Friday, October 22, 2010

Naim Night at Whetstone Audio

Last night's Naim event at Whetstone Audio was quite a success, with a large number of Austin audiophiles showing up to drink beer, eat pizza, sit in a $300,000 Bentley and listen to Naim's latest Uniti components. Whetstone owner Brian DiFrank played the part of the genial host as Naim UK's Doug Graham and Naim USA's Dave Dever showed off Naim's new line of components including the Uniti (which combines a CD5i CD player, a NAIT 5i integrated amplifier, a multi-format tuner, a digital stream player, a DAC, an iPod/MP3 player and a USB-stored audio player), the UnitiServe (a hard disk player and server) and the UnitiQute (an all-in-one player that can handle almost every digital format available, and some that haven't even been invented yet).

Here's the bigger of the two systems that were playing at Whetstone. This all-Naim system was based around the Uniti (top shelf). The amazing thing about the Uniti is that all you really have to do is add speakers, and you have a truly one-box solution for your hi-fi. The total cost of the Uniti is only $3750, which is not too much more than the cost of a CD5i and a NAIT 5i. I owned the NAIT 5i for a couple of years, and it's one of the two or three best integrateds for under $2000.

So in other words, you're getting all the added features such as the tuners, the DAC and the other audio players practically for free.

This system used the new Naim Ovator S-400 loudspeakers. These beauties sounded authoritative, punchy and dynamic and achieved ear-splitting volume levels when Doug Graham played a hi-rez copy of The Dark Side of the Moon.

This was the smaller system that featured the UnitiServe as well as Naim's new DAC, which is getting a lot of buzz these days. This system featured the modest Rega R3 speakers which sounded unusually big for their size. Not to steal any thunder from Naim on their big night, but I've always enjoyed the smaller Rega speakers and always felt that if I had only a few hundred bucks to spend, I'd go right for their little R1s. This system sounded excellent and was actually played more than the bigger system.

Here's another shot of the components. Unfortunately, Naim gear is so dark and handsome these days, it's hard to do it justice with a simple cell phone camera!

Here's a close-up of the display of the UnitiQute. Just as I snapped this pic, someone chose my favorite band on the server!

Most of the musical selections were done from either this iPad, or a second laptop. Both were on the same network with the Naim gear.
This is the stunning Bentley that was brought over by Jason Schieck of Bentley of Austin. It's powered by a 620 horsepower 6 liter W-12 engine. A fellow audiophile, who was clearly not a car nut, asked me what a "W" engine was. I asked him if he knew what a V engine was. "Oh, sure," he replied. "'s two of those slapped together," I told him. "Oh."

This is the first time I looked inside of a Bentley. Wow.

And this is the first time I sat in a Bentley. That's the Naim audio system that's custom made just for Bentley. It uses a class-D switching amp to achieve 1100 watts per channel. Doug Graham commented "we had to go class-D because we only had to fit everything in a fairly small space." I'm not a real fan of Class D, but it makes sense in an application like this. The Naim car audio system sounded clear and detailed, with more imaging and soundstaging than I'm used to in a vehicle.
Back in the store, I noticed this NAC 282 preamplifier. It's not every day you see the innards of a Naim component...unless you're me and keep accidentally losing your little magnetic CD puck inside of your Naim CD player.

Here's Brian, standing guard over the two pizzas he bought for the event. In Texas, we call these mediums.

Here's Dave Dever demonstrating the UnitiServe to a couple of Austin audiophiles. The gentleman to the far left is what Texans call "medium build."

Seriously, I talked to those two gentlemen for quite a while. Their names are Scott and Eric, and they've just started a company called Appogg Systems, and they're making isolation platforms for audio components. I checked out their website (at, and the products look great. They're also getting a lot of buzz from audiophiles in the area. They are working on an entire line of platforms before they really go "public." But for now it looks like they're on the right track. I hope to speak with them further about Appogg.

All in all, it was an enjoyable night, and I always have to give credit to Brian DiFrank for making audio fun once again. I'm going to go back in a few weeks and listen to his line of Kudos Speakers (a new British brand from the people who brought us NEAT). Thanks, Brian!

No comments:

Post a Comment