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Until now I hadn’t yet spun classical so off it was to Händel’s Messiah [Linn Records, CKD 285, 2007, FLAC 24/88.2] from the Olive. As the big band before, classical complexity proved a piece of cake for the Naim, with perfect order on a wide stage, proper recreation of space and hall acoustics and sound as it should be. The DAC tracked the orchestral as well as individual instrumental timbres without issues. Dynamics both micro and macro were excellent. The only nit one might pick was stage depth which wasn’t that grand.
Because this DAC handled rhythm so well, I fed the Linn player with the Kraftwerk discs Minimum-Maximum [Kling Klang/EMI, 560 6112, 2005, CD]. My favorite cut from the second disc is "Elektro Kardiogramm" which was simply brilliant – so good in fact that I hit ‘repeat’ and listened to it a dozen times over. Rhythm was phenomenal. In addition to proper synth tone, the digitally processed voices were superb too.

Finally I wanted to see how the Naim fared with a pen drive. It turned out that functionality was fairly limited. Files were read merely from the main folder and only as WAV files. Moving between files was restricted to forward and backward skips. Fortunately if there are other files on the USB stick not recognized by the Naim, they are simply ignored rather than become problematic. The sound of this file playback was identical to the above.

This is a very successful Naim debut in the digital converter genre. Excellent functionality is married to superb sonics which, considering, makes the price tag not exaggerated. Those searching for to upgrade a digital deck they already own or a mate to a PC or file player should give the Naim a listen. For many this will be an ideal solution. Recommended.

This DAC’s exterior design is quintessential Naim, a flat black enclosure with a thick aluminum fascia whose slightly recessed center carries the green back-lit logo. All control elements are grouped to the right side of the face plate. There’s a type A USB host socket, two green LEDs signaling synchronization with the drive (SYNC) and hi-res signal reception (HD) and five round buttons for input selection and to navigate a USB stick. Each of the buttons confirms operation with a green light. The back of the box is very interesting. Starting from the right, we have Naim-style analog DIN sockets and solid gold-plated RCAS. Below these are two small switches, one to select between DIN/RCA, the other to separate signal from chassis ground to eliminate system noise.

Further to the left sits the array of digital inputs – two each BNC and RCA S/PDIF and four TOSLINK for eight total. Adjacent sits a multi-pin socket for the optional external power supply, another Naim convention typical for most their machines. Then there’s a second USB port (overridden by that on the front) and the IEC power inlet with the power mains switch. The latter’s location suggest a preference for leaving the unit on permanently which I did throughout the review.

After removing the top cover-not so easy as one mounting screws is not easy to access and requires a special screwdriver-one sees how almost a quarter of the interior is occupied by a big toroidal transformer with many secondaries. The currents are rectified and filtered on a centrally placed PCB while stabilization occurs on the main board separately for the digital and analog sections. On that motherboard peopled by surface mount parts, the digital section is placed near the face plate. Its heart is a Sharc DSP chip manufactured by Analog Devices which performs the initial processing of the digital signal.

According to Naim, the chip functions as a digital filter with 40-bit resolution. Besides that processor there is a Blackfin chip as the USB transceiver and a special chip for seamless iPod integration. Then the signal encounters two Burr-Brown PCM1704 converters, one per channel. Interestingly, those can only process up to 24/96 data. The clock circuit is very extensive and runs two quartz oscillators at different frequencies. I/V conversion and reconstruction filtering is made up of completely discrete circuits with foil capacitors and metalized resistors.

Filtering occurs in two stages. Final output buffering occurs close to the output sockets also with discrete components. The outputs are relay triggered. The digital inputs are placed on a separate PCB, each galvanically isolated by impulse transformers. The connection between this board and the digital section of the mother board is by shielded computer ribbon cable.

Technical data according to manufacturer:
Audio outputs: RCA & DIN (switchable)
Nominal output voltage: 2.2VRMS
Frequency response: 10Hz to 20kHz (+0.1dB / -0.5dB)
THD: <0.002%
Inputs: 8 x S/PDIF (2 coaxial BNC, 2 coaxial RCA, 4 optical TOSLINK), 2 x USB
Accepted formats: WAV (LPCM up to 768kHz/32-bit)
Sampling frequencies: USB up to 768kHz/32-bit; S/PDIF - 32kHz to 192kHz/24bit; iPod/iPhone - max 48kHz
Power consumption: < 30VA
Dimensions (H x W x D): 70 x 432 x 30mm
Weight: 5.6kg
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