What streamer. Naim or otherwise

Hi
So I previously asked " Do I need a core" on this section of the forum. And the clearish advice was yes/sort of, but there are better devices than the core.
So a lot of you pointed me to Innuos, either Zen mini 3 or perhaps the Zenith 3. My local dealer even suggested a Zenith in preference to a NDX2. And a Zenith and Qutest in preference to a ND5 XS2
Issue right now is that he can not get back his demo Zenith, Zen mini ( and a Qutest to act as DAC) for “a few weeks”. So I cant listen to them at his place or mine.

So, given that I’d like ( but is not essential ) a ripper/internal HDD (like the core) am I really better off considering a Zenith (potentially with a Qutest) over say an NDX2 or ND5 XS2?

Yes, I get that I have to listen to all option, but cant for a number of weeks. And, respect your advice and views.

Thanks

R

It’s hard one … there are many ways to stream, and probably even more variables.
For me the NDX2 with its advanced streaming platform that largely decouples it (though in the limit no completely) from servers and Ethernet cable/setups… Naim system automation, Naim software integration, service integration options was the right choice for me… though I don’t use its inbuilt analogue out, preferring to use its digital out with an off board DAC… but the Naim X2 is one stinking transport… that really helps get the best of my Hugo original into my 552… quite a plus over my earlier NDX.

As far as your server and ripper… I really would use what you are most comfortable with, and you have the option of Roon too which blends your music recordings (local and remote libraries) using current hybrid cloud techniques… With the later streamers there is no or very limited difference in SQ here, though sometimes a slight sonic shift may be audible no doubt because of indirect reasons.

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I can’t recall whether this has been mentioned earlier, but I use an Audiostore Prestige as my music server, it is Roon ready, and it rips CDs. It feeds my NDS, four Unitiqutes, and with a Raspberry Pi (Rpi) it allows one of my ‘Qutes to be Roonified as well.

I would recommend talking to Martin at Audiostore; he’s incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. I had considered a Core, building my own, and had listened to Zens, Melco and Innuous boxes. Now having toyed with Rpi I would start with one setup as a streamer, just to see if I like the experience.

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Starting from a ‘no-streamer and no-music library’ position I would go with the Zenith III. This device is a streamer, ripper, music library and can act as a roon Core and endpoint. This also saves on space, improves aesthetics and cuts down on power cables, and interconnects - which helps balance the ‘man-maths’. . It has an optimised internal power supply so the inevitable XPS2/555DR extra PS is obviated.

I wish I had gone in this direction to pair with my Chord DAC last year when choosing amongst firstLy Naim ND5XS2+Naim Core, then I went for another library/streamer of very good quality and I ended up with a lot of components in my rack… I demo’d the ZenithIII with HugoTT2 recently and it is a good combination - as would be a Qutest or Hugo2.

A further simplification is to run the streaming device into active speakers (which vary a lot in terms of digital and analogue capability)

Once this CV-19 recession is over then I will be going for a Zenith III as roon Core/streamer/library or an Opticsl Rendu or Chord 2go/2Yu (and keeping the NUC as roon Core)

Before people jump in and say the Zenith / Zen III cannot manage roon Core functions I have been in email and phone discussions with Innuous as recently as last week and they have confirmed it can manage 3 Multirooms and limited upscaling. It is well documented that separating the endpoint from the roon Core device is good practice, so a solution to that would be a separate streamer - which can be a RPi-based device such as a Stack Link, Pro-ject Streambox Ultra or Allo DigiOne Signature - power supplies are the key to getting the best from all these devices, not necessarily the device itself.

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No plans (yet) to run the streamer via Roon. But we will see. The Innuos pricing is a bit odd. They insist on an SSD in the Zenith. And charge an extra £500 to go from 1tb to 2tb. So that puts me off the Zenith. I’m currently with the cheaper (full sized) Zen MK3 at £2000 for a 2tb version. I really would need to hear that £1500 difference between Zen and Zenith. If I went Zen mini, I know if end up with the lpsu. And for 2tb that combo is £1500 ish. Hence why the full sized Zen is my current choice. The add a quest later. I’d be using my CA cxnv2’s DAC via USB or ethernet to start with.

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I sold my NDX 2 and now use my Melco N1A/2 as both a music server and streamer connected to an Exposure pre-amp with built-in DAC. It was only being used a network music server previously. It does not have the scale of the Naim but I am getting better than expected results. I will likely try with a Chord Qutest to see if can squeeze out more from the Melco. I also tried an Innous Mk II Zen Mini but was a little taken back by the fact that I must use one specific iOS app (iPeng) to use it as a streamer. I have no interest in Roon at this time. Preferred the Melco to the Zen Mini musically. However, I do not need a built-in ripper and although the Innous Is easier to setup with a web interface and can be used as a Roon enpoint or core. I also have a local music library that I like to use, so local storage is important for me. After spending time with both, I prefer the Melco which I can use with the Lumin, Linn or Melco’s own app.

I would also like to try the Melco N1Z series, which is supposed to be in he same league and similar price point as the Innous Zenith with a Qutest to compare.

As others have mentioned, there are many directions to choose from. For the time being, I really like what the Melco offers at a reasonable cost.

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I find it difficult to offer any recommendation: the title of your post suggests that you are looking for a streamer (a DAC with an Ethernet input). But then, in your post, you mention different servers and rippers with no onboard DAC. What is precisely your aim and budget? What is your current system, what are you trying to improve? Are you looking for a single box solution or are you fine with multiple boxes? Have you read the basic documentation: the MinimServer user gfuide, the well tempered computer guides, the 37616-beginners-guide-to-digital-audio-playback-system theread on AS?

So good point.
What I have is a Cambridge Audio cxnv2 streamer and a WD Nas.
The Nas is a bit clunky. The CA is getting better with firm ware updates, but its main app sometimes to struggle to find the CA on my network when using android. Apple id fine.
I still use and buy s/h CDs. Although I still love vinyl too.
I started this thinking I wanted/ fancied a nd5 xs2.
However I have had 2 Naim dealers you sort of turn ed their noises up. Telling me how great the ndx2 is.
I can and do rip CDs via iTunes as ALAC. And store on the Nas.
I’m struggling to get any deal at the mo to dem either the Naim or the Innuos. My heart tells me it’s the nd5 xs2. Then but a better and dedicated Nas to stream. And get a subscription to Qobuz, which I’m currently trialling.
I’m using this time of not being able to demo stuff to kick things around, and hence seek out opinion.
No surprise that being a Main forum that their gen 2 stuff is well rated. I don’t want to buy and enter into a half arsed company with apps written by 15 year olds. And with Naim I get the stuff is well designed and built. With support into the future. And that counts for a lot.

Do you want to improve your streamer, your server or both? If you go for an ND5 XS 2 or for an NDX 2, you do not need any NAS or server any more, assuming that you are fine with Naim’s (pretty lousy) server. You simply connect a drive to the ND and you have a single box solution. Perhaps this could be a first step. Later, you could improve the server side by running MinimServer on a 35 EUR RPi. This would give you a more adequate presentation of your music collection and a better browsing experience in the Naim app. Whether the ND5 XS 2 (or the NDX 2) sounds better than your CXNV2 in your system is something that only you can tell. If you make a demo, please report your findings.

FWIW, be mindful streamers can come in many different shaps and sizes and can offer stunning levels of musical enjoyment without needing to cost significant amounts or requiring lots of boxes or faffing about.

Listening to the Qobuz app playing hires and standard tracks on my iPad, driving my AQ Cobalt DAC/Headphone amp into HD650s, and it’s really rather good, if perhaps just a tad rich on some recordings… but overall superb with great nuance, phrasing, micro dynamics and feel.

I also picked out the Zen III with 2tB, at £2k list, as the best balance between price / performance vs. the Zenith III and Zen MiniIII - but the dealer I spoke to was determined to steer me towards the ZenithIII…

Not unlike your experience with Naim dealers on the ND5XS2 vs NDX2. Adding a Powerline and clean Ethernet source lifts the ND5XS2.

It is a while ago now, but I briefly demo’d a Dcs Bartok at a certain barn, and the music server behind it was a ZenIII. It sounded excellent, and the stored music from the ZenIII was a better SQ than the Tidal music direct via the Bartok. Clearly that Innuous, DcS and Naim dealer considered the ZenIII good enough to be the backend source to the renowned Bartok for a customer demo event later that week.

Only a back-2-back demo with equivalent DAC, amplification and speakers and your ears will tell.

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I’ve just bought a nd5xs2 and am really pleased with it, had a auralic Aries prior and the nd5xs2 is a much more meaty sound

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I was a bit miffed at the dealers always trying to steer me towards the more expensive gear. My mother could probably provide me with that sort of advice!
The nd5xs2 is where I started this journey. I can see myself using one with qobuz as a source. Using a Nas for the stuff they don’t have. I do want to buy into a supplier with decent support. The fact that Innuos require 3rd party apps rather than their own is a concern.
But, I just need to hear one!

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I’ve got the NDS with 555PS and use it with 2TB Zoneripper. I listen to a mixture of Internet radio, my CDs which are all ripped to the Zoneripper and sometimes Spotify. Found that Tidal didn’t work out with the NDS or maybe it’s my internet, which is pretty good IMO.

I am very happy with what I have. Newer generation Naim streamers will work better with latest streaming apps.

Depends on budget and what you are going to use it for. For listening to my ripped CDs and internet radio you will be hard fetched to find something better than an NDS plus 555PS for the money.

An NDX2 is going to be better with Qobuz, Tidal and other streaming apps.

Other option is go for different DAC with NDX2 or ND5XS2.

I had an ND5XS with a TP DAC and that sounded alot better than the ND5XS alone. The NDS trounced it big time though.

I wouldn’t get hung up on NASs. I use a Mac mini, but @nbpf’s more economical recommendation will work as well. With Mac, my music is on a NAS (brand unimportant, your WD NAS is fine) and directly attached thunderbolt disk, so if one goes I can switch. I use JRiver MC to feed my Chord DAC over USB & Linn DSM over Ethernet. It plays from Amazon Music & BBC Sounds too. Although not keen on Internet subscription services, I like Bandcamp, as it supports artists and lets me download. Sounds superb to me.

I could run Roon, but JRiver MC is ideal, especially its clutter free Panel interface. Hearing products from Innuos & Melco, convinced me not to change. They’re nicely made, but I’d lose versatility. I can apply DSP room correction for instance.

Naim’s ND5 XS2 or NDX2 would work well with my setup if you prefer those to the Chord or Linn variants. What sounds best only you can judge. As long as it’s robust, NASs and Networks matter far less than DSP/DAC, amplifier, and most importantly room/loudspeakers in determining how enjoyable everything sounds.

If you’re able listen to a Chord DAC (Qutest, Hugo TT2 or DAVE depending on budget - with Hugo & DAVE you don’t need a preamp) with your Cambridge streamer and you may find it does all you need.

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My budget will steer the decision as always.
And like all these things what I could/should would be to wait. But there’s no fun in that.
So, it’s around £2k on a streamer box. No need for a ripper or internal HDD.
Future could be £1k on a DAC. But only if I can hear a difference.
Qoboz I’m trialling now. And impressed. Navigation via the CA Streammagic app is OK. So, it might be I live with my source of ripped CDs on the exiting Nas. Or I buy ( in the future) a better nas.

ND5XS2 would be a good move then at your budget. Add a DAC later but not necessarily.

An NDX2 is going to be more like £3800 on used market, so well above your budget.

Try to demo the two side by side if possible and make a decision from there.

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My problem at choosing a streamer is that I would want to use it in a manner that would raise eyebrows. I currently subscribe to Apple Music and I would want to continue with that. As for streaming my own music I would want to continue storing on my MacBook iTunes alac. Streaming would therefore be from my MacBook using WiFi to the streamer. My choice would be the nd5xs2 and I can hear you say why spend £2400 on a streamer that I am not going to use to full potential. I suppose the answer is I could always change to a higher quality streaming service in the future and even re rip my cds to nas/flac but I would hope my simple method would suffice. I am watching this thread and others very closely because the first chance I get I am going to jump in.

FWIW, I have ripped my CDs as ALAC. Why, because I use an old iPod in the car. And it’s Apple iTunes “best” method of ripping. I’m not worried about space on HDDs. Most will say they can’t hear a difference between ALAC and FLAC anyway.
A lot of what I’m hearing in Qobuz even at 44/16 FLAC is sounding good. Even via my CA cxnv2.
Right now, I want to hear a nd5xs2 fed with Nas and qobuz!

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Thanks for the suggestion jmtennapel.There really is no logic or common sense for that matter but my heart is set on a Naim. Matches my CD player and amp I suppose is the best I can come up with . On the positive side it means that a nd5xs2 would be the end of the journey for a streamer. However it’s not bought yet so the Nad has not been dismissed completely.

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