How much does it cost to stream well

Too much time on my hands, so have been obsessively comparing streams with CD and vinyl.
Let’s leave vinyl out of it for now.
I have an ancient, but recently re-capped, CDS2 running against my toe-in-the-water Cambridge Audio CXN V2 streamer/dac. I am streaming; Qobuz, Tidal and my own careful rips from CD all via ethernet with nice switches.
Now here’s the thing, carefully matching the volume, the CDS sounds better in every case, even against higher-res files. Fuller, less brittle, but still plenty of detail, just better.
So the highly rated budget Cambridge clearly has failings, probably the switch-mode power supply vs the CDPS behemoth.
So how much do I have to spend to better the ancient CDS? Obviously I’m considering an NDX2, but would be seriously miffed if I bought one and it didn’t beat the CD.

Interestingly (to me anyway) I also tried a digital out from the CXN v2, bypassing its DAC, into my Focal Arche DAC headphone amp and the CDS was still better (feeding analogue to the Arche).

The most important part in a digital chain is generally the DAC, so if you get a good quality standalone DAC and feed the Cambridge into that, you should be able to get close to NDX2 results. Which DAC you should get depends on various factors, including budget and taste.

A standalone DAC can bring other advantages as well, like shielding the incoming signal from external interference. This an be more difficult with streamer/DAC combinations where a single box is processing different kinds of signals in a small physical space.

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yes, I was editing my post to include an external DAC, and we crossed.
I don’t think the Arche is the best DAC in the world, and I suspect another switch mode power supply, but I haven’t taken it apart yet.

In have access to other streaming devices, including a rather nice Matrix Audio Sabre Pro DAC, so I guess more experiments are called for.

But I am kind of born again CD fan, while I know it makes no sense against a good rip.

And while we’re at it, the DAC chip in the CDS must be out of the ark, how can it be doing so well?

Have you tried feeding an analog line from the Cambridge into the Arche? It might be interesting just to try out if it sounds different than the digital input and closer to the sound you enjoy from the CDS.

Some people prefer a more analog sounding DAC, or one that has a certain ‘colour’. So it might just be a question of finding the right combination that produces this sound for you with a streaming source.

The CDS was a very capable player in its day, and to keep things in proportion you should consider what it would cost if it was on the market today, and where it would sit in the Naim hierarchy. Probably not so far away from the NDX2 I would think, and to level the playing field, you would want the streamer to also be powered by an XPS.

Oh yes, I have tried everything connected via; a NAC 252, separate analogue connections, and a digital cable. Usually, this allows simple switching of inputs using either the preamp or Arche input selector.

The CDS2 is winning (apart from vinyl, sometimes)

Unsurprisingly, the differences are easier to hear via Focal Utopia headphones, than speakers. My room is terrible and muddles the picture totally.

Im in a similar quandary. As it stands, I am using my Melco to drive a DAC-V1 and its not even close to my CDS nor has any streamer I have heard been anywhere as good as my CDS (I have not heard that many to be fair). I quite fancy an NDX2, but the dealers I have spoken to seem to offer mixed advice on whether it will be up to the standard of my CDS so I am loathed to drop the cash on one.

Interested to hear how you get on.

I’d say that an NDX2 with PS555DR would at least equal, if not better the CDS. The latter is wonderfully musical, and that’s what the big power supply will bring to the NDX2.


noted, sounds like something to demo in due course. Do you think an NDS/(some PS) is the equal to an NDX/(some PS)?

Having owned and enjoyed a CDS2/CDPS (I preferred the CDPS over XPS) for many years it would probably take an NDX2 with 555DR to pip it, what a player, fluid, analogue sounding it had everything.

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Well to start off with, it depends what you call well?
But for sure the dac is the most influential and then a good streamer to run along side it or built in.
A £1000 would get you a n dac and a cheap streamer
£2500 gets you a NDS, but you will need a power supply as well
After that then it starts to get serious

The Cambridge CXN v2 is about 800 quid, which was enough of an investment to learn streaming, and there is no arguing with the fun and convenience of using Roon. But to have it trounced by a digital device that I bought over thirty years ago is shocking.

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Sometimes we just prefer a certain type of sound, the same goes for vinyl. In a purely technical sense it’s not superior to a CD or digital file, but some people just prefer the sound it produces!

The NDS is a better piece of kit than the NDX, but as Dunc says, you’ll need a power supply(s); (I use Israeli ones, Shhhh …), but it won’t get Qobuz unless you can run the Cambridge stream thru it.
It’s an excellent Dac for iradio and ripped CDs, but the first gen streamer is limiting.

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I suppose at the end of the day, regardless of source origin, what we hear is the result of a modulated power supply. So I’m thinking it is the re-capped CDPS that would need to be bettered, and that’s not happening this side of a 555.

Hi rockingdoc

I guess I’m in a similar situation to you

I have a CD5XS/nDAC/XPS-2 combination (along with TT/vinyl ). It sounds pretty damn fine to me, so like you I say to myself why would I move to streaming if it’s only going to give me a similar quality of sound, and maybe not even that. Or how much do I need to spend to get a better sound to beat the CD combo.

Like you the TT/vinyl stays as when one gets that right , to my ears it’s the best.

I can’t see myself going into the streaming way at this stage unless of course the CD player completely explodes.

How? I don’t believe reading is a problem at all. Transmitting across a network can be, as it can be a source of added RF noise,etc, etc, etc…

That was exactly my setup (into SN1/HCDR) a few years ago and the very one that got me into streaming! My first move towards streaming was CDs ripped to a dedicated headless MacMini and played back through the nDAC. I found a small but definite improvement over the CD transport. Eventually I couldn’t resist a 272/250DR and that eventually led to my current active speakers and non-Naim pre/streamer. Each move has given a substantial increase in SQ at least to my ears.


Is it, though? If the CDS2 was still in production today, it would probably cost in excess of £10k with the XPS, so probably more than NDX2/XPS. You’re comparing it to a 1-box streamer that costs 8% of that.

The simple answer to the thread question is not a lot. The biggest cost in sounding good is the DAC, though that s common to other digital reproduction, like CD. But if your DAC ( CD player) can’t take an external digital feed you will need another. There are a lot to choose from, each of which in my experience sounds different, but is fundamental to good replay. My preference is the recent Chord DACs (Hugo series), which I found more natural sounding that my experience of a Naim DAC (as in ND5XS)

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