Naim are a brand with a long history of innovation, inspiration and sheer dogged-determination. You can’t help but admire a brand that will joyfully roll up their sleeves and give pretty much anything (hi-fi related, of course) a very good try. And in the case of Naim, they almost always come up trumps. But when you are willing to try your hand at pretty much everything, it can often lead to a back catalogue of weird and wonderful experimental products that never quite saw the light of day… but not for Naim. From humble beginnings they’ve consistently moved from strength to strength, and since their merger with the French company Focal – another of our favourite brands – their future looks very bright and very innovative indeed. So innovative, in fact, that Naim are credited with producing the first high-end versions of several established hi-fi products.
But how much do you know about Naim, their history and their vast range? On the off chance the answer is ‘not very much’ we’ve put our heads together with them to bring you their history, as well as some information about some of their most significant products to date, all of which you can arrange to demo through us. We like to shout about the brands that rise head and shoulders above the others (you may have already guessed) and we’re a proud official Naim dealer, so it’s up to us the furnish you with as much information as we can.
What’s in a Naim? Let’s find out.
A Brief History
Once again, it all begins with one rather eccentric man with a vision. Oxford born Julian Vereker was the man this time around, with a rare collaboration of passion and skill that needed channelling. His first love was motorsports and motorcars, he built his first car in his teens and went on to race competitively as a younger man, before retiring a two-time champion to focus on the next passion on his list: film-making! A growing interest in sound and light lead to the formation of Naim Audio Visual in 1969, and a keen interest in the recording of music slowly developed. Why ‘Naim’? Naim is a Hebrew boy’s name which translates to ‘sweetness’ and ‘delight’. The reason Naim was chosen as the name is unclear, but we’d be willing to wager its Hebrew meaning may have something to do with it.
Vereker enjoyed live music and experimented with recording live performances – but found them to be of distressingly poor quality. he built a mixer – which proved very successful and was sold to studios around the world…. but it still didn’t reflect the true sound of the live recording that Vereker was after. After experimenting with speakers (including ones he built himself) and amps he realised that half of the problem was manufacturers deliberately adding colouration to create a ‘signature’, ultimately tainting the quality of the music. He decided to put a stop to this and design his own amplifiers, to remove that colouration and get to the sound in its most natural, pure form.
The first of Verekers designed and manufactured power amplifiers – the NAP 160 – was released in 1971, and sold so well he decided to establish Naim Audio Ltd in 1973, a company dedicated to high fidelity sound reproduction, in its many forms and formats.
– The NAP 160 was the first power amplifier – it was discontinued 1986
– The NAC 12 was first pre-amplifier – it was discontinued 1980
– The NAP 250 was the second power amplifier which formed the basis of a current high-end amp of the same name
The first decade of Naim’s production of hi-gear saw the release of three amplifiers which enjoyed a very long shelf life. It also saw the introduction of a pre-amp power supply – the NAPS – in 1975, as well as a brand new electronic crossover for active loudspeakers.
– The world famous NAIT was Naim’s first integrated amplifier, it was discontinued 1988 to make way for newer versions. It formed the basis for several other products across the decades
– The NAP 135 was Naim’s first mono power amplifier. It was discontinued in 2002 after nearly two decades of production
– NAP 135 was their first mono power amplifier, also discontinued 2002 after a long service
– The NAT 01 was the first FM tuner, which was finally discontinued in 2002 to make way for the new ranges. The 80s marked the decade that Naim started to explore the world beyond amplifiers
– The SBLs weren’t technically the first of Vereker’s loudspeakers, but they were the first in-house Naim loudspeakers. They proved to be iconic, and were’n’t discontinued until 2002
– Branching out further still, 1989 saw the release of the ARO, a unipivot tone-arm which is still in use today
The 1980’s was a big decade for the Naim company. They moved to their new – and current – premises in Salisbury in 1980 and scooped up the coveted Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1985 – a high honour for such a young company. It also saw the introduction of the Hi-cap – another pre-amp power supply and a high end speaker cable called the NAC A4.
– The NAC 52 was Naim’s flagship pre-amplifier until 2002, when it was replaced by NAC 252… which we’ll get to in a little while
– Another branch into new product lines was made with the CDS, Naim’s first CD player and the world’s first high end CD player
– The DBLs were the second pair of iconic loudspeakers to get the Naim treatment
– The success of the CDS saw the release of the CDI, an extended range of CD player
– The Prefix, was the first of Naim’s phono pre-amplifiers, and it wasn’t discontinued until 2008
The 90s also saw the introduction of the Super-Cap power supply- which is still in use today, even by us! It also saw a slight return to their AV roots with the introduction of the AV1 – their first AV processor. It also featured a nod to the world of turntables, with the release of a power supply made just for Linn’s Sondek LP12: Armageddon!
Saw the coming of the 5 Series
With the new millennium came a whole new look (so good it stuck!) and a whole new approach with the 5 series and the dawn of the digital revolution. By 2011, Naim had merged with Focal, paving the way for the next wave of innovations to begin. It also saw their second Queen’s Award – this time for Enterprise.
– The NAP 500 power amplifier, still in use and considered
– NAC 552 is Naim’s flagship pre-amplifier, taking over from NAC 252 as the flagship
– CD555 is Naim’s latest flagship CD player
– Superline is a phono pre-amplifier that is still in use today
– The HDX was Naim’s first foray into Hard Disk Players
– The Nait XS is a integrated amplifier that is still hugely popular today
– And the digital age had dawned! The NaimUniti was the first of Naim’s All-in-one audio players – paving the way for the Naim’s new line of digital streamers
– With the new digital direction came the Naim DAC, their first stand-alone DA-converter
– The Naim Ovator S-600 floorstanders were the first high end BMR loudspeakers
– The Naim Ovator S-400 floorstanders, the second of the first high end BMR loudspeakers
– The UnitiQute was the next digital streamer – a scaled down version of Uniti – to be released
As we mentioned before, Naim is a brand of plenty: so much so, we can’t go into details of each product we currently supply. So here is a small selection of some of our favourites, including the set up in our demo room – which you’re always welcome to visit.
Improving on the award winning CD5x wasn’t easy, but Naim’s talent for innovation and perspective through scrutiny eventually gave birth to the refined and class-leading Naim CD5 XS. New innovations include a transformer-coupled digital output that provides the choice of digital or analogue signal output and the critical analogue circuitry updated. The result is a CD player which successful extracts even more music from each DC than its predecessor, allowing for bright and vibrant music, bursting with detail.
Tiny – but powerful! Measuring just 20cm in width, this compact power amp houses class Naim power-amp engineering, scaled down in size but not in power, volume or detail. This means it provides the same dynamic sound without taking up any more space than it has to.
It was about time that an amplification-specialist such as Naim produced something for the headphone’s market – and they finally did! Designed for high end and high impedence headphones such as the Sennheiser HD650, Sennheiser HD700, Sennheiser HD800, Grado PS500, Grado GS1000i and similar. Naim put their scrutiny to the test when they developed Headline, producing an amp with incredibly low levels of distortion and very high levels of detail.
Ahh,. the Mu-so. We love the Mu-so. Does we need to say anymore? Does it even need an introduction? Probably not, but here we go anyway: freshly designed from the gorund up, the first Naim wireless speaker has blown pretty much all competition out of the water. Featuring Internet Radio, AirPlay, aptX Bluetooth and UpnP technology, the Mu-so is able to interface with a wide range of wireless devices, and make listening to your music with glorious sound quality a whole lot easier.
High-end entry-level amplification, and a vast improvment on the previous incarnation: the 5i. With an improved power supply and refined components, the 5Si is convenient, efficient and hugely effective.
As the popularity of the all-in-one systems increased, so did the ranges! Featuring high resolution music streaming from a PC, NAS drive or online music services), CD playback, Bluetooth AptX, internet radio and playback from any other digital audio source – such as an iPod – the UnitiLite remains one of the world’s most sought after digital streamers in the hi-fi realm.
Building on the success of the aforementioned award winning HDX, the Uniti Serve is a lean, mean streaming and storage machine. It features a huge internal hard disk drive, Naim bit-perfect ripping of CDs (slot loading), an Ethernet connection, UPnPTM server, StreamNet technology and local digital outputs. It streams as well as it stores, and is one of the most convenient products available in the world of hi-fi.
Back on the all-in-ones, Naim decided to improve upon their trail-blazing Uniti with the Uniti 2. Combining an integrated amplifier, a CD player, a DAB/FM tuner, internet radio, a dock, Bluetooth Apt-X Connectivity, Spotify Connect Ready, a DAC and high-resolution 24bit/192kHZ capable network stream player, you’d be amazed at just how sleek and compact a system of this calibre can be.
Because we like to find an excuse to show off our high-end set ups – here’s what we have in the Naim section of our demonstration room.
– The NAC 252 pre amp remains as one of the finest examples of amplification yet. With innovative power supply technology and circuitry, the 252 combines truly awe-inspiring sound quality, with user selectable features and a flexibility that ensures it will function beautifully as the heart of a hi-fi system
– The ND5 XS is one of Naim’s crowning jewels, and one of the their finest network players to date. It combines a network player – with all of the features you have come to expect – and combines them with a high-end integrated DAC. It is built from the DNA of the NDX – Naim’s first network streamer, and the first high-end network streamer of its kind – polished, honed and refined, with all the modern features associated with a digital streamer such as internet radio and wireless streaming
– The SuperCap is the literal embodiment of Naim’s chief philosophy regarding the importance of power supply upgrades. The SuperCap is a particularly outstanding example, providing a incredibly high level of detail. exceptional timing and wonderfully broad dynamics
– The NAP 250 is the most recent incarnation of the hugely successful NAP range, and features decades upon decades of perfectionism, innovation and refinement within its sleek and compact range. A power amplifier lays the foundation for a multi-dimensional, holographic sound stage – and with the addition of some suitable speakers – this amp will allow for exactly that
So, what’s in a Naim? The answer is: high-end firsts. Naim are the masters of these firsts: the first high-end CD player- the CDS. The first high-end hard disk music player – the HDX. The first high-end BMR speaker – the Ovator and the first performance-upgradable high-end audio streamer – the NDX. And that is why they are one of the first names in hi-fi: they hone, they refine and they improve. And they slide into modern life beautifully, combining lifestyle and hi-fi with an almost unsurpassed ease.
What can we say? We’re fans.