I grant the HD555 is the flagship source for Naim, BUT here’s my question. It has no hard drive, so stored music is from a NAS or from say Tidal.
Now both sources are of lesser quality than local storage on a player due to the Ethernet connection wires, distance, EM noise, router noise. Then internet music sources are not the same quality of local storage on a player. This present paragraph I’m relaying from several sources I’ve read on the internet including from recognised audiophile experts you’d know of.
So, local storage would be a quality hard drive and £2000 + digital interconnect, not the ND555 streaming alone, which I grant is the best Naim DAC - but that’s not my question.
How does an NDS with a local HD and aforementioned digital interconnect compare to an ND555 just using the Ethernet noise and marketing minded (note how they price subscriptions) internet streaming services in sound quality?
For me, i found that the ND555 didn’t bring me the gains i was expecting from it over the NDS when running from a melco playing ripped or downloaded music. It simply wasn’t any difference i could hear on my system or at the dealers.
Now streaming will probably be different as the new streaming board is far better than the one in the NDS, but if you have something like a melco for storage then you can always use the streamer in the melco as it’s a good one and will be much better than the one in the NDS
I find sometimes high resolution streams from Qobuz can sound good, but generally if I find something I like on Qobuz, I’ll buy it on CD which usually sounds better. Occasionally I’ll buy it on vinyl, which can also sound good.
@Clive If I may ask you a question a bit out of topic: do you generally prefer the quality of your ripped CDs to the Hi-Res version sold on Qobuz? So despite having an ND555 you don’t seem attracted by Hi-Res files.
I’ve asked you this because I am thinking of buying more CDs (I also prefer to own something physical) but I’ve never been able to compare their audio quality differences.
Theoretically Hi-Res at 192 kHz / 24 bit should sound better than 44.1 kHz / 16 bit, but I suspect CDs might sound better in most cases as you just said. Unluckily I didn’t have the chance to make such a comparison myself, but a CD I’ve listened to made me really question this and it’s become a bit of a niggle.
I dispute your assertion that local file storage is of lesser quality compared to CD. The absence of real-time read of spinning physical media, and interpolative error correction in the event of read errors is a distinct advantage for local file storage, as is the capability to store higher resolution files. As far as ethernet connections are concerned, that depends how susceptible the ND555 is to interference such as RF contamination of the data feed (DACs are known to potentially suffer modulation problems with RF superimposed on the signal, or via ground plane, with some immune or near-immune, others not, with a range between - I don’t know about the ND555). Even with a susceptible DAC it also will depend on the network connected and the local electromagnetic environment. I don’t use an ND555, instead my store and renderer are in the same box, no network involved, which is another way to eliminate any need to consider ethernet effects.
Surprisingly I do find ripped and locally stored CDs can sound just as good as, and frequently better than, 24bit, 96kHz streams from Qobuz. I cannot stream at 192kHz, which might sound better, owing to my slow broadband.
Of significance of course is whether the same mastering - it is not uncommon for a CD and a subsequently released hi res file to have different mastering, rather than the CD simply downsampled from the same hi res file, in which case you’d be primarily hearing the difference between masterings.
@Innocent_Bystander Thank you, but why do you say that there is supposed to be no difference? If I’m not mistaken you wrote this a while ago so the difference exists. Maybe it’s just not worth considering.
By the way I’m aware of the mastering problem and that can create a huge difference. I didn’t know that it’s normal practice to use different masters for CDs and Hi-Res streaming platforms. I do care more about the mastering quality, but I was wondering about the real difference between the Hi-Res file and the same downsampled CD version.
Is there a way to spot the use of different masters before buying a CD?
@Clive Thanks! Generally speaking I prefer local streaming as well.
Sorry, I should have added a smiley! The theory of the CD standard of 16/44 is that it conveys all the human ear can hear/discern, and that is what I meant in saying it is there is “supposed to be” no difference. On the basis of commentary by a multiple people from their experience with 16/44 and higher resolution files believed or understood to be from the same master would appear that higher resolutions may actually convey something more, albeit maybe not in the form of additional musical detail as such, though it may depend on the quality and content of the original recording.
For clarification I didn’t mean to suggest that it is normal practice as such, particularly where both are produced at the same time for marketing - I don’t know whether or not that is the case, and suspect it may depend on the music type and whether “loudness war” practices are employed for the CD - however I believe it is quite common, or certainly not uncommon, where music previously released digitally only on CD is then made available as hi res.
From my personal experience I perceive 192/24 has - maybe but not always - more airiness and precision. However in the end the quality of the recording and a proper mastering are the most important thing in my opinion.
Recently I listened to a Hi-Res version of Abraxas by Santana on Qobuz. At first I was surprised by the sound quality but then I remembered I had the same CD, bought 20-30 years before. So I compared the two and my initial surprise started to fade away quite quickly, they sounded kind of identical, I didn’t feel any plus except the Hi-Res logo.
How do you arrive at this conclusion, or is it just an assumption?
You can use locally attached storage on a USB drive mounted directly on a streamer USB port, accessed by the built in UPnP server on the ND555. Compare this to Tidal or a server on your LAN and you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions based on listening tests.
Having said that, there is potential for some noise to be generated by an internal drive or a USB drive as well as an Ethernet or WiFi connection.
In addition, all streamers have active network connections, and if you’re concerned about this being a potential source of EMI pollution, playing from an internal drive will not eliminate it unless you turn off WiFi and unplug the network cable. Then you have no control app.