NDS a bargain as DAC?

Ok so in my case the hugo dac would compete with a nds dac supported by 555 ps, which could give it the advantage

For what it’s worth I am now using an NDS/555ps with a Hugo (first generation) having initially preferred the NDS/555ps by itself. As mentioned by others the two presentations (with/without Hugo) are audibly different but both very satisfying. The NDS, for me at least, presents the music more evenly without accentuating any specific part; concentrating on the overall flow of the music. The Hugo provides a bit more of a dynamic presentation, details of individual instruments are beautifully, soulfully and naturally rendered, arguably with even more involvement than the NDS. If there is a downside to the Hugo and here I’m talking about small degrees of difference, some ‘fringe’ instruments/details can sound a bit more recessed compared to the NDS…hence my earlier comment that the NDS presents more evenly. Obviously my comments are purely subjective but I hope my experiences help. In your position, I might consider investigating either a used NDAC or used Hugo 1, both of which are substantially cheaper than a used NDS to tide you over until you decide where your long term direction lies.

2 Likes

I have both the Naim DAC and the Mk.1 Hugo. They are both excellent, but a bit different. Purely on sound terms, I think that if your musical taste falls mainly on the side of classical or acoustic music, where you appreciate a sense of naturalness and a sense of acoustic space in the recording then you may well favour the Hugo. However, if it’s more rock, pop and jazz orientated then the Naim DAC may be your preferred choice (and that’s just the DAC on its own before adding a power supply). However, as I say, they are both excellent DACs in their own right.

However, operationally the Hugo has some issues - it’s a bit fiddly to use, requires recharging, and can’t really be used as a digital hub like the Naim DAC. So if you have multiple digital sources the Hugo is not so convenient. Just how critical this is, only you can know, but if I think about when I last used my own Hugo, it’s well over a year ago now…

5 Likes

Also with the NDS you can Roonify with the SonoreUPnP Bridge.
This allows you to use a Roon Core for your music, stream Qobuz into the Ethernet input of the NDS. Also Tidal with the MQA encoded Tidal Masters.
This effectively future proofs you, re. Streaming services through Roon, formats (I can play back DSD128, DSD256, 24/352.8 formats) with Roon Core doing an initial downconvert to the max than the NDS supports) and anything else that may come along.
Plus you get a music management system second to none.

1 Like

Some good points from our esteemed moderator. What I would say is the Hugo like most DACs is very dependent on its digital transport source. As such I use a quality transport, a NDX2, and run it in digital output mode, and feed the Hugo by SPDIF.
Sounds sublime… also the NDX2 does all the digital hub functions so I don’t need to touch the Hugo as it can be a bit fiddly… but a lot less fiddly than a turn table…
Yes every three to four years you need to change the reservoir cells (it has a rather special PSU) if you run 24/7 or close to … this can be done yourself if you have solder skills or your dealer or Chord can do.
If you keep your Hugo cooler the cells last longer.
So yes like many exquisite things it is a little eccentric…

1 Like

I think only you could decide through audition. I would buy a Chord Qutest or Hugo TT2 in preference to $3k NDS because they sound more natural and musical to me and I could get even closer to music by adding M-Scaler later. However, you may not share my enthusiasm for Chord products.

I use a Chord Blu2 DAVE as my front end which could replace your CD555 & NAC 552 and remove the need for the NDS as a DAC. So 2 small boxes instead of 6 full size ones and no need to keep it powered up when you are not listening to music. However, it doesn’t have the signature Naim sound.

What I would always say is whether you go the NDS or Chord route, you will end up with a really good sound. If you only want to use NDS as a DAC then why not go for a Naim DAC?

There is no answer to which sounds best as this is subjective.

To add to Richard’s post, I also have a Hugo Mk1 and agree it is more fiddly to use than a Naim DAC. My Blu2 DAVE is very easy to use, but is not a digital hub. It is a brilliant CD player with a computer audio input. DAVE has extra inputs, but its optical inputs are peculiar. To me the newer Chord DACs especially with MScaler sound more musical than Hugo Mk1, but even there, you’ll find a difference of opinion.

1 Like

For Jazz, Rock, Organ (=rock avant le lettre) I prefer the Naim perception on music.
For Choral & Symphonies I prefer the Chord perception on music.

In general, this is regardless the level of equipment.

Naim = Early Evening = Beer.
Chord = Late Evening = Red wine.

Difficult to put differently, but this is my take. Not sure if it helps :slight_smile:

3 Likes

From another angle your weak link is actually the Node 2i. A great machine, I own one, but there is a lot of processing going on there which will affect the signal going to the NDS.

I suggest you look at an Auralic vega 2 DAC. This is a well regarded DAC that also has a streaming function so you can have Qobuz playing through it.

Only you can tell but certainly having to switch power supplies every time I wanted to move from CD to streaming would be a deal breaker for me. I’d be very surprised if Node -> NDS would sound as good as the Vega 2.

.sjb

Hi, sure that looks good but Auralic vega G2 is 5,500 $ while node 2i is 550$ so for sure there is a constraint in my temporary solution. Adding the 2nd hand nds would be 2,500-3000 $ so a middle option, but still a material cash outlay. So I agree with you ideally, but practically I am not there yet.
And I would not switch the burndies so often; if I do it once a week that’s it…How do you compare the sound out of the node 2i with the Auralic? I’m quite impressed by what I hear from the node 2i and I am …quite picky as regards my music.

Hi, yes Tt2 or qtest could be away to go if material improvement on node 2i dac, knowing that this device really sings too…

Hi what I get out of it is that there is no obvious solution, and I’m happy to wait it out with my node 2i supported by my naim reference system. Maybe naim will then offer a new generation dac?

I don’t have a Vega but do have an Aries G2 which I use into a Hugo TT2 /mscaler.
The Auralic is the best “transport” I have heard, so I’m presuming the vega will be somewhat similar. there is a vega G1 also I think.

I think the Node 2i is a great product, it replaced a UniQute for me. the Blusound app and general feature set won it for me. Probably is no better sounding that the UniQute though. I just don’t think using it as a “transport” to the DAC in an NDS is good use of either product. You’re using too little of their capabilities and possibly not what the products are optimised for to give anything but a compromise for the money.

If you go the NDS route, I’d be inclined to sell the Node and buy a roon lifetime and sonictransporter and use the NDS to stream Qobuz via Roon. You’re then getting all the NDS has to offer.

I would listen to a few options though, your proposed solution fits your finances and could well prove more than satisfactory. There are so many different ways to end up with a quality streaming source.

.sjb

1 Like

i think that the nds deserves something better than the bluesound node personally. In Upnp mode the nds will sound much better than bluesound in spdif to nds. If Qobuz is very important to you, i would add a sonore product to the nds as some have advised.

1 Like

Thanks folks! So this is where I stand. As I saw the nds as a combination of an “obsolete” streaming platform and a naim top dac, I naively believed that if I bypassed the nds streamer by using bluesounds state of the art streamer, then I would have a “super” nds (capitalizing also on my 2 555 ps that I could shift from my cd555…
What I hear now is that this doesn’t work, and that I might be better off just with the nds, taking the bluesound out?
But then I need to “bubble up” and maybe do a lot of other complicated things (which bluesound made so simple)when my only wish is to hear qobuz…? Is this correct?

obsolete is not the right term. The nds is still the best second streamer in naim range, just before the nd555. It costed one year ago around 18 k euros.( with the 555ps).
It’s just older vs the new naim platform, but still better vs the ndx2.
The Bluesound node cost 500 euros, it’s an entry level product. It’s streaming part can’t compete with an nds, it’s logical.
If you want a super nds, you would have to buy a dcs network bridge for example, which costs 8 times more than the bluesound. It will improve the streaming part of the nds.
The unique problem vs the bluesound is that the nds doesn’t have Qobuz.
You can easily compare the sound of both, with Tidal for example: bluesound/ nds in spdif , used as a dac, vs nds. If the first combo is better, i will pay you a bottle of champagne.

1 Like

Hi just to clarify, I didn’t write that the nds was obsolete, but just its streaming section which actually has just been replaced by naim with a new generation.

yes, i understand. I have the nds and think that the streaming section, even if older vs the new naim one, is still much better vs the bluesound. It’s not the same level of products.

1 Like

if you buy an nds, i would suggest you to sell the bluesound and stream qobuz with buble upnp. It will be better. However you can try before if bluesound/ nds in spdif is better… I would be very very much surprised…

Thanks. Then thequestion becomes how hard it is to get qobuz through the nds…any reference instructions somewhere?

If you do not need an Ethernet input and you are fine with second hand Naim devices, I would go for a Naim DAC rather than a NDS. They have similar sonic qualities but the nDAC has more inputs and can be used to bring together different transports.

While I mainly use my nDAC to process the output of a DigiOne Signature, I also have a blu-ray player, a Chromecast Audio and a TV connected to it for occasional listening.

If you do not need many inputs, a NDS or a Chord, Mytek, etc. DAC are certainly fine alternatives. But you’ll have to listen to them to decide which ones you prefer. I have never listened to Schiit DACs and they might be very good indeed but I would be a bit worried because of the relatively bad measurements reported at audiosciencereview.

Good luck and let us know how it goes on!

1 Like