A HISTORY OF THE FUTURE OF MUSIC
When you see an expert do something really well, it looks easy. Naim Audio has been using technology to make hi-fi look easy since its inception
Salisbury, Wiltshire, is book-ended by cutting-edge technology. There’s that famous Neolithic monument out by the A303 and, 11 miles away in the city itself, there’s Naim Audio.
To call Naim Audio a hi-fi company would be to do it a huge disservice. When Julian Vereker set up shop, he started using technology to deconstruct sound itself. Prevailing wisdom at the time said that all amplifiers sounded the same – and Vereker made it his mission to prove otherwise.
It only took him two years. In 1971 the first Naim amplifier (later to become the NAP 200) appeared, made on-demand for special orders. In 1972 the company won the contract to supply start-up station Capital Radio with audio equipment and, in 1974 it released the NAC 12 preamp to its network of dedicated independent retailers.
Real musical performance
Everything Naim does is about audio quality. Its guiding design principles are all focused on letting listeners hear every nuance in their music – elevating it from simple reproduction to genuine performance. It’s called the ‘Voice of Naim’, and it’s engineered into every product the company makes.
Take 1991’s CDS CD player: the company’s first. Its two-box design (one transport, one power supply) and rare-earth magnet system raised eyebrows across the hi-fi press. Conventional? No. Successful? Absolutely.
Digital was the elephant in the room around that time – adopted by many for the sake of it, and really exploited by very few. Consumers wanted it, die-hard ‘hi-fi people’ didn’t. Naim saw it as an opportunity.
Vereker put his money where his mouth is, too. In 1993 he founded Naim Records, and applied the same engineering rigour to the CD mastering process that he used when starting the company.
As digital tech improved, Naim’s hive-mind began cooking up ever more innovative uses for it. In 2008 the company partnered with Bentley to produce audio systems for its cars. The inside of a car might not be the ideal listening environment, but the advantage for designers is that they know where the listeners will be seated at all times – which means the digital signal processing used to power the system can be honed to perfection. Naim with DSP? Not your typical ‘traditional British hi-fi company’, then…
It’s the company’s willingness to embrace and improve things such as DSP that lets it bring the Voice of Naim to all of its products. Its technology platform gave rise to the Naimuniti all-in-one CD player/amplifier/
ipod dock/tuner/network streamer (which would’ve been unthinkable in the 1980s) the referencequality )D9 hard-disk-based player the standalone DAC and the ND9 network player (a supercharged Uniti, if you will).
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As technology has moved on, so has Naim – but never for the sake of it. -ook inside any of these newer products and you’ll find the same principles you’ll see if you open up a NAP 200. Each component has its own space, keeping it away from unwanted interference. The circuitry is designed to minimise interplay between internal levels. .aterials are chosen for their performance as much as their aesthetic. It’s built to last.
And as each new piece of technology emerges, Naim can bring its voice to new audiences. Want the signature Naim sound in the kitchen? :ou can get it with the .u-so 2b. It shares the same brain as the bigger .u-so wireless system. Want old-school massive hi-fi sound? Plug in a couple of Statement NAP S1 monoblocs and a NAC S1 preamp. Want to control it all? The Naim app can handle your network-stored files, as well as Spotify Connect, TIDA-, internet radio, Bluetooth sources, multi-room and more.
Naim’s agility has taken it from a single, pioneering amplifier made in the back of a shop to the cutting-edge audio technology company it is today. Sound is still at the centre of everything it does – and its technological advances are all [eroed in on making that sound as perfect as possible. It’s about discovery, and science, and, above all, music.