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Wow, Naim’s $200,000 amplifier

Its new Statement amplifier, announced today at the CES 2014 trade show in Las Vegas and due on sale later this year, will deliver 746W (or one horsepower) per channel! Configured as a preamplifier, the NAC S1, and two NAP S1 mono power amplifiers, the system is expected to sell ‘from around $200,000’ – or about £140,000 – when it starts shipping in July. Ten-year project It’s the result of a ten-year project led by the company’s Electronic Design Director, Steve Sells, and has been under serious development for the past three years, during which the Naim team has been working on the design and construction of the amplifier. Unlike Naim’s existing amplification, the NAC S1/NAP S1 system has a vertical layout, with the power supplies in the base of each unit’s 94cm-tall tower, suspended on an A-frame and coupled to the floor using spikes. The audio electronics are in the rest of each enclosure, with an illuminated ‘acrylic divide’ minimising electromagnetic radiation between the two sections. And thre rest of the build is also on the massive scale: the preamp weighs 61.5kg, and the power amplifiers 101kg each. In the preamplifier, the switching for the inputs – on a choice of three DIN sockets, three pairs of RCA phonos or two sets of balanced sockets – is mounted on a brass frame, suspended on leaf-springs to decouple it from vibration, and covered by an inert metallic cage to keep electromagnetic interference at bay. The signal is then converted into balanced form before being passed up through the ‘acrylic divide’ to the main analogue boards, themselves mounted on mass-loaded suspension. The NAC S1 uses Naim’s new Dual Volume Control, using a chip system while changing volume, then immediately switching back to a resistor based stepped attenuator with 100 volume positions, for the cleanest possible sound. As in other Naim high-end products, the use of a heavy brass plate mounted on springs decouples the main audio section, and Naim Discrete Regulator power supplies for each section of the preamplifier are similarly suspended. Massive power The NAP S1 monobloc power amplifier, which connects to the preamp using balanced interconnects, has massive power capability: beyond that 746W into 8ohms, it’s capable of delivering 1450W into 4ohms, or over 9000W of burst power into 1 ohm. It’s a bridged design, with a three-stage topology: voltage gain, an ultra-fast error-cancellation system and finally a unity gain high current output amplifier, ensuring that each section is optimised for its function within the whole signal path. Each amplifier uses a 4000VA toroidal transformer, specially designed versions of Naim’s Discrete Regulators and new output transistors using aluminium nitride for enhanced thermal conductivity and a Nano diamond paste between transistor and heatsink. All this heat management is employed in the quest for thermal stability, and thus maximum linearity: the heatsinks themselves, machined from solid metal, form an essential part of the visual impact of the new amplifiers. Naim’s Steve Sells says of the NAC S1/NAP S1 that ‘I’ve had the ambition to create the ultimate amplifier since I can remember: Naim electronic, mechanical and industrial design engineers with combined experience totalling well over 100 years have contributed to this project.’