Naim NAIT integrated amplifier Sam Tellig 1990
You were expecting me to write about Krell, right?
I thought the Anarchistic thing would be to write about the Naim NAIT 2 instead—a 15Wpc integrated amp from Britain that sells in the US for what appears to be a ridiculous $795.
But is it really that ridiculous?
As usual, other audiophiles tried to tell me what to think. Or hear.
"Fifteen watts per channel for 800 bucks!" wailed my would-be Advisor, Wayne. "You could buy a B&K ST-140 amp and Pro 5 preamp for about the same price. 100Wpc."
Yes, and if you bought the B&K combination, you would have B&K sound—which is quite good, actually. But if you buy the Naim NAIT 2, you will have, well...something that sounds a lot like a Krell.
You see, if there is one thing the Naim NAIT 2 reminds me of, it's my Krell KSP-7B/KSA-80 combination.
No, I have not gone totally off my rocker—my Swedish-made Stressless Chair, actually. There is a great deal of sonic similarity between the Naim NAIT 2 and the Krell gear. Not really enough power for most applications, of course. The NAIT 2 cannot do justice to the Spica Angeli in my main listening room, for instance. Not enough ooomph, kick, balls in the bass. Not enough Krell yuice, as Lars would say.
But put the Naim NAIT 2 on the Monitor Audio 7s (new pair—no rattle) in the living room and I had something quite remarkable indeed. The sound was sweet, smooth, spacious—above all, it was spacious.
According to Bob Harley, who reviewed and measured another sample of the NAIT 2, the line-amp section rolls off the high frequencies a touch, which makes CDs a tad more listener-friendly.
My cartridge is a Denon DL160 high-output moving-coil, not exactly a name Naim recommends, but what the hell, it sounds great. Rega RB300 arm (Naim would approve) on an AR turntable. Speaker cable is Naim Cable.
"Julian, how come this thing is only 15W? Or 18W, depending on what day someone asks you?" I asked Naim's Julian Vereker at the Chicago CES a few seasons ago.
"Well, we've tried making it more powerful," Julian jumped in. "When I was away on holiday, some of our people cooked up a more powerful version and presented it to me on my return."
"It sounded awful."
I think the trick is this. It's quite easy to make a reasonably priced solid-state amplifier and have it sound super provided you make it low power. Remember the 15Wpc Advent 300 receiver of about 15 years ago? Same thing with the Naim. It's a profoundly anarchistic, almost subversive product.
Is it a ripoff? I asked my buddy Roy Hall, who rued the fact I wasn't getting on about an Onix or a Creek. But since Roy is a buddy, that might appear to be doing a friend a favor.
"Why does the Naim NAIT 2 sound so good?"
"I think it's because there are no integrated circuits, and Naim very carefully tests all the parts. Plus they listen to each unit before it leaves the factory. Simple stuff like that."
"But surely there has to be more, Roy. This thing sounds insanely great. Like a 15Wpc Krell integrated amplifier...if D'Agostino dared to think small."
Roy took a deep breath.
"You know what-tit is?" Roy said in his thickest Glaswegian. "The man is a bloody genius."
I told Lars about the Naim NAIT.
"You see, you could have one of these and a pair of Monitor Audio 7s, for instance, and forget all the hassle of hi-fi."
"This Yulius Vereker must be quite a guy."
"Yulian Vereker," I corrected Lars.
So that's what you're paying for—design genius (or yenius, as Lars would say)—and if the price seems a bit steep, look at what Lars and others are paying for interconnects these days. Who's to say the Naim NAIT 2 is overpriced—especially as I can't naim—oops, name—a better-sounding integrated amp at the price.
It is underpowered, though. So be sure you use small, reasonably efficient speakers, preferably in a small room. If you can live with the low power, and especially if you want to forget all this audiophilia nonsense and just listen to music, you may find that the NAIT is neat.