With our Naim Statement S1 preamplifier now here and settling in, I’ve been mulling things over.
When I started Signals back in 1993, there was a fairly strong thread of opinion that passive preamps made far more sense than active ones. Back then, there was a greater interest in mixing and matching products and it was pretty obvious, even to me, that a middling or ill-matched active preamp could be significantly outclassed by a really good, and well matched, passive design.
It was an implicit part of NVA’s design and passively fronted designs from them, Densen and even, latterly, Naim’s own Nait 5i, have made a compelling case for simplicity equalling clarity.
At the high end, the Audio Synthesis Passion was all the rage in the early 90′s and I seem to recall that it scored very highly on reviewer Martin Colloms’ numerical system.
Gradually, over time, I came to accept that the benefits of neutrality and clarity were outweighed by the additional intangibles that come from a really well engineered active preamplifier. Our ascent of the Naim ladder had us utterly spell-bound by the NAC552 preamplifier over a decade ago. Its ability to offer benign clarity, being kindly to second-division recordings, yet offering breath-taking insight was evidence that the mountain had been climbed. The DR version, introduced two or three years ago improved it further.
Recently, we were introduced to Naim’s latest innovation; cables that better their now aging designs. Mock not, whilst many other cable designs have, in our humble opinion, moved forward in certain areas, there has always been a sense that you have to give some other aspects up in the process. Super Lumina squared the circle for us, and a lot of our customers, by simply progressing significantly yet maintaining the core musicality. I have spent evenings listening with a wonderful sense that real players were involved in entertaining me. Death being no barrier!
Despite this feeling of meeting near perfection, there was one level further sitting there to be tried. We don’t have the customer base or spare resources to simply buy the next level of electronics, the Statement pre-power. There had been, however, a little flutter of interest in fronting existing NAP500 amplifiers with the S1 preamp. So here it is. So far above any sane budget that we deserve to be stuck with it! Oh what a comeuppance that would be…
Priced at fifty seven thousand pounds, at the time of writing, and with serious weight issues (touchy subject for me), the S1 has the capacity to make the rest of our reference system look rather low rent. Anyway, how much more difference can this pre-amp make?
We heard a Full Statement system at our Audio Show East event last year. And yet simply adding this pre-amp to an existing known system has surprised us. Quite simply, it sounds like you have upgraded the source, bought a far better power amplifier, and doubled the investment in speakers, whilst upgrading all the super lumina cables again and moved to a better room.
Even not yet run-in its impact is dramatic. We simply didn’t know a NAP500 (or the Titans, come to that) could control bass like that, that the system could sound to self effacing, yet allow the instruments, singers etc to have such solidity and expression. The speed, resolution, composure yet a complete absence (OK, let’s say massive reduction) of sonic signature. And this is with the ‘old’ power amp, the new NAP500 DR is due in August. It’ll be interesting to see what the Fact 12s make of it too. They match the visuals of the S1 better!
In this academically looney world, the £37k differential over a new 552 suddenly doesn’t seem quite so outrageous.
Admittedly, the Super Lumina cables at the show were still under development last summer and have changed a lot since, the speakers were different and the rooms at Trinity park far from ideal, so the above comparison is not entirely fair.
Burning this baby in is not going to be hard work. In fact, I’m kind of warming to the concept of being stuck with it! Joking aside, if this has piqued your interest, we are happy to be as creepily and excruciatingly helpful as possible 🙂