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Please explain the Naim mystique...

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by ghostofzuul, Apr 6, 2020.

  1. ghostofzuul

    ghostofzuul Harvester of Sorrow Thread Starter

    I consider myself to be somewhat knowledgeable about this hobby... but one thing that's really struck me over the the last few years is how devoted Naim users are. From what I've seen... most ppl don't mix and match Naim gear.. it's all or nothing... I'm not that familiar with the brand... but I am intrigued... especially by their stand alone power supplies that seem to be mandatory for use with their gear...

    If you are a Naim devotee how would you explain the brand mystique? Do you think there is a discernible Naim house sound? It seems that Naim is an aspirational brand... what do Naim owners aspire to?

    What about people who have moved on from Naim? what caused you to switch brands? What do you use now instead of Naim?

    As someone with limited exposure to Naim what products of theirs should I seek out for auditioning that will convince me to become a Naim true believer?
  2. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    Good thread. I don't have the answer, rather I'm wondering if there is a cult of Devialet. Certainly there is a cult of Linn and a cult of McIntosh.
    BayouTiger, McGuy, Blair G. and 2 others like this.
  3. sound chaser

    sound chaser Forum Resident

    North East UK.
    Totally agree., but I don’t have an answer either, agree Linn evoke same.

    I once auditioned a Naim six pack system with all bells and whistles through a pair of Shahinian Arcs via a Wadia CD player but I didn’t find it as good as a Meridian based system.

    Overall, I’ve never owned a Naim component, but fast forwarding, I have recently replaced an old Meridian CD player with a Naim CD5 and it’s very good, plus Naim have the decency to still make a CD player, so there is that :).
    cdgenarian, david1111, ls35a and 2 others like this.
  4. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    I don't have anything to say about Naim's sound but I've never understood the praise they get for their design. Although I'm entirely dismissive of the aesthetics of a whole rack's worth of black with green accents.
    Aura and bhazen like this.
  5. bhazen

    bhazen Fab Fourever

    Newcastle, WA
    Rambling reply alert ...!

    I'm an all-Naim owner (apart from speakers) ... I think what attracts some customers to Naim is, historically, similar to what Linn and Rega offer as well. All this dates back to the Eighties, when a contrarian hifi movement arose in the UK -- the 'Flat Earth' audio sect. It was a reaction to (I think) U.S.-style high-end audio, with its emphasis on gigantism, bling, soundstaging, etc. and move to return to the musical prime directive (rhythm, particularly.) Also, the Flat Earthers were in revolt against digital, and were fanatical about the LP and particularly the Linn LP12 turntable. (I depart from them on that score, preferring CD.)

    I think what attracted me to Rega, and later on Naim, was a certain 'addictive' quality to music playback. This may be the 'PRaT' that UK audiophiles were on about a few decades back. Clarity, and rhythmic elements well organised. Seemingly. :) Honestly, I don't know how much was engineering know-how or how much was hype or voodoo. But I always seem to gravitate back to Naim kit, and I find it very satisfyingly musical. Is there some innate quality there, or is it something I'm just used to after 18 years? Who knows. I do know that, generally speaking, I prefer listening to music on Rega, Naim etc. than on, say, big American-style high-end gear (D'Agostino amps, Wilson speakers, Levenson, Krell, etc.) ... there's more 'fun factor' with that UK kit.

    But that's just me.

    I think today's nascent audio cult is low-power tube amps driving efficient speakers, along with updated vintage turntables (old Garrards, etc.) Kind of a neo-vintage thing. Audio Note, Shindo, Well-Tempered, DeVore, Auditorium 23, Decware, Oswald's Mill and others seem to be major players in this.

    (FYI a great place to learn more about Naim, Linn, Rega and all things Flat Earth is the Pink Fish Media audio forum, out of the UK. www.pinkfishmedia.net)
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2020
    Hardcore, edwyun, Art K and 35 others like this.
  6. Jim N.

    Jim N. Get off my lawn, punk, or hear my Mossberg sing!

    So Cal
    It's all in the Naim ;-).

    Read a lot of positive reviews but never tried it myself mainly due to cost. But it does seem to have a strong cult following.
  7. JoeSmo

    JoeSmo SL1200 lover....

    Having been a Naim owner, I too, am baffled by this ott devotion and, also, aggression towards any other makes by Naim acolytes, ( just read their forum, it’s not a tolerant place ).

    The Naim sound is fine, if it’s on song. However, it’s fussy equipment and sometimes it isn’t and their forum is littered with posts, from owners euoligising the amazing performance one moment, and then looking for advice about adding a power supply because, the bass has disappeared or the system has suddenly started to sound “harsh”.

    I sold on because I got fed up with the rollercoaster ride but I’m happy to admit when it was firing on all cylinders their amplification was hard to beat.
    DonMan, tayside, cdgenarian and 5 others like this.
  8. Fishoutofwater

    Fishoutofwater Forum Resident

    I think some folks just stick with what feels right for them in some sort of blinkered feeling of loyalty. I am a Cyrus guy and nothing you will say will dissuade me. For me its "perfect". I think a lot of Naim fans are the same. That goes for other makes too. Its just the way some of us are i guess
  9. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    I see that missed a very important qualifier. I meant that I’m *not* entirely dismissive :laugh:
    wrappedinsky, david1111 and timind like this.
  10. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Essex, UK
    Well, I fall into the cult of Linn camp, albeit I've scaled back massively in latter years. I'd not mix a Linn setup either, so similar I guess. The obvious answer to the cultism is that it just sounds great! I had an LP12 before ever owning a Linn CD, and honestly listening to music was never a chore. The number one feeling I recall from my initial listening was that nothing was forced, and that listening to music was just sheer bliss.

    I've stuck with Linn over the years. If I were to buy new components - which is a real possibility over the next couple of years - I'd like to think I'd look other places other than the current Linn catalog. I can understand why some people would not like the Linn sound. I only recently, and by recently I mean in a couple weeks ago, committed the sin of buying a Graphic Equalizer for my little setup, I've not dared mess with the Linn sound before. :D

    Aesthetically, I MUCH prefer systems without the bling. I don't want lots of lights, lots of color, and other nonsense. A plain grey box with the all the necessary inputs and outputs is what I want. Good hi-fi doedn't need bling, LED's, and the like. Understated is the perfect design choice for higher end hi-fi, imo.

    I'd imagine Naim owners feel the same. You like what you like, I guess.
  11. Roy Crossland

    Roy Crossland Forum Resident

    I once borrowed Naim stuff over the weekend from a hifi store. It was very expensive so my expectations were high. Didn’t like the sound at all. It felt like the loud speakers had a blanket over them. Returned to the store of course.

    The Naim fans talk about prat, pace, rhythm and timing. I don’t get it. Then you need their speaker cables or the amplifier will explode. And of course you can buy extra electronic boxes with different names and connect them to the already expensive amp to make the sound even better. Soon you have payed a fortune and end up with an amp, a lot of cables and electronic boxes together with Naim’s own speaker cable. You better love the sound!
    DonMan, Blair G., Bananajack and 8 others like this.
  12. Robsonschoice

    Robsonschoice Well-Known Member

    Ipswich UK
    Running a small HiFi business 12 years ago I too never knew what the deal was with Naim, listened to it but it never grabbed me...sound was SoSo and we found other brands mixed together and matched up sounded 'better' but its the same with photography Nikon or Canon or nothing else compares or can take a good picture.
  13. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    People got brainwashed into buying Naim in the 80s and got hooked on it. Sounds different than other gear which may have been used as a marketing ploy in the past. Different isn't right however. More recent models are more 'mainstream' in sound (less colouration). The old stuff that UK magazines pushed as the only amplifier to buy sounded gritty and bandwidth limited to my ears. You were allowed a NAD for budget / entry level then it had to be Nait. Then you were hooked on the upgrade path to built in dissatisfaction and more upgraditis. Me, I bought an Audiolab 8000A - much nicer - to replace my NAD 3020.
  14. DeeKay

    DeeKay Well-Known Member

    Pennines, UK
    Covid-induced Ramble warning....
    I had 25 years of music from Naim kit and for what it cost I think I got good value. I think the idea of optional and hierarchical power supplies was inspired. You can get on the ladder and have defined options of what to aspire to next with each component, whether adding a psu or going up a level, which to some extent, distracts you from what else may be available. There are many who will then want all the kit to match aesthetically including all the voodoo around what bits sit under which. Their own forum propagates all this well by having a concentration of knowledge and experience which often does the selling job for them. Then you have the buoyant used market the aspiration creates. It’s a great business model but it also lessens the perceived risk in upgrading as there’s a good chance you’ll get enough cohesive guidance from a community full of people who’ve trodden the exact path you’re on. Many will not risk mixing brands as much of the kit has Din or proprietary interconnects, again clever.

    For me staying on the Naim bandwagon was a little of all the above but more to do with a great relationship with a trusted dealer who would happily supply a few grands worth of kit to try at home for a week, no paperwork or pressure.

    I think it does have a house sound by design and I was fine with it at the time but realised it influenced what I listened to. I just didn’t “get” some genres so got into a musical rut.

    It was hearing an unplanned Audio Note demo (I’d just dropped by for a cable) that got me excited about music again. After replacing most of my system with AN I went from buying a handful of CDs a year to around a hundred a year and am now constantly discovering new artists and enjoying music more than ever.

    I think you can do a lot worse than Naim for the money, check out their forum for detailed insight but no one should convince you whether it’s for you or not. Buy with your ears but if you’re used to, and like your tubes, the SS kit from most might not do it for you.
    markus53, cdgenarian, bhazen and 5 others like this.
  15. brubacca

    brubacca Forum Resident

    I think others have hit the nail on the head. Naim is all about the flow or feeling of the music. Not the last word in detail at all.

    My introduction to Naim was visiting a coworkers house about 7 years ago. He had an original Nait which he purchased on the 80s. Also had a Mission Freedom pair of speakers. Source was a Rega Apollo-R CD player. I was absolutely blown away with how fun that system was to listen to. It had drive and grunt to it. Again, just an exciting fun listen.

    Because Naim systems are smaller wattage then others there seem to be picky in regards to what speakers you use.

    For example, Naim is often partnered with Totem, NEAT, ProAc, Kudos, PMC, new Focal speakers. Obviously there are others.
  16. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    That was a really interesting post. The "flat earth" era you've described precedes my involvement in audiopilia, although I've heard it referenced before, but you've clarified nicely what it was all about.

    The only Naim gear I've heard was an amp at @Lebowski 's house, and it definitely had similarities to my Rega Brio-R, which was often compared to the Naim Nait.
  17. jeddy

    jeddy Forum Resident

    I had CYRUS gear for years
    bi-amped and cd players....
    I liked it but it wasn't perfect....however I think the Brits are "all in" with any of their gear.
    their audio magazines certainly "prefer" their own native brands over everything else!! LOL

    I myself do tend to get into a brand that I think sounds great and stick with it...ALL their components...
    Audiophiles tend to be brand loyal aren't they?
    It's all part of the disease!

    Naim has that dark, detailed sound that people love I guess....
  18. William Bryant

    William Bryant Forum Resident

    Meridian, ID
    Now that this retired conductor has spent a little time looking into the world of “PRaT,” all I can say is that every time I hear that term now I immediately think of a line from the Princess Bride.

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
  19. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    Also back in the 80s name gear used DIN connectors (I believe) and really had to be paired together with special cabling. I think that really bread an all in mentality toward their gear.

    Personally I’ve been a fan of their gear on and off over the years. Really like them for their integrateds. The Supernaits have always been great amps and I’ve always digged their look. No idea how anyone could describe any of the Naim gear that I’ve heard as muffled.
  20. Chilli

    Chilli Pretend Engineer.

    Many moons ago I applied for a job at Naim and had a full tour of their factory. Met staff etc, all very professional, well laid out and seemingly customer orientated. See

    From that if someone demanded that I buy a full Naim system I wouldn't be unhappy. Quality stuff.
  21. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY
    And don't forget the biggest cult of all - the AN UK.
  22. Chilli

    Chilli Pretend Engineer.

    Weird speaker and interconnect connectors were all the rage in the 70s and 80s. My dad's Philips stereo had various din connectors. Not a fan of that style of connector.
    Ignominious and ghostofzuul like this.
  23. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY
    Never owned or heard Naim gear, but have been intrigued by the CD5. Would like to try one, if one can be found in good condition and at a reasonable price.
  24. Lebowski

    Lebowski Hey, careful man, there's a beverage here!

    Greater Boston
    I have a Supernait 2. It's my first piece of Naim gear and I like it a lot. I think there is nice synergy between Naim and recent KEF speakers. I wouldn't say I'm part of the Naim cult (not yet, LOL) but I do find myself looking at their other components now. Most of them I could only afford used (in fact my Supernait was a dealer demo).

    I'm not using their speaker cables, and my amp has not exploded (not yet, LOL).

    My first experience with Naim was borrowing a Nait 5si about 18 months ago and I was not moved by it. I was therefore surprised by my strongly favorable reaction to the Supernait and am really glad I bought it. (and have thought about moving up to the Supernait 3 already!)

    I don't really like this guy, but I think he does a good job discussing the cult of Naim, and the engineering of the Supernait:

    Alan2, Bubbamike, steviebee and 8 others like this.
  25. Billion$Baby

    Billion$Baby Forum Resident

    I just picked up a NIB Supernait 2 for 1700 and am looking forward to trying it out. Their separate Power Supply's are ridiculously priced BUT I was told I can get almost as close to the performance with a Teddy Pardo for a small fraction of the cost. I hear Naim is a great fit with Dynaudio and Harbeth and luckily I have both. My one friend has gone thru probably 100 Amps in his career and he said if he had to start from scratch again he would get a full Naim Stack. I hope I have his ears.
    ghostofzuul and bhazen like this.

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