Like a lot of Naim equipment, the HDX tends to lead you toward the rock end of your musical spectrum. But that may be because those who have reviewed it tend to play music at the rock end of the spectrum. I had no problems listening to a fair selection of older jazz, folk and even pumped the thing full of unhealthy amounts of Richard Strauss. Whatever you play, though, it seems to free up your inner rocker; I found myself air conducting Strauss, playing air trumpet to Louis Armstrong and playing air fiddle to the folksy stuff. I still got a lot of the cerebral aspects of the music, but this made you think entertainment first and foremost.
In some respects though, the performance is secondary. It’s a good player, but that’s not the point. What Naim has done with the HDX is make computer audio painless. Although you couldn’t get exactly the same performance as you can get from the HDX, you might be able to get close using a PC and a good DAC. However, the steps you have to go through to simply rip a disc, store it and access it make such a thing difficult without turning your hi-fi into a workstation. You can run the HDX just using the display panel if you want.
This sounds trivial, but is the key to the HDX’s success. It’s also some explanation as to why the HDX has received such flak in cyberspace. Those who are into their hi-fi and computers enough to post to forums are not necessarily the kind of people who will ‘get’ the HDX. Instead, think of the Naim player as a CD player with a very good memory and an interest in musicology for someone who is loathe to use a PC in the living room.
Eventually, we compared the Naim HDX to a CD and a PC solution, with no considerations made toward price. All three produce a comparable performance; the Cyrus duo has the accent on ‘clean’, the PC leads the field when it comes to stark detail and the Naim wins in the sheer enjoy-the-experience stakes (in fairness, an iTunes solution would make the PC more user-friendly, but you still think of it as a computer, where the Naim HDX is every bit the music player). When playing directly off the CD, the Cyrus was the winner by a hair, but both this and the Naim were somewhat more musical sounding than the no-name transport mech inside the PC.
The Naim HDX’s software isn’t perfect; it could do with some Apple-esque user-chumminess and the powerful sorting process of the Sooloos, but it’s certainly not human-hostile. In fact, it’s virtually as easy to use as a Naim CD player, as you might expect. Because it’s the migration product for those who think a computer is for workin’ and surfin’ and a hi-fi is for listenin’.
I suspect the HDX will always divide people. There will be those who think it’s ‘just a computer’ and others who think it’s Naim’s best product since the CD 555. Personally, I think it’s a clever product that starts hi-fi traditionalists (many of whom love Naim products) on the road to 21st Century music delivery systems without too many tears. And for that reason, it’s a lot smarter move on the company’s account than many people credit.
Naim HDX Hard Disk Player
Type: Hard Disk player
Features: Rips CDs to WAV only, 2x 400GB hard disk drives internally, NAS external support for increased capacity and back-up
Line outputs: DIN and RCA
Frequency response: 10Hz-18kHz ± 0.1dB
Output levels: 2.1V rms at 1kHz
Output impedance: 22 Ohms max
Phase response: Linear, absolute phase correct
Distortion and noise: <0.1% 10Hz-18kHz at full level
Disc compatibility: Red book compatible CD, CDR & CDRW
Audio Files supported: WAV, MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA
Mains supply: 100-120V, 220-240V, 50/60Hz
Dimensions (H x W x D): 87 x 432 x 314mm