it is a must(i think there's a law)...the whole naim sound is based on synergy(the 'whole' being greater than the sum of the parts)....the players are great, especially with other naim gear. good luck
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My experience is that Naim CD players fit into non-Naim systems much better than non-Naim CD players fit into Naim systems.
Note that the Rega players have a very different sound from Naim. As a whole, the Naim players lean towards fast and lean. The Rega players have a warm forgiving sound that is quite unlike anything else. It's all a matter of taste.
My comments are based upon the Planet and Jupiter. I haven't heard the Apollo yet. I own a CD5i.
FWIW & IMO,
I've had CD5i (on loan from my dealer), CD5X, and now CDX2 (which I own) in my system. I wasn't all that impressed with the cd5i, but it peaked my interest enough to go ahead and order a CD5X from my dealer (with no obligation to buy & w/o ever hearing it). I bought the CD5X (new/discounted) and enjoyed it immensely for a few month's, but it planted the seed to climb higher in the Naim chain. I bought my CDX2 used here on Agon and absolutely love it. And once again, I'm itching for more. Not so much in the form of a CDS3, but more in the way of XPS2. I just don't want to spend the $$$$ right now and really wonder how much of an improvement the outboard p.s. would make. The point is, every time I moved up the Naim chain there were significant improvements, with the move from 5i to 5x being the biggest. And PRaT truly is the Naim of the game. ;-)
I have a CDS3. It is quite a different animal from the CDX2. It appears, on first audition, to be less dynamic than the CDX2. But, it's leading edge attack seem, to me, more natural. It sounds a lot less mechanical and artificial in this respect. Notes to to bloom into space and then decay more like they do in a live performance. But, I know a few people that prefer the more explosive attack of the CDX2.
The big difference between the two is that the CDS3 creates a much better defined soundstage, particularly front-to-back sense of depth.
My big beef with the CDS3 is that it is a bit touchy. Mine refuses to play quite a number of CDs that will play on any other machine, including other CDS3s. The Naim people are no help. They insist that those machines that are more sensitive (i.e., "selective") sound better than the less sensitive ones. Because my machine is becoming more sensitive with time, it won't be long before I can only play one disc, but it should be glorious (I hope it is NOT Nora Jones).
I am personally a bit leery about even NAIM's emphasis on what they call PRAT. If one were looking for the player to impart a kind of impact or edginess that makes the beat more obvious and insistent in rock music, then yes, the CDS3 is not that kind of player. But, I like the CDS3's presentation more than the CDX2 for all forms of music. I would agree that the advantages of the CDS3 are more evident on classical and jazz than rock, making the CDX2 a much better bargain.
By the way, I fully agree with you that there is a big difference between the 5i and the 5x in favor of the 5x. Also, improving power supplies for those NAIM products that allow such upgrade makes quite a difference. A CDX2 on the same power supply as the CDS3 is a nice combination.
I'm a new Apollo owner who's been gushing about it on Audio Assylum. See my review.
However, I know there's trickiness involved in mixing NAIM stuff.
IF one could mix another cdp in with the Naim equipment, I can't think of another better qualified unit at the price level of the Apollo. However, everone's got their own cake mix to bake the perfect cake!
I bought from Dave Holmes at Audio Emporium in Milwaukee. He carries Naim as well as Rega, if I recall correctly. He's extremely knowledgable on Brit equipment. He'd know precisely what the answer would be to your question, I'd think.
His number is: 414-354-5082