ND5XS2 into non-Naim (vintage) integrated?

During a lunch break on a particularly stressful day at work a month or so ago I wandered into my local hifi shop to clear my head. As I was walking out, the Naim Uniti Atom caught my attention and after a quick demo in the shop, I was taking one home for an audition in my system.

A little background on me, my past set- up and my current set-up and how/why I got there…

For a few years I had been happily powering a pair of Kef Blade 2 speakers with a McIntosh MC452 amp controlled by a McIntosh C47 preamp and using the McIntosh C47 as a DAC too. I am heavily into vinyl too and ran a VPI Prime turntable with a Hana SL MC cartridge into the McIntosh C47’s phono stage. Almost as soon as I got this system set up in a new space and was satisfied, word came that my wife was pregnant…

We were blessed with a wonderfully, healthy daughter and she is the ultimate source of joy in our lives. This summer she really blossomed into her toddler-hood and it seemed time to “dumb” the main/living room system down a little to make it more toddler/family friendly.

So, out to storage went the Kef Blade 2’s along with the McIntosh electronics and in came a well-loved pair of Klipsch Cornwall speakers and an old Yamaha CA-810 integrated amp. I tried a Project Classic turntable with a lid, but it just seemed cheap to me and decided to keep the VPI Prime and run it into the nice onboard MC phono section onboard the Yamaha CA-810. For a digital source, I am using the DAC on an Oppo 105D with a Chromecast Audio attached. I should mention a couple of other things. I ran a second amp to power outdoor speakers from the Mcintosh C47 pre and then powered the outdoor speakers directly from the Yamaha CA-810 integrated’s second set of speaker terminals (it can run speakers A, speakers B or speakers A=B). I also from time to time like to plug in a reel to reel and/or cassette deck to play old tapes. I was happy with this, as was my wife and everything was/is relatively toddler proof with the electronics high on a credenza type shelf. Then, as I mentioned, I brought home the Naim Uniti Atom…

Wow, the 40-watt per channel Naim Uniti Atom sounded amazing hooked up to the Klipch Cornwalls. It is totally cliché, but even my wife commented on the sound quality – and her only comment is usually “turn it down, please.” The app and integration with Roon was phenomenal and for the first time in a long time, I was staying up well into the night playing track after track and having to force myself to turn it off. I was having fun!

The big drawbacks for me with the Atom were that it converted the analog input to digital before converting back to analog. I do not want to get into a debate about this and if I, or anyone else, can hear a difference. That’s been discussed elsewhere. I will say that I am a big believer in AAA vinyl and have invested a lot of time and money in acquiring it. Even if I couldn’t hear a difference now, or the Atom even sounded better with vinyl than my current set-up (not saying it does), it would always be in the back on my mind gnawing at me that this conversion was taking place. So that was strike one against the Atom. The other two were the lack of other analog inputs and that I could not drive my outdoor speakers with it. However, I was still in love with the Naim Uniti Atom’s sound and the use of the Naim app interface…

I then turned my attention to getting a Naim streamer and integrated amp – specifically the NDX2 or ND5XS2 into either a Supernait 2 (or) 3 or NaitXS2 (or) 3. After a lot of research (my dealer has none of these in store for auditioning) I think the ND5XS2 fits the bill for my streaming needs, but with any of the integrateds, I would need to find a solution for driving my outdoor speakers and either “downgrade” to a MM phono cartridge with the 3 series integrateds or run an outboard phono preamp. None of these seem that desirable to me, but that sound…

So my latest idea is to simply get the ND5XS2 and run it into my old but adequate Yamaha CA-810 integrated, which again, can power my outdoor speakers and has a nice onboard MC phono section.

Any suggestions/advice on how to proceed/how you might proceed in this situation? I know I’ll never know for sure until I hear it all, but that’s not really a realistic option. Does anyone have any experience running one of these Naim streamers into non-Naim gear and even vintage gear? Is it heretical and simply overkill? I know the answer is probably going to be “yes,” but on the other hand it leaves room for upgrades down the line in the integrated and I love the Naim app interface.

I suppose I could maybe take the Uniti Atom home again, if the dealer would allow it, and run a CD player into it and the Yamaha CA-810 to get a sense of how much different the two integrateds are from one another and if I could live with the Yamaha. That is something I didn’t do during my last home audition. Heck, I could even use the pre out on the Atom into the Yamaha’s Main In input.

This is my first post on the forum. Thanks for letting me “dump” all of this here. It has been cathartic just to type this all out.

Hi, I think my first suggestion would be to find a dealer who can provide a proper demo of the systems you are considering. If you have to travel a bit for that, I would say that it’s well worth it given the amount you might spend.
Regarding your second/outdoor system, you might consider running it with another Naim streamer so that you can use multiroom. (Then you can even listen to vinyl in the garden with a turntable hooked up to the Atom!)

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It might not be a bad idea to try to find another dealer. I’m in the US though and they seem to be a bit rarer to find in showrooms, so travelling could mean hundreds of miles. I also feel a sense of loyalty to my dealer, as he’s been very helpful.

Adding the a streamer would be a no-brainer, but then I’d be back to the problem of its analog section converting analog to digital and then back to analog, which is the main reason I’m looking at separates and not the Uniti line.

Why not get a gently loved xs2 to go with the nd5xs2, or a new xs3 with built in phone stage?

I might. It’s not about the money as much as features like powering speakers in a second zone, having a MC phono pre and to some extent a mono switch.

Even if you go with a SN3 or XS3, you can make use of the MM phono section for a LOMC by using a SUT. Just a thought for a reasonable option that can yield great results. It doesn’t solve your zone 2 speaker problem though. As I suggested to you elsewhere. the ND5XS2 can form the basis of a great system in any case. I have a NDX2, which has the same streaming transport and it’s fantastic: I use it as a Roon endpoint for all my digital sources.

The Naim integrateds can output both fixed and variable at line level as well as the speaker outputs so could feed your Yamaha for outdoor speakers and still run the indoor ones, that just leaves the MM only phonostage which would need a high output cartridge or a SUT. This gives you a second option if the streamer alone doesn’t give you enough of the sound you’re after.
Check out Art Dudley’s review of the ND5xs on the Stereophile website for use in a non Naim system, it might be under his “Listening” column.

Good idea here. You can take a tape/line out feed from the Naim and feed the Yamaha or any other amp for outdoor use.

UPDATE: I ended up getting the Nait XS 3 integrated and ND5 XS 2 streamer/DAC. Burning it in right now. I have a head cold, so I can’t listen too critically without getting a headache.

I’m currently using a Quad 24 P phono stage as I run a low output MC cartridge and the Nait XS 3 only has MM on-board. Thinking of getting a Naim StageLine phono pre-amp to make it an all Naim system. It looks like the E series one could match well with my Hana SL cartridge.

And yes, thinking of running an output to a small amp to power the outdoor speakers. The temps outside are dropping here in the NE US, so shouldn’t have to worry about that until spring.

It would be great to get your thoughts when your feeling better!
I have the ND5 XS2 and will more than likely be purchasing an XS3 myself after a demo in a few weeks.

Looking at the spec of the Hana SL cartridge, with an output of 0.5mV and recommended load of approx 400 ohms, you would probably be best matching with an S rather than an E Stageline.

Thanks for the reply. I think they both could theoretically work with the Hana SL per specs. The Hana SL’s recommended load per their spec sheet is actually > 400.

I used to run the Hana SL into a recently sold McIntosh C47 that had loading options of 100, 200, 400 and 1000. 400 seemed to be the sweet spot on most recordings, but I often wished I had a setting on it between 400 and 1000, as 400 could sound a little too rounded and 1000 too etched.

I should mention that I’m borrowing a friend’s E and have an option to buy at a nice price if I like it. Just waiting on an interconnect for it, as it is MIA.

Another option could be to just go all in and get the SuperLine. My Quad 24P phono stage is sounding pretty nice in the meantime.

The only problem is that the E is really designed for Medium output MC cartridges. The S will give you much more gain as it’s designed for low output MCs. FWIW, the S load is 470ohms.

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