Building The Naim Solstice Turntable

Building The Naim Solstice Turntable

In beginning my build of the new Naim Solstice turntable, I was reminded of how long it’s taken to get here. Over the years, the very idea of a Naim designed turntable, with all that mysterious Salisbury audio magic, has become the stuff of fantasy. It’s a thing we thought we never might see and yet, even when there was nothing of substance to dream of, Naim’s flirtation into the analogue domain with the ARO tonearm in the late 80’s, help fan the flames of hope that one day they would make a more substantive return…and what a return this is!

The popularity of the ARO

Perhaps because of the popularity of the ARO, with droves of Linn LP12 owners swearing by its unique uni-pivot design and the unbeatable performance, it was perhaps inevitable that something to build on this success would eventually come to pass, but whereas a re-jig and a re-release might have been enough to quiet some analogue enthusiasts, Naim has instead taken the bolder move of creating a ground up design that takes their new and improved ARO as a starting point, then builds a playback device to exploit its full potential – this is not just a collection of parts that attempt to justify their own existence, but an altogether more cohesive and complete vinyl playback solution. To that end, Naim has collaborated with the German turntable wizards at Clearaudio to bring some entirely original and custom parts into existence. This was never going to be just Naim’s version of a Linn LP12, but something that draws on Naim’s own individual rich experience and pedigree in mechanical and electrical engineering. The result is a thoroughly cotemporary deck that looks, feels, and sounds so distinctively Naim, yet appears timeless and classically executed.

Down to business

The build starts with the base plinth that cleverly houses both the typical Naim decoupling mechanics, along with the electronic connections for motor control. This being a Naim design, both phono stage and the ubiquitous power supply are all off-board affairs, connected with their favoured DIN and Burndy connector types…I for one am delighted to see these here, as even though the Solstice could find a worthy home within any high-end performance system, it’s still clearly a ‘love-letter’ to a Naim owners both old and new.

Once sited, levelling the deck is simply a case of adjusting the threaded feet using the supplied Naim branded bubble level. I should take a moment here to draw attention to the wonderfully luxurious and comprehensive accessories pack that comes supplied with the Solstice, containing all the tools, cleaning materials, bearing oil and calibration equipment that you need. Not only does this mean that everything is self-contained, but there is a ‘pride of ownership’ element here that really does add value.

The tonearm cable simply feeds through the underside and clips into the base of the ARO arm, which in turn is secured via a grub screw. This is made all the easier by some removable tape that aids with the geometry, ensuring correct alignment from the outset with minimal fuss.

Once positioned it’s then a case of constructing the inner hub which floats magnetically over the central ceramic spindle. Some Naim oil is applied sparingly to said spindle to provide a frictionless barrier between the two and then the hub is lowered on. The repellent forces of the strong magnets make this the trickiest part of the build, as care and a steady pair of hands are needed to ensure that nothing clashes unexpectedly. Once clear however, the hub gently hovers a quarter way down the spindle, allowing the user to position the belt in readiness for the truly gargantuan metal outer platter.

The Solstice outer platter is truly something else – an exquisitely milled and highly polished block of smooth, shiny metal that wouldn’t look out of place on a Nasa spacecraft! Its sheer mass exudes quality, and its precise execution inspires total confidence. The platter marries to the inner hub with millimetre accuracy, with the whole assembly dropping down into position and hovering just above the plinths surface in perfect balance. Despite its weight, the exceptional levels of engineering here mean that a gentle tap of a single finger is all that’s needs to see a uniform and effortless bounce.

It is then a case of setting the tracking force and anti-skate values for the Equinox MC cartridge and ARO arm, powering up the respective power supply and phono stage, before starting upon the final and most laborious part of the whole process – deciding which record to spin first!