Naim IBL

IBLs were what first got me into Naim. I was considering the purchase of new speakers back in the day and the IBLs were pretty new on the market. I played bits of the Graceland album on the dealer’s pair. I had never heard such staggering clarity and definition and I bought them virtually immediately. They were used with fairly entry level Naim kit I also bought at the time, so it wasn’t long before I agreed with a friend who came for a listen, and said ‘Yes, but where’s the bass?’
As somebody has said, they really are ruthlessly revealing, and I soon changed them for SBLs. I had the SBLs for fifteen years and loved them, only changing them when an immaculate pair of maple SL2s appeared on Ebay, original packaging and all! They are still with me and won’t be going anywhere…

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Can I ask why you have had more than one of the same type? Did they have an issue, or just came across a better cleaner model like changing from the MK1 to MK2 SBL?

I owned SBLs for years, from about 1988. I then changed to SL2s, which went when I downgraded massively. I then ended up with, via other things, more SBLs, but they were black, which I managed to change for a cherry pair. Similar with IBLs at a later point - I found some Mk 1 black ones and later swapped to Mk 2 in cherry. I’ve done far too much swapping in my time!

I bet you an SBL gasket expert now!

Yes, I’m pretty good at it. But I’m glad I no longer have to do it.

No problem if you don’t mind taking a punt - and with eBay if you don’t like you can always sell on, just losing the carriage and selling fee.

I heard a pair back in 1988 or thereabouts and really didn’t like them: the bottom end was missing! Their proud owner changed his mind about them when he heard my speakers, and had them off me when I upgraded…

What does the IBL stand for? I assume that the L is loudspeaker. Is the IB “infinite baffle”?

Integrated Box

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Or perhaps Integrated Box (as distinct from Separated Box)?

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Aha yes makes sense.

I bought my first system from Chris when he was at Audio Venue. Strange that he advised against buying IBLs. Lived in North London. Wonder what he is doing now?

Immaculate Bass Loudspeaker

Imagined Bass Loudspeaker!


Hi Stu, just be careful with the speaker terminals. I borrowed a one-owner pair from my dealer last year and one of the contacts broke. Not difficult to repair but just be wary as they are quite old and delicate now. I’d already decided that Kan 1s were more coherent / musical to my ears and didn’t want to buy them but I still really liked them with vintage Naim amps / pre-Cirkus LP12 and would encourage you to give them a go and satisfy your curiosity.

Be aware that with the IBL the mid bass driver was manufacture changed at least 3 times, M-S, Elac, and finally made in-house. The differences between them are not as great as between the M-S SBL driver and the Naim in-house one, where the in-house driver was greatly superior. There was a structural change with the frame mount around the same time as the change to in-house mid/bass driver manufacture.

IBLs are a speaker I have heard many times in many different setups. They’re a speaker that have always impressed, particularly in their apparent speed and ability to unlock rhythms. However, while I admire them greatly, and have at times been entranced by what they have managed to do to replay a particular piece of music, I’ve never actually fallen in love with them (I keep telling myself I should actually buy a pair and then try to live with them for a while) in the same way I have with say, Kans, which are in many ways a similar kind of speaker., but possibly easier to get the best from. You see I reckon IBLs really do need the best source and amps Naim make to really make sense. For what it’s worth, the best I ever heard IBLs was with a 500 series system up front. I’m told that active with a pair of 500s really brings them into their own…

Yes, that was where he was located. He was selling his Naim amps, but not sure if he was selling his IBLs at the time - can’t remember, but I assume he would have been. Think he’s passionate about Vitus kit these days from what I’ve read in his reviews on HiFi+.

He was a friendly chap and we chatted for quite a while over a few coffees, and he told me about installing the one and only Kate Bush’s Hi-Fi system, as I’m sure he said she had Naim kit at the time. After shaking on the deal, he gave me a lift back to west London, and scared the bejesus out of me in his Toyota MR2.

Just to clarify, are you say she had a Naim setup, or Vitus, or combo?

Having used the IBL:s some 20-25 years ago I can agree that they are revealing and a little particular with a lot of character, maybe even attitude bordering on “in your face!” and definitely not for everyone. Partnering equipment is crucial. When I visited naim in Salisbury a little more than 20 years ago some designer guy told us that “we stopped making the IBL’s because we realized that we would never be able to produce an amplifier that would be able to drive them properly.” I think he was only half joking…

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The Julian used a Nait 3 only. I found my ibls not as attractive as the sbls, but in some music they did excel. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue come to mind which was the best I’ve heard, even driven with modest amplification (72/140).

My IBLs are upstairs in my daughters Rega P1/Brio system and to be honest they sound crap. She’s happy though. I know they can sound amazing though and just can’t bring myself to part with them. The crossovers are a bit flaky. £300 is too much without grills, especially if they’re Mk1, in my opinion.

I paid £90 for mine about 16 years ago. My Best hifi bargain ever.