Naim CDS3/XPS2 review

An undoubtedly high-end player, but this is the best money can buy – a sonic performance that almost exists on a different level Tested at £9990

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

This Naim is one of the world’s great CD players – it fully justifies its rather frightening price tag


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    Sounds stunning – especially detail, dynamics and refinement


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    Price puts this two-box out of reach of most

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    remote is very tacky

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If you're the kind of person who thinks there's no way a CD player should cost as much as this one, then stop reading. Naim's new flagship is unashamedly aimed at those who want the best from their music collection, regardless of cost.

This two-box CD player isn't split into the conventional transport and digital-to-analogue converter configuration of most rivals. Naim doesn't design players in this way: it feels the timing corruption suffered by the digital signal is too great to produce the best possible results. Naim's solution is to put the transport mechanism and DAC in one box, the £4875 CDS3, and the power supply section, the £2369 XPS2, in another.

As with most Naim products we've come across, this player takes an age to perform at its best – in fact, it continued to improve even after a week of continuous running. The presentation became smoother, dynamics flowed more convincingly, and the soundstage got more and more spacious as the player warmed to its tuneful task.

Sound on another level
Great timing is a rare quality with CD players. There are a few designs that are acceptable in this respect, but when you hear the CDS3/XPS2 in full flow, the results are on another level. Music makes more sense, and emotional content comes through quite unmolested.

Any CD player in this class has to be able to deliver top-class resolution and attack, combined with a massive dose of finesse, and the Naim doesn't disappoint. It's as good – if not better – in these areas than just about anything else we've heard.

Overall, we have no doubt this is one of the best CD players money can buy. There are products that cost many times more (honestly) that would have trouble bettering this performance. Pricey it might be, but the CDS3/XPS2 combo is a rare talent.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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