ND555/252 vs NDS/552, Which Is Best? Only One Way To Find Out - Fight!

Posted by: nigelb on 21 November 2018

I was pretty sure I knew the answer to this one, given all the praise the ND555 has been rightly receiving, and, after all, I have always been a source first bloke. Well it turns out I know nothing!

Thinking it was time to move to the new streaming platform and take advantage of possibly one of the best streamers ever made, I was keen to hear the ND555 at home but, due to the steep incline in costs for future upgrades, any upgrading now will need to be done in stages. That means the ND555 will need to be able to show its capabilities with my current 252DR/250DR and MA GX300 speakers until such time I can pay attention these other components.

There is a problem though. In the back of my mind I remember the praise the 'classic' component in the Naim range, the 552, has received on a continuous basis over the last two decades.  But that would need to work with my current NDS/555DR/250DR/MA GX300s. As luck would have it, my dealer happens to have both a mint pre-loved 552 and one of the first ND555s (so well run in). A plan was forming.

To solve this puzzle my trusty dealer set up two systems for me to listen to. The first - ND555/PS555DR/252/SuperCapDR and the second - NDS/PS555DR/552(non DR), both systems used with a 300DR and Kudos Titan 707s. I would listen to both and decide which I would take home for extended dem, the ND555 or the 552. A forgone conclusion, I thought.

I brought 4 favourite CDs which the dealer ripped and I listened to the system fronted by the ND555 first and waited with bated breath for the fireworks. But there were none. The initial problem I had was that the dealer's listening room was over double the size of mine and was less damped. I was also used to listening 'near field' but was further away from the speakers at the dealers. It took me a while to acclimatise and the system was, I believe, improving over that first hour of listening. No denying the detail and coherence on offer but I felt the whole presentation was a bit on the clinical side. I was a tad dissappointed and checked with the dealer that the ND555 was fully run in, and it was. Might it have been the 252 struggling a bit with the detail it was being asked to process, or was it the unfamiliar listening environment. Not sure, but something wasn't quite right.

So onto the NDS/552 based system. From the first track I could tell this was rather special, although I was still struggling with the brighter, slightly echoey listening room. Again, as this session went on things started to improve, either the equipment settling in or me becoming more in tune with the listening room, or both.

After a further hour of listening, I had decided it was the 552 I wanted to take home for an extended listen. But before it was packed up, the very accommodating dealer married up the ND555 with the 552 and this was when things really took off, even in those unfamiliar acoustic surroundings. It seemed to me that the NDS/552 was less of a compromise than the ND555/252, so off I went with the 552 for home demo.

I have been listening to the 552 in my system for much of today and have been pretty much blown away. I will save all the detailed descriptions for a couple of days when I have had a chance to listen more. But this 552 ain't going nowhere!

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Adam Zielinski

 Nigel - what a cool summary. Looking forward to the next days with 552 and more prose from you on the experiences.

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Sloop John B

My 552 has been in situ for over 10 years now. Good to hear itís still wowing folk. 

Enjoy thr music. 

.sjb

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Gazza

I had a hunch that might be the case, in some ways thatís what I wanted as you will probably have the 552 for life, but the source will change every 5 to 10 years. The ND555 to me has been a bit of an enigma being very difficult to get right in demos to show what it can do. As ever, you have to buy what moves you to spend a lot of money and I hope you really enjoy your home demo , as if it works it will be a wonderful lifetime purchase.

Give us an update from home, it hopefully should sound really much better than the dealer room.

Gaz

 

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Japtimscarlet

As a NDS / 252 owner is interesting to hear others experience of what might be my next upgrade!

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by nigelb
Gazza posted:

I had a hunch that might be the case, in some ways thatís what I wanted as you will probably have the 552 for life, but the source will change every 5 to 10 years. The ND555 to me has been a bit of an enigma being very difficult to get right in demos to show what it can do. As ever, you have to buy what moves you to spend a lot of money and I hope you really enjoy your home demo , as if it works it will be a wonderful lifetime purchase.

Give us an update from home, it hopefully should sound really much better than the dealer room.

Gaz

 

Gazza, our start points were a little different in that you were coming from an NDX, were going for a NDX2 and last minute decided on the ND555 IIRC. What this experience has shown me is that the NDS is very capable and that the jump from 252 to 552 in significant.

There is no doubt that the rarity of mint pre loved 552s has played a part in my decision. Sometimes the order of upgrades is often a pragmatic decision as well as a decision based on SQ.

I do agree that dealer dems can only tell you so much. The NDS/552 combo is sounding far better in my system at home than it did at the dealers. That makes things tricky.

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Gazza

Not quite true Nigel....

i was ditching a Nova/300 system, had decided the 252 was going to be the preamp, I had never heard a NDX and only 2 tracks of an NDS. So in my last post I as trying to be careful, as I had never explored an NDS and just wondered perhaps it might be a better match.

I did not listen to the ND555/552........as I know I would have a terrible itch in due course. Buy yourself some extra strong ď antihistamineĒ cream from the chemist, and let me know if it works?????

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by lyndon

NIGELB

there is another way of looking at this.

the 552 is a stonking good amp and DR it, it becomes even more so, but more to the point in 5 years time it will still be a stonking good amp

the digital world is moving at a rapid pace, if streaming is still the in thing in 5 years time i bet it will have changed significantly, will the current ND's have the new technology, able to take the new technology, will the NDS's in 5 years time be a completely different unit

lyndon

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by nigelb
Gazza posted:

Not quite true Nigel....

i was ditching a Nova/300 system, had decided the 252 was going to be the preamp, I had never heard a NDX and only 2 tracks of an NDS. So in my last post I as trying to be careful, as I had never explored an NDS and just wondered perhaps it might be a better match.

I did not listen to the ND555/552........as I know I would have a terrible itch in due course. Buy yourself some extra strong ď antihistamineĒ cream from the chemist, and let me know if it works?????

Ah yes, I am thinking of another forumite.

I hope one day to marry up the 552 with a ND555 but, as several have said, the digital world is moving at a far faster pace than the analogue world, so when to jump on a new streamer is the dilemma.

When we visited the factory and saw the guts of the ND555, it seemed to be very modular in construction. I wonder if this is intended to make the ND555 more upgradable than the old streamers?

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Simon-in-Suffolk

BTW I donít think the digital DAC world is moving hugely quickly for Naim ... yes there have been major advancements generally .. but Naim have decided to focus in more a traditional direction.. so itís been more a case of gradual refinement... and more a focus on noise decoupling improvements around Naimís chosen approach as well as developments in front end integration options...

Also to the OPís question... with Naim I would always go for the best NAC you can afford... it brings everything along with it, it absolutely is the heart of a Naim system. no question about it at all in my experience, so focus on NAC and THEN your sources and then amps...

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by French Rooster

i tend to think also that the pre is the heart of the system.    My best memorable upgrades were with pre, then sources, then amps or speakers.  

Curiously a lot of people continue to think that the best upgrades are first speakers or amps.  

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by analogmusic

Blimey...... indeed a very fine thread and much appreciated

The 552 is the winner... indeed as it has been called the best component that Naim makes

very happy for you Nigel !

congratulations on the 552.

 

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by joerand
French Rooster posted:

Curiously a lot of people continue to think that the best upgrades are first speakers or amps.  

In my experience it all depends on what you're upgrading from and to, as well as how a given speaker or amp performs in your room with your existing gear. If some antecedent rule can be applied to how one should "best upgrade" a system to their own liking then speakers or amps first seems as arbitrarily valid as any other component. Objectivity in evaluating the individual gear's contribution is the key to me, rather than reliance on price or some passť forum dogma.

Posted on: 21 November 2018 by Gazza
nigelb posted:
Gazza posted:

Not quite true Nigel....

i was ditching a Nova/300 system, had decided the 252 was going to be the preamp, I had never heard a NDX and only 2 tracks of an NDS. So in my last post I as trying to be careful, as I had never explored an NDS and just wondered perhaps it might be a better match.

I did not listen to the ND555/552........as I know I would have a terrible itch in due course. Buy yourself some extra strong ď antihistamineĒ cream from the chemist, and let me know if it works?????

Ah yes, I am thinking of another forumite.

I hope one day to marry up the 552 with a ND555 but, as several have said, the digital world is moving at a far faster pace than the analogue world, so when to jump on a new streamer is the dilemma.

When we visited the factory and saw the guts of the ND555, it seemed to be very modular in construction. I wonder if this is intended to make the ND555 more upgradable than the old streamers?

I think you might be thinking of a few months earlier when an NDX was the source when I chose the 252 vs 282. Although I did not purchase immediately I wanted a simpler streamer demo, so got that decision out of the way.

I would be surprised if Naim released a new streamer in the next 5 years, but who knows? It would be nice to think the new streamers could be upgradeable?

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by analogmusic

Personally though  I donít care much for preamps anymore yes including the mighty 552

source first for me works every single time

 

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by The Strat (Fender)

Nigel - not the question you asked so apologies, but for the level of the investment you are contemplating you could have some Kudos 505s, 707s, Neats.............

i know what Iíd do.  Sorry!

Lindsay 

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by MDS

An interesting outcome of your in-store demo, Nigel.  The 552 is a bit special.  I found with mine that its merits continue to reveal themselves for many, many months after installation in the sense that it regularly produces new insights into familiar music that cause me to smile. If you decide it is a 'keeper' you can also draw some comfort from its longevity.  Streaming product development seems quite rapid but the 552 is enduring. All you need to factor in is the inevitable DR upgrade at some point eg when the unit is due a service.

M

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by Christopher_M
nigelb posted:
After a further hour of listening, I had decided it was the 552 I wanted to take home for an extended listen. But before it was packed up, the very accommodating dealer married up the ND555 with the 552 and this was when things really took off....

Canny that!

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by wenger2015

Hi Nigel,

I have always found dealer dems to be somewhat hit and miss.... 

Its always the home dem that either delights or disappoints....  

Its going to be interesting to hear your thoughts once you have had time to reflect....

in the meantime....Enjoy 

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by nigelb
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Nigel - not the question you asked so apologies, but for the level of the investment you are contemplating you could have some Kudos 505s, 707s, Neats.............

i know what Iíd do.  Sorry!

Lindsay 

Hi Lindsay, yes, you know I have been considering speakers for some time now and Kudos are at the top of my list, particularly the Titan 606s. I just had a nagging feeling that my unfashionable Monitor Audio GX300s had more to give as they have kept on delivering from every upgrade upstream thus far.

I will admit to being of a 'source first' disposition, and I consider the pre amp as a 'source enabler' and the beating heart of any system. I have always upgraded my preamp before power amp and speakers. So on this occasion I thought I would try out the very best source and the very best (real world) pre amp, in the knowledge I couldn't afford both. It would also be an opportunity to see if my ageing speakers and 'puny' power amp could cope with the extra information produced upstream, and blimey they can!

This experience reminds me what a superb and competent power amp the 250DR is, and how my speakers keep on giving. It also reminds me you can't go far wrong with source first and the best pre amp you can afford. But that is just my ears, my system, my room.

YMMV.

N

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by Bert Schurink

Nigel it looks like your demo situation was not ideal. Perhaps it's still a thing to mimic it in you own room and redo it, that would be the real test as you know your room best.

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by nigelb

Yes Bert, that thought had crossed my mind too. But the 552 is sounding so good in my system and it is an absolutely mint example and it is so rare to find one, plus the dealer is offering a more than fair trade in for my 252/SuperCapDR, it seems a bit of a no brainer. I am also easily confused when faced with alternatives!

The ND555 will always be there and who knows, ex demo or pre loved examples may start to appear making the acquisition more affordable.

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by Pcd
nigelb posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Nigel - not the question you asked so apologies, but for the level of the investment you are contemplating you could have some Kudos 505s, 707s, Neats.............

i know what Iíd do.  Sorry!

Lindsay 

Hi Lindsay, yes, you know I have been considering speakers for some time now and Kudos are at the top of my list, particularly the Titan 606s. I just had a nagging feeling that my unfashionable Monitor Audio GX300s had more to give as they have kept on delivering from every upgrade upstream thus far.

I will admit to being of a 'source first' disposition, and I consider the pre amp as a 'source enabler' and the beating heart of any system. I have always upgraded my preamp before power amp and speakers. So on this occasion I thought I would try out the very best source and the very best (real world) pre amp, in the knowledge I couldn't afford both. It would also be an opportunity to see if my ageing speakers and 'puny' power amp could cope with the extra information produced upstream, and blimey they can!

This experience reminds me what a superb and competent power amp the 250DR is, and how my speakers keep on giving. It also reminds me you can't go far wrong with source first and the best pre amp you can afford. But that is just my ears, my system, my room.

YMMV.

N

Nigel, very interesting uptake on speakers I have found like yourself how good your original speakers can be when you upgrade the front end of your system.

I found in my system/room that changing from a 250dr to a 300dr was a massive uplift all round this has been further been reinforced since upgrading my NDX the speakers just keep on giving.

Speakers are a very personal choice and probably the hardest item to upgrade sometimes I think it is better to stick with the devil you know you mention the Titan 606 speakers not heard these but if they are anything like the 707 then they are something rather special.

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by The Strat (Fender)

Guys,

I absolutely agree that speakers are the hardest bit of the system to get right.  But Iím just not a source first disciple.  However, I suggest this comparison - NDX2/SN2/Kudos S10 vs UnitiNova/Kudos 505.  

Lindsay

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by Camlan

Canít say Iím surprised Nigel, like it seems some others, I very nearly posted that, in my view, the 552 was the way to go but I am firmly of the belief that hearing is in the ears of the beholder, or should that be the belistener?

I had a 252 for quite a few years and always enjoyed it, l looked at the 552 and always said ĎI ainít paying that for a preampí. Then because of a lightning strike the 252 had to go for repair and my dealer at the time lent me a 552 as a demo to replace it whilst away. He knew what he was doing because once you hear the darn thing that is that.

The CD555 is a fine piece of kit but the 552 takes everything to a different plane, the only piece of advice on it I ever give is if you think it is a financial stretch then donít, ever, ever listen to it!

Posted on: 22 November 2018 by Bart

Really interesting to read, Nigel.  Fortunately, if one has the budget, a 552 can be substituted into Fraim for a 252/SC rather discreetly . . . unlike my pending 250>300 which requires an extra Fraim level and thus major changes to topography.  

FWIW, the Roon compatibility *is* a very nice upgrade for me on the ND555 vs NDS.  I've really taken to Roon, as has my wife as a less-frequent 'driver of the hi fi.'  She was fine of course with the Naim app, until those times where the NDS needed to be re-booted (admittedly only about once a month) to get the network happy again. At that point she just waited for me (not that she couldn't push the button on the 555 herself of course; she just for some silly reason thought that $20,000 worth of streamer player ought to just work every time).