX2 (with XPS DR) previously. Yes, the NDX2 might outperform it slightly in technical terms but not as an overall sound signature in my preference, and especially when the HE is connected to good mains and quality ethernet feed. Given the choice of all these 3 again, I would personally choose the Atom HE - so much so that I’ve now ordered a second one to use them across the house, brilliant and addictive sound in a way I do not seem to remember with the others, no clutter and so much more flexibility to how one can connect and use it too.


Interesting that they are both so close in performance, here they are exactly the same price.

The headphone output is an advantage and potentially a money saver, although it is hard to stick to budget in this game:)

Due to location of my hifi rack, do you think that without ethernet they are not as good and therefore not a suitable investment for me until I can use an ethernet?


Not in my mind, no. I prefer ethernet but wifi with all these should be good in a decent home network. I believe the newer the generation, generally the better in this respect…

In the above I commented mostly relative to the NDX2, which should be significantly more expensive anywhere, even without an additional PSU. As I remember it, It offered some more perceived resolution (not by too much) and (definitely) quieter background but to me the Atom HE offers a bit better soundstaging combined with a more lifelike groove which, in my mind at least, makes it overall more than good enough compared to the NDX2 soundwise (Clearly, all my spoiled cloth ears, system and preferences!)

If your home network is robust any current gen Naim streamer will be fine over WiFi.

Why would an ND5XS2 not work well into 82/180?

It would work brilliantly, but only with a DAC upgrade :wink:

1 Like

I was told the ND5XS2 has a DAC inside?

It does indeed have a DAC, but all Naim streamers have an SPDIF digital output in order to allow them to be upgraded by adding an external DAC.

thats good to know, thanks…

Some thoughts on Atom HE vs. ND5XS2/NDX2:

Atom HE:
++ excellent headphone amp, compact, excellent ergonomics, built in streamer based on new streaming platform, display, built-in DAC. Output can be fixed or slightly reduced to feed amp as streamer/DAC. Very good preamp stage
– no digital out so cannot be upgraded with external nDAC and or used as standalone streamer into another DAC, no Naim DIN analog out (only RCA and XLR analog out)

++ dedicated streamer with great built in DACs, digital out so upgradeable via external DAC (e.g. nDAC), NDX2 upgradeable via PSU
– no headphone out, less compact, no display on ND5XS2

Note I have no direct listening experience of Atom HE vs ND5XS2 /NDX 2 only of the Atom HE vs the nDAC w/ XPS DR (which many regard highly as possible step-up for the ND5XS2/NDX 2). The Atom HE is surprisingly good and I don’t think it would be embarrassed in your system as also @garcon suggested above (it works beautifully in my 52/SC/250 system).

An Atom HE?

Your profile says: “System: Nait 5 + Graham LS3/5”.