your speakers and room play the biggest part in dynamics you hear from a recording. changing front ends may change a bit of the musics character, but nothing dramatically different. both brands are quite good (if different).
I think in some ways all gear has their own "sound".
Naim tries to recreate the feeling of a live performance in your room. That lends toward a more analog sound. I disagree with statement "misses a lot of the musical" Naim gear is the most musical sounding of any I have heard.
I have had an Accuphase DP55V CD player which was quite nice. I now have a Naim CDX2 which IMO, is a far better CD player.
I own a CDS-3 (with 555PS power supply). To me, it is the least like other Naim gear in that it is actually not as rythmically insistent (which translates to mechanical sounding to me) than their other models. Still, I like the CDX2. Another plus is that the CDX2 becomes a MUCH better player when it is coupled to an XPS2 power supply. That means there is an upgrade path, albeit, an expensive upgrade.
I don't think of myself as a "Naim Hater", but I did have the following experience with the Naim reference two box CDP that retails for $12000.00.
I was going through an extensive auditioning process of CDP's and DAC's, over seven different pieces, and wanted to hear the Naim because it had gotten such rave reveiws at that time. Well, the player I took home was fully broken-in, not damaged or broken, and was one of the worst sounding/unmusical/annoying pieces of gear I have ever auditioned in my home. I gave up trying to see if it would improve or grow on me after three days.
It's all personnal taste and system synergy really, so my opinion is that the Naim digital gear comes no were close to what the best digital front ends have to offer.
I have a CDS ii which is awesome, even after a few years. Naim CD players fit pretty well in other systems. The rest of my setup is tubes, and the Naim player sounds almost as good as my Verdier.
I have had a number of CD players including several Naim player. I have had a Gamut, Arcam, Linn, Classe, Creek, Quad and a half dozen other players over the years. I think the Naim players in general are extremely good. The CD5, CD5x and CDS3 are laid back at the same time very dynamic and involving. The CD5 is probably the bargain of the group. I owned but did not care for the CDX2 which I found too agressive and somewhat "shouty" compared to the 5 series or the CDS3.
I agree with your characterization of the various Naim players. The 'shouty' quality you mention for the CDX2 is what I have described as a rhythmically insistent and mechanical sound. I hear that too with the CDX2.
But, in a lot of systems, this is not so much a big issue and is more properly characterized as a tendency. Someone who finds other players a little too laid back and dull may like that little added zing.
I personally own, and like very much, the CDS3. I have also added the 555PS power supply. This makes a somewhat subtle improvement in the sound (better bass definition, better soundstage depth and better recovery of room cues).
My experience with Naim gear is not positive. I would desribe the sound as relentless and electronic.
one has to consider the older naim players vs the newer players. the 2 box cd player, vintage 1994 is the best cd player i have ever heard. i would agree with reb1208 regarding players of the last 5 years.
I just heard a "Naim" super system with all the top tier goodies with Wilson Benesch speakers and Nordorst Odins.I was speechless.Naim has the emotion/passion/heart and slam that is as close to the human expierence as possible.I have gone through German/Italian and American tube pre and amps.Nothing comes close IMHO.Don't beleive me.Just go out and listen.
I truly dislike Naim products, especially the amps. They are pleasant enough alright, which is the problem right there. They play it safe by trying to not color sound at all, but instead imbue the gear with 'dynamism' which is just a brightened flattness without real depth or emotionality, IMO.
Having said that, I think that their best gear are the CD players. The ones at the very top are wonderful but horribly overpriced (15-30 grand). I prefer about 20 other players at that price.
Then again, I am a tube guy, which is an opposing aesthetic altogether!
I had long experience with Naim sound as well as Accuphase & Esoteric.
If you want a more dynamic, detailed sound, the Esoteric can give you that. However the mids of the x-03 or the X-05 is not as beautiful and seductive as the Accuphase DP500s.
Naim sound is very rythmic and toe tapping, mids is quite good as well & its very musical (gets right to the heart of the music), but to get the most out of the Naim cdplayer,they have to be plugged in 24/7 and placed on really good stands.
I can live with all three of them but each has its own strenght and weaknesses.
Like everything else it comes down to what YOU prefer. Why ask someone else which sounds better. What sounds better to you? If Naim sounds too dynamic at the price of sudtlty or nuance then go for something else. Forget about which sounds more like live music cause none do. Go to a symphony or a jazz emsemble to find that out. I have heard many high cost systems and none sound like a live symphony! I treated my wife to a live classical ensemble in our livingroom one year for our anniversary. No system will ever generate that amount of music. But since I can't afford live musicians everyday (Ah, to be Royalty in the 15th-17th century) I have to live with a artificial means of music reproduction. I agree that the room plays a MAJOR role in a systems "sound". My room is terrible and I've struggled with it forever. SS or Tubes, all had the same problem, aggressive HF.
I own Naim gear and non-Naim gear. I don't find that their amps are colorless and try and play it safe, actually, quite the opposite. At least not the 250/52 series. Sure they don't sound like tubes but tubes don't have what Naim gear can give you. I own both tube and Naim gear. I like both for what they do. The newer Naim gear is quite different from the olive series. My main bitch about Naim gear is it's price, so I buy it used.
Every design is a trade off in some aspect of presentation. Look at cables. What two cable sound the same. Same with CD players. I own Naim amp/preamp but don't own a Naim CD player. I have never heard one in my system but based upon what I already get from my Naim gear I'd rather have a bit more l If the Naim CD player is very dynamic but nat as "musical" as you would like thatn look elsewhere. A friend of mine has a Primare CD30.2. It's a more relaxed player but extremely musical. I love it.