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

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Feature -

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).

Al(a&s loo%inç for(arè

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.

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