"Them which is of other naturs thinks different," said Martin Chuzzlewit's Mrs. Gamp. If that is true, then Naim's Julian Vereker must be of a very different nature indeed. Vereker—and, by extension, Naim—has never done things the conventional way. Take, for example, power regulation and stiffening power supplies. Long before the rest of the world was taking them seriously, Naim offered upgrades to their components not by changing the audio circuitry, but by adding stiffer and stiffer outboard power regulation.
From The Audio Catechism: Q: What is a subwoofer? A: A large, ugly device that must be placed in the most inconvenient location in the listening room—for instance, in front of the only door. Q: What is the purpose of the subwoofer? A: To produce prodigious amounts of low-frequency sound and to glorify its owner, who can rest safe in the knowledge that his is the biggest.
Audiophiles with budget restrictions (most of us, I imagine) could be forgiven for feeling we're afterthoughts to most manufacturers. Even though we probably keep many companies in business by buying their "entry-" or mid-level products, we're always hearing about products designed "without compromise." Waiter, could you bring the reality check, please?
Audiophiles with budget restrictions (most of us, I imagine) could be forgiven for feeling we're afterthoughts to most manufacturers. Even though we probably keep most companies in business by buying their "entry-" or mid-level products, we're always hearing about products designed "without compromise." Waiter, could you bring the reality check, please?
Almost two years ago, Conrad-Johnson's Lew Johnson came to Santa Fe while visiting his western dealers. We were chatting about acquaintances in the industry as I showed him the new house I'd barely moved into when he spread a blueprint across a stack of record boxes and showed me a design for a new product.
My wife's cousin Steve used to sell antiques. Whenever he would display in his shop's window an impeccable (and expensive) item such as a Colonial pie safe, someone would inevitably walk into the shop and demand to know its price. He'd quote a staggering figure, and the browser would get excited. "Why, I have a piece at home exactly the same as that one! Do you think I could get that sort of money for it?" Steve, having learned his lesson the hard way, would be noncommittal.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: "Polk? You're reviewing a $300 speaker from Polk? Get ready for the flames!"
The genesis of this review lies in a casual comment Larry Archibald made last summer. Larry travels a lot, and everywhere he goes, like the archetypical (archibaldical?) audiophile he is, he listens voraciously. After a trip to the east coast, he dropped by my office and laid a bomb on me.
"I heard a pair of inexpensive bookshelf speakers from Polk that really impressed me."
"Um-hum," I replied dubiously, waiting for the punchline.
A few nights ago, John Atkinson and I played host to a speaker designer and a turntable manufacturer. We were all chewing over the 1998 Consumer Electronics Show, talking about different systems we'd heard there and speculating as to which designs would be around for the long haul. The speaker designer said he'd heard no truly bad sound at the Show. Nods all around the table—none of us had. The turntable manufacturer asked if any of us could recall hearing any spectacularly bad products recently. We all shook our heads.
Stereophile is, in one sense, like a family—us younguns have to make do sometimes because the house is straining at the seams. When I first arrived in Santa Fe, for instance, I was told not to come to the office for a few days—the good news, John Atkinson informed me, was that I had a desk; the bad news was that nobody had a clue where to put it. The dilemma was solved in Solomon-like fashion by shoehorning my desk into the "listening room," which was already serving double-duty as audition space and speaker-measurement lab. If manufacturers visited, we'd sweep up all the acoustic damping from the floor and stash it in JA's office; and if JA needed to take measurements, I would be asked to work at home. It was a manifestly fair solution: inconvenient for everyone involved.