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.
It's been no secret that leading British speaker brand Mission was up for sale—the situation had been spelled out last fall in the Annual Report of parent company NXT plc. NXT is busy pioneering its new flat-panel speaker technology, and shareholder interests were clearly not being well served by "carrying" for any length of time a box-speaker brand whose recent financial reports had been mostly in the red.
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.
John Atkinson's and my collective response was "Good grief!" on hearing that the UK's Haymarket Magazines had purchased Gramophone Publications. Minds boggled at the very idea of the venerable old lady of classical-music criticism getting into bed with the much younger, altogether brasher, and unashamedly populist What Hi-Fi?, market leader among UK hi-fi mags. As Haymarket enigmatically put it, "With its emphasis on in-depth reviewing, Gramophone itself has great synergy with other titles in the Haymarket portfolio, such as What Hi-Fi? magazine."
John Wright was one of the most important figures on the British hi-fi scene since the mid-1960s. His natural modesty and reticence made it easy to underestimate a working life that encompassed an unusually wide range of different roles: from inventor to speaker engineer to reviewer to businessman.
The final piece of the TGI/Mordaunt-Short/Epos jigsaw puzzle (see previous story) seems to have fallen into place, with the news that Mike Creek (of the UK's Creek Audio) is purchasing the Epos loudspeaker brand, effective March 1.
The shock news on November 18, 1998---that the highly regarded British speaker brand Mordaunt-Short was to be closed down (see previous story)---seems to have achieved the desired result. On December 30, Audio Partnership plc announced it was acquiring the Mordaunt-Short brand from TGI plc (Tannoy Goodmans International).
It had to happen eventually. Britain's internationally successful loudspeaker manufacturers tend to be highly geared exporters, with overseas markets often accounting for 80-90% of sales. The dramatic downturn in sales across virtually all Asian markets, alongside the collapse of the Russian ruble and an ever-strengthening pound sterling, has been making life very tough indeed.
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).