Here we turn to a legendary British hi-fi company and their midrange network streamer. Here is my Naim ND5-XS review.
Say hello to streaming
I have a soft spot for Naim. There I have said it. My cards are on the table. I don’t know why, but I find the Naim brand to be far more seductive than any other brand in Hi-Fi. So it is with much excitement that I find myself reviewing the ND5-XS – a standalone streamer which fits into their midrange XS line up.
Unboxing the Naim ND5-XS
Like all other Naim components the build quality is excellent. It is reassuringly heavy and is built like a tank. Not many other Hi-Fi companies put so much effort into the casework. The ND5-XS feels like good quality and it gives the impression of money well spent.
It is styled like all other Naim products; the glowing green logo, green LED display and heavy black casework. I like the look of Naim very much. It is understated but cool.
The ND5-XS can come with an optional FM/DAB radio module fitted – mine did not, but you do have the option. An infra-red remote control is included in the box – but for the most part you will likely control it using an app (iOS and Android are available).
Setting up the Naim ND5-XS
The ND5-XS must have a connection to your local network to function. This can be achieved either with WiFi or a wired ethernet connection. As always, use ethernet if you can as it is generally more reliable and faster.
There are digital audio inputs in the form of 1 optical Toslink, 1 coax RCA and 1 BNC so the ND5-XS can be used as a DAC if you have some other form of digital source (e.g. TV / CD player). Furthermore, there is a BNC digital output which means it can also be used a pure streamer hooked up to an external DAC.
Analogue audio outputs are provided with unbalanced RCA and Naim’s preferred DIN connection. An external power supply option is there too, as with many other Naim products. This can boost the performance of the ND5-XS and is generally a worthwhile (albeit expensive) upgrade.
Flexibility is the name of the game here.
If you are streaming from your local network, you will need all your music on a computer or NAS (network attached storage) with some appropriate UPnP software. I use a Synology DS416j NAS with MinimServer and had good results. I have in the past also used a Mac Mini as a server, an external USB drive and Asset UPnP software. If you have the choice – go down the NAS route as it is far more straight forward.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that Naim provide a component called the UnitiServe. This rips CDs onto a hard disk as audio files. It is pretty much self contained and “idiot proof”.
Control of the ND5-XS is best done using the Naim iOS app. It is very easy to use and allows you to create playlists, filter songs and get information about your music library all in one convenient place. It is a fitting partner to the hardware.
Listening to the Naim ND5-XS
Given some time to break-in (a week will do) and warm up (Naim recommend leaving it turned on all the time) you will be in for a treat. The ND-XS will get your foot tapping, head nodding and give you a gentle prod to get up off your seat and have a boogie!
The sound it makes is groovy and rhythmic. Bass sounds very nice – deep and solid. Midrange performance is great too – vocals and instruments are clear and sit forward and centre of the rest of the music. Treble sounds neat, intricate and detailed.
Some people call Naim “dark” or “bass heavy” but this is not my experience. It is on the “warm” side of neutral but not in bad way. The sound made by the ND5-XS is utterly engaging and will keep you listening all day long. It makes everything sound good – even poor quality digital radio stations and MP3 files. One way of describing the sound is that you are front row at a concert as opposed to sitting at the back of the hall.
The iOS app never crashed, the ND5-XS never experienced any slow-down or any other issue – it all worked perfectly.
You will want to rediscover your entire music collection through this device. I found that I had to listen to whole albums from start to finish, no track skipping here! I just didn’t want to stop listening to music.
If you are in the market for a streamer/DAC combo and you can afford it – buy this! This currently retails for between £2400 – £2750. There are occasionally some going second hand but they don’t stick around for long. This is a high quality product that will keep you happy for years. Highly recommended.