I am in the process of considering my upgrade options. Currently I have an ND5 XS streaming Tidal into a Nait XS 2. I had a recent demo of a Qutest fed by an ND5 XS and compared this to an NDX 2. My ears preferred the latter, but my wallet the former .
However, I have seen several threads on this forum from people with NDS, NDX and NDX 2 streamers feeding a Qutest. This makes me wonder why. Is it simply a matter of taste, or am I missing something? If the latter, then maybe an ND5 XS 2 and a Qutest would be be a better solution.
There are many ways to upgrade a Naim streamer, and even more opinions on which option is best. You really need to listen for yourself and decide. Also consider what services you want your streamer to support.
In short, your options are:
Upgrade the streamer ND5XS to NDX or NDS.
Upgrade to a 2nd gen streamer, ND5XS2 or higher.
Upgrade the power supply (possible on any streamer except ND5XS2).
Upgrade the DAC. Naim NDAC and various Chords are popular but there are many options out there.
In your position I would be tempted to go for an ND5XS2. It will be a nice upgrade on your ND5XS on its own, with lots more potential for you to choose a DAC you like the sound of later.
This is an interesting one. I run a ND5XS with Qutest. I don’t stream from external services but serve my ripped CDs from NAS.
I guess it comes down to a matter of your preference. I think ND5XS with Qutest is a great combination and a real bargain of an upgrade. I haven’t heard the NDX2 though. If you do go down the Qutest route, the analogue connection from Qutest to Amp is also critical. Going from Chord Chrysalis RCA to DIN to Witch Hat Morgana was a massive uplift for me. Probably bigger than going from the ND5XS internal DAC to Qutest.
ND5XS2 to Qutest would be an interesting option. You do get I believe improvements on both digital and analogue side with the ND5XS2. You wouldn’t realise the investment on the analogue side as this wouldn’t be used with an offboard DAC.
So you need to balance you budget with what you are hearing.
I can only tell you my experience, in the home that it may assist focus ideas.
I started my streaming experience with the original ND5XS, which I found easy to use, and as good sounding as the CD player it replaced. A good, straightforward, plug-and-play introduction to streaming, and I was quite happy with it, however it is relevant to note that I only played my own stored music (ripped CDs and ripped LPs, and downloaded music). When I later was persuaded by the dealer to upgrade the ND5XS with an XP5XS power supply I was very disappointed at the marginal improvement for a lot of money: That led to other discoveries and I ended up replacing first the XP5XS then the ND5XS, and changing my NAS, using a Mac Mini as a store, running Audirvana rendering software, feeding a Hugo DAC, (via a Gustard U12 isolator/converter to block RF noise because Hugo was adversely affected by RF - the later released and galvanically isolated Qutest should be fine connected direct). That gave an improvement in sound quality (a more natural sound) at less net cost. I upgraded the DAC To my present one a couple of years later after coming into some money, but my store/renderer has remained - however there are a variety of alternatives, some more hands-on to set up than others, of course the self-contained ones like Melco and Innuos being the more expensive of the options.
Yes, thanks, lots of options to consider. TBH that’s part of the problem!
I really liked the sound of the NDX 2 and could afford to go that route, but I know that I will eventually end up upgrading the amp and probably the speakers, so I need to consider the system (and my budget) as a whole.
If I go ND5 XS2 and then a Qutest DAC it would be cheaper, but I wasn’t so sure the Chord sound was to my liking as much. So I’m now set on a home demo to try to resolve this conundrum.
My preference would be to keep my hifi separate from my computer systems. My wife will tell you I have spent too much time messing with the latter already over the years - she just wants me to switch on the music and relax . However, its interesting to hear all of the different approaches. Thanks.
Thanks for the positive feedback IainO. I have been on the lookout for a good one, but I need to decide on whether to get the NDX 2 first, stick with my ND5 XS, or get an ND5 XS2. After that, the choice will be nDAC or Qutest, assuming I don’t get the NDX 2.
Just for clarification, my Mac Mini is dedicated to its hifi function, measures about 20x20x4 cm and sits close to the hifi system, with no monitor or keyboard, and even turns on and off by simple pushbutton.
If you’re heading for an external DAC many will tell you get the ND5XS2 as it has same streaming board as NDX2. Good advice.
SWMBO had other ideas and mandated a remote - hence we have an NDX2.
The newer streaming board is much better than the one you have in ND5XS, big upgrade NDX2 vs 272 as streamer (we did some experiments when we still had 272, using it as streamer vs pre only with nDAC/iPad then NDX2).
Yes Sir, they are hard to find that’s for sure, and like @IainO mentioned you won’t lose money if you don’t like it. Qutest is originally what I wanted but the nDAC kind of fell to me at a lower price than the Qutest so it was an easy decision.