Above and beyond; What's your Naim?

This Easter was spent at home, relaxing after a very hectic start of the year. As always when any of our shops is closed we try to get some upgrades and cleaning done. This time around I focused on the Hendrix Ibsen sound system. 

I have always been very interested in sound, music and equipment. I play guitar, at least I used to, and I intend to start playing sometime soon. The playing goes in waves. Long lasting waves. So I have bought many guitars, and sold a few. I have bought many amps, and lost/given away a few. I still possess three guitars and two amps. All my life I’ve been very interested in both music and the sound systems and gear. I got my first radio/tape player when I was 4-5 years old, and I remember recording music from the radio in 1984, telling my parents not to speak since I thought their voices would be recorded as well. I got my first proper stereo system with a CD player and my own record player when I was about 12. Until then I had used my parents record player and my brothers CD player. I bought myself a pretty decent stereo system when I was 15, for the money I received from my confirmation. The Denon mono amps I bought used in 94, I actually sold in Berlin 15-16 years later at double the price. They became vintage along the way. To make a long story a bit shorter, I discovered the sound of Naim Audio Systems in Berlin about 7 years ago. I went out to buy me some speakers, and specifically told the HIFI sales man not to hook up some very expensive amps. I was happy with my Denon. Sure thang he said, so he hooked up a nice but affordable Marantz setup. I had brought my own CDs, but somehow I wasn’t satisfied with what I heard. I expected more from these 2500 euro Bowers & Wilkins speakers. So then Emre, the HIFI sales dude, proposed to put on another set of amp/CD player, at the same price level. Ok I said, I’d never heard about Naim before, but Emre is a cool dude, so I had faith in him. So then he hooked up the entry level Naim amp and CD player. My instant reaction was a big huge smile. I just sat there grinning. Emre smiled as well, he new I was hooked. I’m sure he’d seen that reaction many a time before. 

So the sound of the Naim amps and other gear was just what I had been looking for, I just never new. Naim has a cult like following of crazy guys (most HIFI geeks are male) who buy and sell, upgrade and downgrade their systems. There is a huge 2nd hand market for used Naim, or preloved equipment as it is called. I don’t know how to explain it, but so it is. Most of us are hooked for life, and we only want to use Naim electronics. The speakers are not always Naim, but they have also built some great speakers over the years, though they don’t manufacture speakers any more. I always liked Bowers & Wilkins. At home I have classic Naim speakers from the 90s, but in my shops I use BW, Naim and Focal. Focal has merged with Naim, so there is a reason for my using Focal. They produce great speakers, as do Bowers & Wilkins and many, many more. 

Vinyl, coffee, literature, good stuff. 

Vinyl, coffee, literature, good stuff. 

I always thought making great coffee and building up the sound system have many similarities. It is not easy to make great coffee, and it is not easy to make a team of baristas always make great coffee while providing excellent customer service. It’s continuous work. I have spent two years upgrading the sound system at Hendrix Ibsen, as well as improving the acoustics in the room. I have installed sound panelling in the ceiling, and we have put up more wood on the walls, as well as repositioned a few of the speakers. I have filled the room with more books and shelves and some plants. and both added components and eventually upgraded components as well. I think I’m 85% there, with the last two steps planned for the near future. Of course all of this costs both time and money, but buying 2nd hand, or preloved, can cut the costs in half or more. The time is on me, since I really love this stuff I don’t mind. Every little effort is a piece in a bigger puzzle. 

One of many Naim components at Hendrix Ibsen.  Sound panels in the ceiling. 

One of many Naim components at Hendrix Ibsen.  Sound panels in the ceiling. 

So what does it mean to have a great sounding space? I have never been to a coffee shop, restaurant or a bar that sounds as good as Hendrix Ibsen. It might be one of the best sounding shops in the world. I don’t know, but I think it could be. I think great acoustics mean our guests are able to enjoy sitting in the space longer, that the vibe we create in our space is better because of a better sounding sound system. We are able to play music at a lower volume but still it sounds amazing, guests are able to talk, drink beer or coffee and listen to the music at a very comfortable decibel level. And when we do crank it up it sounds absolutely fabulous, and the good times can roll even more. And for me it gives a sense of purpose, it enables me to work with something I really love. And I always believe this rubs off to the spaces. The love for good coffee, good music, literature and good vibes. And as we all know, all you need is love, coffee and music.