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Naim Audio

Naim Audio cater to lovers of real music, and put a lot of other high end hi fi to shame. This is what you get when you buy their top system.

Naim Audio

I have long been a fan of Naim Audio. Whereas most high end hi fi manufacturers seem to think that soundstaging, neutrality and detail are the most important traits of an audio system, Naim prefers to concentrate on the music.

Surprisingly they have received a lot of criticism for this attitude over the years. You would think that the most important ability of a hi fi would be to play music, and to play it well. You want to feel the music at an emotional level, to imagine that the instruments are playing for you alone, and the urge to get up and dance should be almost impossible to resist.

All Naim hi fi has this ability to involve the listener in the music, even their cheapest system, but to get the full experience you need to spend a cool £60,000.

The system described here consists of CD player (CD555 & 555PS), pre-amplifier (NAC552 & 552PS), power amplifier (NAP500) and loudspeakers (Ovator S-600).

CD Player (CD555 & 555PS)

Price £16,750

Naim CD555

This is the best CD player on the planet, bar none. It does just one thing, and that is to play CDs. It won't play DVDs, there's no digital output, no input for an iPod. Every aspect has been designed to extract the last ounce of musicality from CDs.

This has been achieved partly through isolation of components, to prevent electrical interferance. The unit that reads the digital information from the CD is completely separate from the unit that converts this into the analogue signal. They are both in the same physical box, but are in shielded enclosures.

The power supply for the CD555 is in a separate component, the 555PS, thus isolating the noise of the supplies from the delicate CD circuits.

Pre-amplifier (NAC552 & 552PS)

Price £15,430

Naim NAC552

The job of a pre-amplifier is to take an input signal (in this case from the CD player) to switch it through to the power-amplifier, and to vary the degree of amplification as the volume control is altered. The signal levels are low at this stage which makes this a critical step in the chain. Naim have always been well respected for the quality of their pre-amplifiers, and this one is no exception.

As with the CD player, this is in two boxes. The separate, low-noise power supply provides independent supply to the different stages of the pre-amplifier. The circuit boards in the NAC555 are fully suspended, thus minimizing the effect of vibration on the electronics.

Power-amplifier (NAP500)

Price £15,325

Naim NAP500

Rated at 140 watts into 8 ohms, this may seem a bit on the low side for those of you used to some of the mega-amps on the market. But don't be misled. This is 140 watts continuous output. Other manufacturers will quote a peak value, that can only be sustained temporarily. The NAP500 can drive loads down to 2 ohms for prolonged periods, has very low distortion and an extremely low noise floor.

This is a product that took Naim several years to develop, with considerable research into every component. The effortless power and control with which it drives the speakers is the result.

Loudspeakers (Ovator S-600)

Price £5,995

Naim Ovator S-600

Up to this point I have been describing a Naim audio system that I have actually heard for myself, but I have to be honest and declare that it wasn't with these speakers. I heard it with the SL2 speakers. These are still available, and about the same price as the Ovators.

The reason I am including the Ovators instead is because they are Naim's latest speaker, and the reports I have heard indicate that they are better still, with more bass depth and control and even better musicality in the mid and upper ranges.

If I get the opportunity to hear these I will update this section.

Anything Else?

Add the cost of interconnects, speaker cable and equipment support, and this comes to just under £60,000. All for a system that only plays CDs! But wow, does it play them. You don't get music like this from anywhere else, unless you listen to a live performance.

One final thing; the speakers can be made active, by removing the passive crossover and using another 2 NAP500s with a SNAXO 362 active crossover. This would raise the total price to nearly £100,000!

Prices for this post were obtained from Billy Vee Sound Systems.

More information about Naim Audio is available from their website.