Naim Audio ND5 XS 2 Network-Attached DAC Page 2

Although Naim has put a lot of work into improving the Wi-Fi capabilities of these latest units, I'd still suggest sticking to a wired network connection if at all possible, especially in 'busy' Wi-Fi environments. The ND5 XS 2 can handle PCM-based files at up to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD128 over a network or from USB media, while its streaming service support extends to Roon-ready status, and a whole range of other offerings thanks to its integration of Google Cast for Audio. Basically, if you find a compatible app on your computer, phone or tablet, the ND5 XS 2 can play audio from it, at resolutions up to 192kHz/24-bit.

The digital-to-analogue conversion here is handled by the familiar Texas/Burr-Brown PCM1791A DAC – the circuitboards are decoupled for immunity to vibration – and while the ND5 XS 2 has both a big linear power supply and switch-mode PSU, the latter is used solely to support the player's standby mode.

sqnote Family Sound
One might justifiably expect there to be a clear differentiation in the sound of the three Naim players, and yes, there is a clear step up in performance when moving from the ND5 XS 2 to the NDX 2. However, that shouldn't detract from the abilities of this most affordable model that, by any standards, is a remarkable network music player that's deserving of consideration way beyond all-Naim systems.

Playing the recently released Kate Bush remasters, it's thrilling how dramatically the singer's first album, The Kick Inside [Rhino; 44.1kHz/24-bit] comes up shining in its latest version, the ND5 XS 2's punchy, well-extended and highly detailed sound serving very well her sheer teenage creativity. The way Bush's voice switches from the plaintive 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes' to the powerful 'Them Heavy People' is captivating, and the ND5 XS 2 makes the most of this complex, and often lush, production.

Spool forward a few years to Bush's first self-produced album, The Dreaming [Rhino; 44.1kHz/24-bit], and the ND5 XS 2 tears into the opening 'Sat In Your Lap' with real drive and slam, maintaining the momentum all the way to the closing 'Get Out Of My House'. The sound is recognisably weird, highly inventive and seriously dense, but the Naim player has it covered.


It continues to deliver a remarkable performance with the recent remastered release of The Beatles (aka The White Album) [Apple/Universal 0602567571957; 96kHz/24-bit], digging deep into the mixes to find previously unheard detail, and revelling in the extras on the set, including the legendary Esher Demo tapes, recorded in George Harrison's bungalow at the end of May '68. The immediacy and intimacy of these acoustic recordings of songs that would become the finished album, and the fun the band is having working them out – unlike the acrimony of the final sessions, which would tear the four apart – is presented in infectious style by this 'entry-level' Naim player.

Stepping Out
Indeed, that concentration on the music, the ND5 XS 2 matching its anonymous looks with an ability to get out the way of what's being played, means this slimline unit is a very long way from being no more than just 'Naim lite'. So while the NDX 2 may find even more in recordings, especially when boosted with the addition of an XPS power supply or even a 555PS, let's not forget that its junior sibling is less than half the price, and far from overshadowed by its 'big brother'.

As you can see, I was having a bit of a remasterfest with the ND5 XS 2, and its abilities also served well the recent Eagles Legacy boxset [Elektra/Rhino; mainly 96kHz/24-bit]. The way it played the original version of 'Hotel California' with its multiple layers of instrumentation, soaring guitar solo and little percussion stings, almost dispelled the visceral shudder I feel every time I hear that acoustic guitar opening in a hi-fi demonstration room.

May I suggest it's time to drop that one from the playlist, chaps? Frankly, it sounds good on almost anything – whereas the way the ND5 XS 2 delivers the original is truly special, thanks to its detail and effortless musical flow.

That combination of punch and weight, allied to speed and rhythmic acuity, is also deployed to good effect on King Crimson's Live In Vienna set [Discipline Global Mobile; 48kHz/24-bit], which sounds suitably big and magnificent, but with excellent resolution of the nuances of the music. But then that's what Naim's ND5 XS 2 does: turn on the magic, almost regardless of what you choose to play.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The ND5 XS 2 gets dangerously near to its big brother, the NDX 2, and does so for less than half a price. Yes, it gives away a little in bass weight and conviction, and details and imaging aren't quite so sharply delineated, but this remains an infectiously enjoyable player. Add in the slick and usefully flexible Naim app, which makes using it a delight, and you have a remarkable digital audio player/DAC for the money.

Naim Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Naim Audio Ltd
01722 426600