Naim DAC impressions

I recently bought a Naim DAC to try to improve on CD replay (Exposure 3010S2).

As I had hoped, it was a significant step forward (as good as the Expo is as a standalone player). Adding the DAC did the usual - it is clearer and easier to follow musical lines, provides noticeably more musical detail, and seems, overall, more authoritative.

I’ve tried it on a solid glass shelf as well as on a Base 01 platform (anyone remember them?). So far I think the Base is preferable - a slightly more relaxed/less urgent presentation.

I’ve tried a Wireworld Starlight 8 BNC to BNC digital cable v. an Audioquest Cinnamon RCA that I had from living with a Meridian 563 years ago. Let’s just say the Wireworld was significantly better (for whatever reason(s)).

I also tried a Cambridge CXC transport and an older Sony DVD player; again, let’s just say the Expo was a significantly better sounding/more musical transport. And in my purchase flurry, I bought a DVD5 but had to order a remote, so have not been able to try it yet.

The only other DAC I was able to try was a Chord Hugo (original, I think) that a friend has. Putting aside ownership bias as much as possible, in my room/system, we both thought the nDAC on the Base 01 worked better, though it’s easy to hear why so many like the Hugo.

Overall, I’m both knocked out and a teeny-tiny bit relieved, as I bought it without trying it in my system in my room. Seems like an easy recommendation for those who want a (now relatively inexpensive used) DAC to upgrade a variety of sources.

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A S/H nDAC is one of the best bargains one can make today. A wonderful DAC that allows for great upgrades to go high end with terrific VFM.

Chag -

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…responds really well to a PSU.

Great DAC.

Be interested in your thoughts on the DVD5 in due course, Used to use the combination myself many moons ago …with an XPS PSU.

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Yes. Thoroughly recommend even a plain XPS on the nDac.

G

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As it seems you have found, the nDAC is not transport agnostic. Should you be able to lay hands on a well- priced CD5XS I’d urge you to try the combination — my setup for several years (eventually with an XPS.)

Roger

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Indeed a brillant match as they have been developed and optimized together in 2009. Note that the gap to an XPS-DR is not so large since the second firmware update 4.11.8. late 2015. The important upgrade is more with the 555PS that some will claim to prefer non-DR in this nDAC configuration.

Chag -

Which is, by strange coincidence, what I’ve got (Olive XPS borrowed from my CDX).

The “transport aspect” is interesting. I started out running my nDAC from an Raspberry Pi 3/IQAudio Digi+ (MoOde software) via a cheapo RCA-RCA cable. Sounded good.

the RPi3/IQAudio Digi+ was replaceD by RPi3/Allo DigiOneSig nature with a cheapo BNC-BNC - significant uplift, but then…

replaced the iFi PS with a Cuinas Audio Supercap PS - quite astonishing, easily on the scale of going the PSU ladder on a preamp.

And after that it was modest uplifts at best.

RPi3/Allo USBridgeSignature/DigioneSignature with the same cheapo BNC-BNC.

Cuinas replaced by an Allo Shanti PS (much as muchness with the Cuinas - both have “super-capacitors on their secondary outputs)

Finally a DC-1 BNC-BNC interconnect (modest, but worthwhile)

Most times there was an uplift in SQ; sometimes very significant - e.g. DigioneSig, Cuinas PS - other times less so.

But don’t get me wrong here, as far as I am concerned, the Allo/MoOde streamer feeding the nDAC/XPS is superb! Nevertheless I accept that I am delusional coz the Allo streamer is working in the digital domain, and as we all know, bits iz bits innit!

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I remember BASE racks well, as years ago my whole active SBL electronics were on them. I found them to be very good racks, and I loved the modularity of them. Buy what you need, as you need them, plus the variable tube lengths. I used just the BASE platforms themselves under various gear on top of other stands. Very versatile still.

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I’ve also now had a chance to at least roughly set up my new (to me) speakers - Monitor Audio Gold GX300s.

They are a significant advance over my Linn Helix 2s. And, of course, I tried the system with and without the nDAC - the differences are more pronounced, as you’d likely expect. With the MAs, the improvement in bass extension and grip is even more noticeable, as is the improvement in musical (and hifi) detail.

The differences in transport, cable, and support remain; they’re more obvious with the MAs (surprising, I know!).

I’ll start a fund for a PS; have some house projects and so on to attend to first.

Perhaps @NigelB can give a few pointers as he has had your speakers thru many an upgrade, they have served him well?

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Yep I ran my nonDR 555PS on my NDAC for a couple of years fed by my then NDX… it was a great combo… and yes for whatever reason I found the DR 555PS (which was a must on the NDS) just seemed not to add the magic in the same way on the NDAC.

My support was top shelf Fraim.

I know Simon. This is why I made that reference. I knew you would pick it up and reflect on it.

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i knew that you you knew I’d pick up on that :grinning:

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That BASE 01 is a nice addition.
The nDac shares the 5i series casework. Better than others at the price, but if you tap the top it gives out a somewhat disappointing clank. Give it some TLC on the support - as you have done.
You can also go to town on all the cables connected to it. It’s a very responsive device to play with.

I second that… used to run my NDX wit nDAC and 555PS (non-DR).
Tried both DR and non-DR and somehow non-DR made the nDAC sing sweetly.

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I still use 4 Base 01, I find them very good. They’re still produced in Kent - incidentally, a whole Audiophile Base system is about the same price as a Naim Fraim…

Very good Sam, I used mine up until about a year ago. I had wondered what the pricing was in comparison to Fraim, as I had bought all mine before Fraim was released, so it has been quite awhile! I knew BASE was still around though, I stumbled onto their web site not long ago, glad they are still going. It is another alternative for sure!

Good to know they’re still around.

Will need to get a better stand at some point than what I have now . . . even if I’ll probably target a PS for the DAC and a dedicated power line for the system as a whole first.

As @Gazza mentions, I have been using MA GX300 Gold speakers (the previous rather than the current iteration) for several years, and they have seen me through from a Uniti2 to my current ND555/552/250DR. I am not surprised you have noticed such an uplift in SQ, they are great speakers, even though they are unfashionable with Naim.

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@NigelB -

Thanks - I’m very pleased! They play music stunningly well - and sound brilliant to boot. I need to improve the floor under them - they reach quite a bit deeper in the bass than the Helix 2 did.

I’d love any suggestions/advice on how to maximize them - I understand they like power, so I’m on the lookout for a pair of 3010S2 monos to replace my 28 power amp. And, obviously, the better the equipment in front of them, the better . . .