Naim Audio - Threat or menace?

I spent an hour or so this past weekend at Promusica in Chicago. I had a great time listening to some entry level Naim gear on some Sonus Fabor Cremona's. It was great to listen to some of Ken Christiansen's recordings and talk to him about Naim gear. For those of you who don't know, Ken records for the Naim audio label in addition to selling Naim gear out of Promusica. Ken's recordings are fantastic, using two microphone direct to two track Nagra tape. They really seem to capture the dynamics of the live performance. They sounded fantastic on the Naim gear as well.

I am a newbie to Naim audio but not to hi-fi. I have recently sold off my electronics (BAT, Theta) for financial/logistical resasons and am looking to start a new. I have been reading too much about BAT, Rowland, Musical Fidelity, VAC, Unison and Ayre gear. My preliminary scanning of the online reviews suggests that Naim gear is polarizing (people either love or hate). I haven't however found a good discussion of why.

So anyone out there who has an opinion on Naim sound, relative value or anything else is welcome to pipe in. If you have had a negative experience with Naim and have an alternative suggestion, feel free to emote.

Statements like component X "blows away" Naim X are generally not useful to me. I know I have to listen to the gear in my house, on my speakers...

The new gear will be powering North Creek Rhythm Revelator Signature speakers. I listen mainly to CD, rock and jazz. My room is acoustically treated but my electricity is not.

Thanks in advance.

I have had a fair amount of Naim gear over the years and it definately has a sound, I moved and sold most of it and now am timkering with a 5i and their 112/150 preamp and amp. after 30 plus yrs of listening to different equipment I find myself drawn to equipment that has a sense of musicality to it, does it make me follow along with the tune and do I respond by nodding or tapping my feet along with the music (just like I do at a good concert). I do NOT listen for higher highs or a wider soundstage or blacks are silent etc....I want the music, I listen for P.r.a.d. what i call Pulse,rythym and dynamics....naim calls it prat, pace rythym and timing.

I also listen for good tonal balance as we are hearing it thru electronics and speakers. That being said as to what I value in a system, I think naim is up there, the equipment does have a pulse to the music and can create a very nice presentation. In short it can rock, I am using it with B$Ws and the tonal balance is very good, open ,full but not bright.

I have heard a fair amount of well reviewed and expensive "hi end gear" that was simply not musical, it just made me kind of I would describe the overall Naim sound as punchy, with a good sense of drive and openess. It is not the only game in town, I am a big Mcintosh fan and find their gear very musical and involving...along with great looks. I can't say any real negs on naim except i think their marketing where i am is pretty poor, the only dealer around has very little of on display, kind of weird,anyway as always trust your ears.
Naim gear is killer. Its some of the best sounding gear I have heard. Thier CD players are sublime.

They sell cable at resaonable prices. thye take the hype out of it.

How much do you want to spend on Naim gear? Should it be brand new or used? The answer to your question depends on what you understand by 'Naim entry level'. People who like Naim usually find Densen sound acceptable. Naimophiles often use the word 'PRAT' (peace, rythm and tempo) to describe Naim sound - something that makes you feel that ie. 'Live' cd recording is really 'live'. Those who don't like Nam sound would say: too aggressive or to much in your face..
For me Naim just catches very well the temporal structure of music or, to be politically correct, catches that structure in a way I like.

best regards
Naim gear beat me up and stole my lunch money, so I would say menace.
There is "Naim"....

and "others" in hifi.
all brands have (to a degree)have a house sound. its best to listen to gear with a wide variety of music with varied production quality to 'really' hear a brand's sound character. exposure, sontateer, cyrus, roksan, revox and (the late)audiolab all have(had) the rhythm thing(which is really a 'midrange thing' down to a science. ss components that are not shy about being 'just that'
a follow up, if your considering diving into naim, I would suggest the following, either the 5i or go right to a 202/ get the most out of the series 5 gear, you would get all the boxes, 112/150 and a flatcap, nice, but going to the 202 is a bigger improvment and 1 less box, you can get a naim cd player but dont have too, ihave found very good results with non naim cd players, which is good, because I would hate to feel that their gear can only sound good on their cd player. Anyway, the 202 is very nice and later you can get a hicap and then the 200, which I feel is the best overall value in the line. From there it doubles up in price mighty fast....yikes
I have bought and sold much gaear here on Audiogon in the last 5+ years. The only one I keep coming back to is Naim. There is something about the presentation of music with Naim that just grabs you and keeps you involved. As it has been said, keeps your toes tapping, you cannot help it.

I think the philosophy of the gear serving the music rather than the music serving the gear about sums it up.

As a side note, Naim holds value and is easier to resell than just about any other out there.
First, I would say that the Naim recordings are not particulary good from a recording standpoint IMHO, and most are rather vacuous from a musical standpoint as well, though the Allegri Quartet and Charlie Hayden recordings are the exception musically. That said, I like, and have owned, the gear, though it is neither nearly as good as its supporters think, nor nearly as bad as its detractors would have you believe.
As others have said, Naim is great gear. Some become fanatical about the gear; claimimg nothing else is good. Like all audio gear it has its pro's and con's. Since I have an all Naim system, here's my take:

Pro's: Great bass; excellent instrumental timbres; punchy with excellent dynamics; clear articulate midrange; provides for great involvement in the music; the CDP's are the best part of the product line, if a power supply is added; no tweaking with cables needed as Naim has done it for you; resale value is excellent; if you listen principally to rock, acoustic and/or jazz, it's hard to better Naim.

Con's: expensive and the upgrade path is really expensive; most Naim gear needs the Naim power supplies to sound its best which are expensive; the sound stage is flat; the treble is slightly rolled-off compared to other ss amps and preamps; Naim is nearly the antithesis of tubes, it's not warm, bloomy or very smooth sounding; if you're an inveterate tweeker you may not like Naim, as it does'nt require very much; the loudspeakers aren't nearly as good as the electronics.

Yeah, entry level isn't cheap anymore. I am thinking that if I take the plunge I would do the 202/200 combo. Then a CD5X and hicap? Flatcap2? Dah!

In the shop, I was listening to the Nait5i and CD5X. Then the 112X pre and the 200 amp with the CD5X. Perhaps the pre and the CD had the Flatcap 2 on as well.

As far as the recordings go, I was not familiar with the artists nor do I usually listen to "live" recordings. But what I listened to there reminded me of what I feel like when I go to a concert in an auditorium. Like when the University music society hosts your favorite tabla player or Afrofunk group from Senegal. I just saw Stereolab in Detroit a couple weekends ago, and these are the type of shows were I catch myself thinking,"It sounds better on my stereo.) I am aging rapidly.

Anyway, the sensation of being there...I just don't get that sensation very much listening to studio recorded music. I'm not trying to say which one is better, because the vast majority of recorded music I listen to(and love)is from a studio. But I think this feeling of being there defines the few Naim recordings I listened to. Ken would probably explain that "true stereo" recordings have preserved phase relationships that you just cannot acheive with multi michrophone recordings. Especially on the drum kit.

Any Ayre fans out there want to pipe in?
Cult gear if their ever was.One of the "one brand" brands like Audionote,Linnand Rega on cheap side where you can get everything from soup to nuts or at least amps and wires.Many think that beacuse you have this option you can go with gear wheere everything is "voiced togther".I think if you find a daler who has it you are going to laso have other gear to match it up to.I think that like some of those one brtand names i mentioned you can be payinmg na premium but for some it's worth it.I know a guy who liked concept so much even whgen he needed to downsize he went from very expensive Audio Note to very Modest Rega and felt whole systems where everything was thier best and biuilt to be used together he got a great sound.But compare it to others.If into vinyl and like tubes I would have added highly rated Aesthetix gear to that above list.Listen for the Naim and get sense of how you would use it either one piece say amp or as system and then compare it with other brands you like.
I have become very intrigued with TACT and now DEQX and mention them in lmost every post I answer.The NHT Xd system with it's little satelites blew away everybody at CES and won best of show many places because of technology gotten beter from both digital amps and digital speaker and room correction.Digital used to sound very bad but now I think think they finally sound good wioth names like PS Audio and Bel Canto or analgue Nuforce folks have ben raving about which has class D like high speed switching.Supposed to have major bang for buck.The little NHT used digital amps but more important it used tech from a company called DEQX.I know buddy who used DEQX to make crummy 20 year old Dahlquist 20's sound as good as to a pair of Stereopile class A $10K speakers he had on hand.The DEQX is like $3,600 and has speaker corection,room correction (no more tube traps and foam tiles for this guy) and can be ordered with or without pre-amp.I am a tube and LP guy but think just like CD's finally started to sound good (players and software) about 10 years ago these products I mentioned are the beginning of the future and will be ubiquitous in the future.It's another wrinkle to add to the story.But again go listen to Naim.Not my cup of tea for the buck involved but look at devotee's in earlier posts.Like a pod born alien you may be one of them.
Sun Ra was from Saturn I think.
Check this out, you may find it interesting.
Jim, Thank you for the well-articulated statement. They, as a company, often made me feel it was their way [All-Naim] or the highway. Yes, active is certainly the way to go, but it gets pricey in a hurry w/ power supplies, xovers and 4-6 channels of amplification. But even there, they are probably competitive with other high-end brands. Even Wilson admits they are catering to something beyond a person's ears--or sensibilites. Some have more money than sense, which is why outfits like Wilson exist.
If a component or system engages you to to the point you are not distracted to do something else--that is the hallmark of a fine quality system, and that imho is priceless, and cost be damned! Great thread.

Great link! Thanks.
Tripper, with all due respect, the phrase should be:

"more dollars than sense (cents)" ;)
'kat--Thanks for the edit. I have less cents than sense. Or is it more? ;\
I'd say threat. No, wait...menance. Umm, no wait...damn, I'm not sure!

By the way, I think Run Ra was from New Jersey.
I went thru a similar situation some years back, selling my all Jadis stuff and starting again my audio rig. While traveling in the UK I visited Graham Audio looking to give a listen to Rega gear, but ended up buying the entry level Naim system (Nait3/CD3) at that time with Monitor Audio Studio speakers.

I had a great time with that system and eventually grw it up with higher Naim stuff. I understand that new units are more "universal" without loosing the house signature (musical, engaging, up-front presentation).

Hope this helps

BTW Karl,
I used Naim gear with North Creek Spirits.
It was a very musical match.