Naim Ovator S-400

I know we all have different tastes, systems and rooms but the Ovator speaker range seems to receive mixed opinions on here. The S-600 and S-800 in particular are clearly huge beasts that are demanding of rooms and electronics to work at the best.

However, judging by the specifications, the S-400 is more modestly sized and may well be less demanding of both room and amplification. The going rate on eBay for a good pair is circa £1500 and to me they appear to offer quite a lot of speaker for the money.

I have just read the S-400 technical paper and they were clearly designed with an awful lot of thought:
BMR driver operating from 700hz upwards so a quasi point source design.
Carefully constructed curved cabinets from multilayer MDF.
A clever solution to sealed box loading for the bass drivers.
Suspension built into the plinths.

To compliment my modified Tannoy R2 that use silk dome tweeters, over the last few years I have acquired Piegas with AMT tweeters, Tannoys with dual concentric drivers incorporating titanium tweeters and most recently my DIY OB speakers running relatively large full range drivers without a filter. All of the designs have something to offer but there is something about point source drivers for the majority of the frequency range that delivers a coherence and vividness that appeals to me.

Because of this the BMR equipped S-400s seem a pretty good option to add to my collection in the future. The most common criticism I’ve read is that they can sound a little closed in despite extending to 35khz. IMO this could be addressed with careful implementation of a super tweeter firing upwards.
However, I would be interested to know what of other’s experience with them, both good and bad. It would also be interesting know of any potential pitfalls, such as parts availability of drivers should a failure happen.

In a large living-room room I ran a pair of S600 with a NAP300 and could never hear proper bass from them. I tried the S400 a few years later and, curiously, they worked much better.

If we hadn’t moved to a slightly smaller house I might have kept them.

Room interaction is so critical.


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As far as i know there was a recent thread where it was mentioned that Naim did not have spare drivers……it was not contradicted by Naim or anyone else.

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Amen. I’ve tried 600 in various rooms in my house. In the living they sound majestic, whilst in other rooms they sound so so.

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Thanks for the feedback so far.
Room wise they would be used in an either a 3.5 m x 6.5 m room or a 3m x 5.5 metre room - ceiling height in both rooms is approximately 2.2 metres. It would definitely be just the S-400s that I would consider.
Interested in the feedback ref the drivers thank you. I know Naim developed the drivers but it would be interesting to know who manufactured them and what, if anything, they are based on.

Hi Alex I have both 600 and two pairs of 400s. I’m unclear from your profile and on two aspects to the speakers. What do you want to drive the 400s with and what are you seeking to achieve?


Both fair questions.
In terms of what I’m trying to achieve I just want to try something different really and the Ovators appeal to me on aesthetics and engineering grounds. I like speakers with a large scale sound. I would expect to use my dual BK subwoofers to augment below 40hz or so.

In terms of partnering electronics these will be a CD5si, Arcam D33 DAC (Tidal Masters from laptop) and an Arcam A28 amplifier. The latter is rated at 75wpc into 8 ohms and about 125 WPC into 4 ohms and is a very neutral sounding amplifier that presents a large sonic picture but mat not be the most punchy.

I know that speakers at the Ovator’s level may benefit from more in terms of amplification but I also understand that they are fairly easy to drive and people have powered them with XS2 etc. which are rated at a similar output to the A28. In the longer term adding an Arcam P38 (100 WPC 8 ohms/200wpc 4 ohms) or going for something the level of the Supernaits could be an option.

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Alex there really is only one way to partner Naim speakers and that is in a full Naim system. Why? Naim speakers are a marmite issue. Respectfully, talk of sub woofers, aesthetics and engineering, are hardly grounds to choose speakers, similarly assessment by numbers questionable. Unless you can audition via dealer, my view is you may be disappointed, ymmv.
Ovators are fine speakers, which need to be driven but may not perform of their best in a mismatched system. I have a second system in a very difficult room for listening - kitchen/diner; recently substituted a Nova with a NSC222 + NC250; only then did the speakers come alive. Nova + NAP was ineffective and I have no doubt sub is not required.
Listen to a few combinations, finalise source and amp first; good luck, happy listening.


My Ovators used to sound wonderful without a full naim system.


My S400 have sounded great since day 1, first with my SU then with 272/250DR and later the addition of the 555DR. I’m very picky about low frequency drive and detail and very happy, esp at the price point.


I appreciate the feedback. While I understand that older generation Naim speakers are an acquired taste (probably not mine TBH) my reading up on the Ovators, particularly the S-400, suggest they had a broader appeal - a more balanced and full sound. The S-600s seem more marmite/bass dominant /demanding of room and electronics than their smaller brothers.

Is there any particular reason the Ovators require a Naim only system? Looking at the design and engineering there is nothing particularly demanding - 2 x 6.5 inch paper cone woofers in more or less sealed cabinets and the BMR driver - I assume the bass drivers are 8 ohm units wired in parallel to 4 ohms? Speaker nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a minimum of 3.8 is similar to my Piegas. The crossover uses good quality parts looking at the picture I found in a Polish review. I fully understand the need for good amplification (your feedback ref the Nova and S-400s was useful - it is/was in my long term plan to get one) as my Tannoys certainly responded positively to a more powerful amplifier. Ironically the amplifier I previously used is now running fairly sensitive full range drivers in my DIY OB system and combined with an actively driven low end and a decent portable DAC is performing well beyond what it has ever done with commercial speakers using passive crossovers and with better source components.

I also understand demoing speakers if possible but I think it has to be at home to be of any value which will be tricky. All the speakers I’ve bought so far were well researched but unheard and only tried at home after purchase, getting them to work effectively with careful set-up. I think the S-400s would be no different especially as they will be second hand.

We all have different opinions on subwoofers but from my experience, even ‘full range’ speakers can be enhanced significantly with at least two well-integrated sealed cabinet subwoofers. It takes time and skill but they really do enhance tone and sound stage etc higher up the frequency range. Also, they enable one to move the main speaker further away from walls, enhancing clarity while the subwoofer controls effectively serve as tone controls allowing tweaks and adjustments that are not possible with passive speakers, not without constantly moving them or changing components upstream anyway.

Overall it’s not something I will rush into. Indeed if it is truly the case that, unless I spend significantly more on electronics as well , the end result is potentially worse than any combination I currently have it would seem a backwards move. I did hope that the S-400s may be an alternative to new speakers from the likes of Piega or Fyne Audio in the current £3000 - £5000 price bracket.

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