Naim’s “Secret Sauce”

We are all here because we like Naim’s “house sound”. As my quest to know the brand better, I would like to know the basic design philosophies of the brand. These maybe trade secrets, but what are the main differences, including but not limited to standard omission and additions employed in the circuitry of Naim’s amps which we all love?

There are few video interviews with Naim staff and plant tours on YouTube covering some of the unique approaches at Naim. Might be a good start if you haven’t seen them.

This is also interesting info

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I kind of doubt there are too many if any ‘secrets’, but there are certainly house approaches…
Many of the designs have been modular in part building upon earlier generations and approaches…
Naim have a specific approach to unbalanced (single ended) signal grounding.
They use specific approaches on decoupling and EM decoupling, they do use power supplies that radiate EM fields.
They use their own matched amp driver transistors, like many higher end manufacturers.
Naim use IIR filtering in their digital reconstruction chains, many others use FIR filters.
Naim generally use through the hole in the audio path … many others now use SMT for audio … both have pros and cons.
Naim use their ‘unique’ Snaic Shaker to mechanically condition their SNAIC interconnects.
Naim use DIN…
I am fairly sure Naim design a slight forward ness in the upper mid in their amps that concentrates engagement… I have no evidence of this, but based on my own subjective experiences…
Naim state that physical decoupling is part of their design ‘DNA’.
Anyway I am sure the list goes on and on…

And most importantly perhaps, along with many other UK high end audio manufacturers, have a passionate workforce.

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https://www.naimaudio.com/downloads/white-papers is also a good start, though not the amps. (Well, DR is there)

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Tantalum Capacitors.

Coupling. De-Coupling and Feedback.

Beads in the older stuff.

Surface Mount in the newer stuff.

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There is a whole knowledge base that has been accrued over the years at Naim, which is constantly drawn upon, re-examined, and added to by R&D. That knowledge base extends to the experienced people who build the kit - so the best person is chosen for the job at hand. This is also the many little but significant things that all add up to make a big difference, such as rigorous testing, selection, and matching of critical small components, to the way a resistor leg is formed and located to the PCB, or ensuring that internal wiring is uniformly orientated, to where to best fit a cable tie. Everything matters, even if just a little - and that all adds up to mattering a lot in the final performance.

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Ciao Simon
could you better elaborate …“Naim have a specific approach to unbalanced (single ended) signal grounding.”

To add to Richard’s excellent summary, I would say everything starts and ends with music. Yes, engineering innovation and handcrafted excellence are crucial, but above all we are music-lovers. Many staff are/were musicians, and the rest of us are avid music fans. Yes, we use technical measurements - but only as a basic tool: the key development comes with listening, to a diverse range of music.

That may sound obvious, but earlier in my career I visited a lot of Hi-Fi companies, and I can tell you it isn’t always the case!

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I remember an interview with Steve Sells giving a potted history of the companies he worked for before Naim. Quite different approaches, some just worry about the measurements and the SQ will follow🤞🏽

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Naim in first instance has a deep know how in fine mechanical engineering. Right from the very beginning, the extruded aluminum used for the cases, was and still is pretty much unique to brand and was very obvious with their loudspeaker. After all Mr. Julian Vereker before Naim days was a very successfull racing driver with Minis.

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Yes, Naim focus on having a single ground connection between NAC, NAC PSU and power amp; the NAC powersupply is the common ground point.

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I do think this is a bit of product marketing mystique… without accurate measurements reliability would fail, compliance’s would fail, and there would be massive product variance etc.
Sure there is no SI unit for SQ… so SQ is not measured, but measurements are crucial… at the engineering level at least, if not at the marketing level :wink:

When I was liaising with Trevor Wilson when the new streamers were being developed,I can certainly remember measurements being critical to optimise performance.

There is far more to measurements than quoting effectively meaningful consumer oriented parameters… like the the peak music power output of 1970s boom boxes, and irrelevantly small THD under very specific conditions.

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thanks simon, so in the 282 2hcdr config oneof the two hcdr is the ground for the other?

Ahh, the two HCDR actually is the one configs that breaks the model, and so is always considered a compromise to the SuperCap which uses a single ground… along with the single HCDR of course.

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I know that 282 is not your preferred amp but do you think it make sense having it with sc? there are a lot of unused connections

Only you can decide… for me the 282 sounded it’s best (most natural and relaxed) with a single HCDR… but there are as many different views as combinations of setting up :grinning:

I clearly said we use technical measurements - of course we do! It’s just that we don’t consider them the be-all-and-end-all

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Indeed you did… I wasn’t responding to you specifically, I was replying to Gazza, where he was commenting there is a view that measurements are not important for SQ performance… clearly they are… it’s just that SQ is not directly measured therefore by definition its measurement can’t be the be all and end all, and human audition will clearly be the final arbiter in the production of most high end products where subjectivity and taste is important … but that has to be built on an accurately engineered or controlled platform.

Yes, indeed. Naim is as much about the mechanical engineering as it is the electronic engineering. The mechanical engineering providing the optimal foundation for the electronics to perform at their best.

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The power supplies. Having bandwidth over the audible range. On one interview Naim talked about selecting the LM317’s (before DR) based on the shape of the noise floor of the devices and so on, and let’s not forget those golden Roederstein caps that used to sit in the signal path.

But the secret source is using all these details to keep every single tone to be as little modulated as possible so your hearing easy can understand the pitch and the harmonic relation to all other sounds in the music. There should also be a minimum of time error between different frequencies to make the understanding of the music easy.

Other manufacturers manages to make every strand audible but Naim is very successful in at the same time keeping them together, i.e. keeping the interplay that is so important to music.

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