PREVIEW: NAIM AUDIO’S ND 555 NETWORK PLAYER ROADSHOW
StereoNET UK recently enjoyed a preview of Naim Audio's new ND 555 Network Player after receiving an invitation to attend the roadshow that stopped at KJ West One in London’s Marylebone.
Naim’s new top-flight streamer is currently doing the rounds of the best hi-fi stores around the country.
The ND 555 was officially launched just before the Bristol Sound & Vision Hi-Fi Show earlier this year. It now sits at the top of the brand’s newly released network players and streamers. These have all been completely re-engineered based on a new streaming system that Naim has been developing over the last three years.
Furthermore, the £12,999 ND 555 is the first launch of a 500 series product in twelve years and currently the only streamer in the 500 range. It also makes the other new streamers look almost inexpensive in comparison with the NDX 2 and ND5 XS2 priced at £4,999 and £1,999 respectively.
Inside the ND 555 is a precise blend of high-speed digital componentry and rich analogue audio stages. Up front is a TFT 5-inch display screen with a proximity sensor (not dissimilar to the Uniti range). This has been carefully tweaked and we are assured that the display does not interfere with the audio circuitry. The display, of course, can also be switched off if that is your preference.
Naim says they have implemented audio technology previously reserved for their flagship Statement system, as well as throwing in several fresh innovations. The results include a series of 13 discrete regulators that supplies ultra-clean voltage to delicate audio stages. This is fed via the 555 power supply (PS). In fact, you can run the ND 555 on a pair of 555 PSs, one to feed the analogue board and the other taking care of the digital side. A quick note here though; those power supplies are £6,999 each.
Additionally, the main boards are all isolated entirely from the casing with springs specially tuned to decouple all vibration above 10Hz to reduce the mechanical vibration, resulting in clearer sound reproduction across the range.
Finally, there’s the company’s new ClockMaster device on the new NP800 streaming board which is further isolated inside its own aluminium faraday cage.
Rounding things off, the ND 555 has an extendable Wi-Fi aerial for better coverage and connectivity to both 2.4 & 5 GHz high-speed Wi-Fi as well as the existing Bluetooth aerial. Of course, the streamer plays nice with Tidal, Spotify and Chromecast, and is compatible with DSD and Roon, as well as 32bit UPnP 32-bit files.
Naim Audio's NDS streamer was used to compare directly with the ND 555. Naim's Core was being employed for the ripped tracks, while both network streamers were plugged into their own 555 PS and connected to KJ West One’s network via Chord Company C-Stream Ethernet cables.
Naim's highly regarded Statement pre-amp was connected to a NAP 500 DR amplifier and completing the signal chain were a pair of Focal’s intimidating Grande Utopia loudspeakers. Thankfully, they are quite flexible and didn’t overpower the relatively small listening room.
The listening session kicked off with some jazz, to familiarise the select group in attendance with the sound and the room. The NDS streamer was used first, and I must say, it was sounding pretty good. This only whet my appetite to hear what the ND 555 could improve upon compared to what I was currently hearing.
Once we were all suitably settled, a solo guitar track was played a couple of times on the NDS, again for familiarity. The same track was then played back from the ND 555. Without a doubt, the track opened up even more on the triple-five, and there was also more musicality to the piece.
The same process was repeated with an Operatic piece and then a Folk track. Each time there was a greater sense of physical presence of the performers when switching to the ND 555. There was also better placement of the artists as well as a natural, organic cohesiveness between the musicians. There was a three-dimensional interaction between each performer in the same space, as opposed to them being present but somehow disconnected in carefully placed silos.
The new Naim Audio ND 555 is certainly not alone in the streamer market at this price point and has some rather stiff competition. However, it did perform outstandingly.
The Naim ND 555 is on demonstration now at KJ West One.
For more information visit Naim Audio.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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