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Some components play it holistically. They present a musical number in one casting by following the mantra of 'beauty and harmony trounce bean counting any day'. I'd count my former Marantz SA-7001 amongst this category. Naim's CD5si was nearly the polar opposite. It presents each individual detail to engender fascination with it. This couples to an electrifying read on micro resolution and dynamics, less so on tonality.

I noticed for example how the bass was more wiry and fleet than massive. Over my new Audiolab 8200CDQ deck with DAC and preamp functionality, I got more LF violence, more guttural bass if also a rhythmic gestalt that felt comparatively throttled back. Its soundstage too was somewhat more compact than the Naim's though equally well illuminated.
Time for symphonic masses. Polish composer Wojciech Kilar born in 1932 is responsible for many exciting avantgarde works, some of which will be familiar to movie fans as the soundtracks to Polanski's The Pianist, Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula and such. Krezsany is an homage to the mighty mountain range of the Tatra and alternates between rhythmically complex string clusters, brilliant brass peaks and touching shepherd's tunes plus massively intense percussion. Here the CD5si was fully in its element. The orchestra was cleanly arranged and stage depth felt realistic.

Tonal balance was even without emphasis or coloration. The bass range tended to the quick over the massive. Particularly the kettle drum interludes exemplified this voicing.

With the Naim one winced because the drums were so incisively accented. With the €1.600 Audiolab the attacks moved lower into the stomach but were less sudden and fired more loosely from the hip. These were mere nuances of course. Neither deck is any one-trick pony.

From acoustic music to electronica. The musicians' collective Archive is known for their highly emotional songs and broad musical and instrumental bandwidth. At first glance "Conscience" from their Noise album seems limited to highly reverberant song with broad keyboard washes and synthesized drums. Once one pays closer attention, there are little things like a subdued click wandering the stereo panorama like a sampled shaker. Once again the Naim showed true talent for extracting micro data from within the whole. Purely on signal strength this shaker sound should have been brutally overwhelmed by the total mix yet the CD5si rendered it audible without subtracting any impact from the dominant timbres.

Once past the midpoint of this song a highly distorted electric guitar announces a new macrodynamic gait where the CD5si impressed with its high-pressure reaction. Here this primarily meant the sustain (and not merely attack) of loud standing bass and guitar sounds but also the very sudden tracking of expanded quiet/loud contrasts. Leashed to dynamically gifted speakers like my Neat Momentum 4i, this really knew how to rock.

With Lou Reed's Songs for Drella I meant to suss out how Naim's spinner would do with more intimate fare. "Style it takes" consists of synth canvas, a clean guitar and Reed's talk song. Obviously the already covered high detail capture asserted itself once more. I really enjoyed that because it kept me on alert. But I also noted how I was focused on the lyrics less than usual and instead reached for the details the Naim served up on its silver platter. I'm thus compelled to characterize this British deck—and this is no critique but simple characterization—as not belonging to the most dreamy or romantic of the breed.