I have just spent a few hours comparing the microRendu into Hugo vs the Naim ND5XS/TXPS into Hugo, and have come to a fairly consistent conclusion. The tests were carried out on my 2nd (AV) system, using Krell Pre/Power amplification into Ruark Solstice speakers. I use a decent (Mark Grant) digital coax cable to connect my ND5XS to the Hugo, and I also have a TXPS power supply that to my ears significantly improved on the sound of the bare ND5XS. For the time being I have connected the microRendu to the Hugo using a very cheap (ex satnav I think) USB cable, and I am using the cheap iFi power supply that I have seen reviewed pretty unkindly in a number of places. I do have a TP 7v supply on order, which I would expect to improve the SQ of the microRendu, and I may also source a 'decent' reasonably priced USB cable (possibly Audioquest Cinnamon). However bear in mind the potential limitations of the current power supply and USB cable when you read my comments below. I use a Synology NAS, currently running MinimServer (transcoding from FLAC to WAV) and my control points for the test have been the Naim app on an iPad AIr for the ND5XS/TXPS (System A), and Linn Kazoo on a Windows 10 laptop for the mircroRendu (System B).
The first thing to point out is that Systems A and B do indeed sound 'different', and sound different in a fairly consistent way across each of the music genre types I played. I have no doubt that some people would describe the differences as being fairly subtle, and others as being very significant. They were certainly pretty obvious to me.
I would broadly describe the differences in this way:
System A (ND5XS/TXPS) across almost all types of music sounded 'warmer', 'fuller' and more rounded.
System B (microRendu) sounded slightly leaner, slightly more dynamic, and with more separation or 'air' between individual instruments.
These differences were evident in both CD quality and hi-res (all resolutions) files, and also with the few DSD files I had to hand. My interpretation of the differences is that System A sounds by comparison very 'pleasant' and 'relaxing', but that having compared the two, there appears to be a 'glaze' or 'sheen' (it's so difficult to try and convey one's subjective impressions to other people) on the top of the music that somewhat muddies the sound. System B. on the other hand, without that 'glaze' is able to convey subtle details, such as acoustic guitar and violin harmonics, or the hand movements on fingerboards much more clearly.
Clear examples of this were evident when playing each of the following tracks:
Rachel Podger - Bach - Partita for flute in A minor (on violin) (24 bit/192 kHz)
Cristophe Rousset (Harpsichord) - "Suite en do majeur: Allemande" (24 bit/96 kHz)
Rory Block - 'Send the man back home' (16 bit/44.1 kHz)
Anne Drummond & Dr Chesky - 'Dancing flute & Drum' (24 bit/192 kHz)
The Eagles - Hotel California (Acoustic version from 'Hell freezes over') (16 bit/44.1 kHz)
I also felt that music dynamics generally were better via System B, possibly in part because I found that I could rack up the volume significantly higher (always a good sign, if not for your neighbours) without the sound becoming bloated and overpowering. This was particularly impressive on each of the following pieces of music:
Sigmund Groven & Iver Kleive - "Undring" - an amazing piece (Harmonica and Organ). The entry of the Organ on this track (led in by harmonica) is amazingly dynamic and startling. Don't play this piece at high volume if you have neighbours or if your speakers are not 'robust'.
Steely Dan - "Gaslighting Abbie" & "Cousin Dupree" (from the "Two against Nature" album) (24 bit/92 kHz)
Pink Floyd - "What do you want from me?" (24 bit/96 kHz)
The Who - "Magic Bus" - from "Live at Leeds" (24 bit/96 kHz).
These are tracks I often use when comparing pieces of hi-fi equipment. However perhaps it is more relevant to say that my overall impression is that I simply consistently enjoyed listening to music more when played via the microRendu. I hope that the arrival of the power supply I have on order will improve things further. There is no doubt in my mind that the microRendu, when coupled with a good compatible DAC (such as the Hugo) offers very good value for money, despite its diminutive size.
I have to mention a number of caveats.
1. If your intention is to use Kazoo on iPad as your control application, you may well run into the problems I have reported in earlier posts, particularly in respect of access to Tidal or Qobuz. If you plan to use Roon and Roon Player (or indeed Kazoo on Windows 10), you will probably be fine.
2. Obtaining access to Internet Radio via the microRendu is not straightforward. A number of people have posted guidelines for gaining access, but there is no doubt that if Internet Radio is important to you, then your Naim streamer will provide a much better interface for you.
2. The microRendu runs pretty hot when used with the cheap iFi (9v) power supply that is often bundled with it. I would probably recommend a better 6v or 7v linear power supply, which may or may not also enhance the SQ. This will add a couple of hundred pounds to the overall cost.
3. My Ruark Solstice speakers are big speakers (around the same size as B&W 802s), and can probably be described as having a fairly 'warm' sound. If you have more overtly analytical or leaner sounding speakers, you may not be so enamoured with the slightly leaner (but to my ears more accurate) presentation of the microRendu. When my TP 7v power supply arrives, I will probably try slotting the microRendu and Hugo into my main system in place of my Klimax Renew DS. The Magneplanar 3.6R speakers in this system are significantly more 'revealing' than my Ruarks, and so it will be interesting to find out if I feel the same way about the microRendu in this system.