Four Of The Best Stereo Systems (Part 4)

3/31/2013 11:32:10 AM

This system takes the streaming concept up a notch. It’s a glorious combination of old and new technology

Naim ND5 XS: $2,925 (Ratings: 5/5)

Roksan Caspian M2: $2,475 (Ratings: 5/5)

PMC Twenty 23: $3,150 (Ratings: 5/5)

This system takes the streaming concept up a notch

This system takes the streaming concept up a notch

The previous system takes some beating, but this final trio takes performance to another level. Each component compliments the nest, and together they make a sensational sound.

Naim has invested plenty of time and effort into streaming and is currently reaping the rewards (and Awards, for that matter). The ND5 XS streamer is a superb unit, packed with features and capable of some stunning sonics. There’s also the benefit of being able to upgrade it with the company’s own power supplies.

Naim ND5 XS: $2,925

Of course, you’re going to need a few optional extras to work with the Naim and create the ultimate streaming system. These include a network storage device, such as the CD-ripping XiVA Music M8 ($1200), a router and Ethernet switch (we’ve found the Netgear N600, $195, and the FS605 work particularly well). If your router is located miles away from the streamer, it could also be worth investing in a pair of Power line adaptors (again, Netgear’s AV+500 does this job admirably) to use your home mains circuit as an extension of your network.

The Roksan Caspian M2 has been a favorite of ours for a few years now. Its looks divide opinion, but it’s built like a tank and provides a suitably barnstorming, yet controlled, sound. It’s a perfect fit for both the Naim and the compact, sloping PMC floor-standers.

Roksan Caspian M2: $2475 (5 stars)

Roksan Caspian M2: $2,475

Whatever your sonic poison, the music possesses the speed of an Olympic sprinter and the form, finesse and agility of a gymnast

The Twenty 23s are a great shout here – they’re unfussy with amplification and hugely flexible regarding positioning.

This system really reaches into the music and conjures up a fantastically layered sound from the front of the soundstage to the back, the amp picks out and organizes all the elements of track in a clear and hugely enjoyable way.

PMC Twenty 23: $3,150

Whatever your sonic poison, this trio delivers with infectious enthusiasm, Music possesses the speed of an Olympic sprinter and the form, finesse and agility of a gymnast. The system zips through tracks when the music demands, but can also mellow and chill, savoring every last morsel of information.

Emotional intelligence

Listen to Emeli Sandé Read All About It and emotions are stirred in a way no other system here can match. Weighty and measured piano strokes, the natural tone of the strings and the dynamic range and distinctiveness of her vocal all combine to produce a sensational sound. Switch to the studio setting of Kylie Minogue’s The Abbey Road Sessions, and the transparency and honesty of the system means the presentation changes accordingly. The singer’s orchestral version of I Should Be So Lucky sounds resplendent, her vocal and the strings both oozing emotion.

No rhythm is too complicated, no bass line too deep. If your budget reaches here, then this system will give you every penny’s worth.

Total system price: $8,550

Or try these…

Roksan Caspian M2 CD: $2,542.5 (Ratings: 5/5)

If you’d rather go for a traditional disc-spinner than the Naim streamer, we’d recommend you stick with Roksan and invest in the Caspian M2. It’s the perfect partner – not to mention a perfect visual match for the Caspian amplifier. Build quality is similarly robust, while its appearance gives the set-up a certain synergy. The player’s warm, rich delivery helps take the edge off unruly CDs, but bear in mind that this character won’t suit some systems in which the other elements are similarly smooth. In this one, however, the PMCs provide enough of a cutting edge to make the marriage of components a harmonious one.

Roksan Caspian M2 CD: $2,542.5

NAD M51: $2,250 (Ratings: 5/5)

The M51 DAC/pre-amp has made quite an impact. It’s arguably one of NAD’s most impressive hi-fi separates ever, combining cutting-edge technology, useful features, flexibility and sensational sound quality. Inputs include optical digital, asynchronous USB and even a couple of HDMIs. The latter allows you to pass through video (the DAC has an HDMI output too) while the M51 strips off the core audio of a DVD or Blu-ray so you can listen in stereo if you’re not enamored with surround sound. It’s a class act all round, and its penchant for uncovering fine detail and following rhythms works well in this company.

NAD M51: $2,250

Bowers & Wilkins PM1: $2,992.5 (Ratings: 5/5)

If your listening room is of small to moderate size, or you’d like speakers that can wow on looks alone, you could insert the B&W PM1s in place of the PMCs. The PM1 also just happen to be hugely entertaining and engaging speakers, which makes them a great match for the electronics. Perched on their optional stands ($600), the PM1s sound at their very best: balance and control in abundance, with excellent integration between the Kevlar mid-bass drivers and dome tweeters.

Bowers & Wilkins PM1: $2992.5 (5 stars)

Bowers & Wilkins PM1: $2,992.5

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