Having defined the all-in-one network audio system market with its original Naim Uniti in 2009, Naim went on to spin off the technology into a range of players designed to be used with its range of amplifiers, the original NDX being the first of these to arrive in 2010. Almost a decade later, having built a highly flexible – and future-proofed – in-house streaming ‘platform for the future’ for its revived range of Uniti products, it was almost inevitable that this technology would be rolled out to the ND- range.
So here we have the NDX 2, sitting between the display-less entry-level ND5 XS 2, and the mighty – and mighty expensive – ND 555, which starts as a two-box player when you add the power supply it requires, and can be further upgraded to a three-box configuration should funds allow.
The NDX 2 fills its midrange role exceptionally well – but then it’s an exceptional player: it has all the style of the flagship model, including the large colour display shared with the current Uniti range and a radio frequency remote control able to ‘drive’ it from anywhere in the room, but unlike the ND555 this player can be used ‘as is’, straight from the box.
Who doesnt love plug-in and enjoy simplicity?
Yes, you can later add on an external power supply to further enhance the player, connecting a Naim XPS DR or 555 PS DR to take over the supply to the digital section, while the player’s internal supply looks after the analogue audio section, but that can wait for later – you’ll probably be too busy enjoying what the NDX 2 can do with a huge range of digital music in its standard form.
And the Naim can do a lot: thanks to that Naim-designed platform, it can stream from local storage – on a computer or network-attached storage unit – via wired or wireless networking, access streaming services including Qobuz, Spotify Connect and Tidal, and (thanks to both Apple AirPlay and Chromecast onboard) can stream from a wide variety of apps on smartphones and tablets, at up to 192kHz/24bit ‘beyond CD quality’. It also has USB playback via its front-panel port, allowing the quick connection of storage devices and, depending on the input, can handle files at up to 384kHz/32bit and DSD128. There are also optical and coaxial digital inputs for legacy digital devices such as CD players.
Roon-ready certification means it can work with that music management system, Internet radio is also built-in, and via the highly-developed Naim app, available free for Apple iOS and Android phones and tablets, it can also combine with other Naim ND- units, as well as Uniti and Mu-so models, to create complete multiroom music systems. And all this is backed up with Naim’s long-refined digital and analogue circuitry: from the network card onward, everything has been tuned for optimal performance, with in-house digital signal processing delivering the best possible signal to the digital-to-analogue conversion, custom digital filtering and of course Naim designed analogue circuitry to feed the music out to an amplifier via DIN and RCA sockets. The NDX 2 will also keep pace with any developments in digital music delivery, thanks to simple updates delivered ‘over the air’ from the Internet, all controlled via the Naim app
Although Naim has an enviable track record in CD players as well as amplifiers, it now makes the incredibly bold statement that its network players offer the best sound quality it has ever delivered – and that’s certainly the case with the NDX 2, which has all the usual Naim sonic attributes. Well actually, the one and only Naim attribute, which is a directness of communication of the music being played that makes an awful lot of rivals’ offerings sound rather mechanical and – umm, hi-fi-y. Yes, this player does all sorts of really good things, from the focus and control of its deep, extended bass all the way through to the open, crystal-clear treble that makes recorded acoustics, from concert-halls to churches, just sound more vivid and three-dimensional.
Trouble is, you’re unlikely to notice all that – or at least you’ll soon be taking it all for granted – simply because you’ll be having so much fun with the music. And that’s as true with a one-take ‘as live’ recording of a band in an intimate studio setting as it is with the most ‘constructed on the mixing desk’ production job: it really doesn’t imagine if the recording simply took place before a microphone or only came together with a gazillion edits and racks of digital processing, what the NDX 2 does is grab with what’s being played and refuse to let you go until the last note has faded into digital silence.
If you’re a hi-fi trainspotter who revels in that moment of acoustic presence in the moment before the singing or playing begins, or lives for the odd squeak of a chair in the first violins or the slide of a finger on a wound string, the Naim will give you that; or if you just want to kick back and immerse yourself in all the art of what’s being performed, it’ll undoubtedly deliver.
Naim equipment has this (mistaken) reputation for being a bit tweaky and requiring infinite care in set-up if you’re to achieve even a fraction of its possible performance – maybe it’s the use of the odd DIN sockets, still there because Naim thinks they sound better, or the wobbly connections (which decouple any vibrations picked up in the cables to stop them getting to the electronics within). In fact, the NDX 2, like all modern Naims, is dead simple to install and get working well, provided your amplification and speakers are good enough to show all it can do. Although of course you can play to your heart’s content with everything from special racks, in the form of Naim’s Fraims, to the way you organise the cables behind those racks. Legend has it they all make a difference, but that’s for another day…
The NDX 2 is an exceptionally flexible network music player, and a very refined one – both in its engineering and its sound. That it’s also beautifully built – by hand, in Naim’s factory in Salisbury – and a breeze to use adds to its appeal. But most of all, it’s about the sound: if just love music, you’ll find this player is absolutely on your wavelength
BBC Radio 3 Afternoon Concert
Not so much a test track, more a way of life: accessing the ‘high-definition’ Radio 3 stream will open up a whole world of musical discovery, of which these live recordings every weekday afternoon are definite highlights. They may not even be CD-quality, let alone true high resolution, but the NDX 2 makes them shine.
John Mayall: The Sun Is Shining Down
Legendary bluesman John Mayall may have decided to stop touring last year, but the album of which this is the joyous title track – recorded in 2019, when he was a mere 86 – will make us all grateful he’s still releasing music. With star guest musicians and a smoking band, it really gives the NDX 2 a chance to show where its soul lies.
Bob Marley & The Wailers: Exodus
From the superb Babylon By Bus live album, and recorded in Paris in 1977, this version of the familiar track finds Marley and the band taking it at quite a lick, the Naim keeping the deep bass motoring along while everything else shines above it. But then there’s not a dud track on the whole album
From the wide range of digital sources it supports – including network and online streaming to music on your phone or computer – to the way it plays everything, and makes it all fascinating and involving, this is one of those products that will have you hooked within the first few tracks you play