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Naim CD5 XS CD Player Review  Print E-mail
Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Article Index
Naim CD5 XS CD Player Review 
Listening Session
Conclusion

Set up and Listening:

After I broke in the XS for about 48 hours, I decided to do a bit of A/B comparison with my CD5x. At first, I had a hard time telling the difference between the two. It should be noted I used identical cables, but that my 5x was set up with a Shakti Innovations Shakti Stone, Symposium Rollerblocks Juniors, and, most importantly, connected to a Flatcap 2X external power supply; a major advantage. The two players were tonally similar; after all, I did not expect Naim to depart from the CD5x’s superb, neutral musical vibe. Things got a lot more interesting when I unhooked the CD5x and installed the XS in its place, with the Symposium, Shakti, and Flatcap enhancements. It was evident the XS leapt quite a bit ahead of the CD5x without needing a critical ear to hear the differences.

Specifically, the XS was more engaging. All of the attributes of the 5x that drew me in initially were there, but to a higher, more refined degree. The biggest difference was probably in the high frequencies, which were smoother, silkier, and less digital sounding. As a matter of fact, the sound reminded of players costing significantly more than the XS. In other areas, it excelled as well. Sound staging was superb, again rivaling players priced way above. I absolutely loved the tight, controlled, and articulate bass reproduction.

One of the discs I spun that really got me into the XS is the new live release by the White Stripes, Under Great White Northern Lights, a rocking, raw, document of the Stripes 2007 Canadian tour. The XS gave me a 7th row perspective, with the real, legitimate excitement of a live performance. I wanted to clap along and raise my lighter! Live albums are hit or miss these days, either awash in fake reverb, too much audience ambience, and even worse, come off as a "you had to be there" recording. Not so here.  The XS showed me that Jack White and company chose to showcase their freaky live show for those of us who were not there in a realistic and matter of fact manner.

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The 30th Anniversary Edition of the Springsteen ultra classic Born to Run was in heavy rotation at the time I received the review sample.  I dearly love this album, and the new remaster brings the vision of Bruce and the E Street Band into the 21st century with the great sonic care of Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering.  It also includes two excellent extras, a making of video and a complete performance by the group at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1975.  The XS beautifully kept pace with the timeless song cycle committed to tape 35 years ago. It also allowed me to hear distinct differences between this 2005 release and the mid 90’s Gold Disc version, itself a superb remaster.  I felt the new version had a bit more sparkle and detail, but it did not win out by much.

The XS was superb on new recordings as well. Jamie Cullum, a British pop jazz artist I adore, just released his fourth studio album entitled, The Pursuit. On it, he mixes originals, covers of timeless standards, and even modern songs, such as Rhianna's "Don't Stop the Music." Cullum's superlative piano playing, singing, and arranging were well served by the XS, with the mixes sounding vibrant, new, yet un-digital. Another disc that really showed me how nimble the XS was at serving a variety of recordings was Broken Bells by Broken Bells, collaboration between Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse and The Shins James Mercer. It is a marriage of psychedelic, indie rock and electronica. I was surprised how "live" it sounded, and not like studio patchwork. The great songwriting is the main attraction and the XS had me reaching for multiple plays of this disc.

A few final musical highlights included the new Jimi Hendrix release, Valleys of Neptune, a hodgepodge of various studio performances left in the can, and an older release entitled South Saturn Delta, a collection of odd tracks from previous posthumous releases that were finally mixed and mastered correctly by Eddie Kramer. Hendrix’s Stratocaster and Marshall’s combination had bite and presence, as good as I had ever heard, having been a Hendrix fan for a good 25 years now.  His driving rhythms and late 60’s style studio productions were transported to 2010 and made to sound as relevant as ever. The XS was a fantastic conduit for the vision of Hendrix, Kramer, and the current gatekeepers of his legacy.



 

 
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