Naim / Sennheiser Combination - How do I get the best out of this gear?

Hi all.

I have older, entry level Naim Kit: -Naim CD5x, Naim NAC 122x, Naim NAP 150x, StageLine
I’ve recently acquired a Sennheiser HDV820 Headphone Amp / Dac and some HD 660s Cans.

I have loads of CD’s and still play them :slight_smile:
What is the best way to integrate these components for the best quality sound?

Should I take RCA from the CD Player direct to RCA on the Senn AMP?

Or…keep running the CD Player to the Pre and then run 5 Pin Din to RCA from the Pre to the Senn Amp?

Sorry, I have lots of questions.
Which is preferred: - Analogue out or Digital out for sound quality? - The reason I ask is that I also have a large Music Library on my MacBook Pro (2020) and was wondering if I use USB C from the Mac to USB B on the Senn Amp ??
From my basic online research it seems getting Bit Perfect Hi Res Music files from the Mac to an external AMP / DAC is not possible as the Mac downsamples the file(s) - is this correct?

Thanks very much in advance if you’re able to help me out.


Steve - welcome to the forum.

I’d run the Sennheiser amp from the pre rather than the CD player. That way you don’t need to switch outputs on the CD player each time you need to use headphones (SQ is slightly compromised if you have both DIN and RCA outputs enabled). Just make sure you have a correctly wired DIN to RCA cable.

No issues connecting your Mac via USB to the Sennheiser amp. You can play Hi-Res files using software such Audirvana. Have a look over in the Streaming Section or do a search and you should find some more info on doing this and other options.

Hi james_n

Thanks for the reply and the welcome - I used to frequent here a bit maybe 2006 / 07, but much has changed since then and I had to register again…

I have the required Cable as I was running a Rega Ear Headphone Amp from this system a long time ago.

OK - If I run the Senn AMP via the Pre which device is acting as the DAC?

Yes, I’ve successfully run USB C from the Mac to USB B in to the Senn Amp, but I am not getting Lossless Hi Res out from the Mac via Apple Music. I need to do more reading / research, but I think the Mac OS downsamples the Bit Rate from the USB out??
I’ll spend some time in the “Streaming” section of the forum and try to work this out.

Thanks once again for your help & advice - much appreciated!



macOS doesn’t auto select the digital out sample rates, unlike iOS.

To configure the USB out you will need to jump into Audio Midi Setup and then choose your output settings. I think you may need to alter these for different rates.

Hope this helps.


Thank you dazjones,

So, before I play a high res lossless music file via Apple Music (either downloaded or streamed), I need to work out the bit rate and Hz of that file and then enter it into Audio Midi Setup?? - Do I have this correct?


I personally haven’t used the Mac in this way, but I believe so. It’s all about matching the file format to the output. If listening to albums it’s not an issue, but if skipping around…… If you were to use a modern iOS device and attach it to the USB in on the Sennheiser using the correct Lightning Adapter it would format the output automatically for you.

Apple Hi Res Done Right Video

My suggestion is to set CD quality and enjoy the music. Hi Res in my opinion (and I’m prepared to be prodded and poked by the forum for this) is a bit of a none event.

I guarantee in a blind listening test you would not be able to tell the difference. What’s is so much more important is the recording and the mastering; two things you have no influence over.

But, the MacBook outputting correctly is a great sounding audio device. I maybe investing in a Zen DAC v2 in the near future for transportable listening with my Focal headphones; I know for sure it’s not going to sound bad! Maybe have a look at other streaming platforms later on, but you’re not going to beat Apple Music for content.

I hope this helps a little.


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Hi dazjones,

Thanks again for the informative reply - I appreciate it.

Perhaps Mac OS will address this issue with a future update??
I have an iPad (but not the correct USB B to Lightning cable)…perhaps I’ll try that in the future.

Yes, I’ve been watching loads of John’s Videos on YT lately and really enjoy his approach to music and Hi Fi!

I’m happy with CD quality playback, but I am curious to know if there is any difference in SQ with all this fuss around HI Res Lossless Play Back??

The iFi Zen DAC v2 has been getting a lot of great reviews!

Another question:- Analogue out V’s Digital out…which is preferred? The Senn Amp will take both inputs but my CD player only has Analogue out…as above, I’ll run the CD Player through the Pre Amp and then to the Senn Headphone Amp
I have a balanced headphone cable for the 660’s, but balanced output only seems possible with a Digital input to the Senn AMP…am I missing something here?

Thanks again for your help and taking the time to reply.



From what I know of the HDV820, it should be able to output a balanced signal irrespective of the chosen input. I’m not sure what’s going on there. But I may be wrong. There are fundamental electrical differences between line in/outs (unbalanced) and balanced. Maybe a line in (unbalanced) dictates a line out (unbalanced).

As was mentioned further up the thread, a din out from your 122x to the RCA in on the HDV820 will give a great analogue signal. The DAC in the CD player will do the job of converting fine and the HDV820 will do a great job of amplifying it in the analogue domain. The less messing with a signal the better.

The HDV820 has a PDF manual available on Sennheiser’s website; there is a chapter on computer audio. Might be helpful.

Might I also add that your Naim kit may benefit from an Authorised service if it hasn’t had a trip back to Salisbury for over 10 years. My kit was serviced this year, an amazing difference in SQ. Literally like new.

Please to help,



Thanks Daz!! - You’ve been extremely helpful :blush:

My Kit has been in storage for a number of years and was last powered up in 2015 for a very limited time.
It hasn’t seen a service since purchase circa 2006, but it was never heavily used past the initial 12 - 18 months.

I’m in New Zealand - we are in level 4 Covid Lockdown right now, but I’ll contact the Naim Dealership who sold me the Kit and enquire about a service when life gets back to normal…or close to normal…if ever…

I’ll leave you be.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to help me out. I really appreciate it!


Our UK news says NZ maybe about to do battle with the Delta variant. Best of luck to you and the rest of the Kiwis.


Thanks Daz,

Things here (mainly in Auckland and to a lesser degree, Wellington) are going to get worse before they get better…

I’m classified as an essential worker…pulling 12-14 hour days, 6 days a week, so music appreciation has been NIL this week !!
I’ll stay positive and keep my chin up :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


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