Naim Audio NDX 2 network attached DAC

hfncommended.pngThe Naim ‘platform for the future’ has brought new facilities, and a new look, to its network music player range – but have the signature sonic fireworks been retained?

There was a certain inevitability about it. Back in October 2016, when Naim Audio launched its four ‘new Uniti’ models, based around what MD Trevor Wilson described as the company’s ‘platform for the future’, the elephant was in the room throughout the press event. Eventually it was unleashed, and the question asked: would this new technology also be applied to the ND-series of network music players?

I think we all knew the answer already, as the description was given of the cost, both financial and in development time, of the new combination of hardware and software. Yet as I recall, the response was along the lines of ‘Yes, that would be logical’, delivered with something almost approaching a knowing wink. Now, with the arrival of the ND 555, ND 5 XS 2, and the NDX 2 we have here, that plan has come to fruition. Selling for £4999, the NDX 2 sits in the middle of the new lineup, which replaces the NDS, NDX and ND 5 XS with much more capable models.

Meet The Family
The entry-level ND 5 XS 2 is a simplified design, shorn even of a display panel to put all the effort into ‘sound per pound’ performance – like the others, it’s best operated with the Naim app – while the ND 555 is £12,999 without the obligatory power supply, for which you should budget another £6999 for a 555 PS DR. Yes, you could use two power supplies if you wish, as you could with the outgoing NDS, and yes, this first network player in Naim’s premium 500 Series is said to be the best source component the company has ever made, but then you might hope it to be, given that it’ll set you back £20k in ‘get started’ form.

The NDX 2 is a somewhat simpler device than the ND 555 as it lacks the flagship model’s extensive use of suspended circuitboards, multiple Naim DR voltage regulators and shielded as well as decoupled streaming board and inputs. The PCBs in the NDX 2 are also decoupled, but not to the extent of those in the ND 555, which float on massive brass platforms, and neither does this machine use the top model’s suspended Faraday Cage design.

However, unlike the ND 555, the NDX 2 is usable straight from the box, thanks to built-in power supplies fed from a substantial toroidal transformer, of a size one might expect to find in many an amplifier. There’s also a small switch mode power supply which operates only when the unit is in standby – switch on and this decouples and the main linear PSU takes over. And being a Naim, the player can be upgraded with the addition of an XPS or 555 PS DR if required, once a link plug in the rear panel is removed. Add one of these power supplies and the internal supply is completely bypassed – indeed, the player’s mains connector must be removed before it is fired up in ‘two box’ form. More on the effect of the add-on power supply later…


Kick Inside
So what’s new here? Well the NDX 2, like all the new Naim ND-models, comes in the company’s full-width casework, with subtle variants to the styling and finish for the three tiers of the range represented by the ND 5 XS 2, NDX 2 and ND 555. But beyond that ‘best basic black with green logo’ look, almost all is new inside the NDX 2, as is clear from that large colour screen to the right, with its row of four ‘hard buttons’ ranged vertically beside it.

There’s also a new remote control to set it apart from the old. Shared with the new Uniti models, it’s square, glossy, and operates over RF rather than IR, and once paired with the NDX 2, which takes all of a few moments, it can be used without needing line of sight to the player.

Under the lid, the star turn here is that new platform, which takes the capabilities of the old ND-series and brings them thoroughly up to date. Notable among the additions is the flexibility brought about by the inclusion of Chromecast Built-in, which opens up the player to a whole range of streaming audio possibilities at up to 192kHz/24-bit. It’s this that allows the NDX 2 to stay in tune with newly-launched music services, as well as being able to play soundtracks from movies streamed on connected computers, tablets and smartphones. The NDX 2 is also compatible with streaming services including Tidal and Spotify, is Roon Ready, has AirPlay via its network connection, Bluetooth aptX HD wireless connectivity, and of course the familiar vTuner Internet radio capability.

Network music playback is also greatly enhanced over the original ND-range, its UPnP capability now extending to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD128. Naturally, the NDX 2 also has optical and coaxial digital inputs, plus front and rear USB Type A sockets via which it can play music stored on memory devices or portable players. Wi-Fi is provided as well as Ethernet connection, Naim saying its improved 2.4/5GHz implementation allows greater flexibility for the wireless streaming of higher-resolution files.

sqnote.jpgFast Reactor
I did find the NDX 2 more stable when streaming higher-resolution music wirelessly than previous Naim network products, but I have to say I stuck mainly to the wired connection for most of my listening – not for any reasons of sound quality, but mainly because that’s what I’m used to, and how my digital music system is set up. And from the off it was clear that while this new network player may have just gained a whole load more flexibility, both in services and the range of files it can play, its sound remains resolutely ‘Naim’. So it’s both fast and exciting and bold and rich, allied to a highly nuanced view of the detail within a recording, and the presence and ambience of a performance.

Naim Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Naim Audio Ltd
01722 426600