Here’s an unusual one: a conventional preamplifier whose primary function is music streaming.
That makes the Naim NAC-N 172 XS a great starting point for building a new system, or adding to your existing set-up and partnering it with a decent power amp, such as Naim’s own NAP-155 XS (which was how our review unit was supplied).
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Like the excellent Naim NDX, the NAC-N 172 XS can stream high-resolution audio files up to 24bit/192kHz for FLAC. Most other popular formats are supported too, with uncompressed Apple Lossless (ALAC) files now joining the list of MP3, WMA and WAV, to name a few.
There are plenty of connection options – round the back are analogue and digital connections, for this box also includes a high-quality DAC, and you can use ethernet or wi-fi (we’d stick with the former) to stream music from computers, NAS devices, and internet radio stations. There’s also a USB port in the front panel for portable players.
The NAC-N 172 XS has a nice smoothness about its presentation that does wonders with high-res and compressed files. But let’s not shoot from the hip here: ‘smooth’, in this case, doesn’t mean ‘uniform and dull’ – in fact it’s quite the opposite.
Songs are delivered with heaps of rhythm and a robust demeanor, as well as plenty of detail and depth all the way up the frequency range. Streaming a FLAC of Time from Hans Zimmer’s barnstorming Inception soundtrack via our Musicm8 NAS drive, we were engulfed in the soaring dynamics and well-marshalled stereo field.
You’ll have to go up a price point or two to the Cyrus Stream XP2-QX for a more transparent performance, but the Naim is a wonderfully engaging player.
In fact, at this price, we can’t think of anything else that can match the versatility and the sonic performance of the NAC-N 172 XS – it’s a great streamer.