Opinion / Advice - Naim DAC - USB vs Coax


Was hoping for some advice with my system. I feel that it sometimes sounds compressed / lacks focus and can be quite fatiguing at times. All of my listening is through a NAS box via the home network.

Last night i compared music from the network to a USB stick directly into the DAC, and there was an immediate and significant improvement in focus, lower noise floor and clarity. After posting on another forum it was suggested RF interference could be an issue, so I put some ferrite cores on the CAT 5 cables and the coax into the DAC, which has improved things, but its still not as good via USB.

Is it possible to get the same performance steaming to the DAC as it is via USB? Does anyone have any possible suggestions?

My system is:

Vortex NAS box via router and 10m of CAT 5 cable

Cambridge audio steamer


Musical fidelity A1 Pre-amp & 550k mono blocks

DIY Speakers - Troels Gravesen Audio Technology Classic 3 way (Really good speakers )


I have a Naim DAC that was prevously fed by an Arcam rPlay. This was a very good setup but was bettered by a ND5XS replacing the Arcam.
The DAC deserves a better feed :grin:

A short a swswer: yes, it is possible to achieve the same quality when streaming via UPnP and from a USB stick (into an nDAC).

In your case I suspect you are hearing one or more of the following:

  • Digital transport quality - it is probably the most important aspect in streaming playback
  • Cables and interconnectors.

Good quality streaming cables actually do help, but they tend to be the icing on the proverbial cake.

I would hazard a guess that your test has just exposed the weaknes in the digitial transport section.

Which Cambridge transport do you use, how is it powered and connected to the Naim DAC? Are there perhaps settings in the Cambridge device that affect the quality of its digital outputs?

Perhaps you could demo a ND5 XS (or a ND5 XS 2) as suggested by Guinnless and see whether this achieves the same sound quality as via USB stick?

I feed a Naim DAC via an Allo DigiOne Signature. The two devices are connected via DC-1 BNC-BNC. I do not have the impression that replay from a USB stick sounds better but the last time I checked it was monts ago. I’ll check again and report.

Excellent point. I rarely use the USB on the DAC save for playing streams above 192kHz. Even so the 192kHz version of the same music streamed over UPnP sounds excellent.

I’m using a stream magic 6 v2. Its connected to the DAC via a Black Rhodium interconnect, I cant remember what model, other than its circa 6 years old, blue and cost £230 ish.

I’d like to experiment with additional ferrite cores as an inexpensive solution, but agree long term a better streamer may be the way forward.

Do you think I’d be better buying a digital transport. I’m not up to speed on the latest products, but something like Brystons one, as I wont be spending money on better quality internal DAC and RCA output that wont get used, as all I’m after is a good digital feed into the DAC.

The digital transport mechanism is very important.
My ND5 is connected to my DAC with a 20 quid Gotham cable off eBay.

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The stream magic 6 v2 is not one of the most recent streamers but it should have quite decent digital outputs. On the other hand, the Naim DAC is known to be quite fussy about its electrical input. If you suspect RF noise to be responsible for the lower sound quality, perhaps you could try connecting the stream magic to the nDAC via optical and check if the sound improves.

There are not so many transports with electrical S/PDIF outputs, as far as I know the usual suspects are the Allo DigiOne and DigiOne Signature, the dCS Network Bridge, the Auralic Aries G2 and a few more. The Bryston BDP-Pi is based on a Raspberry Pi + HifiBerry hat and should be inferior to the Allo devices. If you accept to buy a streamer and then just use it as a transport, there are of course more options. Among others the new Naim streamers. You could also consider a server with S/PDIF output and use the NAS as a backup. Alternatively you could try borrowing a S/PDIF reclocker and test whether it improves the output of the Stream Magic 6.

I have just realized that the Bryston BDP-3 also comes with a BNC S/PDIF output.

Well … I was wrong! After some more tests, I feel that the nDAC sounds better from a USB stick than from the DigiOne Signature’s SPDIF feed. It is not day and night but I think that the sound from the USB stick is slightly warmer and more natural. Thanks for pointing out this!

I can only speak for the Innuos Zenith Mk 2 feeding the Audiophilleo 2 + PurePower USB to spdif converter into nDAC. The Audiophilleo is one of the very best and I can vouch for it. I got a 20 month old one at half price. Jitter is extremely low. It connects directly so no cable needed.

I have a thread on the Innuos Zen Mini which evolved to Zenith.


I have done some more tests and (in my system and to my ears) the differences between USB and SPDIF very much depend on how the DigiOne Signature (DS) is powered:

As a first experiment, I have tried powering both the RPi side and the clean side of the DS with the JS-2: the result was a slightly warmer sound, perhaps more natural than powering the RPi side with the JS-2 and the clean side with the LPS-1.2 and throughout comparable with replay from USB stick.

Second, I have tried powering the RPi side of the DS with the LPS-1.2 and the clean side with the JS-2. That also sounded perfectly fine to me and not worse than replay from a USB stick.

Reverting back to powering the clean side with the LPS-1.2 and the RPi side with the JS-2 confirmed my initial impressions.

As wrap-up, I prefer powering the clean side with the JS-2 and the RPi side with either the JS-2 or with the LPS-1.2. This is as good as replay from a USB stick.

With the LPS-1.2 powering the clean side, the DS is perhaps more transparent. But to me the JS-2 (or replay from a USB stick) sound more natural. With the JS-2 (USB stick), the bass line is more articulated and vocals are more natural.

Please, take my observations with a sound scepticism: in a different setup my (temporary) conclusions might have been very different and others might certrainly prefer powering the clean side of the DigiOne Signature with the LPS-1.2 in my setup.

I would also borrow from your dealer some other ethernet cables to try. Perhaps Cat 6 or 7 from say Audioquest, QED or others and see if it makes a difference. It will cost nothing to experiment.

I’ve also used the RPi & DigiOne (multiple different boards) with Runeaudio into my naim ndac. I would say it was nowhere near the quality of the USB/pen drive in the ndac playing the same flac files. The USB just blew me away each time. I then bought a Teddy Pardo TeddyU2S which takes USB from the RPi and converts to SPDIF, it sounds amazing. I couldn’t tell the difference between the USB/pen drive and the TeddyU2S feeding the ndac.

I also use the USB stick as the reference to tune the S/PDIF source and USB stick is the only way for Naim DAC to play DSD128.
Currently my best S/PDIF source is Allo DigiOne powered by battery and running DIY Roon Bridge. And don’t forget to take care of network switch and computer. In my case using LPS on switch and Roon Nucleus helps SQ a lot. This combination’s SQ is pretty close to the USB stick.

For me you cannot beat rips on an SSD direct to the Naim streamer.

I’ve also got an RPi + Allo Digi Sig (Moode software) into an nDAC (with XPS) and have been playing around with power supplies on the streamer.

Currently I’m trialling one of those “super capacitor” jobbies, this particular one is from Cuinas Audio and has two 5V outputs. I’v had it feeding both clean and dirty sides on the Allo DS - which is, as you know, not Allo’s recommended method.

Very interesting…

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