HARD DISK PLAYERS: Totally confused …

First, please excuse me for asking simple questions. I have looked around but cant find the answer to all the below given in a straightforward way I can understand.

After about 16 years of hifi inactivity I've been upgrading a bit lately and after a bit of faffing around, have settled with my Naim – based system which is now CD3.5 with Hicap, Supernait, and Neat Mystique 2 speakers. I like the sound I'm getting and feel unless I was going to splash out an awful lot more cash I won't get much better.

Anyway, I know my CD won't last forever ( I bought it in 1997 ) and I'm going to look to the hard disk type thing for the future. However, I'm knocking on a bit, not terribly techie, and I'm a bit baffled by all it entails. I would like to stick with Naim as far as is practical so was considering saving for an NDX and a Q NAP set up to buy in a few months time. However, in preparation I've been nosing around a few forums and spoken to a couple of dealers and this has confused me.

I have been variously advised

  1. The NDX is all right paired with the Q NAP and with the files ripped on my mac using XLD.
  2. Above system will sound second best and really I'd need to use a unitserve to rip the CDs as ordinary computer ripping is not going to give as good quality.
  3. I should use a Naim DAC with Unitiserve for the very best sound quality
  4. I should use a Denon streamer ( forget which) plugged into a Naim DAC for the best quality
  5. I should use a Mac Mini with Naim DAC
  6. I need both a NDX and Unitiserve

I'm getting really confused. I realise some might prefer the sound of a Naim DAC to an NDX out of preference, and others might feel the Denon sounds nicer than other makes, but I don't really understand the basics. Does it really matter to the quality of the files if you rip using XLD on a Mac or use a Unitserve? Do I need a unitiserve in addtion to the NDX? Would I be better forgetting the NDX and going with a mac mini and unitiserve?

I know everyone will have a view but is there some sort of “idiots' guide “ I could find which would explain all this to me. I have asked dealers but they haven't given me the same advice and left me more confused than ever

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