Opinions on which DAC to use for my NDX

Hello all.
I have a quick question for fellow forum members regarding which DAC, in peoples’ opinions, is the better one between a Saturn-R and the NDX. I have really only used the Rega for CD playback (which is brilliant), but it got me wondering if there was a sonic benefit to utilizing the onboard DAC or leave well-enough alone and just enjoy the NDX as-is? Researching, I could not find much by way of reviews or opinions as to which chipset is theoretically ‘better’.
My main (digital) system components (sans my vinyl) consist of a SN2/HCDR, NDX/XPS and Rega Saturn-R.
I use the NDX for local and Tidal streaming, which I’ve really enjoyed thus far. Any advice or thoughts are greatly appreciated.

A lot of members found that Naim Ndac improved clearly the Ndx, and even some the Ndx2.
You can found second hand around 700/800 .
Lot of past threads on that. With google search it’s easier.

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Ndac is an obvious answer. And then you might want an external psu for it.
Chords Dacs find favour with some here, me included. So start with a Qutest at £1100.

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I should probably be a bit more specific that although I really would like to try the nDAC at some point (a bit out of my budget at the moment), I really wish to know if the Saturn’s DAC is a step-up from the NDX’s. Thanks again!

Why don’t you try it yourself (NDX to Saturn) then you’ll know for sure which is preferable to you ?

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I knew that was coming. :wink:
Yes, correct. I just wondered if anyone here had experience or expertise on the chips between the two.

Highly recommend the RME-ADI-2 DAC amazing performance.

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Naim has BB, Rega has Wolfson. I’d just try it and see what you think and then let us know what you find. The NDX makes a fine S/PDIF source.

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I’ll give it a try. I have a few BNC-BNC cables I could audition, but honestly, I’m not really all that confident I could tell the difference between cables anyway (subtle, at best).

Yes I’d not get too worried about that for now. I’ll be interested in what you find

James

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A number of people have found the Chord Hugo makes a significant upgrade for the NDX ( then tgere is also TT and Dave, with or without mScaler). At least one prominent member found Hugo (the Mk 1) was was better than plain NDX2).

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I thought I would follow-up with my quick impressions (with a mix of TIDAL and local hi-res):

I had to order a BNC-RCA adapter for the Saturn-R side of things, so it set me back a couple of days before critically listening. I used a couple of different BNC cables, predictably for me, without much in it, settling on a Belden 4794R.

The Saturn-R DAC makes it easy to switch between sources (in this case, the NDX and the Saturn) to get impressions of what I was hearing, in addition to switching between the different filters it offers here:

1 Linear phase half-band filter
2 Minimum phase soft-knee filter
3 Minimum phase half-band filter
4 Linear phase apodising filter
5 Minimum phase apodising filter

The filters made things a bit more difficult than I had wanted this to be, but in the end, these filters offer a very ‘slight’ variation in what is offered overall, each with their own subtle (and I mean subtle) trade-offs. In the end, and after playing ten to twelve very familiar artists/albums/source material (Glenn Gould, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, Luminary, Daft Punk, Talking Heads, Portishead…), I settled on filter 4, which seemed to bring about the best results/qualities of these choices, so I left it there before just settling in and enjoying.
Switching back-and-forth between the NDX and Saturn, it is pretty apparent that they give quite different presentations of music, though nothing that jumps out at you; it really seems to be a gradual affair once one becomes familiar with each.

I don’t think I need to get too into what the NDX brings, as we are all familiar with the Naim sound. The streamer is powered by an XPS (DR), which since I’ve had it in my room has been nothing short of a stellar sounding pair, always reminding me why I’ll likely die with Naim gear.

The Saturn-R DAC imposes its own flavor, for sure; not in a bad way at all. It is ultimately clean, extended, very analog-like, and focused. It appears to bring a healthy and admirable analytic (PRaT in this respect) and intimate balance in its presentation. Like its CD side, it does make digital files sound more LP-like—this is without a doubt. I really enjoyed the sound. The take-away for me is that the music didn’t come from an all-Naim system (in the context of being familiar with its signature and so forth), but rather just played. Once I got over the initial ‘this takes away from having all-Naim gear’ impression, which lasted the first day, I’d say, then it became apparent that I should listen in this manner for a few weeks at the very least before returning to listening to just the streamer again.

Neither presentation is ‘better’ than the other; but that said, I do feel compelled to state that for me at this early stage, I’m glad I was pushed here to just try the external DAC and see what it had to offer. The implementation of the dual-Wolfsons in the Rega is clearly a winner here, but time will tell if I miss any aspect of what the NDX has contributed in the few months I’ve been with it. It goes without saying, like everything, there are trade-offs; it just boils down to what you are willing to live with. Luckily it’s pretty simple to quickly switch between these two units, rather than having to make a production out of things to get to the music. Thanks all!

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