I've long been a fan of Naim electronic gear, and have used it for many years. I also have admiration and respect for the company's uncompromisingly consistent and determinedly individualistic approach to the various tasks and problems of loudspeaker design. But my enthusiasm for Naim speakers has long been tempered by a feeling that mechanical aspects of the design are given priority over acoustics and styling.
On January 14, anyone calling Naim Audio heard an Elgar recording, and visitors to the Naim website forum learned the sad news that founder and managing director Julian Vereker had died. The company—indeed, British hi-fi as a whole—is mourning the loss of one of its brightest and strongest personalities.
Hervé Délétraz, proprietor and inventor of the rather wonderful Dartzeel amplifiers, and possessor of a great sense of humor, did his best to explain at the Roy Bird Show the operational improvements in the now electronically encoded preamp volume control.
Peeking out from the edge of this gigantic 14ft2 panel at the Roy Bird Show, veteran retailer and audio writer Howard Popeck has taken on this distribution of the Podium 1, and told me that its inventors and makers wished to remain anonymous. Further investigation unearthed the information that Paul Burton (responsible for the early-‘90s Sumo speaker and in part the Cyrus NXT-hybrid design) is involved, and close inspection suggests that a very large NXT panel lies at the core. The good news is that it's only around ½" deep around the edge (with a bulging rib, presumably covering the actuators, down the spine); it will cost a relatively modest £3000–4000/pair with a money-back-if-not-satisfied guarantee; and it delivers a sound with a very generous and convincing sense of scale. Bass might have been tauter (but the room was really much too small for such large panels), and imaging seemed a bit vague (as one might expect), but its ability to generate impressive dynamics was both intriguing and very persuasive indeed.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect on the passing of one of hi-fi’s most venerable components. For 30 years, Rega’s Planar 2—recently, simply known as the P2—has provided countless hi-fi enthusiasts with their first taste of the potential that the vinyl disc has to offer. Now Rega has decided to stop making it.
Finn Anssi Hyronen (left) and Swede Leif Mårten Olofsson (right), stand with their respective new babies at the Roy Bird Show. The tiny Amphion Ion (left) not only sounded remarkable for its size, but has also won a valuable design award back in Finland. At ten times the price of the Ion, Mårten's elegant new Miles III floorstander has tapered cabinetwork and costly Accuton ceramic-diaphragm drivers.
The international uncertainties of 2003 have not been kind to the specialist hi-fi sector, and are probably a key factor in this week's shock announcement. In a statement that sounds depressingly valedictory, the press release (reproduced in full below) baldly states: "TAG McLaren Audio ceases development of new products and commences a full strategic review of its participation in the audio market," before signing off with, "TAG McLaren Audio would like to thank everybody for their kind support over the years."
At the end of July, UK-based TAG McLaren Audio, which had been experiencing difficult trading conditions and was reducing its workforce, issued a rather pessimistic announcement. The core of the announcement concerned the firm's commencement of "a full strategic review of its participation in the audio market."
UK electronics specialty manufacturer Audiolab has been taken over by leading Grand Prix car-racing company TAG McLaren---or, more precisely, by the TAG McLaren Group. A newly formed company, TAG Electronics Holdings Ltd., will be the parent of both Cambridge Systems Technology Ltd. (which trades as Audiolab) and TAG Electronic Systems Ltd. (which supplies specialist, low-volume electronic engine-management systems to exclusive high-end automobile brands).