It’s the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, as we travel past the ancient stone circles of Stonehenge into Salisbury, to Naim’s headquarters to listen to their first-ever turntable – The Solstice Special Edition.
Jason Gould is our resident expert for the day, giving us engineering insight into the new turntable system. He guides us through the foyer, past the legacy audio equipment and iconic posters from the early days of Naim, through to the new, acoustically improved listening room.
The Solistice turntable’s deep, high-polished aluminum platter is the first thing that strikes us we enter. It fits in perfectly with the 500 series products beneath it in the Naim Fraim hi-fi rack. Apparently, the engineers experimented with thinner platters, but they couldn’t achieve the optimum flywheel effect they needed to create that ideal solid sound.
What do you get in the Solstice Special Edition package?
It includes the Solstice NVS TT turntable; a next-generation version of the iconic Naim Aro tonearm, the Mk2; the Equinox Moving Coil cartridge, the Solstice Series Phono Stage NVC TT & Power Supply NPX TT, plus a bespoke accessories set.
What are the Solstice SE’s sonic characteristics?
The turntable system produces exactly what is on the record, with authority, musicality, and assurance.
As part of the Special Edition pack – the turntable comes with its own spirit level for the platter & tonearm, as well as a digital vertical tracking force gauge. Every aspect has been considered to ensure the needle sits perfectly in the grooves of the vinyl extracting every minute detail.
The Solstice NVS TT turntable construction
Roy George, Naim Technical Director, had the idea of reducing the noise by creating crumple zones within the turntable to take energy and vibrations away from the stylus. Jason wheels in a prototype of the Solstice so we can see where these are placed, and how the rest of the turntable is constructed:
The base – constructed from 47 layers of marine ply, which are sandwiched between an aluminium top plate, and a super-rigid, vibration-resistant steel base. It also has a decoupled central section.
Platter – oversized & made of high-mass aluminium, to work with a magnetised spindle to achieve the flywheel effect, to keep the momentum going, and smooth its rotation.
Floating magnetic bearing assembly – supporting the aluminium platter.
Self-calibrating motor drive system
Drive belt – this will need changing once every decade.
The feet – designed to filter out certain frequencies
It is covered with the same dense acrylic used in the Statement amp, and is the prefered choice of material due to its non-electromagnetic properties.
Naim Aro Mk2 tonearm
Based on the original Naim Aro tonearm, keeping its properties of natural, organic, and lifelike musical performances. The original Aro was made from the casing for an actual arrow, hence its name. This one is made of tuned carbon fibre with close to zero resonance and is decoupled from the body of the turntable, to significantly reduce vibrations.
” The tonearm allows the cartridge to extract enormous amounts of the information from the grooves of a vinyl record, but with an incredible sense of flow and correctness to the resulting sound. ”
In collaboration with Clearaudio, the Aro Mk2 is built-in Germany to Naim’s specifications. It allows for fine adjustments to anti-skate, arm height & the arm’s horizontal alignment. And the headshell has 3 point fixings to attach the cartridge.
We can help set your tonearm properly. Sometimes, if the tonearm isn’t at the correct angle, it can play on the back of the diamond, which can make the recording sound far too bright.
Equinox MC Cartridge:
A Moving Coil cartridge (replacement cartridges are priced at £1400). Naim recommends the cartridge is run-in for about 50 hours before the diamond stylus is at its optimum.
” Equinox is an MC cartridge with a microline stylus shape – closer to the original cutting lathe head to enable the retrieval of accurate high-frequency information. “
Phono Stage NVC TT
Uses technology & styling from the Superline, and uses the discrete regulators (DR) originally developed for Statement.
It has a separate moving coil and moving magnet inputs, with rotary dials to fine-tune the capacitors (ideally, this needs to be set as low as possible).
Power Supply NPX TT
A smooth, and stable power supply is vital for superior performance, Naim has created one with low noise Class A circuits, that powers both the turntable and the phono stage. The two power supplies are completely isolated, to limit the risk of interference.
It also features Naim DR technology, providing clean (low noise) power. And can even detect the turntable has stopped and will go into sleep mode.
Both power supply and phono stage are handcrafted here in Salisbury.
We listened to the Solstice with the NAP 500 DR power amp – then compared it with the Statement Amp. The first thing you notice is that the opening notes of the records appear out of complete silence, and then each individual sound is crystal clear and vivid.
The sound through the Statement was more musical and had a cleanness that made us sit up and take notice of every sound. Credit also has to be given to the new acoustically treated demo room, which now has shutters on the windows to stop reflections from the glass, while new bass traps also help clean up the low frequencies and give them more focus.
Grace Jones – Pull up to the bumper
Recorded at the legendary Compass Point Studios, Bahamas – notorious for its optimistic, bright, direct sound – this is translated perfectly by the Solstice. With Sly & Robbie powering the rhythm section – the cowbells sound like they being played inside your brain, and you can feel the synth lines flow through your body.
Aphex Twin – Avril 14th
Your ears can clearly pick out the sound of the objects resting and bouncing upon the piano strings – producing that unique timbre.
Johnny Cash – Wayfaring Stranger
You believe every word Johnny is singing!
Boards of Canada – Telephasic Workshop
The electronic sounds have layers and blend beautifully with the bass, the tune has an emotional resonance often missing when played on other systems.
It’s lucky it’s the longest day of the year, as we could’ve stayed listening until midnight. Getting the train back through the Wiltshire countryside, our minds drift to those mysteries of the ancient world that are locked inside the neolithic site at Stonehenge. So many questions remain unanswered: Do the giant stones really sit on powerful spiritual leylines? What is the significance of its alignment with the sun on Summer Solstice? and, Why has it taken Naim 50 years to develop their very first turntable, when it sounds this incredible?
The Solstice Special Edition is limited to 500 worldwide, with just 120 available in the UK, and costs £16,000 inc.VAT
If you’d like to audition the Soltice turntable along with your hi-fi system, please get in touch and we’ll arrange a listening session.