While everyone is lining up to experience the Naim Solstice turntable for the first time, and people are finally able to start both hearing it and reading previews (and our own review), for me… this is the week the Solstice goes away. And, while I’m not going to douse my own review with a spoiler, parting company with it will be difficult.
It’s an odd feeling, as you want to cram as many pieces of music as possible into those post-review listening sessions but know that they add nothing constructive to the posted/filed/done review. Sometimes there are some post-review revelations, but usually they are musical experiences that confirm the initial review… and that’s certainly the case here. But there are some points worth noting.
Because Naim remains one of the UK audio world’s big players (it has impact beyond the shores of Blighty, but its importance to many UK music lovers is still huge, to the point where even those who haven’t bought a Naim product in years will have an opinion on the topic), the launch of the Solstice came with some baggage, especially on the forums. And, to quote PG Wodehouse, “though the conversation always touched an exceptionally high level of brilliance, there was apt to be a good deal of sugar thrown about.” While a lot of this comment was wrong, some was on the money and a lot was exceptionally angry about something vaguely related to the Solstice project, most of it missed the point.
The point is, it’s great fun to just sit back and listen to the Solstice, and when it’s gone, I’ll miss that. Yes, there are lots of products that have a similarly enjoyable performance, there are lots that do other things too. But there was something really, really fun about the Solstice’s sound that is going away, and I’ll struggle to replicate that experience to the same effect elsewhere.
We often talk about musical enjoyment in reviews, but rarely about musical ‘fun’. Here’s what I mean. There’s an EP I enjoy that I don’t talk about often in reviews (as it separates music for reviewing against music for enjoyment); Calexico’s 98-99 Road Map [Quarterstick]. However, playing ‘Minas De Cobre’ from this album highlights that unspoken telepathy and biological connection between male psyches: on most decks, it’s a fine acoustic instrumental piece, but through the Solstice, if there are more than two men in the room, you’ll start staring squinty-eyed at one another, reaching for (hopefully) imaginary six-guns and have an burning desire to start wearing ponchos and smoking cheroots. If I had an album of Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks, one of us would be digging for gold in a cemetery by now. Musical enjoyment is loving the music made on the recording; musical fun is about loving how the music makes you feel. There’s a subtle difference, and it’s in that space where the Solstice really shines. I touched upon that in the review, but in the subsequent weeks since the review went to press, that feeling became all the more prevalent.