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NAIM ND5 XS NETWORK PLAYER
Naim recently introduced their competitively priced ND5 XS network player, able to play highest resolution 24/192 digital audio. Noel Keywood hears top quality digital.
If you scoured our comprehensive review of Naim’s NDX network music player in the October 2011 issue, then the new ND5 XS will look very familiar. It has much of the functionality of the NDX, but comes at a lower price in an ever more competitive market. Where the NDX we reviewed cost £2,995 the ND5 XS is available for somewhat less – £1925 is being quoted by Naim. Our sample came with an optional VHF/FM plus DAB radio module, that broadened the product’s scope past that of most other network players, but took the price to £2175.
Whilst network players commonly have internet radio, few have VHF/FM. It offers good sound quality, providing a decent aerial is used to suppress hiss. That same aerial must also pick up DAB on the ND5 XS because they share an aerial input socket and this raises issues – more later.
So the ND5 XS with optional VHF/DAB module is a radio tuner of broad ability, perhaps unsurprising considering the reputation of Naim’s NAT 05 XS VHF/FM tuner, considered one of the best sounding available. Pressing Radio on the remote cycles it through FM, DAB and iRadio giving access to more stations than you’ll get from most other network players or conventional tuners available.
Of course the ND5 XS is more than a radio. As a network player it can read music files from a computer – Mac or PC – providing they have a UPnP server installed, as usual. PCs have this in Window Media Player 11 (Vista onward) but Macs do not and need server software installed. The ND5 XS can also read music files from a memory stick that conveniently plugs into a USB socket on the front panel. Having Apple authentication, it can control and play music from an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad connected up through their Apple USB lead and, using the free n-Stream app., the ND5 XS can also be controlled by these devices. Since the on-board green screen display and remote control are unexceptional in legibility, the remote being unilluminated for example, this is a useful option. At the price the ND5 XS is behind the curve here, many network players having either bigger screens viewable from a distance (Logitech Squeezebox Touch (and/or better remote controls (Cyrus Stream series).
The ND5 XS has analogue outputs and an on-board DAC of some complexity that relies on a Sharc DSP engine to carry out digital filtering. Analogue is delivered to the usual pair of phono sockets and the inevitable DIN socket preferred by Naim – and given priority as factory set up; the phono outputs must be selected to make them live. The analogue outputs can be disabled if digital output is used. Volume control is not provided, so the ND5 XS cannot drive a power amp direct, unless a passive preamp is used. The remote control’s volume buttons are for Naim preamps, although the Philips RC5 control code is common and will alter volume on many amplifiers.