I should mention right away that I have had a high regard
for Naim products from my earliest involvement with proper HiFi (late
seventies) but I have never got around to owning any myself. Assuming a
pre/power combo and an LP12 or these days a Naim CD player the expected
system cost of $10000+ could be assumed to slow most customers down so
in an attempt to put my money where it was most likely to generate a
sale I never stocked Naim when I was retailing from a storefront
In the last few years though I have had opportunities to
hear Naim gear in a few Spendor customers homes and have always been
very impressed, but without my own music and acoustic space to make
comparison against what I am used to at home I could never really judge
how good the gear was. I have also had quite a few customers tell me
how amazing their Naim systems are, further causing me to think I must
revisit the simple looking black boxes from the UK.
This Naim combo retails for less than $5000. Naim seems to
look like better value throughout the range compared with the old days
actually. They have a pre/power combo for as little as $4900. Upon
finding out how affordable the new range seemed on paper I entered a
note in my to do list to ring Mr Naim.
With Warren Stolmack's (the Australia authorised importer)
positive and helpful attitude coupled with the previously mentioned
positive feedback I placed an order and in double quick time the two
pieces which are the subject of these notes landed on my doorstep. In
even quicker time I had them set up and going with the hope that the
break in period would not be as long as many folk on the web suggest
(up to a year!).
The Nait integrated has been around for twenty years but
right or wrong has had a reputation for being a little touchy on system
matching and somewhat gutless. This model is relatively new and has
twice the power of the older designs. The CD player has also recently
benifited from a trickle down of Naim's CD technology from more
expensive players including the rather bizarre disc draw arrangement.
Ignoring running in issues I stuck a disc on the CD mech's
spindle (the complete mechanism is in the draw) and fitted the easily
placed magnetic puck. Even though completely factory fresh out of the
box it was obvious that this quite affordable combo ($4696) was going
to alter my expectations of what 'high fidelity' is or can be. I have
had a few experiences like this before. Everyone interested in audio
has. Your first listen to any decent HiFi is what probably got you
here. Then there may have been some big steps up in fidelity along the
way that have impacted on your expectations. For me a few of them would
be the LP12, LS3/5a, Martin Logans, Alon 4's, a Meridian CD player
years ago and now this Naim combo.
Even in the first hour the precision of the sound it
output to the S6e's was obvious. Upon further auditioning over the next
few days I became aware of this combo's incredible detail retrieval
capabilities but at the same time the overall sound was very natural.
Definitely no tizz or exaggeration of the upper mid. I also noticed how
I was receiving the most palpable stereo image I had heard in this room
ever. Placement was very stable and precise. The bass was as tight and
as rhythmic as all Naim equipment reviews suggest it is which is
seemingly a notch up on just about any other brand. At this stage (4 or
5 days since setting up) I was a little concerned about a very subtle
coldness and perhaps subtle graininess, more obvious with some discs
than others. At this stage I decided to just leave the whole system on
repeat ( I had not actually switched it off yet since setting it up as
Naim don't give you a front panel power switch) in the hope of speeding
up the generally excepted rather long run in period.
I came back to the system 4 or 5 days later with the task
of running in a pair of fresh S5e's for a demo the next day (yeah I
know I left it a bit late!). This was going to be interesting as many
of my Spendor clients who also own Naim seem to have S5e's and they
just love the combination. Now I can understand why. Can you please
explain to me how a fresh pair of S5e's can sound better than I have
ever heard a fully run in pair on my normal amp/cd combo sound. I was
quite stunned at the warm, lifelike, detailed, very fast and precise
sound that was forthcoming. More amazing than that though was the bass!
Bass like I have not heard from S5e's. Convincing in proportion and
very quick. Naturally by midday the next day upon my customers arrival
the sound was now more balanced and sweeter as the S5e's started coming
more on song and opening up somewhat.
In the last week I have been running my well run in pair
of S9e's on the pairing and now hearing a system where both the front
end and the speakers are loosened up I am convinced that Naim really
offers up astounding performance for this kind of money. The volume
that the Naims could achieve through the big S9e's was impressive. The
control and detail were at another level above what I have previously
heard through the big Spendors. The previous concerns I had with the
slightly closed in sound, a maybe slightly cold tone that could occur
occasionally seemed to have gone, presumably as part of the nearly
three week long running in period where the amp and CD were powered up
the whole time and played for half of that time.
I tried the amp with a few different CD players as lets
face it $2500 for just a CD player is not how everyone would spend that
amount of money. I still obtained a lot of what was on offer with the
Naim pairing by slipping in a different disc spinner, but the bass
definitely went a touch full and slow and the imaging seemingly
collapsed a bit. The obvious improvement in detail over other systems I
have used in this room was also less, well, obvious! Overall I would
say the CD5i is perhaps 40% of the equation when paired with the Nait.
I can certainly highly recommend buying both but only on the basis that
you already have a pair of speakers at least the quality of S5e's or
better. I had saved $2000 by changing out the Naim CD for a tweaked up
Pioneer but the CD5i is definitely the icing on the Naim/Spendor cake.
I was impressed with the way the Naims didn't pull
recordings apart. Even mediocre recordings sounded together and
In regard to the looks and build quality I personally love
the simplistic, no bull approach. If you like HiFi jewellry you are
going to need to look elsewhere. This equipment is about performance
and nothing else except perhaps incredible reliabilty. At least it
looks and feels like it should last a lifetime.
Naim is not for everyone as the sound may not be as in the
face as some would like and probably not coloured as many would like,
but if you want the truth presented to you in a very listenable and
lifelike way this is the stuff for you. I love it!
Notes: I used the Din connection (supplied) when listening
to the pair and a Merlin Chopin interconnect when trying the Pioneer
and Audio Refinement CD players. I had the components stacked and side
by side during the listening. The amp doesn't seem to even get warm so
having the CD on top as shown in the pics above shouldn't present a