Naim Ovator S-600 Loudspeaker Review

$17,000

4 Stars

Naim innovates once again with The Ovator, distinctive floor standing speakers that sound as good as they look, and will only get better with time.

Although better known for its extensive range of amplifiers and source components, Naim also has a long history of loudspeaker production, dating back to 1986 with the legendary SBL and IBL.

The Salisbury-based company then went on to produce the range-topping DBL in 1991, finally retiring the flagship speaker last year in anticipation of their latest statement in transducer design – the Ovator S-600.

It’s a large floor standing design that pictures just seem unable to do justice to, and although physically large the Ovators don’t give off an impression of bulk. The review pair was coated in a beautiful Cherrywood veneer along the sides and rear, offset by the black baffle and its brace of high-tech drivers.

A discussion of the technology built into the Ovator is pertinent, because Naim has really been innovative with their new baby.

For starters Naim have eschewed a conventional bass/midrange/tweeter arrangement, instead choosing to reach back in time to use a little-known driver combining both high and mid-range frequencies. It’s called a BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator), essentially a flat circular diaphragm capable of reproducing all frequencies from 380hz up to 35kHz.

It’s astonishing stuff, but the innovation didn’t end there. The BMR ‘floats’ in its own sealed chamber: this consists of an extruded alloy cylinder that extends from the front baffle to the rear of the speaker, and is decoupled from the enclosure by a pair of leaf springs. Touch the rear of the cylinder, and the BMR moves forward independently of the enclosure. Even the cabinet is decoupled from the die cast aluminium plinth by leaf springs, further isolating the Ovator from floor-borne resonance and microphony.

Unsurprisingly, the enclosure also has had the magic touch with multiple layers of Naim’s secret ‘material’ bonded together under heat and pressure, while both bass drivers operate in separate 30 litre sealed chambers – making the Ovator a very unique quasi-infinite baffle loudspeaker.

Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take the speakers home to my West Auckland hi-fi parlour, but after my screaming/rolling on the carpet and crying tantrum I ventured off to Shore Hi-fi to audition the gorgeous Ovators. Using the Naim 252/NAP 250/Supercap amplification and the stunning HDX Server as the source, the Ovators were put through their paces with a brace of artists from Bic Runga to Sarah McLaughlin, Miles Davis to Massive Attack and Ronny Jordan.

The CD rip of ‘All Blues’ from Miles’ classic Kind Of Blue album lit the room up with an airy and rhythmically dynamic sound quality, capturing the spirit of the recording extremely well. The plaintive sound of Miles’ muted trumpet burst forth from a black background and took centre stage – this kept me pinned to the couch until the track ended. Massive Attack replaced Miles with ‘Inertia Creeps’ and once again an excellent result, the throbbing bass underpinning the moody, subdued trip-hop tune but not at the expense of detail or delicacy. Percussion sounds were dynamic and full-bodied, and basically the sound as a whole was of a very high quality. A touch of hardness in the treble was noted, but the review pair was practically uncrated the preceding day – I’d expect the BMR driver to sweeten up over a decent run-in period.

Naim has created a veritable tour-de-force with the Ovator S-600s. They are stunningly built, styled and sound fantastic to boot. Also, they’ll continue to improve over the years to come. GARY PEARCE

www.nadist.co.nz

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