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Naim Audio: introducing their range of streamers and a tutorial of how to use the Naim app

Naim has been a major player in the Hi-Fi world for more than 45 years and has always been positioned at the forefront of audio innovation. Naim were quick to become deeply involved in the world of dematerialised music with network audio streamers, so much so that today almost all of their ranges, from the wireless Mu-so speaker to the series 500, are streamers. These devices run Qobuz in high resolution with native, navigable software that is also integrated into the Naim mobile application.

By Alban Amouroux | Testing Ground | March 5, 2020
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Naim introduced their first network amplifier to the market in 2009. On the timescale of technological development, this seems like an eternity so music streaming has become a no-brainer for Hi-Fi manufacturers today. This is due to modern tech’s ability to support files and music services in high resolution such as Qobuz.

The Naim catalogue is separated into several distinct series that play to different requirements. The Mu-so series is made up of two wireless autonomous speakers all-in-one. Their aesthetic is in sharp contrast to the wireless speakers that we are accustomed to. The loud-speaker part is developed by engineers at Focal; the two manufacturers belong to the same group.

The Naim Uniti series is made up of three compact, ready-to-use Hi-Fi devices: Atom, Star and Nova. They are all streaming amplifiers with network connections, some with CD players. They flaunt large screens at the front allowing you to keep an eye on the track while listening. They also feature a large, satisfying-to-use volume dial on the top which is also available in the Mu-so series.

The premium SI, XS, Classic and 500 series hold the same iconic design we associate with the brand, a dark grey casing and reduced height, equipped with several buttons backlit in green. In conjunction with the preamplifiers and amplifiers integrated into this series, Naim offers three network music streamers, the ND5 XS2, NDX 2 and ND 555.

Until now, to use Qobuz on these streamers you had to open the application then send the music via Chromecast to Naim’s network streamer. Qobuz was not integrated into the Naim app. What’s more, in this case, file reading was done by the smartphone or tablet and not by the streamer itself. To remove this step and guarantee file reading in high resolution, Qobuz was integrated natively into Naim streamers.

All in all, here we have eight products that are compatible with Qobuz in high resolution. The Mu-so and Mu-so Qb speakers will get the Qobuz update in Spring while the three Uniti models as well as the ND5 XS2, NDX 2 and ND 555 are already compatible. If Qobuz does not appear on your Naim application’s menu, you should update your system.

Using the Naim app

Naim has developed its own app with a particularly ergonomical design. It's the same app for all the brand's network products and it allows you to use multiroom audio by connecting up to six devices. Let's see how Qobuz is integrated into the Naim app.

To set up Qobuz if it's not alrady been done, tap the Settings icon at the top right of the screen


Select the 'Input settings' section


This is where yoou will need to enter your account details to log in.


These settings allow you to activate Qobuz, display favourites on the home screen and control the sound quality.


Make sure you select the highest possible quality to fully take advantage of your Qobuz membership.


Once Qobuz has been set up, it will appear in the list of sources. Below, it will list your selected favourite albums. Alternatively, you can choose for it to display your favourite tracks or personal playlists.


The Qobuz homepage displays the new releases and underneath displays your favourites.


This can be organised into a list form as well.


After selecting a queue of songs to play, you can start it. You can also rename, duplicate and delete it.


The screen which displays what is being played can be viewde by list or by album cover. The icon at the top left allows you to toggle between the two modes. Below the cover, the track name, artist and album are displayed along with the audio format and sampling rate (in this instance, we have a Hi-Res file in 96 kHz and 24 bits.


Pressing the star icon allows you to add the track being played to your Qobuz favourites.


The thre dots on the right under the album cover give you access to even more functions. You can view the album or the artist, and also read the digital booklet.


In the booklet, you can learn more about the album, discover similar albums and the universe of the artist.


An artist page will contain details about their life, their discography and their influences. An album page will give information about the history of the album.


On the bottom right of the screen, the icon with four squares allows you to manage the multiroom usage. You can thus sync Qobuz to other rooms of the house.


Finally, the search engine will display results listed by album, by track, by aritsts and within play queues. The app remembers recent searches.


Bench test of the Naim ND5 XS2 streamer

For the purposes of this tutorial, we have tested the Naim ND5 XS2 network streamer. In classic Naim fashion, the design is subtle. Its minimalist front features a backlit Naim logo backlit at its centre, a power/standby button on the right and a USB port on the left. The ND5 XS2 has no display and all navigation is carried out through use of the mobile application.

The ND5 XS2 it is not only a network music streamer but also a digital preamplifier. At the back, four digital inputs can be found to serve just as many external sources: two optical, one RCA coaxial and one coaxial BNC. There is also a second USB port as well as aerials for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There are three outputs: one digital BNC port, one analog RCA and an analog DIN, the same format used in all Naim devices.

The Naim ND5 XS2 can therefore act as orchestral conductor for an already advanced Hi-Fi system. The choosing of sources and volume control is carried out solely through the mobile application. Note that you must select in the application whether the ND5 XS2 should work as a preamplifier (with variable volume), a streamer with fixed analog output, or solely through its digital output at the back which requires a DAC.

We listened to the ND5 XS2 in preamplifier mode when hooked up to a Parasound stereo unit and Dynaudio Special 40 speakers. Our test playlist allowed us to take advantage of all the nuances the streamer has to offer. The ND5 XS2 offers clear-cut listening, with a number of micro details and reproduction of an ultra-wide soundscape that pushes speakers beyond their limitations. The studio recording of the album Musica Nuda - Live à FIP avec Petra Magoni was played in our testing room. No registers were lacking and all sounds were comfortably in place. Highs delivered a great deal of realism with ease in all musical styles on brass parts and symbols. The bass spectrum was similarly detailed with lows explored in the finest of detail. On the track Sumthin’ Sumthin’ from Maxwell’s album Urban Hang Suite, the bass drum was reproduced with clout, conviction and utmost precision. Overall, listening is precise and organised without being exuberant.

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Qobuz integration
Ultra-wide sound spectrum
Explorative bass


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Front display only available on premium models
Expensive

Conclusion

Naim produces high-quality streaming devices such as this ND5 XS2 network streamer. Its intrinsic qualities mean it is destined to accompany all top-of-the-range Hi-Fi systems in different areas, where each apparatus attends to their own function. Thanks to the native integration of Qobuz into the Naim mobile application, the ND5 XS2 is a choice source to benefit from music in high resolution. If you prefer an all-in-one system, you may choose to opt for the Uniti or wireless Mu-so speakers.

Features

Price: £2299
Network streamer/DAC/preamplifier
Inputs/Outputs: 2x digital optical inputs, 1x coaxial RCA digital input, 1x coaxial BNC digital input, 2x USB-A, 1X RJ-45 Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm IR output, 1x RCA stereo output, 1x 5-pin DIN stereo output, 1x digital BNC output
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth (AptX HD), built-in Chromecast, Apple Airplay, vTuner Internet Radio, Roon Ready, Qobuz Hi-Res
Dimensions (w x h x d): 432 x 70 x 301mm
Weight: 6.6kg

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