Variable volume in NDX 2

Is there really any drop in sound quality if I use adjustable volume control in NDX 2 ?

I plan to use the adjustable volume control in NDX 2 instead of system automation as I dont use Naim’s preamp with NDX 2. I am using preamp though - not directly to power amp.

The adjustable volume control of NDX 2 does provide a great convenience as I can then also control volume from same naim remote or app. I do not have to use my pre amp’s remote for volume control.

When I check Naim’s support documentation in NDX 2 page it does mention that one can control volume output. And it is no where mentioned that it will impact sound quality.

So wondering whether it is more a myth that using adjustable volume in NDX 2 will reduce the sound quality.

Regards,
Sourav

Yes. Naim didn’t even want to implement this except it was a requirement for things like AIrPlay or Chromecast certification. So it works in order to tick a box, but isn’t recommended. Everyone who’s tried it has decided to keep their preamp.

However, remember that with a Naim preamp that support automation (all the current ones) you can just take a 3.5mm to RCA lead from the system automation out on the NDX2 to the automation in on a Naim amp and still control the volume from the Naim app.

Please note as I have mentioned in my original post I dont use a naim pre amp. I am using preamp but of separate manufacturer. So using system automation is not an option for me.

Regarding the drop n sound quality I am looking for any official documentation from Naim. Otherwise the way the variable sound output is mentioned in the Naim’s support documentation it rather seems to be a legit way of using the system.

Regards,
Sourav

I’d strongly suggest that you trial it before getting rid of your preamp. Ultimately, your own ears are better than anyone’s opinion, even Naim’s.

Certainly, there is no mention of this in the flimsy manual at all.

But the NDX2 contains no preamp. It just does digital domain volume and as such quality suffers. It should be a easy test to do. It also reveals the true value of a good analogue preamp.

It’s not clear from your profile whether or not you actually have an NDX2. If you do, the simple way to find the answer is simply to try it for yourself. Every report I’ve read from people who have tried it has said that using the inbuilt volume control reduces sound quality. You may find differently of course. If it does reduce quality all you need to do is use your amplifier’s remote, which is hardly a hardship.

I think it’s a reasonable question. Issues like this are sometimes discussed speculatively by people who have never tried it (which is fair enough - it’s just a forum!) but eventually such ideas tend to be assumed true. If you have an NDX2 try it and see. Nothing is going to explode, and you’ll have your answer.

Just be careful when setting this up. If you are still using a preamp, the signal will pass through two volume controls, and if using the NDX2 control, you will probably have the preamp volume set very high. If you use other sources through it, or inadvertently set the NDX2 back to fixed volume, your speakers could get a nasty surprise.

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Profile suggests you are using Roon…

You might try a similar solution to mine. Turn on volume levelling in Roon, set a comfortable maximum playback level using the preamp volume control, use Roon to control the NDX2 level.

Roon will be sending a 32bit signal to the NDX2, which effectively means you would have to reduce the level way down before you start to lose resolution.

If you can hear any difference - making sure you are level matching - nothing lost. Just turn it off again!

With levelling turned on, I find that I never need to touch the preamp volume control. Which is just as well, because the encoder pot is flakey…

Thanks to all for the inputs and ideas.

Yes, I do have a NDX 2 (1 week old). Also I am a Roon user. I use Naim App also pretty effectively. And I don’t plan to sell the preamplifier at all.

@AndyR @ChrisSU @anon4489532 thanks for your suggestions. Actually what I am trying is something a blend of approaches that u 2 suggested. I keep the pre-amp volume at a regular level (so that other sources are not impacted) - a little higher than other sources (I can do that in my pre-amp). The variable volume in NDX 2 I set to around 90 so that I get some some head room either to increase or decrease from the NDX 2 remote itself.

So far (just tried for last few hours) with this I have not observed any big SQ change (actually almost none) if I go down till even 70. Beyond that there is surely something noticeable which I cannot compensate even by increasing the volume in my preamp.

Actually my other DAC ( P S Audio Direct Stream) has digital volume control. And they recommend using the same (though they say to use it within the range of 80 to 106). As far as I know they have corrective measure to compensate for any SQ loss at digital domain. I thought Naim also have something similar. Otherwise why Naim would provide a mechanism to adjust volume level in Naim’s support documentation (go to https://www.naimaudio.com/product/ndx-2, go to bottom of the page, click the arrow beside ‘Support’, in Ask a Question text box write ‘Volume’, click on Search icon, the list of results will show a topic called ‘How do I control the volume level of the NDX 2 output?’.) ?

Regards,
Sourav

I use the variable volume control on my NDX2 when using my headphone amp, otherwise I use system automation with my SN2. I haven’t experienced any reduction in sound quality using the variable volume control, and indeed, the NDX2 is designed specially for this function for separate headphone amps and non-Naim pre-amps, so I don’t see (or hear) an issue.

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I have just checked but in settings on my NDX2 app but I have not got volume mode in the list

Hi Mick, you need to turn off system automation in the app, to be able see the volume mode list.

Thank you - now checked and it is set at fixed

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Rather than use the variable output and as you are using Roon you could add a Logitech Harmony Hub and use a Roon extension to control it.

The Logitech Harmony Hub is an infra red blaster that can be controlled using software. It connects to your network

image

Once setup you install a Roon extension which will add - and + volume buttons to Roon, allowing volume control.

When you wanne try the volumecontrol of the NDX2, the signal is coming out of the DIN/RCA plugs and can directly plugt in to an power amp.

To try the difference of the “pre amp section” in my set, SN3/HCdr, how do i connect the NDX2 to the power amp part of the SN3? Specially, what cable do i need?

It should be 5-pin to 4-pin. Is that a normal or regular cable?

I don’t understand why you would need to. The SN3 can be used with the NDX2 system automation via the 3.5mm to RCA automation signal cable. In other words, you can already control the volume of the SN3 via the Naim app without using the NDX2 volume control.

To hear the difference between pre-amp part of my SN3 and the “pre-amp part” of the NDX2.

I think you can just use RCA to aux in AV bypass mode.

I think that is the correct cable for what you are trying to do; not sure if that’s a ‘standard’ Naim pin out though. But in any case - tread carefully. That could get very loud very quickly if the NDX reverts to 100% or ‘fixed’ for any reason.

Did you compare? If so any differences noted?

Yes I did. No difference I could hear. BTW, I am keeping it variable within 70 to 100 range. Also I am using preamp (not sending the output of ndx2 directly to power amp).

Regards,
Sourav