Had a wonderful, enlightening day - this week - contemplating next steps and trying a few things for the future. Maybe next steps, over the next year or two. I should add at the outset, I regard myself as being entirely fortunate to have found a brilliant dealer, that is patient and accommodating and works over the long term to support customers with their Hi-Fi journey. As my mother often said “patience is a virtue” and “the best things come to those who wait”. Fine platitudes. (Maybe for both parties).
In the meantime, time to think and plan ahead.
Here is a report to share.
Two basic ideas were explored…
(1) A Naim streamer, (to add to SSD archive, CD and vinyl sources).
(2) Adding new speakers.
The ND5 XS2 was the focus of interest, within our existing system setting.
To explore how to get the best from this fine streamer.
Here, shown with ATC SCM40 (passive), in white.
The ND5 XS2 isn’t much to look at.
However, its aesthetic fits perfectly amongst the other XS and Classic cases.
Own pieces were used, except new items being considered. Over an hour or so, listening to following combinations…
ND5 XS2 → Lavender DIN to DIN →
SN3 + HCDR, c/w Snaic i/c’s
Step 1 : Adding nDAC c/w DC1 i/c
Step 2 : Adding XPS DR, c/w Burndy i/c
(Note : As we already have the nDAC, this direction allows the Naim DAC to be utilised to full advantage. Adding a PSU (to the nDAC) benefits the streamer, but also a CD5 XS that we also have at home too).
Quboz was used through out.
Mostly CD quality : 16 bit / 44.1 kHz
Some HiRes tracks were also used : 24bit / 96 kHz (up-to 192 kHz)
My personal opinion, (context for readers), streaming from platforms really only comes into its own at HiRes or higher levels. I personally don’t see (hear ) much difference, compared with other formats, (such as CD or vinyl), with standard CD quality. I would even go as far as saying, if I was starting again, (a) knowing what I know now, and (b) not having any history or investment in CD and vinyl, and (c) having reached a certain system, where such differences can be discerned, I would subscribe to Quboz and Tidal, then find and save all my favourite albums in HiRes or better. I would be a happy man with just that. Needless to say, that’s not where I am. We like CD’s and vinyl records and have lots of these at home. We tend to use streaming for exploring new music and the radio. So, streaming isn’t currently a primary source. That’s just my personal opinion or bias. On the other hand, for my adult children, it’s the only way they regularly consume music.
My first impression of the streamer was entirely positive. My thoughts were it was a fine product and I would be happy to use it, as it is, bare.
Having used Innous products, I found the Naim UI App - to access and play music - a tad limiting. But it works well enough.
Adding the nDAC changes the presentation slightly. Mostly for the positive. I’m unsure it’s a significant improvement and felt more like “changed”, rather than any big improvement. A little more detail, more weight to notes.
As we have an nDAC, I would use it. But, now having listened to it with the streamer, in a different scenario, I wouldn’t rush to buy a nDAC just to add to an ND5 XS2. But wait for the next thoughts…
Interestingly, the streamer and DAC sounded better, with the ATC speakers. Maybe a more refined mid range complemented the streamer and DAC combination better. (More on that later).
Adding in a Naim PSU ( a pre loved XPS DR), onto the nDAC, was a significant moment. Very quickly, within a few bars of music, it was obvious this was an entirely desirable outcome. We then played lots of music to better understand how. Personally, I didn’t expect this step to be so obvious.
More control of the music, more detail, better bass, much quieter, etc. Possibly my end game. That good.
My conclusion was that adding the nDAC to the streamer, (by itself), whilst interesting, wasn’t so important as an adding a PSU into the equation. So, for me, it’s only when you put all three together - streamer + DAC + PSU - this is a very desirable combo’.
(Note : We originally bought the nDAC to compliment a CD5 XS and I am now thinking it maybe offers a better upgrade for that item, by itself).
The next experiment was to explore speaker options, for this same system.
Shown with PMC Twenty5.23i, in diamond black.
Having considered several floor-standing speaker options, I’m probably now at considering these two candidates, similar price point.
Both do things well, albeit differently. Some noticeable characteristic that were obviously different, which one might expect. Both have merit.
The ATC’s clearly have a strength in the mid range. Things like voice, piano, cello were all a delight. It was so obvious. This appeals to me, as I’m so used to the similarly strong mid range from my Epos ES14’s.
At louder volume (SN3 volume dial at 10 or 11 o’clock), the ATC’s really rocked. Handling louder music with such ease and control. Maybe better than all other options ?
However, it felt like it took a higher volume to bring out all the music. Like, some of the music was less apparent at lower volumes. The Basically Sound guys explained this is often noticed with closed cabinet designs, such at these 40’s, which should be balanced by their more neutral presentation over all, (compared to others design types - ported, TL, etc).
So, it seems they have a “sweet spot” (at a volume level) for listening, which I think I found ?
Although I listen at higher volumes a lot, (maybe more so just personal and solo listening ), I also wondered about the lower volumes, as this is how our music is played 80% of the time, by myself and others in the family. Particularly, by my best mate (wife).
The PMC were easy to listen to, at any volume. In particular bass notes more evident, at lowish volumes, which I liked. (Maybe a positive feature of Transmission Line design).
I felt the PMC’s were a little more accurate across the whole range. Plus, more pleasing to listen to at lower volumes, with more coming through. (Note : SN3 volume dial, less than 9 o’ clock).
For what it’s worth, I thought the ATC’s were more compact than expected. But, the PMC’s are so much more compact, by comparison. All things being equal, this might become a consideration, in our domestic environment.
But these are all fine details. I would be happy with either option and feel a few hours wasn’t enough.
I want to like the ATC’s. They really do rock.
As I’m undecided at this stage, might now wait until time of purchase and request a session at home, to make a final decision.
HiLine DIN to DIN
Lastly, at the end, having used the lavender i/c through the day, (between source to SN3), this was changed for HiLine, for the last 10-20 minutes of music.
Didn’t take long - maybe a few bars of music - to establish they add something positive. Just a little more detail and energy. So, I’m also considering adding in perhaps just 2 or 3 HiLine DIN interconnects, over time, between sources and SN3.
Other thoughts & ideas
The ND5 XS2 is now a default choice. However, I would like to listen to the new Innous Pulse when that’s available. Which should be next few months. If nothing else, to confirm thoughts about bare Naim ND5 XS2.
We ran out of time. But, if future time allows, might be interesting to listen to a Naim pre-amp and the active versions of ATC SCM40A. Although, at this stage, it’s probably more a curiosity, as it’s likely stretching my intending budget a bit too far. In any case, I’m happy to wait to see what happens with New Classic first with this idea. So no hurry.
(in no particular order) …
The Bad Plus : Everywhere You Turn, from “These are the Vistas” (2003).
The Blue Nile : Headlights on the Parade, from “Hats” (1989).
Madonna : Nothing Really Matters, from “Ray of Light” (1998).
KD Lang : Save Me, from “Ingenue”, (1992).
Trentemoller : Glow, from “Memoria” (2022).
Damien Rice : The Blower’s Daughter, from “O” (2003).
Nick Mulvey: Fever to the Form, from “First Mind” (2014).
Coldplay: Midnight, from “Ghost Stories” (2014).
Hope all these thoughts are interesting for others…
Anyway, head down, work hard, save cash, for a future time.
Now with a better understanding of what I’m aiming for
My sincere thanks to Tony and Graham @BasicallySound, for everything. Moving things around, explaining things, answering a myriad of questions. Plus coffee, biscuits and few jokes too.
Such a a great day. Thank you.
Image credits : Images by kind permission of Basically Sound.