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  1. #1
    Audioshark
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    Apr 2013
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    Sarasota, FL
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    NAIM, flying under the radar?

    I haven’t written much about this brand, even though we’ve been selling it for years and I’ve been living with it for years.

    In the store, we have a significant investment in NAIM equipment from the UNITI series products like the Core and ATOM Headphone to the 300 and 200 series in the separates. We also have the NAIM NDX2 streamer with XPS-DR power supply. We just added the phonostage (SuperLine with SuperCAP-DR), a phonostage Michael Fremer called “one of the best at any price.”

    At home, I’ve been using a SuperNAIT 3 with a Hi-CAP-DR and NAIM’s entry level streamer for a while.

    I find the NAIM stuff quite “tweaky”, but once warmed up (about 10 days to reach peak performance), it is really one of the best for musicality (incredibly musical), transparency, dynamics (incredibly dynamic), micro detail retrieval, sounstaging, separation and smoothness.

    NAIM doesn’t get wrapped up on Class A, AB, but NAIM is in reality, Class B.

    The thing that I haven’t quite grasped is how EVERYTHING impacts the sound dramatically with NAIM. The system MUST be on for at least 7-10 days to reach peek performance. If you heard it (as two members did) after being just turned on, you would never buy it. But if you heard that same system 10 days later, you wouldn’t believe the transformation.

    With NAIM, you need to turn off anything you’re not using (such as inputs and outputs on the streamer) or the display screen on the streamer or other items. All of that electronic noise vastly affects the sound.

    The NAIM ecosystem with the Uniti CORE, the NAIM app and so much more are all excellent and quite stable.

    I personally consider NAIM one of the best - if you have the patience of Job to understand the system (DIN4, DIN5, Burnby cables, etc.) and really get into the ecosystem. NAIM isn’t overly fussy on power cables, but I have found Shunyata works the best. NAIM is fussy with speaker cables and you need to stick with “FOR NAIM” speaker cables such as those from NAIM, Chord, AQ and Nordost, among others.

    I hope everyone at some time can get to enjoy a full NAIM system.

    On the audio circuitry (from Wikipedia: Naim Audio amplification - Wikipedia)

    Audio circuitry

    Vereker believed that loss of information, often due to overload protection, was a damaging type of distortion that amplifiers were vulnerable to.[12] Vereker attempted to reduce information loss at the design stage, by unconventionally disregarding test-bench measurements of harmonic distortion performance and output into a static resistive load.[12] Naim says that to achieve amplifiers with low harmonic distortion, low noise, wide power-bandwidth, and constant dynamic output impedance, they pay attention to balancing dynamic impedance, open-loop bandwidth, slew rate, and propagation delay; the amplifiers are not subject to slew-rate limitation between 5 Hz and 50 kHz.[13]

    Vereker believed that a properly designed amplifier would not need tone controls, since these filters were often palliatives for poor design. He contended that tone controls represented a cost of manufacture yet were detrimental to sound quality.[12][14][15] Therefore, starting with the NAC 12, Naim amplifiers have never featured the tone controls that were popular elsewhere in the industry.[3][4][10][14][16]

    Vereker considered Naim amplifiers belong to the "class B" category where bias current is minimised. He believed that "class A" design was wasteful and masked significant design issues.[Notes 1]

    Electrically, the pre-amplifiers are bandwidth-limited, and while Naim is open to the possibility that users might match their pre-amps with another make of power amplifier, Naim warns against using other makes of pre-amplifiers with Naim power amplifiers, arguing that the former define the operating parameters of the latter and guarantee its stability.[18] In practice, modern products' bandwidth has been much extended, but the pre- and power-amplifiers are of such a tight operational fit and sonic synergy that they are rarely used with other makes.[19]

    Power source[edit]
    Naim has from the outset externalised pre-amplifiers' power source, unlike other manufacturers, citing the undesirability of having AC and transformers' powerful magnetic field near sensitive pre-amplifier circuitry – the "key point of separates".[20] Its over-engineered power supplies, aimed at ensuring adequate 'headroom' (ample reserves of power) for transients, are equally well-known.[1][7] Naim strongly believes that an ample source of power is of the greatest importance, and the availability of external PSUs to accompany its products also reflects the philosophy.[4] The performance of most of its pre-amplifier range benefits from adding one of a number of power supplies, which provide permutations for upgrading.[8]

    Output protection[edit]
    Vereker also believed that a well-designed amplifier must be stable at all times when driving real-life loads, which are different from those achieved in lab conditions because loudspeakers' impedances vary with frequency.[9] The inherent compromise between the pursuits for stability and sound quality means that Naim's power amplifiers are designed to work optimally with its own moderately priced NAC A5 speaker cable, and its predecessor NAC A4.[19] Product manuals warn users against using "high-definition wire or any other special cable between amplifier and loudspeaker".[18][21] Whilst other manufacturers habitually employ Zobel networks[1] (or an output filter which enhances amplifiers' stability) to protect against use with speakers and or cables with very high-capacitance, Naim amplifiers routinely omit these filters because of their adverse effect on sound quality. The design decision was made to use a suitable length of speaker cable (a minimum of 3.5m, with 5m being optimal) to provide the effective inductance.[1][19]

    Isolation[edit]
    There has been a trickle-down of research from flagship models, particularly since the launch of the 5-Series. Subtle mechanical and electronic changes introduced in lower-rung products — as a result of research at the flagship product level — have contributed to build and sound quality: control of internal heat dissipation, wiring, radio-frequency interference and mechanical vibration through more efficient materials, compliant mounting and decoupling.[22][23]

    Naim have found that, with increasing amounts of digital circuitry in their boxes, the electronics are much more susceptible to microphony and other mechanical vibration.[24][25] Inside the top-of-the-range NAC 552 pre-amplifier, the circuit boards are weighted down and have their own suspensions, and there are transit bolts to secure the suspended boards during transport.[25] The rear-mounted mains switch and IEC socket are decoupled to mitigate microphonic effects.[24] The NAIT XS, launched in late 2008, is the first Naim device to use a new bayonet PCB-mounting technique to "float" the circuitry.[24] Also during the development of the NAP 500, Naim discovered that transformers and the power supply electronics in close proximity to audio circuity also affects power amplifiers. Their top models – the NAP 300 and the NAP 500 – now externalise power supplies in separate cases.[19]

    *******************************

    We are seeing in the NAIM Statement series, an adoption of more conventional connections, such as XLR. If this trickles down into the other series, there will no doubt be a great opportunity for putting NAIM products in non-NAIM systems. A NAIM streamer or NAIM Preamp for example.
    My Systems: http://www.audioshark.org/showthread...481#post158481

    "We can hear everything we measure, but we can't measure everything we hear. Let your ears be your guide."

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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    St. Louis, MO, USA
    Posts
    2,034

    Re: NAIM, flying under the radar?

    I agree the Naim I've heard has always been great. I do think in the beginning Naim being mostly proprietary may have held them back along with their different approaches noted in your post. As well, the same brand synergy. Some, but not many, typically buy the entire system at once. Having integrated amps should help I would think. Adding XLR so can work with other brands is a gamble IMO, you never know what synergy you will end up with.

    I used to wonder about their statement amps having low power ratings but learned that's not a big deal as they have the current to drive most anything.

    I don't remember Naim being at AXPONA. I may have missed it. It does seem displaying at shows creates discussion and gets you on people's radar.

    Most of my audio purchases have been circumstance and finding deals o fit my limited budget. If I were to switch brands Naim is on my list.

    Regarding streaming, just my impression from being in audio FB groups, most don't see the need for more expensive streamers. The Bluesound Node seems to be the hottest thing out there. Of course, I know better from experience, ad, most here know the importance of a good streamer. The Node is certainly fine up to a point, as you improve your system you don't want to forget the source.
    Aurender ACS10 w/Audioquest Diamond USB,
    Mark Levinson #526, 532h, JBL 4367's
    Clearaudio Performance DC w/Maestro cart
    All Clarus Crimson cabling, AC to binding post. Surgex
    HT: Marantz AV8003, Linn 5125, JBL SAM3ha, Revel s30,
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    Parasound P6, Coda CSX, Artisan speakers

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    west Michigan
    Posts
    595

    Re: NAIM, flying under the radar?

    I don't understand all of the different products and names of their gear and don't really have an interest in diving in and learning.
    Special connectors, dedicated cable types, same brand collective, etc don't appeal to me.
    However I have heard many positive comments on the Naim sound quality but have never personally heard it nor do I know anyone who owns it.
    My System:
    Lumin A-1
    Joule Electra LA150 Signature Plus
    Pass XA30.5
    Line Magnetic 845ia
    JMR (Reynaud) Offrande Supreme V2
    18" Open Baffle Subs
    Cables: Teo Audio, Cerious Tech, Fusion Audio.
    Two dedicated 20 Amp circuits. Shunyata Hydra. EP2050
    DIY bass traps and custom curved diffusors.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    Boston, MA USA
    Posts
    190

    Re: NAIM, flying under the radar?

    I think that Naim have a following for a reason -- Naim systems do (can) sound wonderful.

    Proper speaker matching is always a good idea; the Naim amps are not super high current, but that leaves many many many speakers/brands to choose from. With my NAP500 dual-mono power amp, my Magico A3's certainly are happy. And I'm happy listening to them.

    Once set up, a Naim system is rather hands off, like other systems. While many report that Naim systems (especially at the higher end) do respond well to careful cable dressing, do this once and that's it. Few of us are swapping things in and out of the system very often I presume.
    Sources: Naim ND555/555PS | Roon Nucleus | Rega P10 / Aphelion 2 | Naim SuperLine / SuperCap DR
    Amplification: Naim 552/500DR
    Interconnects: Naim SuperLumina
    AC Power: Ansuz C2
    Speakers: Magico A3

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NAIM, flying under the radar?

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