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Remembering Julian

Today, 14th January 2020, marks the 20th anniversary of Julian Vereker’s passing.

As co-founder and Managing Director of Naim Audio, Julian was the heart and soul of the company and his passion for high-quality audio still echoes through Naim today.

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Julian Vereker was a racing car driver, entrepreneur and self-taught engineer with a deep passion for music. Spending his spare time listening to and recording his friends playing live in the 1960s, Julian found that playback on his system at home fell woefully short of the experience he craved. Not content with second best he turned from building racing cars to designing his own amplifiers and loudspeakers, ignoring accepted wisdom and focusing on aspects of performance that made music burst to life.

He was also involved with other business ventures, including being a key backer of Brompton Bicycles, helping the iconic British folding bikes to go into full production in 1988.

In 1995, Julian’s dedication to Audio was recognised when Queen Elizabeth II honoured him with an MBE.

In celebration of Julian Vereker’s phenomenal life, we have put together some memorable quotes, tributes and snippets from significant interviews.

 

Malcolm Steward’s interview with Julian Vereker for Hi-Fi Review in April 1989.

Sadly, Malcom himself passed away last week; he was a true friend to Naim and we send our sincere condolences to his friends and family.

In this interview from 1989, the pair discussed Julian’s unusual career path.

“So how did you progress from tuned-up Minis to hi-fi amplifiers?”

“I retired from racing when I was twenty-two after a very good year – I’d won sixteen out of twenty-three races and been placed in the rest and so it was a good time to quit and sell my car. The car was well known and its sale realised about £650, which in those days was a sizable sum – enough to live on for a couple of years. I retired to Salisbury and for some time I didn’t do a great deal – I worked for Downton Engineering and Janspeed for a while but then I became bored with cars so I went to live in a pub.

While there I developed an interest in 8mm film and putting sound with it, and went to see a local company who made a sound system to go with my camera. I bought all the necessary bits and pieces and asked about the tape I would need. The guy told me I’d need magnetic tape with holes in it so I said “Fine, give me ten rolls”. When I found out that it cost two pounds and ten shillings a roll I told him that it was too expensive and that I’d make my own. Suspending his disbelief that I could actually do that he said that if I could make it I could supply him with it. So I went home and modified a sewing machine to do the job. I went back to his office a week later to show him the tape I’d perforated and the owner placed an order for me to provide him with 100 rolls a month. The venture proved so successful that I built an automated machine to do the job.

Around this time, I started to come into contact with a lot of musicians through my girlfriend who was at art college. They’d come to visit and I got into recording them, buying tape recorders and microphones. I also manufactured a machine that turned lights on and off in time with music – the kind of thing you see everywhere in discos nowadays. Such machines already existed but they weren’t able to switch much current. My 40-Amp triac based device, the Synchrolight, could switch 30 kiloWatts and I used to take it to parties regularly. At one of these I met a film director who hired me to light a film set – the disco scene in ‘Buttercup Chain’ with Jane Asher and Hywel Bennet – for which I got paid £1400, an enormous amount of money. I did another film for another £1000 after which the disco light business expanded and I didn’t feel I wanted to compete on a professional level. Basically I looked upon this sort of work as a profitable and exciting dabble – something to do and enjoy while deciding where my ultimate future lay.

Just before I did the first of those films Naim Audio was registered, actually as Naim AudioVisual, in July 69.

To earn myself a living I sold a few Synchrolight systems, assembled a few hi-fi systems for various people, and worked part-time putting mixer desks together. The Naim amplifier thing started with the mixers. These weren’t my designs and when I looked at what the circuits did on a scope the waveforms didn’t look very good. I thought that if they didn’t look good it had to correlate with something being wrong with the circuit: if you could see that distortion on a screen there had to be a way of eliminating it through better design. So I started reading books about transistor design – I’d had no formal training whatsoever – and it took me about a year to learn enough to design the NAP2OO, which became the NAP25O. It then took me another year learning how to get it to work inside a box, and learning what was really important in amplifier design, which factors were crucial.”

Read the full interview: Audiocounsel

 

Julian’s love for motorcars never left him, Naim Audio’s former Managing Director, Paul Stephenson, and Naim’s Brand Ambassador, Jason Gould, recalled this epic quote:

“Naim is an engineering company, we follow engineering rules. I sometimes think if some hi-fi designers designed a car all the wheels would be on one side, no consideration to engineering reality and reason. At Naim we have a totally 360 view of the engineering challenge.”

Julian’s passion for music and quest to deliver the best sound quality, from the studio to the listening room, expanded to recording music.

 

 

 

Ken Christianson, Pro Musica, Chicago shared this touching memory about how they bonded over music:

“I met Julian in 1977 in Chicago at a CES trade show convention. Over the years that he came to Chicago we became very good friends as we shared the love of music and other aspects of life, this friendship grew until he asked me in the fall of 1992 to get involved with helping develop what was to become “The Naim Label”.

That was a wonderful moment for both of us, as now we could share this passion for sound and recording with other people. We had a great time doing this and I can't tell you how much I loved this man and just being with him.

I got to stay with him when I was over in England recording for the label so we really shared a bond, which I still treasure to this day. I have been in the Audio industry now for 44 years, I still honour what I do in his memory and all the great moments I was able to share with him. There are just too many memories to pick one, but he will always be in my heart and soul.”

 

 

Over the years, Julian’s love for high fidelity audio equipment never faltered and a top priority for Julian was to make his customers feel valued. In his last interview, with Paul Messenger for Hi-Fi Plus, Julian said the following:

PM: How do you think the industry has changed over the past twenty-five years? 

JV:  In one sense at least I'm not sure that all that much has really changed. I didn't get into this business because it's an industry, but because I wanted to listen to music at home, and (perhaps arrogantly) sort of assumed that the kit which made me happy would make other people happy too. I reckon that the attitudes of the Quads, KEFs and B&Ws of the 1970s were quite similar to where Naim is now. They were primarily enthusiastic about music, and about taking care of their customers, and from that point of view I don't see we're doing anything very different. The fact that so much of the rest has turned to dust is just sad.

Read the full article: The Tom Tom Club

 

Julian achieved an incredible amount in his lifetime, packing in more interests and achievements than many of those with far longer time on this planet.  His legacy and values live on in everything Naim do. He is dearly missed and will never be forgotten.

In commemoration of Julian, we invite you to share your fond memories on our dedicated Naim Forum thread.

 

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