Naim launches first turntable as limited-edition Solstice Special Edition
A new product announcement from luxury Brit audio house Naim always causes something of a stir in the hi-fi community, and so it is with the launch of the limited edition Solstice Special Edition, the company's first turntable in its (almost) 50-year history.
Founded by former racing car driver and self-taught engineer, Julian Vereker MBE, the UK's Naim Audio has been in the hi-fi gear game since the 1970s, manufacturing everything from amplifiers to loudspeakers and tuners to DVD players.
More recently the company has impressed industry pundits and audiophiles alike with its high-end music streaming systems like the gorgeous – a great sounding – Mu-so and Mu-so Qb (which even enjoyed special edition run in partnership with Bentley), and all-in-one "just add speakers" systems like the Uniti. But one member of the living room hi-fi brood has been conspicuous by its absence from the Naim family, a turntable. The Solstice puts that right.
"Solstice Special Edition offers an exceptional all-round experience," said Naim Audio R&D Director, Paul Neville. "If you love the organic, authenticity of vinyl, now you can enjoy it with the musical purity and passion only a Naim system can deliver."
Naim has been working on the development of the Solstice system with German audio gear veteran Clearaudio Electronic for more than two years, and the latter will be taking care of manufacturing duties for the turntable, tonearm and cartridge to Naim's exacting specifications.
The Solstice Turntable NVS TT rocks the classic Naim look, its sharp angles and polished finish having premium written all over it. Naim's Design Director, Simon Matthews described it as "functionally coherent, encourages use, is sharp – almost brutalist – and wears its innovative design solutions with pride. Both in terms of it sonic signature as well as its aesthetic, we feel we have finally delivered a complete vinyl solution the Naim way."
Up top is a high-mass, high-polish aluminum platter supported by a magnetic bearing, with a self-calibrating, high-torque 24-V DC brushless motor – that's mounted in a rubber enclosure to keep vibration transfer down to a minimum – driving the neoprene belt. Platter speed is continuously monitored by an optical feedback system, and 33.3/45-rpm playback speed in selected using low-riding controls up top.
The platter bearing and arm are isolated from the low-resonance plinth (which is fashioned from 47 separate layers of wood and wrapped in a metal skin) by a three-arm decoupling system to prevent residual vibration from the motor, as well as nixing disturbances from around the turntable. Tonearm output is via a 5-pin mini DIN port. And the Naim logo is illuminated out front in white, with a choice of three brightness settings.
The Solstice turntable has LWD dimensions of 182 x 420 x 358 mm (7.16 x 16.5 x 14 in), and tips the scales at a hefty 25.4 kg (56 lb). Three height-adjustable feet help "decouple the turntable plinth from the surface it is sitting on."
Naim did make tonearms in the late 80s/early 90s, and a brand new Aro unipivot tonearm has been developed for the Solstice, which is partnered with a new Equinox moving-coil cartridge.
"Aro has always set the benchmark for delivering incredibly natural, organic and lifelike musical performances," said the company. "Its design allows the cartridge to extract enormous amounts of information from your records, but with an incredible sense of flow and correctness to the resulting sound."
The redesigned tonearm weighs in at 8 g (0.28 oz), boasts tungsten and carbon fiber construction, and has azimuth, arm height and bias adjustment. And the assembly includes a lift/lower mechanism as well as a manual placement hook.
It retains the three-point fixing setup of old but adds two-point, slotted fixings for alternative cartridges. The supplied Equinox cartridge is said to benefit from solid aluminum housing that's home to a stiff-but-light boron cantilever and a microline stylus with a shape reckoned to be closer to a cutting lathe head for improved retrieval accuracy. Meanwhile, a high-energy linear motor system converts mechanical movement to voltage.
The Solstice Special Edition package also comes with a NVC TT phono stage that incorporates tech trickled down from the company's flagship Statement amplifier as well as referencing previous designs such as Naim's SuperLine.
It incorporates fly-by-wire input switching, loading and gain for more flexibility, with 16 resistive and 16 capacitive loading settings at the user's disposal for a total of 256 possible tuning combinations for moving-coil cartridges. The phono stage features a dedicated Class A moving coil design for ultra-low-noise performance, as well as support for moving-magnet cartridges via a separate dedicated head amplifier.
"To achieve that incredible sound quality, we designed simple but elegant circuits, fed by our acclaimed high-performance Discrete Regulators tech, which provides the smooth, stable power supply that’s vital for next-level performance," said Technical Director, Steve Sells. "Our production technicians then take premium components and fanatically measure, select and match them for ultimate accuracy."
The final piece of the Solstice hardware package is the NPX TT smart power supply for both turntable and phono stage, though the two power sections within are completely isolated. This unit also makes use of Discrete Regulators technology for clean power provision.
Both the phono stage and power supply are being hand-built by Naim at its Salisbury facility.
An accessories set includes a digital stylus gauge, bubble level, hex drivers, vinyl adjustment tool, dust protector and cleaning cloth. And buyers will also get a Special Edition book including a vinyl record of eight "superb-quality true stereo recordings" that have been remastered by engineer Ken Christiansen.
In terms of price, those familiar with the company will know that Naim quality comes at a premium, with the Solstice Special Edition package rising far above the cost of high street turntables from the likes of Sony, Audio Technica, Yamaha, and Cambridge Audio, or even higher-end classics by Technics, McIntosh and Bang & Olufsen.
The suggested selling price for the Solstice Special Edition package, which is limited to just 500 units, comes in at a cool US$20,000. All of the various elements will only be available as part of this limited-edition package, not individually, though Naim may evaluate other options post launch.
Appropriately, the Solstice Special Edition goes up for pre-order today, ahead of availability in late July through select retailers around the world.
Product page: Solstice Special Edition