Naim CD5 XS CD player Page 2

One more thing: To prevent the swing-out drawer from swinging out all over the place during shipping, and thus damaging the transport, Naim fits to the bottom of the CD5 XS's casework a transit bolt—as they've done with all their players equipped with such transports. I'd warn you against using the CD5 XS without removing its transit bolt, but because it isn't possible to do so—if you can't open the drawer, you can't insert a disc—I won't bother with that, either.

One thing in particular that characterized the pre–break-in Naim CD5 XS—and, if I recall correctly, the CD3—was that it took a couple of days of 'round-the-clock playing before it could really do legato. Cold, out of the box, it was slightly mechanical, at times even plodding, in its conveyance of strings of notes. This was especially evident in piano music, such as Martin Jones's collection of Szymanowski's Complete Piano Music: Volume 1 (2 CDs, Nimbus NI 5405/6).

After running-in the Naim for a few days, I returned to the Jones CD and heard a better and altogether convincingly lovely sense of flow. With another CD of piano music, Jerome Rose's recordings of the four Chopin Ballades (Monarch Classics M20052), the Naim sounded appropriately lyrical—especially in the Ballade 3 in A-flat, which Rose doesn't burden with ornamentation, lines of notes were purposeful but human, never stiff or mechanical. The CD5 XS also did a superb job of reproducing Daniel Barenboim's recent collection On My New Piano (Deutsche Grammophon 479 6724). Tonally, it gave a strong account of the greater clarity and vividness of color that distinguish the Barenboim-Maene concert grand, especially in the spellbinding performance of Liszt's Funerailles. No less important, the Naim made clear the adventurousness the new instrument coaxed from the artist—how Barenboim leans into certain phrases in the Liszt, and brings a rare intensity to even the relatively staid Scarlatti Sonata in C.


Intensity was also the watchword while listening to the "Red Book" layer of the hybrid SACD of Roxy Music's final studio album, Avalon (Virgin 5 83871 2). For decades, reviewers have puzzled over—and tied ourselves in lexical knots trying to describe—Naim's apparent superiority at making products that excel at conveying timing and rhythmic nuance in recorded music, and the CD5 XS did not encourage a break with that tradition. The percussion in "Take a Chance With Me" had far greater snap, and propelled the song more effectively, than I've experienced from my Sony SCD-777 SACD/CD player (yes, that would be the one for which I traded in my old CD3), and the Naim described the whipcrack timing of Phil Manzanera's guitar accents with analog-like precision.

Maybe because the qualities I associate with mono sound at its best—good senses of presence, substance, and forcefulness—are themselves part and parcel of the Naim house sound, I wasn't surprised that the CD5 did such a fine job of playing some of my CDs of historical recordings, such as the 1927 recording of Beethoven's Symphony 3 by Hans Pfitzner and the Berlin Philharmonic (Naxos 8110910). I recall John Atkinson mentioning his preference for Otto Klemperer's (stereo, 1960s-era) version of the second-movement funeral march, but after hearing Pfitzner through the Naim I made a note to keep the CD5 for as long as possible, so JA can hear this disc the next time he visits. Especially in the movement's first few minutes, the lower strings sounded convincingly weighty in a way that increased the momentum of those lines, and near the end of the movement, the sense—the audible feeling—of mallet hitting kettledrum skin was so palpable that I could forget, a moment at a time, that I was hearing a transfer from 90-year-old 78s. And my all-time favorite Mahler Symphony 1, recorded in mono by Dmitri Mitropoulos and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (Sony Classical MHK 62342), sounded as present and tactile as I've ever heard it—though not as vividly colorful as through the Luxman D-06u CD player.

Returning to the world of two-channel sound, and bearing in mind that Naim makes even less of a fuss than I do about soundstaging and stereo imaging, I set about getting a handle on the CD5 XS's spatial performance. With a great live recording of the Brahms Symphony 4, by Rudolf Kempe and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBCL 4003-2)—a recording notable for having the violins split, 19th-century style, with firsts on the left and seconds on the right—the Naim sounded considerably more forward than my Sony player, yet did a fine job of sorting out the seating of the players. Especially during some of the strings' pizzicato phrases in the first movement—eg, the one that begins at about 8:50—the Naim portrayed spatial distinctions not as gimmicks but as welcome complements to Brahms's counterpoint. For its part, the Sony made more of the recording's spatial content, communicating more explicitly the sense of left-right movement in some of the swoopier phrases. For that, one might consider the Sony's performance more accomplished, and truer to the information on the disc. But for my money, the Naim's approach to imaging was more musically meaningful. (And while this paragraph is all about space as opposed to substance, I can't help mentioning the good, meaty sounds of the flutes on this recording through the Naim, along with strings that were similarly substantial, if lacking the textural subtleties heard through other CD players. The Naim also avoided the slight shrillness I heard in some of the higher-pitched violin notes through my Sony SCD-777.)


With the Sonny Rollins Quartet's Rollins Plays for Bird (Prestige/JVC JVCXR-0055-2), the Naim's punchy sound and upfront spatial presentation seemed to contribute to a lifelike re-creation of Rollins's tenor-sax tone: colorful and appropriately reedy, especially in the "They Can't Take That Away from Me" portion of the medley that opens the album, and in the trill that begins the "Star Eyes" segment. Equally well served, earlier in the medley, was the smooth, rich tone of trumpeter Kenny Dorham. Yet all those parts, revealed in dissection, paled in comparison to the importance of the whole: The music moved forward with the relentlessness that is usually the sole province of the real thing. It swung. The only other thing I'll single out about the Naim's performance on this disc was the believable impact and, at times, dangerous-sounding explosiveness of drummer Max Roach's breaks, which were godlike. The same was true of his even harder-hitting solo near the end of "Kids Know."

A confession: I tend not to think highly of one-brand systems. Just as I don't know of a single manufacturer, past or present, whose every product is recommendable, I don't know of a single manufacturer that has applied the same levels of insight and craft to every single product category in domestic audio.

That said, in my esteem, Naim Audio enjoys an ironic combination of extremes: Assuming I could be satisfied with only digital sources—and I could not—if I were forced, at gunpoint, to own such a system, Naim would be near or at the top of my list. Yet at the same time, beginning with my first exposure to their CD3, Naim's CD players have struck me as so musically competent and yet so tonally reticent—by which I mean that when they fall short in the reproduction of tonality, they do so by being a little colorless, not by having an abundance of one color or another—that I find it difficult to imagine the musically accomplished system, regardless of the brands or technologies it might include, in which a Naim CD player would not only thrive but drive the sound to new heights. The lack of froufrou in Naim's CD players only strengthens that point of view, and could be improved only if they offered a CD player without a remote control. (A guy can dream, can't he?)

The Naim CD5 XS only strengthens that conviction: Its sound quality ranges between good and very good—and musically, it is nothing short of superb. It also offers nongaudy, nondated cosmetics, and superb value for the dollar (footnote 1). Very strongly recommended.

Footnote 1: After this issue with this review had been sent to the printer but before it went out in the mail, Naim's PR rep informed us that the CD5 XS was no longer in production. However, dealers should have stock through to the end of 2017, we were told.—John Atkinson
Naim Audio, Ltd.
US distributor: Audio Plus Services
156 Lawrence Paquette Drive
Champlain, NY 12919-4861
(800) 663-9352

Ortofan's picture

... Esoteric/TEAC Grandioso K1 or K-01X, the Marantz SA-10, the TAD/Pioneer D1000MK2 or D600 and the Yamaha CD-S3000.

supamark's picture



tonykaz's picture

Of course there are outfits that only make superb products.

That said,

being an Audiophile mandates individual product selections from a wide range of offerings thought to be the best gear selection available.

Audiophiles are music System builders with their own individual design preferences.

Being an Audiophile is a Mix & Match Statement.

No Audiophile could be happy with an all LINN system, an all Meridian system or even an all Goldmund system.

"Audiophile Nervosa" is the Hobby part of being an Audiophile.

Don't try the Audiophile thing at the Chevy Dealer, they'll send you across the street to the Auto Parts store to hang out with the hotrods.

Hmm, it makes me wonder if the Enthusiast Network would tolerate the Review of a Complete "One Brand Music System" ?

Wouldn't that be a hoot.

Who would be willing to do such a thing ? It'd make for some interesting reading.

Tony in Michigan

supamark's picture

Compare several such systems. While there aren't a lot of mainstream companies that offer a full line of high quality stuff, I could see a real interesting "shootout" between:

Bryston (they do make a turntable)
Technics (their new TT's and speakers are interesting and well reviewed)

You could bill it in int'l terms - US vs Canada vs Britain vs Japan since all have a lot of successful high end audio equipment makers or in style terms since each company has a strong identity (and all but Technics have a sort of house sound). Is there a German or Scandanavian company that has a full line and meets Stereophile's review criteria for availability in the US?

tonykaz's picture

Of course a big Shoot-out would be a gigantic undertaking. Who could house such an adventure?, RMAF possibly?

Europe has lots of music system suppliers.

I'm kinda looking forward to having a go with Mark Levinson and his latest music system.

Just now, we're able to have Genelec and even Kii make their entire music system contained inside their Loudspeaker enclosure. Phew!

The Genelec even does Room Eq corrections.

Tony in Michigan

supamark's picture

I've still got my pair of Genelec 1031A's that I bought new in 1992. Right now just savin' up a li'l dough to have them serviced/refurbed by the Genelec rep in the US (lightning strike shorted one of the power supplies ~6 years ago) - that's one of the great things about Genelec, they still have the parts to refurb my 25 year old speakers to original spec's (early version, amps are discrete instead of IC's, w/ hand written serial numbers - higher peak SPL for better transients than later revisions). Their new pro monitors, besides the DSP and cast aluminum enclosures, show some very innovative thinking/design. Hell, all those waveguides you see now? Genelec was doing that in the 80's (and popularized it with the 1031/1030 models in the 90's).

That's one thing I don't see mentioned when talking about active speakers - passive x-overs seem to dull transients a smidge more than active x-overs.

It's not just Genelec with room correcting DSP, Dynaudio professional has been doing it for well over a decade (as has Genelec). I'm really surprised it's taken as long as it has for Dynaudio to release active monitors into the consumer market. In the pro audio near/mid-field monitor market, everyone follows what Genelec (and to a lesser extent Dynaudio) does. Barefoot Sound is another company to keep an eye on with their MicroMain and MiniMain systems.

Those new Kii speakers do sound intriguing, but I'm still not sold on moving D/A to the speaker - I don't want to have to replace my speakers when new/improved digital tech comes out and I don't want my volume control in the digital domain. Hell, I'm still running a pair of (partially rebuilt) Boston Acoustics T1030 speakers from 1990 (their last acoustic suspension flagship model) until my Genelecs are refurbed.

Man, I really miss acoustic suspension speakers being common... the bass is so much better. My T1030's bass is the best I've personally heard in a full range speaker, but I've not heard the Magicos - I'd assume their S3 and up models are better in the bass than my "90% of a Matrix 801 at 20% of the price" T1030's per the review in Audio Magazine (I think by Tom Norton, wish Audio was still around though many of their reviewers are here at Stereophile and Sound&Vision).

tonykaz's picture

including B&O are exciting.

Not for the "hair shirt audiophile" who needs to ponder various Amps, Wires, Trusses, room treatments, room placement, peer approval.

I can imagine a listening room that only has two loudspeakers and no rack full of gear, the listener controls the speakers from his iPad. Just as we see Mr. JVS doing in Jana's video of Jason in his home system. hmm.

I want us to have what Jason has, without the fussy, a DSP music system.

Tony in Michigan

ps. the new "1" Genelec series is for the Consumer. ( in colors )

supamark's picture (their "The Ones" point source range, really interesting design)

I didn't think they had a consumer version yet. I've always wanted a pair of their long discontinued S30C compact 3 way active with ribbon tweeter. The 1031A was the pro version of the HT208, mine are in the original wood veneer (w/ discrete amps) instead of the textured finish (and IC amps) of the later "producers version".

tonykaz's picture

Yes, I think I am pointing to these 1's with their DSP.

Seems like all of the technically ( engineering ) capable, European Music Companies ( i.e. B&O thru Genelec ) are moving in this direction.

From here ( I suspect ), we'll see the Smart Phone entry level music System ( like the LG Tone ) with the Genelec type speaker being the Up-Grade .

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

And I would also describe it as 'realistic', you have nailed Naim's approach 'down to a T', so to speak.

Three points:
1) Even the entry level Naim CD players are so good one wonders if they are competing with themselves? I realise that they are 'covering the market' with the variously priced players, but owning an earlier lower cost one I wonder if the differences between them is worth the extra cost.
2) At this price I don't see many adding the external power supply when even the lower cost power supply is almost as expensive as the player itself.
3) Using the Naim 'manual' CD tray is in fact much quicker than using the usual self-loading ones. And it never jams. Don't lose the puck :)

Tony in Michigan:
I don't think you would be in any way disappointed in an 'all Naim' system. I have just that with two exceptions, a Chord Dave DAC, mostly used via USB from a computer (I will no longer buy expensive DACs that use someone else's 5-10 dollar 'off the shelf' chip to do most of the work, which I see as merely implementing someone else's ideas as best you can), and Tannoy speakers.
And I arrived at Naim 'accidentally', I did not start off with Naim in mind. But now it's Naim CD player, phono stage (for my rare ventures into vinyl), pre and power amps, and 'streamer'.

I have no connection with Naim other than as a customer.