The History of the 500 Series

The Road to the 500 Series


To understand the 500 Series, it’s necessary to go all the way to the classic Naim amplification of the 1990s and before. By the beginning of that decade, the company was already established as a manufacturer of some of the world’s finest amplification, with the NAP 250 stereo amplifier and the NAP 135 monoblock both acclaimed by critic and coveted by hi-fi enthusiasts. These amplifiers, used alongside the classic NAC 32 preamp, belied their modest power output figures with a sound having massive drive, detail and – above all else – grip, meaning that they really took control of the speakers with which they were used.

However, it was with the arrival of the NAC 52 preamplifier, and its partnering 52PS power supply, that Naim’s amplification took a giant leap forward, and put us on the path to the current 500 Series. The NAC 52 was lauded at the time of its introduction, the late reviewer Malcolm Steward telling readers of Audiophile magazine that ‘After several weeks with the NAC 52 I have to admit, that try as I might, I've yet to identify a weakness in the way in which it represents and communicates music. And believe me, I have spent as little time as possible away from it. The preamp has entertained and educated me by drawing me closer to recorded music than I've been before. So close, at times, that the experience was unnerving.’ In fact, Steward was so impressed, that he bought the preamp, which remained at the heart of his reference system for more than 25 years – and, three decades later and lovingly serviced by the team at Salisbury, that same NAC 52, used with a NAP 250 of the same vintage, still sets a very high bar for even the latest high-end hi-fi to attempt.

With this world-beating preamplifier on its books, Naim next turned its attention to developing an even better – and notably, more powerful – power amp (though the NAP 250 continues in its range to this day). And whereas all Naim power amps to that point had been variations on a theme – in fact, the similarities between the NAP250 and the NAP 135 were much greater than the differences – creating the NAP 500 was going to require a complete ground-up design.

The 500 Series: powering Naim into a new Millennium

The new flagship range may have started with a power amp, just as Naim had begun in 1973 with the NAP 160, but the new NAP 500 power was not only the most powerful amp the company had ever developed, but also completely new, inside and out.

Innovative technical solutions moved the company on beyond the classic NAP 135 monoblock amps, while a completely fresh industrial design would set the standard for the components still at the core of the current Naim range – the arrival of the signature ‘triptych’ styling.

Naim hand-crafted a complete, highly desirable system around the NAP 500, which was joined in 2002 by the NAC 552 preamplifier and later the CD555 CD player. Updated versions of the NAC 552 and NAP 500 are still at the pinnacle of Naim’s high-end range of ‘conventional’ hi-fi separates, though these days the flagship source component is the superb ND 555 network player. 

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