ND5 XS2 Sound Quality

I have a ND5 XS2 RCA out into Cary SLP 98 with every upgrade possible inc premium NOS tubes.
Into Pass Labs amps to Vienna Acoustics “the Kiss” speakers. My vinyl playback (Dr Feickert Woodpecker/Reed 3P/ Hana ML and oppo 105D both sound better than the ND5. I am disappointed as i expected the Naim to be better than the Oppo. Maybe i have the wrong settings?
I use Tidal Masters and Qobuz. Tidal in the Oppo sounds better. Both the Oppo and the Naim use the Same ethernet switch so I do not think that is the issue? Can anyone guide me into getting the best out of my ND5? Would a better Quality external DAC help? All are connected using Nordost Red Dawn cables.

Do you have the settings in your Tidal and Qobuz app set to max bitrate for your subscription?
Not that it would make a massive difference but the view from Naim is the DIN output is preferable to the RCA.

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JimDog, I listen to all types of music. Jazz, Classical, Blues, Rock, Reggae, Punk, House, electronic, Dylan (Category unto himself) etc so that makes little sense. System synergy or lack of maybe?

Yes, all to the Max

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I will wait for more informed information rather than a veiled critique, posh, what does that even mean in this context? You do not need to reply.
Maybe someone on the forum has some helpful advice.

Neil, I only have the RCA option on my Pre. Is it possible an external DAC would improve the sound? Or do you think maybe Naim the wrong gear for me?

An external dac as a second hand Naim Ndac will uplift very nicely the Nd5xs2. A lot here have that combo.
However I am also surprised that the Oppo sounds better on Tidal vs the Naim.

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Thank you. I will investigate that option. I might try ND5 Coaxial out to Oppo Coaxial in as well as ND5 Toslink out to Oppo Toslink in and see what happens? Maybe the Naim needs more time to settle? Is burn in a thing with Streamers?

How new is it? The current streamers nd5xs2/ndx2/nd555 all improve over time.
Also I cant remember if you can have both DIN and RCA output active at the same time, but only having the one you are using active is best.

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Hi Rob - Good as the ND5XS2 is, you may just find you prefer the sound of your other sources and these may have better synergy with the rest of your system than the Naim component. Nothing wrong with that.

If you’re happy with the Oppo then stick with it - did you compare the ND5XS2 with others before purchasing or was it a blind buy ?


Nd5xs2 costs twice the Oppo, but this later is made with much lower costs ( China).
Cary and Pass are known more for refinement, soundstaging, nice sound….rather than grip and involvement, which are more the strengths of the Naim.
Maybe the Oppo is nearer the qualities of your electronics than the Naim?

I know, I am only guessing and writing some clichés, however had already listened to Carry ( tubes) and Pass Labs.


You don’t specify which Pass amp, but they’re all very good. Your speakers are excellent. Your amp & speakers are what many would consider top flight

You need a source of high quality. I think that the ND5XS2 is a very weak link in your system. It’s not a bad streamer/DAC, but it is not up to the standard of your system. Your systems is showing up its shortcomings. From your post, it seems likely that the Naim ‘sound’ just doesn’t suit.

I wouldn’t bother with an external DAC to the ND5XS2, as it would then merely be a quite expensive network bridge (of course, if you really like the Naim app then by all means consider that route.)

I’d sell the Naim and buy a suitable network bridge and DAC, or a combined unit. Make sure you listen to it through your system before committing.


I think the comments about preference, combinations and synergy are pertinent. I am among those open to combining different brands if this would modify the overall sound to my preference.

In addition, the DAC chip brand/type itself may be what makes you like it overall or less so as while implementation is key, these still have their own, different signature. I’ve had the Oppo 105d and their Sabre DAC may be something you prefer so may be try Sabre based DACs rather than the Naim used Burr-Brown type? I personally did not find the Oppo so convincing with music but I like DACs from e.g. the higher end Auralics.

I would not be using the ND5XS2 with another DAC and would find a single streaming DAC that I like, but before doing any of that, would give the ND5XS2 just a bit more time both to run in, get a bit used to the difference and decide if the Naim type is something for you?

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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. I will unplug clean and reconnect everything and give it some time.
I did plug an SSD with hi res flac files into the Naim and they sounded truly great, as good as I have heard music files from a hard drive.
So the mystery continues.
I will swap a few cables, switch ethernets cables, restart router etc and try to work it out.
To answer a couple of questions, the Pass Lab amps are Aleph 2 mono block amps recently recapped with an upgraded internal power supply by Pass Labs in CA.
The streaming sound (compared to the other components) is missing the dynamic punch and high and low delicacy/detail.
It only has 20 or so hours on the unit so I will give it more time.
The Naim App is fantastic IMHO. Great UI and functionality.

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I am a bit surprised what I read here.
I have a nd5xs2 with nDAC/XPs fed by hdx as server. I think it es wonderful sounding and is getting better and better over time.
From a technical point it should come near to ndx2 - same streaming board and separated DAC.
Give him a bit time. Also it has a Special sound - not detailed to the last but, but involving and very 3 dimensional.
Like it :grinning:

What is really very noticeable is that my whole system sounds better when it has played for about 30 min. Warming up - Especially when temps are lower inside.


I don”t know the ND5XS2, but I started with streaming using the original ND5XS.The only thing I had to compare it with was CD, a Shearne Phase 7, and they were pretty similar so I was happy with the change as a replacement for the dying Shearne. A year later I added a Chord Hugo as external DAC, using the ND5 just as renderer (transport if you like), and the difference was very noticeable - and suddenly digital was clearly better than vinyl. Indeed, my brother in law who had always preferred vinyl on his Linn Sondek source to CD, grudgingly admitted that digital was now good enough. Prior to Hugo I had been persuaded to add an external power supply (XP5XS), but the improvement was marginal and highly disappointing for the cost. some months later I changed the renderer, the ND5XS tying up too much money with its redundant DAC, and a couple of years after that bought an even better DAC. The DAC is a major influence on sound quality with digital.

That doesn’t answer your question as to why the ND5XS doesn’t sound as good as you expected, but might give you food for thought moving forward. It may just be that you prefer the OPPo DAC to the ND5XS2 DAC.

@Innocent_Bystander - Are you still using a digital crossover in your system? If so, have you considered / tried sending the crossover a digital feed? That would take the crossover ADC out of the signal path.

Apologies to @robpearson for thread drift…

Ha, no need for the apology, it was interesting to see where it all went👍

I have an all Naim system (on the digital side), but I’ve never listened to the DAC in my ND5 XS2. Like many others, I feed BNC to Chord Qutest/MScaler and then to my 282. Fabulous. Might be worth a try?

I did try it, but Not good - unsurprising as the music conversion would have been down to the active XO’s DAC for sound quality, whereas it sounded much better converted through Dave DAC. Trying to understand this I picked up on info from elsewhere that where an ADC and DAC are matched the DAC can perform far better than a general purpose DAC just optimised for music. It’s the same principle as, for example, the current Naim Uniti products digitising all analogue inputs. The solution, I thought, would be an active XO up front, and a trio of Daves before the power amps (and for analogue sources the mythical not yet produced Chord Davina ADC…. But the cost would be beyond any hope of my getting, save afyert a big lottery win!

I am currently not using the digital crossover due to a change is speakers, detailed wlsewhere.