My experiences in comparing the Naim NDX2 to the CDX2

I have been intrigued for a while by the reviews of the NDX2. But I was, however, hesitant to spend the large amount of money necessary to buy a NDX 2, because I thought I would still end up with a sound not as good as that of my CDX2 cd player. Because other CDX2 owners might have the same hesitation I thought it could be helpful for them to write down my first experiences in comparing the two now I recently bought a NDX2. In particular because Naim does not produce the CDX2 anymore and one has to bring his or her own CDX2 to the dealer to compare or ask the dealer for a home demo of the NDX2.

I have compared the NDX2 with the CDX2 using a Supernait 1 amplifier with a Hi-Cap power supply (which is not necessary anymore with the Supernait 3, according to Naim) and ESL 63 electrostatic loudspeakers, which are still the closest to the live sound in my opinion (and I have heard many other high quality loudspeakers). Not only for classical music, but also for the bass of Jaco Pastorius and the guitar of Jimi Hendrix, thanks to the Naim amplifier and power supply. I have an earlier version of the CDX2 without a digital output, so I can’t single out the effect of the different DACs on the comparison.

I am using the streams of Qobuz in CD quality on the NDX2 to compare to CDs on the CDX2. To determine the effect of streaming in the comparison I downloaded a few hi-res recordings from this 2L-site: http://www.2l.no/hires/ When I compared e,g, the piano sound of Christian Grøvlen in Bach Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue from the album Inside Polyphony in the Stereo DSD 128 version on the USB to the sound of the album on Qobuz, I found that the differences were small enough. Which is, I think, a big compliment for the Qobuz sound quality.

I start the comparison with a live recording of Schumann’s first violin sonata by Martha Argerich and Renaud Capucon from the 2008 Lugano festival recording. The reason I chose this one is because I was in the audience. And although it is a long time ago it still helps me in judging especially the placement of the instruments between the speakers. And that is exactly where I found the NDX2 better than the CDX2. The piano is more behind the violin where it has to be and there is more air around both instruments.

The second CD I compared is a duo CD of the saxophonist Houston Person and bass player Ron Carter Remember Love. When I listened to the first track Love is here to stay on my CDX2 I always felt that you could not have a more natural saxophone sound, especially because you can ‘see’ Houston Person playing and breathing in your room. But to my surprise that breathing was even more natural on the NDX2. And also the bass of Ron Carter has slightly more punch on the NDX2.

The Third comparison is the CD The naked ride home of Jackson Browne from 2000 with excellent arrangements and great musicianship of the band that accompanies him in a very live sounding recording. When you listen to the track Sergio Leone you can hear that very well. Here the sound of the CDX2 seems to have more power (especially the bass and drums) than the sound of the NDX2, but still the NDX2 lets you hear the individual musicians better.

I had hoped that the sound of the NDX2 would get very close to the sound of the CDX2 and also with CD quality streaming sources that is the case. This with the additional benefits of a more natural sound due to a better placement of the individual instruments and with more air around them.

But I will still keep my CDX2. First to really rock when your neighbors are not there. The limitations of the streaming sources make it less possible to feel the bass in your stomach than with the CDX2. But also because there are still labels that are not available through streaming services. Like Praga, with their beautiful Prazak quartet recordings, and Hyperion. Hyperion told me there are no plans to go to streaming because the financials just don’t work for a small independent record label like them. They expect the net effect of going to streaming to be negative despite the declining CD and download sales in general. And last but not least, because I have thousands of CD.

18 Likes

Joost hi,

Very interesting, thank you. I have a QB as my second system on which I stream from Tidal and have contemplated trading my CDS3 for a NDX2. However, I am yet to be convinced that the NDX2 gets close to the dynamics and fluency of the CDS3.

Best regards,

Lindsay

Have you tried ripping one of your CD’s to say a USB drive (flac or wav) to compare the quality?

1 Like

When I get an NDX2 I will be keeping my CDX2 until it dies.

I now use an NDX2 with an XPS2 power supply. This basically replaces the CDS3 I once owned. I do not miss the CDS3.
Most of my music is Rips from my own CD’s, ripped by and stored on my HDX as well as a NAS drive with Asset server installed.
I prefer the sound of my ripped CD’s to streaming from Tidal, when comparing the same albums.

Forget the hifi and recording qualities, listen to ‘our’ Ton Koopmans version which is on Spotify. Harpsichord, but somehow he manages to convey all the dynamics in a better way than anybody can on an grand piano which is unsuitable for such music.

Which limitations?

Thanks for such a detailed report, my CDx2 is an absolute treasure and I have been giving streaming some serious thought .

One of my biggest reservations is whether the artist is fairly paid for his/her/their work

Good point, but it’s probably not easy to quantify. I’ve only got Spotify currently, but already I am playing a lot more different artists than I would have done if I kept to buying CD’s, so streaming can give artists more exposure, and therefore more 0.00000001pence’s

I understand what you are saying about paying the artist. Although I chose Qobuz primarily for the better audio quality compared to e,g, Spotify I also hope that some of the incremental cost of that premium priced subscription will go the record companies. But given what I wrote above about the quality of streaming audio combined with the possibility to enjoy music in all its different versions I think the future will be streaming. Cd sales are are already lower than vinyl sales. And for many artists the income from albums is only a small part of their income and the promotion value of being on all streaming platforms is for many as important as the money.

I have the Naimunti2 which does not support Qobuz, or I might be tempted although the minimum subscription of £150 pa is a bit offputting. I currently dont stream, and I have a fairly large collection of vinyl and cd’s, many bought for a single track, and many picked up dirt cheap at charity shops. Rightly or wrongly, much new music doesn’t appeal apart for a few favourite artists. Qobuz might appeal for newer performances in the classical genre, but that’s about it. I plan to work through neglected music in my collection and maybe listen more to WHOLE albums now I have the time. I reluctantly accept that the CD is now in slow decline. I hear that new cars will soon abandon the cd player: its currently an expensive option on the Ford Mustang.

You could triple your contribution to the artist by using Tidal instead of Spotify. https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/12/25/streaming-music-services-pay-2019/

If you add a good switch like Etheregen or English Electric, with a musical ethernet cable, the Ndx2 should be above everywhere.
I had Cdx2 / Xps2 before. Straight from my router, the Nds had not the punch and urgency of the Cdx2. Until…

1 Like

I used to own a CDX2 (a 2002 vintage without the digital out) and then I bought an NDX2. The NDX2 to my ears was significantly better using ripped CD’s, Tidal or Qobuz. My perceived improvement in SQ could be due to either the DAC difference or the mode of digital delivery to the DAC. I really dont know particularly care!
The CDX2 was banished to eBay (now living somewhere in China!) and the NDX2 was supplemented with an XPS DR. I have never regretted selling the CDX2 from a SQ viewpoint and as a bonus the streamer has massively broadened my listening repertoire.
Each to their own of course, but I find the NDX2 / XPS DR and Qobuz at £15 per month an unbeatable combination.

I did what you suggested and created a few lossless files using iTunes and put them on the USB. This required now listening to three different versions (the cd on the CDX2, the ALAC file on the NDX2 and the Qobuz CD-stream on the NDX2), which was not always easy. All three are at such a high sound quality level anyway. The truth is that the ALAC on the USB of the NDX2 was extremely close to the sound of the NDX2. Still I felt a more open soundstage from the NDX2 DAC, but the CDX2 sounded for pop music slightly more live. The differences between the ALAC file and the Qobuz CD-stream were a little bigger, but still small. The streaming sound was slightly thinner and the bass sounded less tight. So ripping the CDs that you feel show the biggest difference between the CDX2 and Qobuz can be worth it if you want to keep the NDX2 as your primary source. According to frenchrooster a good switch would also improve the streaming sound. But in my short experience the differences vary really from album to album (e.g. the difference with the album LA Woman of the Doors was much bigger than with many other albums). I can tell you that listening to NDX2 continues to be a real pleasure.

1 Like

As mentioned in my reply to Gagdetman I compared the lossless rip from the CD on the USB of the NDX2 to the Qobuz CD-stream on the NDX2 and although the differences are small there is still a difference. Especially when you play loud the effect of a somewhat thinner sound is audible. It is also my understanding that the compression used to create CD quality streams has in the end a larger effect on the sound than the compression used to create a FLAC or ALAC file. According to frenchrooster a good switch would however further improve the streaming sound. But if you just listen to the NDX2 with Qobuz it is amazing that streaming has come this far.

There could be lots of causes for this perception that don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with any inherent limitation. I thought that maybe you know something concrete about a limitation being present.

I don’t know what compression you are referring to, as far as I know all the online platforms stream a FLAC for CD quality and above. Of course you never know if the CD you ripped yourself and the streaming data even came from the same master.

By the way, some people are saying that the SQ of a rip played from an USB attached HDD is worse than the same rip via local UPnP, and it might also make a difference if the UPnP server is transcoding a ripped FLAC to WAV or if this is left to the streamer. There are certainly differences in the amount of work the streamer has to do

The switch and cables may or may not make a difference, and any difference may or may not be an improvement. There is far from a consensus and at best it seems to be very system dependent.

my ER arrives tomrrow
I have been reading alot of positive things- my expectations may be too high
I use ndx2/xpsdr
Fingers crossed.
My CDS 2 was sold to help me finance the ndx2- some aspects of CD play were better than streaming. Streaming mainly sounds great.
The ability to listen to so much more music with streaming is such a huge advantage
I am hoping that the ER gets me up a notch in SQ
David

1 Like

I must admit, I cant tell the difference between USB and uPnP, but perhaps that down to my system (although just collected an NAC 82, so lets see). However in my mind, as the Streamers buffer the data, then I would have thought it was easier to read a USB file, that read/stream off a remote server over lots of various networking, therefore wouldn’t that make USB best, unless its the requirement to power up the USB circuits that causes a drop.

I have not tried either way, I was just trying to summarize what others said. It’s a properly fascinating topic and I am inclined to try when the system is in place with the NDX2 etc. (should be in two weeks or so) and run in (longer, most likely).

On the other hand, maybe I will just listen to music for once :slight_smile:

1 Like