Nait XS with cheap streamer vs unitilite

Hi everyone,

I have recently gotten into Naim and got myself a second hand Nait XS and Motive 2 speakers. I like the combo and I know a lot of people here do as well. 

I will be solely streaming 16/44 FLAC files, not fussed about hi res. There is currently a second hand nd5 xs listed at $2650 which is way way out of budget so that is completely out of consideration, even in the future I can’t imagine the better half agreeing to a streamer for this price tag. My current source for streaming is an Arcam airdac. I am using my computer which is wired via Ethernet to my router and the airdac is also wired via Ethernet and I am playing my music via airplay on itunes from my computer as it is in a different room. 

My question is, would a cheap source like airplay over an arcam airdac combined with a nait XS be worse overall in sound quality compared to a Unitilite or even unitiqute where I would assume using UPnP as a source would be much better. Also I am not keen on upgrading the Nait XS as I don’t want too many boxes so don’t mind losing out on any upgrade paths. 

I don’t need to play loud as well which is why I mentioned the unitiqute. There is currently a second hand Unitilite on sale where I am for around $1700 so I should be able to attain or get close to this price by selling my nait XS and arcam airdac. I obviously can’t demo as all will be bought second hand and I need to sell my equipment before buying the Unitilite. There was also a unitiqute 2 which sold for $1100 but I missed out on that but can wait around if that is a good option and would beat my current setup  

Another option I am thinking of is selling the arcam airdac and getting a second hand Bluesound Node 2 which would cost about $200-$300 extra. Would this be much better than the airdac as a source, or better than the Unitilite? 

Other suggestions for sources are welcome. 

Thanks!

Original Post

Thanks for your replies. On second thought I actually would prefer not to get an extra streamer or DAC as I know to improve on the sound of the AirDAC and keep the Nait XS it would cost me at least another $300-500. At this stage I am not looking at spending any extra money and this will likely stay the same in the future as we are expecting a little one so I'm sure priorities will change.

With the Unitilite that is currently on sale, it is possible that I could get this at no extra cost as I may be able to sell my Nait XS and AirDAC for the same price. I was hoping to see if anyone has had experience with the Nait XS and a cheap streamer/source vs the Unitilite, Uniti or Unitiqute and which setup would sound the best overall with my Neat Motive 2? 

Fingers crossed someone has experience with this as the Unitilite might get sold!

Thanks again

My guess is that an all-in-one player like the Unitilite will be a step down in sound quality. That isn’t to say that the quality of a streaming transport isn’t important, but squeezing everything into one box is always a compromise. 

I would be inclined to carry on using your computer to stream to the DAC, and if you do have any spare funds, maybe upgrade the DAC. If you want to be free of the computer, a cheap streamer such as a Yamaha WXC50 or a Sonos Connect would do the job. You can use these with their own DAC, or better, use their digital output into your own DAC. 

Thanks @ChrisSU - I think my Arcam AirDAC may be on par or even better than the Sonos Connect? I was just thinking as with Naim I know that they always say source first and the whole garbage in garbage out saying. Was just worried as I have a RRP $4000 amp with a $900 streamer with built in DAC and also via airplay so was thinking it is a waste having an amp of this quality. 

Hold on the nait xs. The young one will be older before you know it. :-) you could upgrade the Dac in a few years.

The unitilites is just too much chop and churn for no reason.

I would rather recommend the rega Dac/rega brio combo if money is an issue. That system would set you back less than 1200 used and sounds awesome

 

The rega dac-r and rega brio-r to be precise.

As Timo says, the Allo DigiOne + Chord Mojo is fantastic. Dont forget good cables around it.

Be aware that Chord Mojo is intended for travel and it switches off frequently. Try to stretch to a s/h Naim Dac is you want a decent fit and forget Dac.

Both UnitiLite and UnitiQute are georgeous music makers.

What if I wanted a standalone streamer, capable of hi-res but without an on-board DAC or amplifier?

For the time being I am using a Bluesound Node - no amplifier but I still have to by-pass an on-board DAC to go into a Naim DAC and 252/250 amplifier.

Surely there must be others who want a streamer to function in the same way as a CD player or a turntable - a bare source to which you your own next stages (DAC, phono stage, amplification, etc)?

My ideal streamer would also give access to Qobuz who stream up to 24/192.

The internal DAC on the Bluesound Node is OK, as is the internal amplifier on the Bluesound Powernode. Like all things, though, you get what you pay for and the sound via my Naim DAC and amplifier is much better. I'm happy to pay extra for the Naim DAC and amplifier - I'd just prefer to do it without paying for a Bluesound DAC that I'm only going to bypass.

There is the Lumin U1 that on paper seems to meet all my requirements (including Qobuz integration) but I haven't heard it and at GBP 4,500 it's very expensive.

 

Juls posted:

Thanks everyone for the help. I’ll need to check out this alo digione player. Is there a benefit of this in comparison to just using a Mac mini? 

...

Yes, at least three things things...

The Allo DigiOne Player uses a separate board to do the S/Pdif output giving a degree of isolation from the (electrically) noisy main computer circuitry.

The Raspberry Pi is a lower powered computer so is likely to generate less electrical noise in the first place!

The Allo DigiOne Player is a very low power device, so you can leave it running and if you get (or have) a NAS drive then you don't have to power up the Mac every time you want to listen to music.


Have a look at the review on Darko...
//darko.audio/2017/08/allos-digione-pulls-five-star-sound-quality-from-the-raspberry-pi/ 

Juls posted:

Thanks @ChrisSU - I think my Arcam AirDAC may be on par or even better than the Sonos Connect? I was just thinking as with Naim I know that they always say source first and the whole garbage in garbage out saying. Was just worried as I have a RRP $4000 amp with a $900 streamer with built in DAC and also via airplay so was thinking it is a waste having an amp of this quality. 

I was only thinking of the Sonos (or the Yamaha, which I prefer) as a digital transport into your existing DAC if you want to be free of a computer as a source. Otherwise, I think I would stick with what you’ve got in preference to changing it for a Uniti. 

Huge posted:

Oh yes...  definitely don't change the XS for a UnitiLite (or even a Uniti 2).

I actually changed from an XS 2 to a Uniti 2. Kept it for 2 years until upgradeitus got the best of me. O ended getting another XS 2 with ND5 XS. I can't say that one was better than the other. Different? Sure but XS combo wasn't necessarily better than the U2. I have since upgraded that combo to a 272/XPSDR/250DR. I like this combo as well but if I had to go back to U2 or XS 2/ND5 XS I could without any fuss at all. The XS 2 is a fun amp IMO. I like the mid bass bump it seems to have. I also have a SuperNait I'm using with an Airprt Express for streaming in another room. Not a lot to complain about with that simple setup even though I do have a Qute 1 coming that will take over as my streaming source. 

I used to have an ND5XS fronting my main system with a Nait XS. Now I have a different Nait XS in the second system, fronted by a Bluesound Node 2.

This is used mostly for video actually, but it's decent at playing music. I much prefer the streaming interface of the Node over Naim's, but I'm keenly aware of how the system would sound better with the ND5XS having been there.

As such, I often contemplate getting a S/H nDAC to go with it.

spurrier sucks posted:
Huge posted:

Oh yes...  definitely don't change the XS for a UnitiLite (or even a Uniti 2).

I actually changed from an XS 2 to a Uniti 2. Kept it for 2 years until upgradeitus got the best of me. O ended getting another XS 2 with ND5 XS. I can't say that one was better than the other. Different? Sure but XS combo wasn't necessarily better than the U2. I have since upgraded that combo to a 272/XPSDR/250DR. I like this combo as well but if I had to go back to U2 or XS 2/ND5 XS I could without any fuss at all. The XS 2 is a fun amp IMO. I like the mid bass bump it seems to have. I also have a SuperNait I'm using with an Airprt Express for streaming in another room. Not a lot to complain about with that simple setup even though I do have a Qute 1 coming that will take over as my streaming source. 

That's interesting. I would have thought the XS 2 and ND5 XS would have blown the Uniti 2 out of the water and not just sound different. 

ricsimas posted:

I used to have an ND5XS fronting my main system with a Nait XS. Now I have a different Nait XS in the second system, fronted by a Bluesound Node 2.

This is used mostly for video actually, but it's decent at playing music. I much prefer the streaming interface of the Node over Naim's, but I'm keenly aware of how the system would sound better with the ND5XS having been there.

As such, I often contemplate getting a S/H nDAC to go with it.

I really like the look of the Bluesound Node 2 and may consider a second hand one at one point. If I do get one I will only have funds to use the internal DAC of the bluesound so was just wondering @ricsimas if you used the internal DAC of the bluesound or had it into an external dac? If you used the internal how did it sound against the ND5XS? Was it a huge difference in sound quality or just marginally better and if so what were the differences? 

If you have had experience with other cheap streaming options such as Sonos, or an external dac around $500 etc would the bluesound be a step up in sound quality above those? 

Thanks

Juls posted:

I really like the look of the Bluesound Node 2 and may consider a second hand one at one point. If I do get one I will only have funds to use the internal DAC of the bluesound so was just wondering @ricsimas if you used the internal DAC of the bluesound or had it into an external dac? If you used the internal how did it sound against the ND5XS? Was it a huge difference in sound quality or just marginally better and if so what were the differences? 

If you have had experience with other cheap streaming options such as Sonos, or an external dac around $500 etc would the bluesound be a step up in sound quality above those? 

Thanks

I'm using the DAC in the Node 2 into the XS (as I mentioned, this is a secondary, video-first system). It is serviceable, but the ND5XS was in a different league: much more authoritative, more drive, clearer insight into the music. That said, I do prefer the Node to Sonos. Haven't tried any other cheap DACs with it, I'm afraid.

Juls posted:
spurrier sucks posted:
Huge posted:

Oh yes...  definitely don't change the XS for a UnitiLite (or even a Uniti 2).

I actually changed from an XS 2 to a Uniti 2. Kept it for 2 years until upgradeitus got the best of me. O ended getting another XS 2 with ND5 XS. I can't say that one was better than the other. Different? Sure but XS combo wasn't necessarily better than the U2. I have since upgraded that combo to a 272/XPSDR/250DR. I like this combo as well but if I had to go back to U2 or XS 2/ND5 XS I could without any fuss at all. The XS 2 is a fun amp IMO. I like the mid bass bump it seems to have. I also have a SuperNait I'm using with an Airprt Express for streaming in another room. Not a lot to complain about with that simple setup even though I do have a Qute 1 coming that will take over as my streaming source. 

That's interesting. I would have thought the XS 2 and ND5 XS would have blown the Uniti 2 out of the water and not just sound different. 

Blow out of the water? Not even close. I the U2 is highly under rated on this forum but I guess that is expected when the normal advice is add a 555PS or 300 DR to whatever to correct whatever issue is brought up. 

 

I would also suggest looking at an Auraluc Aries Mini for a cheap streamer. You upgrade the linear power supply on it for a SQ boost. 

Huge posted:
Juls posted:

Thanks everyone for the help. I’ll need to check out this alo digione player. Is there a benefit of this in comparison to just using a Mac mini? 

...

Yes, at least three things things...

The Allo DigiOne Player uses a separate board to do the S/Pdif output giving a degree of isolation from the (electrically) noisy main computer circuitry.

The Raspberry Pi is a lower powered computer so is likely to generate less electrical noise in the first place!

The Allo DigiOne Player is a very low power device, so you can leave it running and if you get (or have) a NAS drive then you don't have to power up the Mac every time you want to listen to music.


Have a look at the review on Darko...
//darko.audio/2017/08/allos-digione-pulls-five-star-sound-quality-from-the-raspberry-pi/ 

If you already have a Mac Mini, then it is an excellent basis for a low cost system. Best rendering (playing) software for sound quality on it is Audirvana - inexpensive, and available on free trial (though the control app is not free). Set up fully optimised, and with a dedicated usb output not using the electrical S/PDIF or optical you bypass the Mac’s sound card, but you do have to remove the inevitable RF contamination from the output unless the DAC you use has exemplary RF rejection (as with any computer source - they all generate RF through their internal ‘clocks’). For optimum sound quality dedicate the Mac to this when playing music, and use it ‘headless’ with no monitor or keyboard. 

I originally used mine with a Hugo DAC, and used a Gustard U12 isolator because Hugo is very susceptible to RF (at that time Gustard was about £110, and very effective, usb in and S/PDIF out, or optical).

MM/A into Hugo sounded better than ND5XS as renderer into Hugo. (I had previously upgraded my ND5XS by adding Hugo as external DAC - MM was significantly less than the sale price for the ND5XS, while also freeing up my NAS for backup plus other non music purposes.)

An obvious alternative DAC cheaper than Hugo is Mojo - no idea how your DAC compares, but you can always start with it.

Mac Mini is very low power, and virtually silent - it has a small low speed fan, but mine is inaudible more than a foot or two away in a quiet room. I leave my MM on permanently, and it sits with the other hifi gear - you can even turn it off and on just like any other piece of kit by pressing the button.

I don’t know how MM/Audirvana compares in terms of sound quality with an Allo Digi one setup, but when I auditioned Dave DAC I had the opportunity to compare my MM/A briefly with a Melco N1A, when no difference in sound quality was evident (through Bryston 4B amp and PMC Fact 12 speakers).

Another option for store/renderer that seems to be popular is the Innuos Zen, but it may be out of your price range.

A benefit of this sort of approach if you have a music collection is that the music store and rendering software are in the same machine, with no streaming across a network, something that seems to cause some people problems.

Some people rave about Roon as playing software, which can be run on a Mac Mini instead of Audirvana, its popularity based on its ability to seemlessly integrate with Tidal, and its many linkages for other information when playing, though it has been criticised for not being quite up to the mark for sound quality when used as a renderer - however there have recently been suggestions that it has improved. It is also available for free trial. (N.B. Best quality will still be usb rather than using the Mac’s soundcard, and of course RF isolation still needed.)

@Innocent Bystander thanks alot for the advice. Along with everyone else that has put their input. So it seems I'll be keeping the Nait XS and working off this. I actually have a small fanless laptop which I am not using but don't have a mac mini. I am in Australia so probably don't have access some to some things in US or UK. 

I could use my laptop as a music source and also saw a Rega DAC V1 going for only $300 on the 2nd hand market. Another second hand thing I found is a M2Tech HiFace USB to SPDIF for about $170. Is this M2 Tech Hiface item that RF isolator that you are talking about? I have heard it improves the sound coming from USB. 

Lastly, how would the Rega DAC V1 compare with the chord mojo in terms of sound quality? 

Thanks everyone for your input. Just an update, I have made my decision and will stick with the Nait XS and hold onto my current Airdac until I get the funds for a Chord Mojo. I've done a fair bit of research and it seems that the Chord mojo should be a substantial upgrade without the huge pricetag. I have a spare windows laptop which I will use as my source into the Chord Mojo. 

Just have another question - I know that most people use the Mac Mini as a source however to save money I would prefer to use my spare laptop. It is very small and is fanless so hopefully won't introduce too much noise. Is there a difference in sound quality when using the Mac Mini vs a windows laptop. I know that a difference would be that I can't use Audirvana being a windows laptop however I was looking to use Jriver. 

For now I'll enjoy the music and wait for a decently priced mojo to go on sale. Thanks again 

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