What's In a Naim?

"I have a theory," I said to Jon Iverson. "There are two types of rooms at CES: The ones that make you want to sit down and listen forever and the ones that make you want to cover your ears and run into the halls screaming. This room," I said, encompassing Naim's $85,000 system with my sweeping arm, "is one of the former."

I sat down, listening to Ray Lamontaign's 'Til the Sun Turns Black. "I may never leave.

It wasn't that the system sounded spectacular. In fact, it was the opposite of spectacle, it was relaxed, encompassing, supremely emotionally compelling. It didn't sound like hi-fi—it sounded like Jeff Buckley being given the second act life didn't offer him.

The system included the Naim 555 Cd player Mikey Fremer will be reviewing in the February issue. It also included the 282 preamp with two HiCap power supplies, three NAT 250 amps, and the Snaxo active crossover driving a pair of DBLloudspeakers ($27,500/pair).

The DBLs are a classic example of jamming a gallon of performance into a quart bottle—in fact, thanks to resistive loading and a unique cabinet topology, they do combine the best aspects of small cabinets and large volumes. How does that work? Each driver sits in its own small enclosure, but is coupled to an L-shaped plinth that, thanks to that resistive loading dodge, offers the benefits of a larger cabinet without the driver blur that would occur with a common enclosure.

A picture, as they say, is worth 1000 words.

Best sound of the show, in my humble opinion.