New from Naim is the £3300 NAC-N 272, a combined network music player, DAC and preamplifier – and for the first time in a Naim product it can play DSD files, either from local storage such as USB devices or streamed over a home network.
The reason I was down in Salisbury last week – see separate story – was for a preview of the NAC-N 272 which, in common with other current Naim network products, offers UPnP high-resolution music streaming, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth aptX and Internet radio. DAB/DAB+/FM is available as a £295 factory-installed option.
There are also digital inputs on optical and coaxial connections (three of each) and a USB input for iOS devices or USB sticks, plus three analogue inputs.
DSD64 can be played via UPnP, electrical digital or USB inputs, and DSD playback is kept as pure as possible by stripping out the digital header information, leaving only the audio to be optimised for the NAC-N 272’s DAC by integer resampling it to 40-bit/705.6kHz using Naim software, then feeding it to the 24-bit DAC, bypassing the digital filter.
Naim plans to offer firmware upgrades to some of its other network player models in the near future, allowing them to play DSD, but there’s no definite launch date for this addition yet. It will be available on the company’s models using the SHARC processor: the ND5 XS, NDX and NDS network players and the SuperUniti all-in-one player.
At the heart of the NAC-N272, the SHARC processor provides buffering, de-jittering and re-clocking of the signal; the digital and analogue sections are opto-isolated to prevent any interference; and the circuitboards are floated (below) to exclude vibration.
Relay switching is used for input selection, with inputs not in use completely disconnected, and a resistor ladder provides volume control: Naim says this is ‘derived from the design featured in the flagship Naim Statement NAC S1 preamplifier. It uses hand-selected, through-hole analogue components which are isolated from their digital controller using optical chips.’
There’s also a high-quality headphone output, designed to drive even demanding loads.
The transformer has four separate windings, for the analogue, DAC and digital sections, and the NAC-N 272 can be upgraded with the addition of Naim’s XP5 XS, XP2 or 555PS power supplies. When one of those supplies is used, the NAC-N 272’s onboard power supply can be switched off completely for optimal performance.
Naim says it expects typical customers for the new preamp will be those moving up from some of its integrated network music solutions, or existing Naim pre/power users wanting to add network capability. It suggests the obvious partnering power amplifiers are its NAP 200 or NAP 250.
Written by Andrew Everard