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Naim ND5 XS
p2 Installation and set up
p3 Sound quality
p4 Conclusion
p5 Measured performance
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INSTALLATION AND SET UP

The ND5 XS has a massive toroidal mains transformer with multiple output windings feeding different analogue and digital sub-circuits. As a result it is relatively large, measuring 432mm wide, 350mm deep including protrusions, and 87mm high. It is also unusually heavy at 10kgs.

 

The rear panel has three S/PDIF digital inputs, optical via TOSLINK, electrical via phono sockets or a BNC connector. A CD transport can be connected up here, or a player acting as a transport using its digital output, the ND5 XS acting as a DAC, its analogue output feeding an amplifier.

 

There is a single digital output, S/PDIF via a phono socketed electrical connection; why no BNC or TOSLINK heaven knows. Presumably, Naim feel their on-board DAC will outperform most external DACs and the digital output is unimportant. Perhaps they are right. I used it and bumped into another reason; the ND5 XS played a 24/192 (AIFF) file just as Naim claimed it would, but the digital output remained stubbornly silent, whilst the analogue output delivered fine sound quality. I forgot that S/PDIF doesn’t support 24/192, only 24/96. Using the on-board DAC and analogue output avoids such issues; you are assured of getting music! So if you want to play highest resolution 24/192 files, which run at a massive data rate of 9Mbps, against CD’s measly 1.4Mbps, you cannot use an S/PDIF digital link. However, 24/96 sounds nearly as good I find, from using Blu-ray, so it isn’t a big issue subjectively.

 

The rear panel also carries the usual RJ45 Ethernet socket, a USB socket that can hold a memory stick out of sight, remote control inputs and outputs for Naim system users, a wi-fi antenna socket and a VHF/DAB screw-on UHF aerial socket (not an old co-ax type). There is also a large military multi-pin socket to which can be connected one of three Naim upgrade power supplies.

 

Naim fit a module that uses what is known as SDR, or Software Defined Radio, to derive both VHF and DAB. The basic aerial signal is digitised and then processed to extract wanted radio transmissions, eliminating all the many analogue tuning circuits used in conventional tuners. The output of the module is digital Naim told me. The use of such a module explains why there is just one aerial socket, where DAB and VHF tuners usually have one apiece, to accommodate the different aerials required.

 

The ND5 XS initialised without hitch, saw the network and was identified by its MAC address on my home router straight away. It picked up my PC and its Windows Media Player 11 UPnP server and it saw a Logitech UPnP server running on Mac OS-X 10.7.2 (Lion), but it didn’t see EyeConnect running on OS-X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) without a bit of coaxing (re-booting, switching things on and off!). This may be an EyeConnect problem though, as some other network players do not always see it.

 

Internet radio uses vTuner and brought in the usual thousands of stations worldwide, with a Naim recommended list bringing up Radio Paradise at 320kbps – and very nice it sounded too. As did Radio 3 running at 320kbps with AAC compression.



 

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