The future of Naim streamers

What we have now are the 2nd gen of Naim streamers, right? Although Naim is known to keep current products longer as compared to others, with the ever changing digital technology, when do you estimate for Naim to come up with the 3rd gen of streamers? And when this time comes, what improvements do you expect or want to have incorporated? Would Naim eventually come up with separate streamers and DACs?

I ask these questions because I’m currently in what I call to be one of my audiophile crossroads. I have mentioned before that it only took a Naim ND5XS2 (purchased sometime mid 2020), for me to finally accept digital. I have been an analog junkie ever since (I don’t own a single CD), and have always believed in the phrase “front-end first”, and spending most on MC cartridges / tonearms / turntables.

Since I got my ND5XS2, I would say that my use of my analog front end has slowly been diminishing. I’d say I now only use my analog front end around 20% of the time. To say I’m now happy with digital is an understatement.

Am I already getting old and getting too lazy to do the usual rituals performed when playing LPs? Am I loosing my typical “audiophile” requirements when listening to music because of my tinnitus? I really don’t know? But one thing is certain, my analog front end and LPs are literally gathering dust.

Right now, I still dread the idea of selling my entire LP collection (peaked at close to 3,000, now down to less than 1,000). But I’m not the typical sentimental nor nostalgic person, so eventually I can see myself selling everything sometime in my lifetime.

So now, I’m more than happy with my ND5XS2. But being a “front-end first” type of guy, I see myself going to NDX level eventually, and entirely leaving analog. Definitely not in a few years, but probably when gen 3 comes out……

So, does anyone have a fearless forecast?

Oh, I do hope Naim does keep its traditional / classic black boxes, and not just go with purely lifestyle products down the road….

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Naim never announce future products until they are ready for release, but they have said that the current streamers are nowhere near to being replaced, and I would expect a good few years yet before they are superseded.
If you want to upgrade your digital source you could follow the popular path of feeding a separate DAC from the digital out of your ND5XS2. There is no current Naim option here, although the discontinued NDAC is a possibility, and there are many non-Naim options. Whether Naim will release another standalone DAC we can’t tell.

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I agree with Chris.

I think it will be far longer than anyone would hope before a third generation streamer platform comes along. I would predict 2030 at the earliest, with the dealers having ready access to stock by say 2032.

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As I understand it the new platform was designed to be forwards compatible so I assume the plan is to use software updates in the medium term. So 2030 is probably as good a guess as any.

A bigger question might be when will Naim update the classic range? Will they put old electronics into new style boxes? Or is there a team already beavering away on a new generation of streaming platform?

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I have similar question marks.
I guess my first upgrade will be a 250 DR replacing a 200. A save bet regarding future developments. But I feel less confident about adding an XPSDR to my NDX2. It would add more than 75% to the cost of the NDX2 making it a seriously expensive source in my book (11.5K euro). The NDX and 272 have not been the greatest examples of being future proof imo.

So far, PSUs have been pretty future proof but I guess there are no guarantees here either. Also looking at the rapid developments and acceptance of SMPSs in various shapes & forms in audio.

It is very re-assuring to read your thoughts as I wonder if my Nova is as good as I think? With no available side by side comparison the question arises. I can say I’m very happy with it, and really feel no need to move to multiple boxes, aside from just the…ego?..of having an impressive stack…as we used to say in the old days.

…as for this question or thought, how about the ND555? What is the difference between the levels of the ND555/ NDX2/ and the Nova? Is the Nova streamer basically on a level as the ND5XS2?

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As I say I’m content, but if anything I fantasize adding a 300DR (or 250) to the Nova. That rings silly to me though and I want to remain content…lol…

Genuinely interesting question which I come at from a slightly different angle.

I sat through a day long demo of the 1st generation of streamers at a well known Manchester dealer some years back. The diversity of views was fascinating. I strongly felt, and still do, that none were especially musical or engaging and none could even begin to compete with my then CDX2/XPS2 front end until you got to NDS level. A level I simply could not afford and would not wish to. Evidently I wasn’t alone. More than half the room felt broadly the same. The remainder were clearly going to buy on the spot. As this is the Naim forum I would obviously expect that the latter perspective is reflected here and the idea those products were in any way less than perfect is rarely entertained.

By the time the second generation came along I had a different dealer well outside of Manchester and, I have always felt, much more honesty about all products not just Naim. Nevertheless I spent an evening listening to the new range in less than perfect circumstances at an evening in Manchester set up I think by Audio-T (who were not I should say that original Manchester dealer) and Naim. What I heard utterly confused me. Each streamer had different sonic signatures but I wouldn’t necessarily have said any were “better” than the others. There was a different emphasis with each. As I say, not ideal listening circumstances so it would be stupid to say anything definitive but that’s what I heard. My attention drifted repeatedly. Of the 3, the NDX2 was at my price point. I auditioned it twice. Once at my dealer and once at a different dealer when helping a friend with an audition. On both occasions I found my attention wandering. A purchase was not made and for various extraordinary and unfortunate reasons I ended up taking a different direction.

Talking to both dealers independently a couple of years apart was instructive. Both felt that getting a 1st generation streamer right in any sense is an extraordinarily difficult thing. Both felt Linn had got the software side right but Naim had not. Both felt Naim had very much fixed that with the second generation. Both felt the improvement in sound quality was significant. Neither would recommend the first generation. Neither would recommend the mid range ND5XS2 explicitly because it didn’t have a screen. Neither raves about the sound quality of the second generation. Both felt it fell slightly short of Linn. I’m really not a fan of anything I’ve ever heard from Linn.

My perspective nowadays is that Naim sources, for me, are far less compelling than they used to be. I actually find the so-called lifestyle products have more PRaT. The amplification nevertheless remains top class. Where the next generation goes is anyone guess but I’d think the upgradabilty of the current generation both in terms of software and hardware means that’s some time away. I suspect we’ll see more of those rather dispiriting limited edition/different finish type launches before we see the next generation of anything.

Rough guess? Roon has carved out a small niche which you love or hate. It’s dividing manufacturers into those who think “why compete with that” and those who think “we can slowly better that”. Naim seems determined to stick with its own app. I’m not especially a fan but, if you’re going to do that, then eventually you have to outgun Roon in terms of both sound quality and/or usability. Innuos have managed the former and are moving forward with the latter. It’s interesting to watch.

For example, most manufacturers have gone with Spotify or Tidal Connect whereas Innuos have gone for full integration. The difference the latter makes is an eye opener but it remains to be seen who will win out. That’s one of many decisions yet to be made. Similarly, just as computers now come minus optical drives will we see those products with optical drives to rip CDs die out or be maintained? Will we see screens persist or not?

There is of course you can continue to cover all these bases and that doing so gives you market share.

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With ever shrinking silicon (Apple/TSMC is down to 4nm in production right now) you get speed or lower power. Low power could be used to, say, replace the big fat humming toroid power supply with a quiet chargeable battery and SMPS charger (preferably charging when not in use). Speed could used to optimize the current software, moving and shorten operations that cause RFI to times where it is less destructive (by interleaving and so on).

Their software is o.k. Licensing Airplay 2 (at least I think they do) is an advantage when many are using the old open source Airplay 1. Spotify and UPnP is o.k.

Roon. I don’t know. With many users just using the online streaming services it is over-priced and over-complicated.

Having an optional simple local server for odd CD:s and recording live concerts seems more like it - UPnP is very suitable and sound better than RAAT. The current Core is perfect having meta-data in a separate file - they just need to start using that advantage. And perhaps they could leave the CD-ripper as a physical snap-on module to lower cost for those not using CD:s (you know … cases integrating, using PSU from the Core).

I don’t see that at all. Naim (or any other single hifi manufacturer) will not ever compete with Roon on app quality or ability to play to streamers from many other manufacturers. However, Naim don’t have to. They are roon-ready and it works perfectly for those who want the Roon features and are willing to pay for it. At the same time, there are many who are happy with UPnP and the feature level of the Naim app, and it’s fine if Naim includes an app that caters to these uses and enables Naim streamers to play without needing anything from a third party.

Considering that they are apparently growing by 100K users per year, many don’t seem to agree. Many users are indeed using the online services or apps like Naim’s and are happy with it. They are not the Roon target market. For those who want the rich features, there is no competition.

At the same time it’s pretty simple to use, I have no idea what you mean by overcomplicated. Setting up a Roon Nucleus is not any more complicated than a Naim Core, and cheaper, too.
Sure, using the streaming service apps with something like Tidal Connect has less overhead, but it’s also severely limiting for many. (If you don’t just listen to mainstream, you WILL occasionally have music that is not available online, and what is available WILL occasionally - or often, depending on the music - have incorrect or incomplete metadata)

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I fear you may have completely missed the points being made.

The idea that no-one can compete with Roon is obviously incorrect. Several manufacturers are looking to reclaim exactly that ground for their own infrastructure. That aside, my point was that these are all choices which need to be made. So,e manufacturers will indeed see no choice to be made. Some already have made that choice. They will never publicly say “we intend to make Roon irrelevant to our users” but that’s clearly the path they’re on.

You may want to check your Roon user base growth figures too. The number of products which are “ready” etc. is not the same as the number of users. There us some data which shows that users have fallen just as “ready” products are increasing.

I thought the point was that some manufacturers are choosing and may be able to compete with Roon. If that was not it, what was it?

Which manufacturers are even close to competing with Roon on feature set and ability to play to devices from tens of manufacturers?

When I started with Roon in autumn of 2020, they had confirmed 250,000 users. In recent months, they said that it was now much higher than that and a guesstimate of 400,000 was IIRC not confirmed but also not contradicted. That would be 150,000 growth in 1.5 years.

Let’s assume a conservatively low 300K users at this time. Let’s say that 50K of those are lifetimers and the rest all have annual subscriptions of USD 10 per month, also conservative assumptions that make the annual revenue lower than it probably is.

This gives them annual revenues of USD 30 million, plus the Nucleus revenue and another 30 mil they made from lifetimers.

This puts them at approx. the same annual revenue as Naim has, and double that of the likes of Linn. However, Roonlabs is in the software business, which has more favorable economics. For every unit built by Naim et al., they have real costs. In the software business, after you built the software every additional user has close to zero cost (except marginal support costs, data charges, and the like). I work in a software business approx 3 times the size (1 million users, ~150 eur per user per year) and it’s a veritable gold mine.

Let’s say Roon has 50 employees, that’s a healthy size to focus on a specific problem. Let’s assume an average 250K gross salary costs per employee per year, that’s 7.5 million. Office rent, metadata license fees, and other costs of business are probably in the low millions, let’s make it a conservative 5 and round up to 15 million together with salaries.

A conservative 30 million current annual revenue vs. a very conservative 15 mill. spending, makes 15 million profit per year, and every additional user is essentially pure profit. Being a third-party that is not in the hardware business, most companies seem to be willing to work with them and be roon-ready, so they have a large pool of potential users. (While Linn working with Naim or vice versa will simply never happen)

I have not seen a compelling business case how hifi manufacturers who are in the hardware business can compete with that.

Of course, Roon has unique risks as well with their requirement of very open streaming providers, but if a hardware manufacturer wanted to compete on features, they would face the same problem.

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I can’t imagine what change in streaming technologies will result in the 3rd generation of streamer rather than a software update I do agree that it will probably be a while especially considering current constraints on manufacturing. I would like naim to consider doing an ndac successor and streaming transport because it offers more flexibility/choice of upgrades.

Innuos is definitely intriguing and I’m honestly interested to see where streaming software and hardware goes in the future across the board.

Those figures, to be blunt, are cloud cuckoo land. There are products sold as Roon Ready, Roon tested etc. People who then trial Roon. People who uninstall at the end of the trial or later. People who actually use Roon.

Last dealer I spoke to pointed out that Roon repeatedly used Ready and Tested as their measure of users rather than actual live users and pointed me to various items which suggested that the user base globally was barely around 100,000 at the peak of the pandemic. It has since suffered a small fall. Same dealer, who appears to sell nothing but Roon Ready or Tested products and who absolutely adores Roon, estimated that for every 30 products they sold with the option they’d get between 2 or 3 Roon users. Granted that the plural of anecdote is not evidence but goodness knows there are enough hi-fi mags out there who have quoted figures also of around 100,000 in the past year or two. Several who have quietly but openly challenged the figures out about by Roon.

Figures aside, the point remains. If manufacturers find themselves beholden to an outsider then sooner or later that costs control and money. Some will pay. Some already are not. Regardless of what you or I think the numbers are manufacturers are already making those choices. Ergo, when the next generation of streamers etc. come along it will absolutely be part of the many considerations in play and it would be naive to think that Naim won’t have those discussions too. Whenever you have options manufacturers have every right to change their mind. You can’t assume that what you’re looking at today and really enjoy is what you’ll be looking at tomorrow.

OK, so 100,000. Then divide the income numbers by 3 and save a bit on spending and you still have a very healthy software business that can be sustained for a very long time. Where I work, we started with 0 users in 2003, a few tens of thousands in 2005, and have grown steadily until the million users of today. Past 100K users, everything was pure profit. (The businesses are quite comparable with regard to being privately owned and solving a problem for a dedicated specialist market).

This may well be, and if I was Naim I probably would not want to rely in Roon either. I never said that I would. To the contrary, I wrote that Naim don’t have to, and that it’s a sensible model to have their own independent app while providing a first-class interface for Roon.

My point is that manufacturers competing with Roon is, to return the lovely favor, cloud cuckoo land. If Roon fails, nobody will try again for the foreseeable future, and we will be forever stuck with the stoneage apps by manufacturers.

A large part of my music has no or very poor metadata on streaming services or in online databases, if the music exists at all on the streaming service. Much other music has very good metadata, so Roon is taking work off my hands there, which I can invest into improving the areas that are poor but important to me. That’s of course thanks to Roon enabling metadata editing for streaming content. Roon or something equivalent is completely indispensable to me. Of course for people who listen to Dire Straits and Dark Side of the Moon forever, the problem looks different

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It’s a healthy small business with a surprising disregard for users as it’s forum attests. Roon ultimately will fail because it’s a great idea that was first to market but the inevitable outcome has to be that some manufacturers ultimately will want that space back and, let’s face, several are pushing those buttons already. It matters not what we think. Quietly this is happening already.

I note the meta data argument. It’s an interesting one. I tried Roon for exactly that reason. Putting aside several interface accessibility issues, which are not uncommon in audio apps generally, I really wanted it to work. I was surprised to find that it was basically giving me the All Music web site fancied up a bit and that it was no more accurate with meta data for my 1,750 CDs than Innuos Sense was. It just made a different more subtle set of errors.

Yeah because a forum is an accurate reflection. Please, as if the Naim forum had no complaints.

Maybe Roon will fail, but not because of Naim moving its app at glacial pace. If there is any competition in the future that is better than Roon, I will be pleased, though I don’t know why you apparently hope for it so much, given that we are seeing absolutely nothing on the horizon. Maybe you have insider info of revolutionary developments behind the scenes, but so far there is nothing near the market.

It’s true that it’s not perfect, but the AllMusic website in a granular format is already a thousand times more than what I get from Naim and the streaming services. In the Innous app, do I have detailed credits (often down to track level) that I can browse and drill down into with complex queries, and can I edit the metadata of online content where it is missing, just like I can with local content, and make it part of the browse-/searchable music database? And can I play to my NDX2?

And how is Innuous with apparently 30 employees, as far as I can find, in any better position?


Innuos Sense

I fear an argument developing here which distracts from the main point of the thread i.e. where we go next. I have no more to say than the following:

  • I said the forum attests to Roon disregarding users. We all know that social media is skewed towards negativity. That in itself does not automatically make what is there inaccurate. I asked them a question about accessibility. Two years later and despite multiple follow ups I still await a response. Users have identified bugs outstanding for 18 months. In itself not a problem if you explain why. They don’t.

  • you make a connection between Roon failing and the Naim app. Your point not mine. I’m not sure what you’re responding to. My point was that they found a gap in the market which lasts exactly as long as it takes several manufacturers to close in on them. Several are.

  • [quote=“Suedkiez, post:20, topic:23723”]
    In the Innous app, do I have detailed credits (often down to track level) that I can browse and drill down into with complex queries, and can I edit the metadata of online content where it is missing, just like I can with local content, and make it part of the browse-/searchable music database? And can I play to my NDX2?
    [/quote]

At this point you do not but then not everyone wants what others want and given Innuos progress inside 2 years I’m already aware that some of what you want will be available this year and the rest next. The more interesting thing about Innuos is that they’ve asked what people want most and focused on that. It quickly became apparent that most people want meta data to work. They don’t necessarily need it to become an analytic tool.

I don’t see this as a question of one versus another. It’s a wider question about the market. Said my piece. I’m out now. Football to watch. Theatre to watch.