Naim Audio’s Statement is the easiest amplifier I’ve ever had to review. The clue is in the name. It’s every inch a statement piece from the brand, and making that statement demands a hell of a lot of inches.
Of course, the Statement isn’t a single statement; it’s a preamplifier and mono power amplifier combination, designed to physically – and sonically – match one another. The pairing is the NAC S1 preamplifier and the NAP S1 mono power amplifier which have been sold separately. But in the main, those who can afford £57,000 on a preamp can also afford £49,000 on each of the power amps.
No matter how you sidle up to those numbers, they are substantial amounts to spend on audio electronics. One might be tempted to suggest they are ‘Statement’ amounts of money. Visually, it’s a bold statement, too: we have seen a few tower power amplifiers, but the S1 is a skyscraper in comparison, and its 20mm thick aluminium front and side panels only accentuate this powerful appeal. And the matching preamplifier sandwiched between the two powers is unique. The control surfaces are minimalist and elegant: the large illuminated volume dial invites touch that rewards with a tactile sense that defies description. The ‘cylon’ volume indicator (a white light that moves from the left to right side of the top panel to indicate relative volume) is subtle and understated, but easily understandable. And then there are the heatsinks – elegantly curved in an opposing but matched pattern that might be a far cry from the aluminium sleeves of yore, but look excellent in the flesh. Finished in a choice of black as standard (custom finishes are available, just not commonly discussed), and standing waist height and as wide as a kitchen range, this is not the kind of product you hide away. In fact, it’s a bit of an audiophile statement in the room. But for all that, it’s not the imposing giant slab of audio blackness you might expect.
The black of the Statement is broken up with an illuminated acrylic section on each of the amplifier modules. This also separates the power supplies and toroidal transformers that feed the amplifiers from their more delicate amplifier circuits. These power supply modules also house the amplifier input and output connectors, which are in their own screened ‘Faraday cage’. The preamp features six single-ended inputs (although three are DIN connections, as used by Naim and no other company these days) and two balanced inputs, and the amplifiers are connected using XLRs (although single-ended DIN outputs are also supplied). These power supply chassis are also a statement on their own. For example, there’s the 4kVA toroidal transformer, which is about the size of a wheel for a classic Mini, and weighs almost as much as the rest of the Mini. This sits bolted to the base plate of the amp using brass plates. Above this is a collection of some of the largest capacitors you’ll see this side of a 1950s sci-fi movie. As a result, this not only sinks any potential EMF forces and vibration from the power supplies into the ground, it also keeps its centre of gravity so low that even Sonny Bill Williams at full charge couldn’t tip the amps over.
At 101kg per channel (and 61.5kg for the preamp) all sitting on armour-piercing spikes, tipping over is not an issue. Installation, on the other hand, is a big issue, and requires a team of four piano movers to extract the devices from their flight cases and manoeuvre them into place (Naim installers are currently sharing horror stories among themselves, of no parking zones, trying to carry these monsters up narrow and twisting flights of staircases, and old and saggy floorboards.)