NAIM is one of hi-fi's most respected names. Based in Salisbury, the company has long been a bulwark of British hi-fi, a high priest at the church of stereo purism.
Forget graphic equalisers and flashing lights – in Naim's vision of audio Nirvana, nothing has ever been allowed to interfere with sound quality, no matter how convenient or stylish it might be. Indeed, for a time, even remote controls were viewed as heretical.
However, products like the DVD5, one of the best DVD players we've ever tested, prove that revisionist thinking is beginning to take hold down Naim way. The n-Vi, a complete hi-fi and home cinema system in one box, simply takes the process on a stage further.
One box – no shortage of abilityThere's nothing new in the ‘all-in-one' concept – Linn did it years ago, with the Classik Movie, and Arcam more recently with the Solo.
The difference lies in the quality of Naim's execution, which is remarkable. It positively flattens its Linn rival for both sound and picture quality, and delivers performance so impressive, it genuinely rivals the best separates kit.
More after the break
So, what do you get for your money? The n-Vi is the first Naim to use digital amplification, its slim chassis playing host to five channels of Class T power, rated at 50w into 8 ohms: all you need add is a suitable 5.1 speaker package. The ‘front end' can play and decode a broad range of discs: it's compatible with both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, and its Cirrus Logic DSP processor is capable of supporting Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro-Logic II and DTS Neo:6 surround.
Naturally, you can also play your CDs (and CD-R/-RWs), and an extensive range of inputs means you can also feed in external sources as diverse as your iPod (via a dedicated 3.5mm fascia input) and satellite TV (via an optical digital input on the rear).
Upgrade modules add to attractionAnd it's even upgradeable. If you want to listen to the radio, an internal DAB/FM module can be fitted for £250, while a video scaler to improve picture quality, even for external video sources, is currently in development.
Installation is a doddle, made simple by clear on-screen menus and a thoughtful set of video set-up test patterns (as used by the DVD5). For the optimum video performance, Naim suggests you use the DVI digital video connector and access the n-Vi's Faroudja progressive scan video processing.
Picture performance is just gorgeous: lavishly textured and full of colour, it looks every bit as good as the best stand-alone £1000 decks.
Sound, meanwhile, is effortlessly dynamic, the Naim showing none of the brittleness under load that can afflict some slim systems. Instead, 5.1 soundtracks fairly burst into exciting, glorious life, being at once dramatically energetic and thoroughly accurate: the Naim simply places information where it ought to be, drawing you into a soundfield as broad as it is convincing.
Add in stereo performance that at least matches the best efforts of good-quality budget separates, and clearly, Naim has achieved something special.
The n-Vi is a modern-day miracle: not a bad effort for one of hi-fi's old-school.