“Coming Around Again…”

Time was, any one of these changes would have resulted in the audio equivalent of a peasant’s revolt, with hordes of disgruntled, Din-wielding customers descending on Salisbury – probably via Stonehenge for a little spiritual reinforcement. These days, the fits of incandescent, anxiety driven violence will probably be vented online, where ever-smaller numbers can make even more noise. Yet the changes are both realistic and above all, rational. They make the products more broadly compatible (with partnering equipment and within the range) while also starting to devolve manufacturing beyond the hallowed grounds of the Naim enclave on the Southampton Road. Above all, at £5,700 (inc. 20% sales tax) per box, they keep the prices approachable. I find it somewhere between sad and hilarious that the Naim fan-base are clinging to the idea that the “Designed In Salisbury” (rather than Designed And Built In Salisbury) labeling is just an unfortunate linguistic error… Even iconoclastic brands can’t afford to ignore market forces.

When Naim first launched the statement amplifiers, their most committed customers were, for the most part, outraged by the costs, pricing that put the new products well out of reach. But then, that was the point. As impressive as the Statement most certainly was, it was always intended to reach new markets and new customers. It was also a step-change in performance and ambition for the brand, a genuine high-end contender. Well, that thinking and philosophy has finally filtered down to the core products, in the shape of this new amp, pre-amp and power supply. This is Statement-lite for mainstream Naim users – although it remains to be seen just how warm a welcome it receives in certain ‘more traditional’ quarters…

If Focal’s take-over of Naim signalled the beginning of the end, it also marked the end of the beginning. With the arrival of the (oxymoronically named) New Classic Series, that process is finally reaching its conclusion. The king that could (should?) have died nearly 20 years ago is finally dead; long live the king!

Wilson Benesch

The Sheffield-based turntable and loudspeaker manufacturer might not have been around quite as long as Naim, but they are as prominent as they are a permanent part of the UK audio landscape. The Bristol Show saw them launch one important product and tease another.

The A.C.T 3ZERO is both the latest addition to the Fibonacci Series and the sixth iteration of the company’s first loudspeaker. As the family association and nomenclature suggests, this new version of the slim floorstander features the Fibonacci hybrid dome tweeter and Tactic 3.0 mid and mid-bass drivers. The composite cabinet is now moulded from the company’s exclusive bio-composite material, which is fully recyclable, unlike carbon-based composites. They say it sounds better too! The rear firing mid-range port now features an elegant 3D printed laminar flow guide. It’s beautiful, although you’d never know unless you go poking around behind the system. But the really big news is that for the first time in an A.C.T. model, the 3ZERO features the company’s trademark isobaric bass driver, located to fire down through the complex plinth structure. This promises to add some welcome low-frequency extension and musical authority to a speaker which ticks so many of the boxes in terms of size, shape and domestic acceptability. Price in standard finish is £31,995 (inc. 20% sales tax) and, as with the Naim New Classic Series, it is available now.