Please help me understand

I’m looking to add a streamer to my Nait 50 and have been trying to better understand the tech involved. So if I’m using a ND5XS2 with a Chord dac what part of this partnership is providing my amp with the sound signature? If it’s the Chord then does this not relegate the Naim to merely transport duties? If so would a transport a quarter of the price suffice? Also why do so many bypass the DAC in the ND5XS2. Apologies if this sounds like amateurish drivel.

What’s the budget for this?

People would add a dac to improve upon what the nd is doing by itself. Yes that makes it a transport, and yes there are cheaper transports. Not all transports are the same. The same goes for cd players.

Thank you. The question was more about the tech rather than my purchase. I’m trying to understand the differences and the rational behind peoples decisions. If the Naim streamer is so good, as recommended on here by so many, why add another DAC? If the DAC is so good why not use a cheaper transport?

It is very simple. People are different none more so than on this Forum. Some with more money to splash around.

Here is the answer to your question - go into your dealer have a listen to the ND5XS2 then have a listen to the ND5XS2 with the Chord. Or listen to a ‘cheaper’ so called transport and make up your own mind.


I’m asking about the tech not the SQ.

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I would suggest “peoples decisions” are based on the sound quality they hear.


So how does a DAC improve (or not) on what the Naim is feeding it? I’m just trying to better understand the science behind it all by asking those with more experience/brains than me. Thank for your input

chord use a very different design of DAC -plenty of info on this on old threads. very different sound to naim. chord make standalone DACs which need a separate transport naim now only make streamers combining transport and DAC. but as suggested previously most people decide on sound quality not the technology though some dismiss chord on the unique visual and operational design

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I’ll check out the other threads. Thanks

DACs have a sound signature, so do streamers, a bit like with analogue where a TT has a sound signature and so does a phono stage.

I tend to feel the Dac signature is more about the tech used and the output stage, the streamer is about eliminating sources of noise from the processing of the incoming signal.

Personally I would not use a Naim streamer as you are buying a built in Dac you will not use and therefore less is being spent on the streaming side.

I use Innuos and am very happy with it, started with a zen mini and moved up the range. Each sounded noticeably better.


The DAC is the key component in a digital source in respect of character of the source. In a Naim system the amplification is the primary source of the fabled “Naim sound”. Speakers are the component most influencing the overall character of the sound.

Yes, adding an external DAC to an ND5XS2 “relegates” it to just transport duties. People do that when they want to upgrade the sound with a better DAC. I don’t know what the Mk 2’s DAC is like, but I had an original ND5XS, bought to replace a Shearne Audio Phase 7 CD player. The sound character was very similar and I was very happy with it. The ND5XS was a very good introduction to streaming, easy to set up and use. Then I tried a Chord Hugo DAC and it was a noticeable improvement in sound, suddenly digital had a more natural sound, though I hadn’t realised what I was missing before.

In due course I replaced the ND5XS and my NAS with a Mac Mini running Audirvana as my library software and music renderer, i.e. store and transport duties, which overall was lower cost than the resale value of the ND5XS let alone also getting an alternative quiet NAS. I still have that, but I’ve upgraded my DAC further. There are other store/renderer approaches like products from Innuos and Melco, at a range of refinements/prices. I’ve only heard the basic Melco, in a very brief comparison with my store/renderer, with no immediately evident difference in sound. I’ve no idea about the others, though they have occasionally been discussed on this forum. The limitation with the approach I took is it is not as straightforward to set up as a specialist hifi equivalent, and maybe not so good for someone not computer savvy - when it reaches end of life I will likely review alternatives.

Just for the record I don’t have Naim amplification, and have never heard any so the “Naim sound” is only something I’ve read about.

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Thank you for a great and considered reply

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That’s brilliant thanks. So in terms of performance would a cheaper streamer with external DAC be more cost effective than say an ND5XS2 and an external DAC? Or does the Naim kit better prepare the signal before it hits the DAC?

When I swapped out my ND5XS as transport for Mac Mini + Audirvana I thought if anything the sound improved, though if so very marginally. Certainly not worse. N.B I did use a Gustard U12) between the MM and Hugo because Hugo did mig have galvanic isolation of its USB input and was very susceptible to RF noise superimposed in the digital signal. Some DACs are more affected by RF than others.

Unless simplicity and box count are particularly important I recommend separate DAC and renderer (transport) because that allows greater flexibility and freedom of choice, and less costly to replace or upgrade one part in the future, either to improve the DAC, or, important if streaming online as opposed to your own stored music, to stay up to date if some streaming service provider introduces something that demands new computing capability.