From the archives: Dear Sir … (Apparently I’m a wanker!)

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Previously published on 2006

Dear sir …

Why do you HATE Naim you wanker?

Hmm. I see. Well actually – I don’t see. Not at all. Not one little bit. Bloody cheek!

Here’s the situation from my perspective.

First, a little history. In those dark days of flat-earth mania, roughly from 1976 to 1982 or perhaps until Pink Triangle rolled the pebble that started the avalanche towards enlightened, rational and objective thinking about vinyl reproduction, I felt that both Linn and Naim had advocates and in some cases representatives that acted like thugs. Literally thugs. The attempted bullying reported by some retailers in those days seemed on the face of it barely credible – until I experienced it first-hand at Subjective Audio.

As best I can remember, I became the fourth most successful retailer of the LP12 in the UK – at one point all those years ago. More interesting though was the fact that out of the Linn top-twenty retailers in those days I was the only one who did NOT stock Naim!

Heresy

Linn’s self-appointed evangelists felt this was heresy. Moreover as best I can recall in that period up until Linn had the temerity to release their own (initially pretty poor sounding) pre and power amps, they always recommended Naim amplification and vice-versa. No doubt this was because it seemed the only way to prise an even halfway decent sound out of the then Kans, Saras and Isobarics.

I tried in vain to sell those Linn speakers – but using my then chosen amplification of Meridian, Krell, Michaelson & Austin, Beard, Conrad Johnson and Lentek, the sound of the Linn speakers at Subjective Audio sounded dreadful.

Better with NAIM than without

When I took Naim amplification in as a trade in and partnered it with the Linn loudspeakers, the combination certainly worked. It worked far better than I was able to achieve without Naim. Fair enough I reasoned.

Attempts both covert and overt by me towards Naim, their ayatollah and his acolytes met with zero response.

The ‘bush telegraph’ being what it was seemed to indicate that Naim took a dim view of me selling so much Meridian equipment and stocking the Michell range of turntables – notwithstanding I was selling at my peak around 25 LP12s per month.

Hi-Fi Answers and the other Haymarket Hi-Fi magazines

Now of course Linn and Naim in those days were in my experience very careful not to put anything contentious in writing. It was usually left to the ‘bush telegraph’. That system could only operate with a network of volunteers which, sad to report comprised people who really should have known better – such as some editors and some staff writers of the Haymarket audio publications of that era. Russ Andrews (yes, that one) seemed to some of us to act as Linn’s unofficial ‘policeman’.

Amusingly I thought, one retailer (no longer in business sadly, but no connection with the event) likened Mr. Andrews’ apparent relationship to Mr. Tiefenbrun as being not dissimilar to that between Mr. J. Stalin and Mr. Lavrentiy Beria. Purely conjecture of course.

So that’s the history as I experienced it. Well, part of the history anyway. I took the view all those years ago that Naim and Linn operated a level of thought-control, coupled with a requirement for dealer voluntary emasculation that I was not prepared to stomach. But ……

It was certainly true that the original NAP-250 was VERY hard act to follow.

I had a few of these traded in with a selection of Naim preamps and frankly at that time I had nothing more musical to sell. Not my Meridian, my Krell – nothing. I had more powerful amplification, better built and better looking (not much of a challenge in those days) amplification – but sonically that original Naim gear was seriously good. Moreover the original Naim NAIT never failed to impress me.

So why did people trade these 250s in during those long off days?

Simple. I was selling around 15 pairs of gale 401a loudspeakers per month at my peak and the NAP-250 sounded feeble into that loudspeaker when compared to the Lecson AP3 II and Meridian 105s. Job done!

Today, a significant number of my STAX customers use Naim and yes, when partnered with anything other than Naim’s own loudspeakers (B&W seem a terrific match to me) sound damn good. So yes, I can respect the sound of a maker’s products without (a) having to stock those products and (b) liking the public face of the maker. How many other retailers can prove this open-minded approach? Try it and see!

I’ve never seen a shabby looking Naim retailer.

They do a terrific job in persuading their network to look the part, to behave well, to be knowledgeable, to know how to demonstrate – and a whole lot more.

Mind you, some of them have all the charisma of an answering machine – but without the humour and about as much ability to think outside the Salisbury ‘box’ as I have ability to become a world-ranking ballet dancer. But you can’t really blame them. They aren’t paid to think. They obey – and what’s more, they know where the profit stream is coming from. So why rock the boat, right? Truth be told though I was a bit like that myself, albeit with Meridian up until 1986. Why step off the gravy train?

A very impressive achievement.

To me the Naim company have the kudos, the corporate image, the public’s perception, the promotional literature and a whole lot more which is industry-leading. A very impressive achievement. Moreover the residual values on used Naim is very good and you see no evidence of overt price discounting. Again – they receive (for what it’s worth I guess some of you are thinking) my unqualified admiration.

I do not stock Naim nor Linn products.

So – a long answer to a short question.

All and comments invited. Providing they are not personally offensive, I’ll publish them in full. Promise!

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  • David Price

    It is not Mr Popeck’s position on Naim I wish to comment on, but the stupidly partisan way some audio addicts (which is literally what they are) choose to comport themselves. There is no need for personal insults. It is logically possible (and desirable in life) to be able to profoundly disagree with someone and still be able to see them for the decent human beings they are. Personalising things (invariably in an abusive way) does not make one’s case any stronger; in fact it is an old trick that those who have lost the argument (predictably) resort to. Kind of like, as Dr Johnson famously observed, patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel…

  • christopher breunig

    I see from the Wikepedia entry that Beria was executed after Stalin’s demise. Given Russ Andrews’s temerity in sugggesting replacing the LP12’s chassis with his own Torlyte modification kit, some years ago, does he scan the Scottish obituaries morning by morning?

  • jandl100

    I fondly recall being a victim of a Linn Toe-Tapper. Remember them? – at a demonstration the Linn dealer toe-tapped away looking excited by the music whenever a Linn component was being played, and sat back looking bored whenever anything else was on. Sad & pathetic, but true. (In fact, at that particular demo, the Linn kit was the boring item).

    I too do not miss the awful days of the Linn/Naim Thought Police. They shamed the industry.