I had a chance to dem ND5XS2 earlier than expected. I listened to it yesterday and today mixing between XS3 Supernait 3, Bryston B100 and Rega Aethos through Harbeth 5XD, 7XD and Focal Aria bookshelfs. I also tried headphones into XS3 and SN3.
Well, I really like ND5XS2 features. It is wonderfully complete modern digital hub with everything you need today in order to enjoy digital, but I didn’t like the sound at the end.
We listen to ND5XS2 with XS3 first. I had XS1 in the past, but find it dull and sold it. It is nice how XS3 plays with music and handle it with ease into any speaker we tried, but I immediately noticed some thinnes in the midrange. Bass and heights are fine, altough bass could have more clarity for the total price of the gear. It is acceptable and I enjoyed Naim known pace. I expected more of everything, but veil is pretty much still there. I would more appreciate masking of the lesser gear sound in a different less agressive way. Through all demo I always felt something was missing or better say separates me from the music.
What I didn’t like are vocals and guitar plucks. Vocals are somehow overtight, dry, empty and shouty. Guitar plucks are too prominent and edgy. No body to the string. I can hear that this is pretty common also with many other gear in current production. I tried Grado headphones into XS3 and it sounded three classes below my ex CD5 original/Headline/Napsc with thin and flat sound.
I prayed that it wasn’t the streamer. In order to find out we connect SN3. Immediate reaction is that this does not justify the price difference. Now there is more accent to the bass, but I still always felt something more is going on there, but never really opened up and show me what it is. This was the most dull sounded setup of the dem and I can still grasp vocals and edgy flat guitar plucks. Also tried Grado headphones into SN3 and that sounded pretty different than into XS3, but still lacks the midrange bloom.
Then we tried Bryston B100 int. amp. This was clearly better in simply everything and flat mids are now little less prominent. More transparent, more bass definition, more believable less processed sounded vocals, but the thing was still audible.
In this moment I realised that I don’t like the sound of new XS series and SN3 sound.
Just out of curiosity and without prior intention we connect Rega Aethos. This amp transformed a lot. I like it and a lot and it changed my view of the potential gear I might buy. It is really that good. With Aethos I can still hear ND5XS edge, but the amp slightly transformed it in a little bit civilised way.
I spent two very interesting evenings and gathered a lot of answers. I realised that lesser Naim is not anymore for me. I used Naim gear for 25 years and I owned around 30 Naim boxes through the past, but now I cannot say that things soundwise, or better say musical wise are going forward.
I spent many years enjoying my Naim gear which helped to put me closer to the music I like and enjoy it like I couldn’t with other gear.
The thing is I don’t want to look at the past and I insist on the positive and better future. I decided to buy completely new system and enjoy all new features what today technology can offer, but also it should be musical.
It looks like Aethos is the first candidate and for source I need also to look elsewhere.
This is not easy for me as I always liked Naim and I was always have special connection for what they do, but that’s life.