ND5XS2 + nDAC home demo findings

I had a nDAC on demo for the last couple of days and here are my findings.
The setup looks as following:
ND5XS2/DC1 (also tried the Chord Indigo digital cable)/nDAC/Lavender cable/SN3/WH Phantom/Proac DT8
There is certainly an uplift / change when using the nDac vs the bare ND5XS2.
The positives:

  • Wider and higher soundstage (obvious)
  • Fuller bass (Obvious)
  • Higher volume without changing the volume on the SN3
  • Vocals are slightly more pronounced and have more body and sound warmer
  • Easy to listen to for long time

It is not all rainbows and sunshine for me though and here are some things I didn’t like:

  • Bass seems slightly less tight and has less detail in it than with bare ND5
  • The music sounds warmer and therefor has less clarity, female voices sound better without the nDAC
  • Details seem to fall more more into the background and are better defined without the nDAC
  • Sound seems more relaxed than with the ND5XS2. For some music this is good for other genres this is not preferred. I preferred the less relaxed tempo of the bare ND5XS2 for most of the music that I listen to.

I also tried the expensive Chord Indigo digital cable vs the DC1 and couldn’t hear noticeable difference. It takes time to switch the cable and hard to hear an instant difference. Definitely not worth the higher price if you ask me.

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Have you also tried slight adjustments with the DT8 speakers ?
The differences between your two choices might need some wiggle room to be fully optimised.

That surprised me a (little) bit… but having discovered that, were you able to accurately match levels to reach your other conclusions?

In any case - I think you’ve just saved several £k… unless the next demo is an NDxyz!

I did but still came to the same conclusion

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I did a bit but still need some more time to move around the speakers to see if there can be found a more ideal position.

Make sure you have the grounding set correctly. ND5XS2 set to “Floating” and the nDAC to “Chassis”. This should improve things.

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Thanks for the tip! Can you explain why this would make a difference and why to set it like that?

Helps reduce ground loop noise. More knowledgeable folks can explain it better, but ground loop noise can come through and mask details.

Um. That would use the DC1 to carry analogue signal ground between nDAC and ND5XS2. Are they actually common?

Edit - with a bit more thought, the nDAC is the analogue source so that makes sense, but not clear whether the DC1 carries the ground reference back to the ND5XS2 or, for that matter, whether it would (should?) matter?

Only one ‘source’ needs to be grounded. If he’s using both it’s not necessary. I have this exact same combo(and love it, my ears/system/room etc). The default for the ND5xs2 = ‘Default’ and the Naim DAC = ‘Chassis’.

From a knowledgable user:
“Star earthing or more appropriately star grounding is important for signal grounding… this avoids circulating ground currents and provides a common reference.
Naim use this in their preamps… the way Naim does this decouples it from the requirements of any sort of star grounding requirement in the mains… really clever thinking from Naim here. The ground mains reference is from one of the sources… traditionally the CDP with Naim, but another source can be used with its ground switch flipped to chassis.”

errrr this is really confusing now: my nd5xs2 has ‘default’ and "floating’ where I assume ‘default’ means chassis, no?

You are correct. On both counts!

My fault for adding confusion…

I think the ‘problem’ is deciding what the ‘source’ is if you have (eg) ND5XS2>nDAC>NAC. If the ND5XS2 is also connected directly, it probably doesn’t matter which is set to ground, but not both.

Sorry…

The DC1 is a digital BNC to BNC cable to transport the digital signal from the ND5XS2 to the nDAC

I know. The question (in my mind) was whether digital ground and analogue ground are common. It probably doesn’t matter…

It’s a digression that isn’t helping. Sorry.

What type of music do you generally listen to?

Have you changed the earth settings and did it make a SQ difference?

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You say that vocals sound warmer , with more body, when adding Ndac. But you seem to prefer vocals without the Ndac. Can you explain.
Then bass is fuller with the Ndac but tighter without .
I wonder if you prefer more a leaner sound, vs organic. Perhaps adding a Chord Hugo would be interesting, because the sound will be leaner and more detailed ?

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Are the DACs in both nDAC and nd5xs2 not the same?

No, the ND5XS2 uses a PCM1791A, the NDAC the PCM1704K (2 of).
Edited to add a link to the NDAC white paper which is still on the Naim site. https://www.naimaudio.com/sites/default/files/products/downloads/files/naim_dac_august_2009.pdf

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