MILAN TOP AUDIO 2011: Naim's ND5 XS joins fast-growing streaming player range

Launched this morning at the Top Audio show here in Milan is the latest model in Naim's rapidly growing streamer range.

The ND5 XS fits into the line-up below the NDX, selling for around £1925 when it hits the shops next month, and is designed to complement the other models in Naim's slimline XS series.

It's also the first Naim network player able to handle 192kHz/24-bit content natively, and the company is rolling out an upgrade program for existing Uniti products and the NDX, enabling 192/24 on those products, and bringing the promise of AirPlay capability early in 2012.

As well as having both wired and wireless networking for the streaming of content from the internet, including internet radio, or from local network sources such as NAS drives or computers, the ND5 XS also has three digital inputs for external sources, and a front panel USB socket for memory devices or direct digital connection of iPods or iPhones.

As well as its 24-bit/192kHz capability, the ND5 XS can handle music in a wide range of formats, including WAV, FLAC, AIFF, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 formats.

The ND5 XS uses digital buffering with fixed sampling rates for zero jitter, while the proprietary 16 times oversampling and digital filter uses SHARC 40-bit floating point digital signal processing. This feeds Burr Brown PCM1791A digital to analogue conversion, running at 768kHz.

There are seperate power supplies for the digital, analogue, DSP and clock sections of the player, with the large toroidal transformer having separate outputs for each section

Optical connection is used between the various sections of the player, seen left in a typical XS system here at the show, to ensure complete galvanic isolation.

Like the NDX, the new model can also be upgraded with the addition of the XPS or 555PS power supplies, or the Naim DAC, while a dedicated slimline power supply in a matching case, the XP5 XS is on the way next year.

Selling for around £1500, this is will be an entry-level version of the XPS.

And also in common with the NDX, the new model can be fitted with an optional radio tuner module, giving FM/DAB reception.

The ND5 XS can be controlled using the front-panel controls or the remote handset supplied, or using the free n-Stream app on iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

Speaking at the launch, Naim's Paul Stephenson (right) confirmed that a new version of the n-Stream control app is on the way with enhanced information on the music being played, and also a new version of the n-Serve app giving access to playlists.

The company will also be launching a new upgrade app by the end of this year, allowing users to upgrade their products via the USB port, instead of using the rather complex computer-based procedure currently required by most of the Uniti/NDX/HDX products.

Rather more involved is the upgrade to 24-bit/192kHz operation on existing NaimUniti/UnitiQute/NDX products, as it requires the fitting of a new streaming board along with firmware upgrades.

From October, when the ND5 XS is also on sale, anyone who has bought an NDX in the past three months will be entitled to a free 'return to dealer' upgrade to the new board, while owners of earlier NDXs will pay an upgrade fee. This is yet to be finalised, but is likely to be £100 or slightly more.

It's expected that the upgrade price for NaimUniti and UnitiQute will be in the region of £250, and Naim plans to offer both of these systems in either a standard version, or at a premium price with the new board and 24-bit/192kHz capability.

The premium versions will sell for approximately £175 more than the standard ones, making a 24/192 UnitiQute, for example, around £1600.

The new board also adds 802.11n Wi-Fi capability to the systems, in addition to the current b/g (although Naim still says wired networking is preferable in terms of stablity and reliability of signal). The new board also makes them, Stephenson says, 'AirPlay ready - at least in terms of processing power'.

Pressed for clarification, he said he expects products fitted with the new board - and of course the new ND5 XS and SuperUniti - to gain full AirPlay capability during the first quarter of next year, this being implemented via a simple firmware upgrade at that time.

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.