NDX2 vs Arcam CDS27: DACs Don't Matter

This morning, my long-awaited Ten Years After 10CD box set was delivered.

Desperate for a listen, I couldn’t be bothered with ripping and moving FLAC files around, so i grabbed my Arcam CDS27 CD/SACD player and connected the analog output to the CD input on the Supernait 3. I also ran a digital connection from the CDS27 to my NDX2.

After swapping back and forth between the CD and Streamer inputs on the Supernait, I can barely hear any difference but I have a slight preference for the analog connection between the CDS27 and the Supernait.

I am losing enthusiasm for the NDX 2 and the attached 555PS and thinking my primary source will now be the mid-range Arcam disc spinner.


Swapping quickly back and forth won’t show you the difference as under such circumstances you tend to focus on obvious cosmetic differences rather than those that matter most in properly appreciating the performance. Better is to pick a piece of music, or better an entire disc, play it through on one. Then disconnect that from the Supernait, connect the other, then play the same piece through.

Having only one connected at any time means there’s no chance of having two signal earths levelling the performance. Note you should also avoid having the digital coax connected to the NDX2 at same time as the analogue connection - that will likely take the edge off performance and level things down so all will sound similar and not at its best.

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Thanks Richard- I will try as you suggest over the weekend and just use an optical connection between the CDS27 Digi Out and the NDX2

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I’d suggest living with both of them for a while and then doing a direct comparison.

You’d expect a NDX2/555PS to easily eclipse the Arcam, if only based on the price differential, but things are rarely that simple, as Richard’s post points out.

And who knows? You might come to realize you prefer how the Arcam sounds. And if so, run with it and the heck with what others think.

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I’ve got an Arcam irDAC-II, and I must say its a seriously impressive bit of kit given its price tag (I paid in the region of £320 for mine IIRC, full price they were around £500). It has a very refined, musical and detailed sound. In isolation or a quick A-B comparison, I’ve never really found it wanting - unlike other budget digital sources I have heard it isn’t fatiguing or harsh. However, over time I’ve found the soundstage a little shallow, and instrument placement can be rather vague - these are attributes I was only able to identify through longer term listening as @Richard.Dane outlines.

Will be interesting to hear your thoughts after a more thorough evaluation - for me though, there is something about playing a disc which just sounds that bit better than streaming.

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May be worth checking to make sure the NDX2 is grounded correctly (Signal Ground setting on the back of the unit)


The OP didn’t said he has a 555 ps. Or elsewhere ?
If it’s the case, I don’t know how the Arcam can sound better. Something must be wrong.
If it’s the bare Ndx2, I can understand more.

Apologies to the OP for diverting the thread but Richard are you saying that having 3 sources permanently wired to my 282 is compromising performance albeit quite likely in a very small way? Also if I were to swap my CDS3 for a NDX2 I was contemplating wiring my DVD into the streamer for use as an occasional CDP, presumably not recommended?



Lindsay, hopefully not - my suggestion was just to ensure that any such possibility would be ruled out in order to make the comparison properly valid.

In the case of Naim, if you had two CD players connected at the same time to the same pre-amp then you would have two signal earth connected sources and both would be compromised. In that situation you would be advised to have the signal earth lifted internally by your dealer, or by Naim service. With the streamers and the DAC, seeing that having a CD player alongside the streamer or DAC was a much greater possibility, Naim fitted them with a signal earth switch, so if you had a Naim CD player (or indeed any other signal earth connected CD player or source) as well, you could ensure that performance was not compromised.

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Lindsay, in the original case the Arcam was connected both by analogue to the amp and digitally to the NDX2, hence the possible issue of signal earth.

In a normal situation it’s not an issue. The NDX2 can act as a digital hub; in our case we have an optical connection from the TV.

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@Richard.Dane @anon4489532 - thanks guys.



I tried listening to various Compact Discs played through the analog connection between the Arcam CDS27 and the Supernait 3 and then through an optical cable connecting the Digital Out of the Arcam to the NDX2. Lacking those golden, audiophiIe ears, I was barely able to discern any difference.

By now I am concerned at wasting so much money on an NDX2/555PS, and so I tried listening to CD rips stored as FLAC files on a USB-connected drive to the NDX2. This did produce some improvement with slightly crisper treble and clearer midrange.

Then I made the mistake of playing some of my Mobile Fidelity SACD discs on the Arcam CDS27 which can read the DSD layer. This time there was no doubt. The SACD on the £500 Arcam player is without question a better result than rips of the CD layer of the same disc played through the NDX2. I found imaging and soundstage depth was much more convincing on the SACD. Some discs were absolute standouts with the J. Geils Band ‘The Morning After’ being particularly noticeable.

Now I’m thinking about a really nice SACD player; McIntosh have quite tasty selection to choose from…


remember that you can rip the SACD to 24bit using dbPoweramp, so worth trying that as a comparison first

Marantz as well still do a great range of SACD. Wish Naim made a SACD player.

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What format did you rip your SACDs to? DSD or high bitrate FLAC? I’ve recently started down that rabbit hole and many posters tell me DSD sounds flat on naim DACs and better results are had using FLAC. My ears tell me DSD rips sound better than standard 44.1kHz FLAC but not yet had time to compare DSD and 176kHz FLAC of same album through 272.

As for the Arcam it has a Burr Brown DAC so should sound good! We used my old Micromega Stage CD player and Concept DAC into SuperUniti then 272 whilst we digitised CD collection to NAS. It sounded very good, but a direct comparison of play from CD against play from NAS left us in no doubt CD player/DAC could hit loft. NAS-272 DAC produced less warmth, more detail. Perhaps with the newer Arcam DAC if the sound is to your taste the gap is smaller.

Are you sure dbpoweramp can rip the DSD layer to 24bit?

I know it can rip the CD layer of an SACD, but there’s not much point in ripping that to 24bit.

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You are all absolutely right - my mistake - just rechecked what I did, and it was an HDCD (Dixie Chicks) that I ripped not SACD. Did it a long time ago, sorry!


I just ripped the CD layer to a standard FLAC file using dbPoweramp.

There is a hack ( using the Arcam CDS27 ) that does allow the DSD to be ripped. But I agree with your assessment that DSD sounds rotten on the Naim gear compared to PCM.

@Meni , 19d ago:

“Has anyone used this software to convert DSD to_PCM because DSD in my opinion does not sound good enough on NAIM streamers…sounds lifeless…so I used lately AuI ConverteR 48x44 and converted all DSD i have to HD PCM and it sounds great… the test I did I used the free option … but considering purchasing it … has anyone here tried,if so what’s the impression?”