naim haddisk player vs iPod/ALAC ?

admin_exported

New member
Aug 10, 2019
2,556
4
0
Visit site
My recent visit at the naim onstream roadshow has left me with a funny question:

Would an iPod Classic (with ALAC or WAV files) on a naim uniti or NDX be poorer in sound quality than a naim harddisk player (HDX or uniti serve)? Has What HiFi done a serious comparison here? The iPod solution is neat, since you will not need a HDX or uniti serve running all day long, but rather have a little iPod connected to the uniti. I can see three drawbacks of the iPod solution, but none looks serious to me:

1. OK, the ripping on naim is more thorough than when using e.g. a MacBook Pro for ripping to ALAC or WAV, but are the differences significant in practice, that is, with a clean, non-scratched CD?

2. naim uniti/superuniti/NDX access the iPod digitally (rather than using the iPods own DAC). Is the sound quality then entirely down to the naim DAC, or are there other factors? E.g., I have read that the on-line decompression of Apple lossless files (ALACs) is slightly inferior relative to a WAV file, despite the fact that ALAC is lossless when processed off-line - but this report did e.g. not say if they used an iPod (and even if this was the case, one could of course use WAVs on the iPod).

3. harddisk space: the current iPod Classic is 160 GB only, but a higher capacity Classic might come out very soon (at least 220 GB, which would accommodate around 500 CDs in ALAC).

In short, it would be great to see a proper test of iPod Classic (ALAC and WAV) vs. HDX! From my own listening, I find the iPod indistinguishable from the uniti's own CD drive, but the latter is of course inferior to the HDX.

Cheers,

Stefan
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,255
26
19,220
Visit site
I would personally spend the HDX money on a 'full fat' iPad 2 (64GB) and an AirPort Express connected with optical to a DAC (or NaimUniti) or whatever you are using. This allows for the use of AirPlay (much fun) and use of the iPad without any cables physically tethering it to your hifi.

Instead of the HDX I would buy a new iMac (1TB versions from £1249) and use that as a repository for the lossless albums and as a means to rip CDs.

Then (with AirPlay) you can either stream lossless from the iMac or use the iPad 2 (with slightly more compression like 320K AAC). Of course this enables you to stream internet radio, BBC iPlayer, Linn Radio (jazz and classical) and a heap of other stuff (like youtube).

You could save about £2.6k and plug an iPod Classic (with lossless files) in the front of a Naim DAC (£2100) instead of using an HDX.

As much as I have enjoyed Naim, I can't 'get' the idea of spending £4.7K on a means to rip and store CDs.

You need to do some 'real world' comparisons to see if you can tell the difference. If not, then there far more fun ways to enjoy your digital collection and spend less money and still enjoy the Naim sound.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I think factor #2 will be the one that really knocks down the sound quality. The ipod is a decent digital transport but not up to the level of £4k+ equipment. There are plenty of reviews out there for products such as the wadia 171 or onkyo nsd1 etc that can interface with the ipod/iphone to use it as a digital transport. I would go for an Onkyo nsd1 for decent sound and nice usability etc but not for ultimate sound quality - for that you would still be better off with a good cd transport or possibly the HDX
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,255
26
19,220
Visit site
vogtlancs said:
From my own listening, I find the iPod indistinguishable from the uniti's own CD drive, but the latter is of course inferior to the HDX.

See if you can contrive - with your dealer - a comparison between your iPod plugged into the front of a Naim DAC and a better Naim CD player (CD5XS maybe) plugged into the same DAC and playing the same music.

If you still find it hard to distinguish between them (through a £2.1K DAC) then I would advise not bothering with the HDX.

(Not suggesting you get the Naim DAC. Just using it as 'reference' for the comparison.)

If you have the NaimUniti already - and want to upgrade - remember the SuperUniti (£3.2K) is due out before the end of the year. This (along with selling/trading in your exisiting NaimUniti) might be the best balance between quality & price without splashing out £4.7K on a CD ripper/hard-drive.
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
207
1
0
Visit site
Not Naim, but for what it's worth, I'm not sure I can tell the difference between my Esoteric RZ-1 playing a CD and the same music in Apple lossless on my iPod classic fed into the DAC section of the RZ-1 by an ND-S1000 digital transport. Poor man's music server, but it's working well for me until I max out the 160Gb capacity.
 

amcluesent

New member
Mar 8, 2009
25
0
0
Visit site
As the Naim literature doesn't say the USB interface to the iPod is asyncronous, assume it's actually isochronous. In which case, you're relying on the clock stability in the iPod to time the data going onto the USB, maybe with some dejitter at the Naim end. Or maybe not if Naim marketing have asked the engineers to 'go easy' on the USB quality!

With data streamed to the Uniti over the network, I'd expect the PCM data buffer to be locked to the DAC with an i2S bus with a stable clock generated in the Naim.

Definetely reasons why the sources could sound different. Depends on the rest of your kit on whether you can resolve that.
 

John Duncan

Well-known member
I see the iPod thing as a bit of a convenience, nothing more. Can't tell a difference between it and any of the other sources, but then I tend to use Airport Express into the digital in and stream spotify from my iPhone most of the time. I have no doubt that the grander streaming sources would sound better, but whether or not they'd be better enough for me to spend an extra two grand on them, I doubt. YMMV.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
My take is that any digital source that is working will sound the same through a good modern DAC. I see objects such as the HDX as nothing more than luxury items for fans, rather than having any SQ benefit.
 

noogle

New member
Jul 29, 2010
29
0
0
Visit site
I'm sure the HDX is a convenient, well-integrated all-in-one solution, but I don't think there's anything you couldn't achieve cheaper and better with a laptop and a Naim DAC.
 

TRENDING THREADS