ND555 technical relevance?

Given the pace of change in the streaming world, how future proof is the ND555 today? When it was released, 10 years of relevance might not have seemed too bad but now, several years into production and the chip set already obsolete, does it still have a good 10 years of relevance ahead? Is it still a good buy or is the pace of change going to necessitate a .2 version sooner rather than later?

Questions I’m pondering during the ever lengthening lead time of the ND I ordered…

It will likely be still relevant and working well in ten years time… the underlying services the product uses both locally and from the cloud use established, mature and widely adopted technologies that are unlikely to totally change to the point the product can’t be software updated should any change occur any time in the reasonable future. Naim are known for their support. The hardware is robust, with the only slight fragility being the output relays, but that is across much of the Naim source and preamp product set and not just tye ND555.

The actual digital audio and DSP is long established and was developed for the Naim DAC many years ago and is still very relevant in the Naim digital product set, and let’s not forget the converters themselves… very old school and really from a bygone era… but still going strong and chosen for their performance characteristics. I would give yourself a 20 year window where you can expect to use the product pretty much as you use today.

There is a view that audio streaming new technologies are new… they are for the most part not. They are mature and established and some have been around for 30 plus years. There are not many areas of IT that use 30 year old tech and still going strong! Streaming is probably as mature as it gets in consumer electronics.

Whether it’s a good buy or not, is obviously down to you.

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I’m not sure what they would update, hardware wise. The NP800 based streaming board has enough capacity / power to deal with all the current streaming services and near future ones too - Apart from more coming on the market, they are all offering a similar sort of service.
The DAC and analogue section still use Naims preferred approach with the dual PCM1704 devices and discrete filter and output stages. They don’t seem to be moving away from this method at the moment.
If Naim did introduce a new standalone DAC with a different conversion approach then you could use the ND555 as a S/PDIF source and likewise, if a new streaming service came up which couldn’t be supported on the Naim streaming platform, you could use a separate device to feed one of the S/PDIF inputs.
I suppose any Network streaming device with a built in DAC will have a finite lifetime, compared to other products, but the ND555 is still very relevant and does give you flexibility to add external devices if needed.

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The chipset was probably designed over 20 years ago, so would seem to be obsolete. But Naim have always liked the sound signature of the 1704k chipset, they could have gone down the FPGA route or used other newer DAC designs, but chose not to. When some of us from the forum were at HQ before the latest streamers were launched we were given an insight into the designs by Steve Sells. I came away with the distinct impression that the ND555 performance was not easily achieved at that price point. I would imagine a few technologies in time when collectively added together may spur Naim on to a new range of streamers, but not yet?

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I guess what got me thinking was the rapidly outdated platforms for earlier streaming devices. I have a gen 1 UQ & US which quickly ended up gathering dust. The 272 came and went from the Naim product line, streaming platform now outdated. What is so much more mature about the ND?

My thoughts came from seeing the already highly regarded and relatively recent DCS Rossini being released with a new DAC (Apex series). I know there will always be something new and improved but are we in the realms of refinements or still making step changes in the technology.

I wonder for how long that will be (if it still is) the case. I don’t know enough about the technologies involved but I keep thinking back to computers - blazing fast and the best that can be achieved at a price point today but in a few short years, they wont run programs because they lack power/speed/memory etc. Given the ND is already several years into its lifecycle, can it be kept relevant with software updates for years to come?

When the original streamers were introduced they were built around the idea of streaming from a store in your home, such as the UnitiServe or a NAS. The challenge came when online streaming started. Naim managed to squeeze Spotify and Tidal onto them but that was the limit, and Qobuz simply wouldn’t fit.

The new platform streamers are much more powerful and have a lot more memory, so can now do Qobuz. They could do Apple Music too, if Apple would give permission. They can also do Google Cast and Airplay 2, which means that they can run services without them actually being on board.

So they are about as future proofed as possible, notwithstanding the fact that something as yet not thought about could pop up.

You can overthink these things and become so bogged down in what ifs that you do nothing. At some point you just have to go for it and hope for the best.

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Ah but I suggest don’t confuse product sales availability with product functioning lifespan. For those that have a 272 I would be suprised it it doesn’t work at least as well now as to when it was launched.

I doubt the ND555 will be for sale new in 20 years time - but again I’d be surprised it it is not working as well then as it does today as a streamer.

My point about maturity is with the actual technology and protocols used - they are mature and established just like CD. I am sure we will see many new products appear over the years using these methods…

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The first Naim streamers arrived in 2009, and remained current until the new models arrived (after a lengthy delay) in 2017 in order to cater for streaming services that simply weren’t used when the original models were developed.
If your US was gathering dust that’s another matter, presumably you either stopped ripping CDs or moved to online streaming services.

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Is it still a good buy? That’s an interesting question, particularly in the context of the recent price increase. If you don’t already have a CD555PSDR, at £25k it’s a lot of money for a streamer that has been on the market for five years already, especially when you consider there are better sounding players available for similar prices. Adding a second power supply might close the gap in terms of performance, but lifts the price to an eye watering £33.5k.

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My gen 1 UQ is absolutely fine. I use it for the TV, and as the basis for most of my streaming. I know the point is tired now, but things like BubbleUPnP mean the first gen streamers are still relevant now for use with streaming services as well as local streaming. There is a trade-off, usability not quite the same, but it is by no means awkward.

Naim’s next generation DAC approach will be interesting I think. Not least in terms of its timing. Given the relatively recent introduction of the ND555/NDX2/ND5 XS2 any improved DAC based replacement will have to tread carefully not to be disruptive. Who knows, maybe a NDAC MK2 will be the way they go after all, as an add on to extend the life of the gen 2 streamers.

Anyway, my main point is that the gen 1 streamers are still relevant now, so I do not expect the gen 2 ones to run out of relevance any time soon.

“Who are you calling irrelevant, eh!?” :slight_smile:

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yes, and not sure if everyone realises that what we are talking about here, are streaming DACs i.e. the key word here is DAC … which happens to have streaming capabilities to manage current platforms. As such, the question really is whether the ND555 maxed out (or not) with PSUs is good value at £20-30k? I believe as long as one considers its DAC future proof and good value at such a price point, updating the pure streaming part is less of an issue in the future, as I see it at least.

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That’s quite a price. The Linn alternative (just add a power amp or two) looks rather attractive.

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Ah, now that makes sense - lightbulb moment…

I see. My misunderstanding of the situation then - I thought the tech and protocols were still largely a work in progress.

That was the bit I had missed. Makes perfect sense.

I ordered pre-price hike and secured a reasonable discount. The DCS Rossini was an option I considered at the time and the delays got me thinking again…until I saw the price rise on the DCS !!!

I used the UQ with a NAS for a while and it was great fun (musically) when it worked. Perhaps I didn’t put enough effort in but it was such a clunky and frustrating experience with connectivity issues and a clunky interface and combined with a problematic US, I just gave up on it. I would need to find an old monitor and keyboard just to get it going again now after a battery change. By relevant, I mean how it might be pitched against a modern equivalent in terms of technology and usability.

I’m a bit selective on that question :slight_smile: I chose to think of my UQ1 as a £450 amp and streamer, it is half the price of a Bluesound Powernode. Using BubbleUPnP brings the missing functionality. I forget my UQ1 needed a c. £500 service recently :wink: I’m not really pretending it’s equivalent technology and usability wise though, without third party app assistance.

Given the second generation Naim streamers have much more onboard processing power headroom, and the Naim app will continue to evolve, I think the second generation streamers will be relevant for much longer. As others have stated here, I think it’s more likely the DACs will see developments that might make you question the relevance of the streamers. I do not see the Naim CD players suffering unduly from that though - people still rate their musical performance.

I hadn’t really thought about specific components when I posed my question, I was considering the ND555 as a whole. In my mind, if the DAC is outdated tomorrow, the whole thing becomes outdated.

But so what if it becomes outdated, it doesn’t suddenly stop working or sound any worse.

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What do you think about your CDS3?

Maybe a loaded question, it isn’t meant to be! CD mechanism serviceability notwithstanding too.

That was, in a nutshell, what I wasn’t sure about. Not that it stops working per se but that it stops being compatible with services and loses functionality due to outdated protocols or hardware. Like having a perfectly functional iPhone that no longer updates and as apps are updated, you lose the backwards compatibility.

The lack of serviceability of my CDS3 prompted my leap into the streaming world. Given the years of service it has provided, I would say it had a more than decent service life and is as relevant today as a CD player as it was when it was new. If I can achieve something similar from the ND, I will be very happy.

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The NDX2/XPSDR reminded me of my old CDS3 in some ways.

G

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