Naim ND 555, NDX 2 & ND 5 XS 2
Naim has previewed three new network players, which includes the ND 555, the first 500 series product in 12 years. The flagship ND 555 is joined by the new NDX 2 and ND 5 XS 2. Naim says it has waited until now as the company hasn't considered the performance of its network players to reach that of the CD 555 CD player. The company says that the ND 555 is its finest sounding source component to date.
The heart of the new network players is their 'new platform' board and software that started development over four years ago. New Platform, as it is known internally, was first evidenced in Naim's Uniti products launched last year. The success of these products together with a worldwide shortage of some key parts has delayed the launch of these new network players until now. However, Naim expects to ship the ND 555, NDX 2 and ND XS 2 in Summer 2018.
Digital connectivity from the NP800 Streaming board to the DAC board is I2S over LVDS. I2S has the benefit of a separate clock signal, in contrast to S/PDIF which doesn't. Naim says this results in significantly lower jitter. Low Voltage Differential Signalling allows digital communications with high accuracy, but with a very low radiated field. Given the mixed analog/digital nature of network players, Naim underlines keeping radiated fields as low as possible is essential. The NDS Network Player had a Faraday cage to help eliminate noise leakage from one part of the player to another, but the ND 555 takes this to another level. The new Faraday cage system is now physically isolated from its environs and it is radio-opaque to a much higher frequency, thus considerably reducing any possible noise.
Naim's new exclusive NP800 streaming board is unique. When used in UPnP or streaming mode the streaming clock is totally under the control of the ClockMaster situated near the PCM1704K DACS. This ClockMaster system when streaming is unique to Naim network players. ND 555 features an incredibly powerful new 4th Generation 40-bit SHARC DSP processor, the ADSP 21489 capable of 2700 MFLOPS running at 450 Mhz. The SHARC processor implements Naim's RAM buffer (first used in the DAC and NDS and called zero S/PDIF). This reclocking RAM buffer is utilized to remove S/PDIF jitter on connected digital inputs. The SHARC processor also performs 16 times oversampling and digital filtering. The oversampling and digital filtering software in the DSP is Naim written. This allows the digital filter section in the Burr Brown DACS to be bypassed delivering sound quality improvements. ND 555 uses two carefully selected PCM1704U-K DACs in their own Faraday Cages. The maker says the DACs are the finest sounding it has ever has found. They are Resistor Ladder DACS, sometimes just known as Ladder DACS, more difficult to manufacture than modern DACS, they require precision laser trimming.
Naim's 500 Series of products are known for their floating PCB isolation system. The ND 555's SpringBoard system uses a system of circuit boards hard mounted to massive floating brass plates mounted on springs which decouple the boards from all vibration above 10 Hz. The ND 555 includes 13 Naim DR voltage regulators delivering noiseless clean DC volts to exactly the part of the circuit that needs it. The DACs, the clocks, and the output stages all have their own individual DR voltage regulators. End-user features to enjoy include Chromecast Built-in (up to 24 bit/192 kHz), TIDAL, Spotify, AirPLay and UPnP compatibility. Bluetooth pairing is also available as is aptX HD. Users can also enjoy music from the Internet, USB drives and Digital Input (TOSlink and Coax). The ND 555 can also drive a party with its multi-room mode up to five zones or can play different music in the same number of zones.
All aspects of the design were considered, including the design of a new bi-directional remote control. Very early on R&D realized that IR remote technology was not going to deliver the targeted ease of use. So, a ground-up solution, both from a technological and a user point of view was sought and found with the Zigbee bi-directional remote control. All three network players feature a 3.5mm jack socket to enable system automation with Naim integrated amplifiers and pre-amplifiers. ND 555 can be controlled via the supplied remote control, or via the Naim Control app for iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Android. Owners with other Naim streaming products on the same network, can select rooms and enable party mode directly from the app.
Naim's new network players have significantly superior Wi-Fi capability (802.11b/g/n/ac) compared to their predecessors, it is five times faster and more stable. The Wi-Fi processor supports 2.4 and 5 GHz speeds. Alongside this, all have a much larger internal buffer and memory - they will buffer around one track's data, which helps to isolate them from the vagaries of internet traffic variability. The new range improves dramatically over the original range concerning updates. The new players feature wireless updates that are controlled via the Naim app. The app will notify the user when an update is available, the user can accept, at which point the update will commence.
Naim wanted to deliver a total connection to the user's music collection. A high-grade full-color display provides images of album artwork and content. Note also the selection of front panel convenience buttons, including favorites, stop and play. With ND 5 XS 2 the decision was taken to prioritize performance over including a display. At its more competitive price, the equation of performance versus display is far more significant than higher up the range. The new network players will be available beginning in the Summer of 2018. The ND5 XS 2 will be £1,999, the NDX 2 at £4,999 and the flagship ND 555 will be £12,999. Info and photos by Naim Audio.