NAC N-172XS

I would like to replace my actual preamp (Exposure 3010S2) + DAC (Cambridge Audio 851D) setup with a one box solution.  

I have no interest in DLNA streamers since I have a silent "audiophile" PC close to my stereo feeding my DAC through USB. Would it make sense to use the NAC 172XS only through it's digital input ? Would it sound the same as using it as a streamer ? If so, which input would be the best ? SPIDF or Toslink ? Someone told me the digital inputs of the NAC 172XS sound inferior to the "streamer" mode ? Any idea ?

Thanks !

Original Post

It's unclear why you want to combine the DAC and preamp? Do you have any analogue sources? If no analogue sources, how about the Chord Hugo DAC, direct into a power amp? (But it is susceptible to electrical/RF noise that is the bugbear of computer sources, and almost certainly would benefir from an isolator between (when I used my Mac Mini/Audirvana into a Hugo I used a Gustard U12 to very good effect). It seems that the majority of people who have compared presfer the more ,analogue' sound of Hugo to any of the Naim DACs. Alternatively Hugo TT, which is more expensive, but even better sounding that Hugo, is immune to noisy computer outputs, and adds remote control.

The N272 seems quite popular or this forum, less sure about the 172? It may be wortn reading Huge's recent comparison of ND5XS with N272. Personally I found the Hugo DAC improved ND5Xs to the extent that it was worth running alongside despite the redundancy, until I set up the Mac Mini/Audirvana as store/renderer. Hugo can of course be be used into  a preamp, necessary for your analogue sources.

Pappyblue, if you have no real interest in DLNA streaming, then the 172 will be an overkill. As Huge suggests for USB the Naim DAC V1 is a good option, as it is a USB DAC, and of course there are many non Naim options. 

if however you do want to try DLNA streaming the 172 is a cracking player with great value for money. BTW I don't think any of the Naim streamers can play USB asynchronous audio... they are more for USB storage or Apple USB interfaces.

I think the 172 could still be a contender here. It has an analogue input for your turntable, whereas the V1 doesn't. 

How committed are you to your PC as a source? They can be electrically noisy, and best kept away from audio equipment, so putting your stored music on a NAS instead and using the 172 as a network streamer could be an option to consider. If you keep the computer, there will, of course, be some redundancy in the 172, although you may still find its extra inputs useful (iRadio, Spotify, Tidal, DAB, FM?) 

I have a 172 and it's a cracking machine . . . for DLNA. The system is completely stable and reliable, and sounds wonderful. IMHO it's a bit of  gem in the line-up, and one of the best value options. I'm not sure about taking a product designed primarily for one function and using it for another though - it doesn't make great sense to me. If you want to get one, my advice would be to set your PC up for UPNP with a software server such as Asset.

172 is a wonderful player, with very pleasant, organic and fluid midrange, very good sound overall. In my opinion, and in direct comparison, it sounds even better than 272. I use it for DLNA (UPNP) and internet radio. I have not tried the digital inputs, but I assume they would also be, especially the SPIDF input, equally good; test yourself for the best answer.

aysil posted:

172 is a wonderful player, with very pleasant, organic and fluid midrange, very good sound overall. In my opinion, and in direct comparison, it sounds even better than 272. I use it for DLNA (UPNP) and internet radio. I have not tried the digital inputs, but I assume they would also be, especially the SPIDF input, equally good; test yourself for the best answer.

That's an interesting view, which might cause a few raised eyebrows around here! I'll admit to being a little underwhelmed by the 272 when I heard it without a PSU, but worse than a 172 is a surprise. I doubt many people have done the comparison, though.

The lack any upgrade potential has always been a feather in my 172''s cap. 

I only listen to DLNA and internet radio and combined with; a NAP200, a NAS sever and standard Naim cables, it sounds sublime. Knowing that the obvious upgrade to a 272 would lead power supply and power amp angst leaves me a very contented man.

ChrisSU posted:
aysil posted:

172 is a wonderful player, with very pleasant, organic and fluid midrange, very good sound overall. In my opinion, and in direct comparison, it sounds even better than 272. I use it for DLNA (UPNP) and internet radio. I have not tried the digital inputs, but I assume they would also be, especially the SPIDF input, equally good; test yourself for the best answer.

That's an interesting view, which might cause a few raised eyebrows around here! I'll admit to being a little underwhelmed by the 272 when I heard it without a PSU, but worse than a 172 is a surprise. I doubt many people have done the comparison, though.

Its a view I don't find suprising. I think the 172 with its slightly more restrictive performance to the 272 might make easier to partner with.. especially with speaker / room interfacing and I can see in some circumstances it sounding preferable. 

Me I was bowled over by the 172 feeding a 300DR and a pair of Kudos Titan speakers(ok perhaps not a typical combo)  playing opera .. the vocals were incredible

Thanks Simon, that's interesting. 

I've been considering upgrading to a 272. I haven't done a home demo as I'm not ready quite yet (and am wondering whether to wait for the Uniti-type platform) but I did a dealer room demo and was impressed. Would you explain what you mean by the 172's slightly more restricted performance sounding better in some circumstances? 

Thanks!

Ah, thanks, understood.

In my old listening room, the hard, flat surfaces created all sorts of acoustic problems, which was one reason why I chose components that were not so big on bass - ATC SCM11, NAP200 and NAC172. Now, in our new house, we have a bigger room, and things like carpets and bookshelves, so I think I could expand the frequency extremes quite nicely.

So the only question is whether to a) jump to the 272, b) wait for the 272 to get the new Uniti platform (could be a while), or c) do nothing and enjoy the excellent 172.

Hmm . . . . 

Huge posted:

I'd be surprised if the Classic range (and ND5 XS) get the new Uniti streaming solution, I rather suspect that's a replacement for the more basic non-SHARC based streamer/DAC circuits as used in all Unitis apart from the SU.

That's interesting - I thought Naim had said that all future Digital Domain stuff was to be built on this platform? I thought the the new Uniti range was the test bed for the new platform so they can tweak it into better performance as they gain understanding of it, before releasing the higher end stuff i.e. grow up effect, rather than trickle down effect as we saw with Statement.

I don't believe Naim have made any comment on the future of the non-Uniti streaming products. 

Purely personally, I think it would be perverse to offer a solution at the lower end that was superior in some respects to the one at the higher end, eg Chromecast, wi fi management, OTA upgrades and so on. Plus, there's the cost benefits of streamlining production and components, and the brand benefit of consistent design. I'm certain that at some point the pre/streamers (and ND range) will get the Uniti treatment in some way - perhaps not like-for-like replacements - but unfortunately, I don't know when . . . 

Personally, I think I'd wait for the (IMO inevitable, but potentially quite far off) update to new spec/style. If it were a matter of getting a great 2nd hand deal, then maybe it'd be worth jumping sooner, but that seems unlikely with a 272 at the mo. A 250.2, on the other hand, could definitely be worth trying out. There are comparative bargains to be had, IF it plays well with your other bits.

Like you say, the 172 is hardly causing you heartbreak and headaches in the meantime.

Solid Air,

I upgraded from a 172XS which I owned for 2.5 years, to N272 in June 2015, see my post under "N272 Owners... How's Yours Sounding?" dated June 25, 2015.

During a back-to-back comparison during a weekend at home, the 272 appeared to have a slightly warmer, more natural sound and a very natural beautiful bass/low. The highs are slightly less distorted and more clearly defined than172XS, which became evident in the cymbals on some records.  After a couple of weeks the strengths of the 272 became more clear and I really enjoy the very natural and neutral SQ since then. Overall it is slightly better than the 172XS in a line-up with NAP250 and B&W802 Diamond.

But to be honest: if you wouldn't know the difference, you would be a very happy 172XS owner. The only advice I can give you: give your dealer a smile and ask for a demo N272 for a weekend. Get a friend who will change-out the cables between 172-272, without telling what you are listening to, for a true blind test. If you struggle to tell wether A or B is better, don't bother and keep your 172XS! The money is probably better spent on other componenents e.g. your speakers. In every test I have done, the speakers were the most determining component in overall SQ.

Bert posted:

Solid Air,

 

But to be honest: if you wouldn't know the difference, you would be a very happy 172XS owner. The only advice I can give you: give your dealer a smile and ask for a demo N272 for a weekend. Get a friend who will change-out the cables between 172-272, without telling what you are listening to, for a true blind test. If you struggle to tell wether A or B is better, don't bother and keep your 172XS! The money is probably better spent on other componenents e.g. your speakers. In every test I have done, the speakers were the most determining component in overall SQ.

Couldn't agree more. The 172 is shockingly good for the money - yes it can be bettered obviously - but you can  comfortably enjoy it for years. My experience of hearing an operatic chorus through the 172 via a 300DR into Kudos Titans has haunted me ever since - it was incredibly good - the slightly curtailed frequency extremes of the 172 perhaps  helped with its natural presentation

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