IB, mentioned earlier in the thread that they were disappointed with the Naim/PSU route and decided to go with a Mac Mini and Chord dac instead. I'm not sure I quite understand why here as I thought that Naim are all about top quality sound. I don't want to add on PSU boxes, I much prefer the discreet way of doing things these days, this is one of the main reasons i'm sticking with the Nait 5si.
Naim does not have a monopoly on high quality sound - and as for ‘top quality’, by Naim’s own admission, models below their top streamer can’t be top! (Their top is currently NDS, but ND555 is due for release soon - at £27k including the obligatory first power supply plus optional second one.) ND5XS on the other hand is their bottom-of-the-range streamer: though as I suggested in an earlier post, not a bad device - but clearly can be imptoved upon. Naim has a particular focus on PRaT, but that is not the be-all and end-all of music reproduction, and it doesn’t mean other manufacturers don’t also achieve designs that also perform well in those terms.
With ND5XS, I just found that adding the XP5XS power supply, which cost me something like £1600 ex dem., only made a subtle difference. Instead, using the Chord Hugo as an external DAC (at something like £1200 new) made a significant difference, the sound becoming more natural. Many people describe the Hugo’s character as more analog-like. If you search the forum you’ll find a lot about it - indeed, I gained the impression that the majority of people who have compared Hugo with a Naim DAC have preferred Hugo - though certainly not all.
Of course, different people have different preferences for how music should sound. Some like lots of bass, some can’t stand bass. Some like the rhthmic aspects of the sound emphasised to get them dancing, other people like as neutral as possible, with nothing emphasised. As equipment, certainly equipment that is affordable (for most), is not perfect, you choose that which with its balance of imperfections sounds best to you within your budget (though also having regard for future steps if you are upgrade-minded). And in the case of some equipment the differences can be very significant: Speakers are the primary example of this, where even when you get well into five figure prices every model sounds distincly different from every other one, sometimes really like chalk and cheese. DACs are another area where there is quite a difference in sound, because it involves a lot of processing, and it is an area where manufacturers are still learning and developing as opposed to refining.
The moral of this is once you have narrowed down some options, you really do want to get to hear them (preferably played through your own amp and speakers, unless you plan to change them in the near future)