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Naim Audio (pronounced 'name') is a British manufacturer of high fidelity audio products for domestic use, based in Salisburymarker, Wiltshiremarker, United Kingdom.

History

Naim began when the late Julian Vereker started Naim Audio Visual in 1969 and created a sound-to-light box which he hired out to film production companies. His disappointment with the sound of professional recording equipment at the time led him to design his own power amplifier. The company Naim Audio, was incorporated in 1973.

Naim has a devoted following gained through a combination of its products' performance, build quality,upgrade and after-sales philosophy: Naim is committed to after-sales support of all products ever manufactured by them.

The first Naim power amplifier, the NAP160, was sold in 1971; the two-channel NAP 250 amplifier, launched in 1975, is perhaps Naim Audio's most well-known product, as its basic circuit layout was shared by all the company's power amplifiers until the introduction of the flagship NAP500 in 2000.

Other Naim products, such as the NAC52 pre-amplifier, the ARO uni-pivot tonearm and the SBL (Separate Box Loudspeaker) have also assumed cult status among devotees.

Digital audio

During much of the 1980s, Naim asserted that Compact Disc was a far inferior medium to the vinyl gramophone record. Early discs often lost something in the transfer compared to vinyl, and Naim continued to design their products in this context. However, by 1990 technological advances allowed the production of the Naim CDS, the first CD player considered worthy of the Naim brand.

The CDS CD player has since seen two major revisions (now in its CDS3 incarnation) since its launch in 1991; while subsequent lower-priced extensions to the line are often used by hi-fi reviewers as references at their respective price points. The CD555, which is the "money no object" flagship priced at £15,000, is heralded by Naim as "the ultimate CD player".

Design characteristics

Naim's design philosophy is characterised by the incorporation of over-engineered power supplies to ensure fast and generous current delivery to the audio circuitry. Naim also market independent low-noise power supplies as an easy and effective upgrade path for their pre-amplifiers and CD players.

Their unique design approach can be seen, for example, by their use of materials — the semiconductors, heavy toroidal transformers, iconoclastic solid aluminium black cases — their obsessive attention to earthing, screening and isolation from electronic interference, through to their preference for XLR, DIN connector and the BNC connector (as opposed to the RCA connector used by almost all other manufacturers). However, bowing to market forces, RCA phono plugs are now fitted as standard, in addition to DIN plugs on most Naim products.

The company's pre- and power- amplifiers, especially, are carefully matched electrically and are designed to be used together. Dire warnings attach to experimentation with other manufacturers components, particularly in the case for some "high-end" loudspeaker cables, whose inductance/capacitance characteristics present unstable loads to the high-current devices used inside Naim power amplifiers — these have been documented to cause damage to same (not covered by warranty).

Partnership

During much of the 1970s and 80s, Naim adopted a symbiotic relationship with Linn Products, and their names were often mentioned in the same breath. Linn was the notable engineering company products and Naim was its partner for audio electronics. During this time, the Linn/Naim system was a preferred combination for many a serious audiophile.

The two companies had almost the same sales and marketing strategy, and shared many of the same retailers/dealers. The company's emphasis on selling products through comparative demonstrations in a single-speaker environment was a move away from marketing space of the chain electronics stores in favour of small independent retailers [in the United Kingdom].

The two companies diverged during the 1980s, at the dawn of digital audio. This was partly due to the convergence of technology, but also because Naim had significantly fewer dealers than Linn. This presented problems for Linn dealers trying to sell Linn speakers which were specifically designed to work at their best with Naim amplification. Both Naim and Linn began broadening their product ranges and started encroaching on each others' historical areas of expertise. The CD player is an electro-mechanical device requiring both sets of competences. Naim began making loudspeakers and Linn began making electronic components.

The Naim Label

Naim also went into the record business in order to supply Compact Discs which were both technically and musically good enough to satisfy analogue/vinyl disciples. This was to be Vereker's personal project. The first CD to appear on the Naim recording label was Electric Glide by Gary Boyle, one of the company's favourite vinyl demo records.

Milestones

  • 1971, NAP 160, first Power Amplifier, discontinued 1986
  • 1973, Naim Audio Limited formed
  • 1974, NAC 12, first Pre-Amplifier, discontinued 1980
  • 1975, NAP 250, Power Amplifier
  • 1975, NAPS, first pre-amplifier Power Supply, discontinued 1978
  • 1977, NAXO, first Electronic crossover for active loudspeaker systems
  • 1980, Moved to current premises at Southampton Road, Salisbury
  • 1981, Linnk, Moving-Coil Phono Pre-Amplifier (Manufactured for Linn Products)
  • 1981, NAC A4, Speaker Cable
  • 1983, NAIT, first Integrated Amplifier, discontinued 1988
  • 1984, NAP 135, first mono Power Amplifier, discontinued 2002
  • 1984, Hi-Cap, pre-amplifier Power Supply
  • 1984, NAT 01, first FM Tuner, discontinued 2002
  • 1985, Won the Queen's Award for Export Achievement
  • 1986, SBL, first in-house made Loudspeakers, discontinued 2002
  • 1989, ARO, Unipivot Tone-arm
  • 1989, Range upgraded and new look (olive casing)
  • 1990, NAC 52, flagship Pre-Amplifier, discontinued 2002, replaced by NAC 252
  • 1991, CDS, first CD Player, discontinued 1998, replaced by CDS2
  • 1991, DBL, Loudspeakers
  • 1992, CDI, extended range of CD Players
  • 1995, AV1, first AV Processor, discontinued 1999
  • 1995, Armageddon, Power Supply [for Linn Sondek LP12 Turntable]
  • 1995, Super-Cap, Pre-Amplifier Power Supply
  • 1995, Prefix, Phono Pre-Amplifier, discontinued 2008
  • 2000, 5 series
  • 2000, NAP 500, Power Amplifier
  • 2002, Range Upgraded (Reference range) and new look
  • 2002, NAC 552, flagship Pre-Amplifier, supplants NAC 252 as flagship pre-amplifier
  • 2005, n-series new range of AV products of which nVi integrated DVD/amp combo
  • 2005, CD555, flagship CD Player
  • 2008, Superline, Phono Pre-Amplifier
  • 2008, HDX, Hard Disk Player
  • 2008/9, Nait XS, Integrated Amplifier
  • 2009, NaimUniti, All-in-one Audio Player
  • 2009, Naim DAC, Stand-alone DA-Converter


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