nDac: Digital source to match or outperform USB stick

So I was playing around a bit with the nDac the last days and was astonished by how good it sounds with just an USB stick playing some WAV files.
The USB stick easily outperforms the iPad via Lightning-USB and the iMac via Shiit Eitr.

Last time I’ve tried this was some years ago with Nait XS and different speakers, back then the difference didn’t really matter to me, but now I feel my digital source is holding back the nDac from performing to it’s best.

The iMac is my main source currently, used for locally stored files (mp3, cd quality, hi res), multiple online radio stations including their archives (some behind a paywall), YouTube, watching movies

I don’t use online streaming services like Spotify etc.

What are your experiences? Which digital source would match or even outperform the sound from the USB stick?

Thanks for your thoughts

A Naim one. I use an ND5XS as “transport” into an nDAC with a Naim DC1 cable. For me there is no advantage to using USB except for DSD128 or sampling rates over 192khz.

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I think the obvious choice is an ND5XS2. To my ears it sounds just as good as the more expensive NDX2 when used via its SPDIF out. You can attach USB drives to it directly and you’ll get a better user experience or you can put your music files on network storage and run a UPnP server.
You also get support for a growing number of lossless FLAC iRadio stations which might be of interest.


Some use the Innuos Zenith with the Ndac. But it needs a good usb to spdif converter.
The Innuos can rip cds, store hires files, and stream Qobuz and Tidal.

Ok so when I understand correctly, a good streamer (eg ND5XS) plays on the same quality level as the USB stick directly into the nDac?
Which would be good enough for me, I think :wink:

Until now I was a bit reluctant to dip my toe into local streaming solutions, as I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of fancy switches and ethernet cables.

Which USB to S/PDIF converter would you suggest?
The Audiophileo I had did not fully convince me.
My Shiit Eitr neither anymore.

I was thinking about a Mutec MC3 USB, maybe adding a REF 10 as future upgrade (read many good things about this combination) but this is substantial money

Have not really thought about this yet.
Price of a used ND5XS seems reasonable investment to me.
ND555 is out of the question for now.
So depending on which direction I would go I would either move faster or take some time saving money for this venture

Yep, and an ND5XS can be had fairly cheaply now. Or the ND5XS2 as suggested by ChrisSU should be even better.


The same “noise” paranoia about cables and switches can just as well be applied to flash memory and USB transport if you want to :wink:


OMG haha never thought about this

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Well I have to admit when it comes to streamers like the NDS/X/5XS or the newer 555/X2/5XS2 I’m a bit afraid they will feel obsolete within some years.
Is the app for the old ND5XS still updated once the new streaming platform was released?
Any experiences on how long Naim will maintain apps for their streaming platforms?

I own the nDac for more than 10 years now and at least it does not feel obsolete to me.

The performance of all Naim’s streamers (new or old) is really good and the passage of time doesn’t degrade the performance.


Could I use my iMac as a server (installing a UPnP server software) or is it mandatory to have a dedicated file server?

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I can’t recommend, just have read that the Audiophileo pure power combo is well regarded here, by Obsydian and @Filipe for instance, who uses it with Ndac and Innuos Zénith 2.

You could install Asset UPnP on the Mac I think.
Google for dbpoweramp and you’ll find Asset on there?


Not mandatory at all, but I’d still recommend getting a NAS. Once you’ve put your music on the NAS, you can essentially forget it’s there. With a computer you need to switch it on and, perhaps start the software running.

I agree with posts above that a ND5XS2 is the way to go. As well as local streaming, you’d be able to stream Qobuz, for example. I know you don’t currently use an online streaming service. But that was exactly my position when I got a streamer with Qobuz embedded and now it makes up at least half my listening. With an ND5XS2 as opposed to an ND5XS, you don’t preclude that option and it’s available to try for free, initially.

Given the level of the rest of your system, investing in a ND5XS2 and a decent NAS would move your digital front end to something more commensurate with your fine amp and speakers.


At the risk of poking the hornets nest, I honestly think those never ending threads about Ethernet cables, switches, etc. do a real disservice to the whole streaming audio thing. The endless, inconclusive arguments about huge differences that can be made mostly by spending huge sums on exotic audiophile kit are largely at odds with my experience, and I find it particularly wrong that anyone would claim that basic networking equipment cannot allow you to enjoy music. That just isn’t true.
On top of that, decoupling the DAC from the streaming transport, as you would be doing with your NDAC, in my experience makes your audio kit more immune from variations caused by network equipment. Please don’t let this stuff put you off!


Like @ChrisSU mentioned earlier, if possible you should at least consider the ND5xs2 into a nDAC. It’s really quite stunning into a nDAC (biased opinion of course)


This makes sense.
Thanks for your suggestions, I will do some reading on these

Any Raspberry Pi based streamer with a SPDIF HAT, and Moode or Volumio software.

From under a hundred quid, to seven hundred for the Allo “Signature” setup.

It really is just 1s & 0s, folks.