Naim doesn’t really make weak products, but it’s fair to say that its speakers — unlike its pretty universally applauded electronics — rather divide opinion. It’s their strong sonic flavour, which emphasises timing and agility over tonal faithfulness, refinement and stereo imaging that means they’re not to everyone’s taste.
The Ovator S-400s are here to change things.
Moving the crossover point
The key is a Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) driver, which has such a wide frequency range that it eliminates the need for a crossover in the 2-3kHz area most traditional designs occupy. By putting the crossover point in a less sensitive part of the frequency range Naim has ensured that you’re much less likely to hear phase and other distortion issues that are innate in crossover networks.
The crossover itself is mounted into the plinth and can be removed if you want to upgrade to active operation. On top of that there’s a suspension system between the plinth and the cabinet, intentionally loose speaker terminals to prevent vibrations that could be carried by the cables, and an enclosure arrangement that combines traditional closed-box design with a small amount of controlled venting. Clever stuff.
Sonically they’re blindingly fast and punchy, have awesomely powerful bass and deliver large-scale dynamics with terrific authority. But there’s also a lovely combination of subtlety and solidity to the midrange, a wide but decently focused soundstage and treble that, while lacking the last sparkle of some, is refined and airy.
Essentially, while still favouring energy and drive over outright tonal faithfulness, the S-400 speakers are the best all-rounders Naim has ever produced.
Type Floorstander • Sensitivity 88dB/W/m • Impedance 4 ohms • Max power 130W •
Biwirable No • Finishes 5 • Dimensions 106 x 33 x 35cm
FOR: Precise and punchy; hard-hitting bass; wide but decently focused stereo image
AGAINST: Not the last word in treble polish
VERDICT: The S-400s are a wonderful combination of Naim’s traditional sonic traits and greater all-round ability — and it all comes together with superb results