Naim CD5 and Nait 5
Having just come through an election there are some things I thought that I would never experience. Firstly, a National Party struggling with barely 20% support and then two elected women leaders for Labour and the Green Party negotiating our future. Such are our times!
I never thought either, that I would be reviewing the (introductory) Naim 5 Slimline Series and be so enthusiastic about its appearance. Hell, the damn stuff looks pretty, it’s good to touch and comes complete with a user friendly remote control.
At present the Naim CD5 player and Nait 5 integrated amp are sitting on top of my Naim Fraim. Below them are an array of six ‘grown up’ Naim components with the visual sophistication of a miniature oil rig and enough cables to tie up an ocean liner. There goes another myth – that quality hi-fi equipment has to be unattractive and complicated.
By now however, you are probably wondering if it sounds any good, and what’s the catch? Naim has a reputation for manufacturing electronics which make music, particularly with pace, rhythm and timing (yes it pays to be a PRAT).
This equipment is no exception. At this price point I would be struggling to think of anything which lets you so fully into the structure of the music.
The Naim sound is changing though. Since the development of their flagship NAP 500 amplifier, the emphasis is now on a clean, informative, neutral sound with low listener fatigue. I sometimes think that hi-fi sound evaluation is like having visitors – you want them to be friendly, interesting, but not too intrusive. This is the new Naim sound.
For the more analytical reader, the midrange is liquid and open (I almost said valve like). I am currently listening to Norah Jones on Blue Note records imploring us to come away with her. With a voice like that I’ve got my bags half packed already!
One thing that Naim gear does very well is to keep the emotion of the recording. On the Chesky recording of Dave’s True Story, the Baby Talk track has a lilting bass line that rhythmically underlines the vocals. With this equipment, the bass is a pleasure to follow.
While Naim rate this amplifier conservatively at only 30 watts (in one review its output was measured at 36 watts), there is more than enough grunt to drive moderately efficient speakers in an average room. Ernest Ranglin had me tapping my foot and nodding my head through his Serfin track on Below the Bass Line. If you do want to rattle the neighbours’ windows then this amplifier will do the job and then politely soft clip rather than getting nasty.
The amplifier coped well with speakers ranging from Sonus Faber floor-standers to Royd Albions and was, of course, well matched to Naim’s own Intro speakers.
The treble reproduction from this system is surprisingly neutral. There is a good balance where the sound does not spit on the one hand or recede on the other. With the Oscar Peterson Trio’s We Get Requests there can be a tendency with lesser systems for the sound to congeal. Here the sound remained well separated and Ed Thigpen’s brush work kept its integrity.
With all of these wonderful assets (including a high quality interconnect thrown in), is there any reason not to buy this system? Well, if I want to keep my honorary membership of the AFC (Ant Fondler’s Club) then the CD tray knob is a bit fiddly and the Naim sign is hard to read.
Not everyone will like this sound. I wonder if some of its hardest critics will be die-hard Naim fans themselves, who have become used to a forward lively sound with a leading edge, sharp enough to shave by. This can be impressive, but does not necessarily reflect the true subtlety of natural sound.
More seriously, be aware that this system is an introduction to a seductive and gentle upgrade path that Naim make very easy with their generous trade-ins on used equipment. Just ask my bank manager what that can do!
Naim CD5 $4,000 and Nait 5 Integrated Amp $3,200