Neutrality schmutrality – the C356BEE has come to start a party
Good spec, familiar NAD aesthetic
spirited, gale-force sound
Could be more deft and open
The £600 price-point is sparse when it comes to integrated stereo amps, our Buyer's Guide confirms.
So NAD has either cannily pitched the C356BEE where there's little competition or produced an amp at a price where no real market exists.
Either way, there's no doubting the C356BEE's on-paper credentials. It has seven line-level inputs (including two tape loops and a fascia-sited 3.5mm socket), switches for two pairs of loudspeakers and defeatable tone controls.
It features NAD's Modular Design Construction (it's possible to retro-fit NAD's PP375 phono stage, and other upgrades will be available over time) and comes with a shiny and logical remote.
Given the stringent way NAD measures output, it's safe to say the C356BEE's quoted 80 Watts per channel should be ample.
More after the break
Defeated tone controlsWith tone controls defeated and a CD-borne copy of Arcade Fire's Rococo playing, it's the C356BEE's directness that impresses: it just rolls its sleeves up and piles in.
From the bottom of the frequency range (which is solidly and nicely straight-edged) to the top (perky and informative), the NAD is never happier than when tempos and dynamics get testing.
That's not to say it's devoid of subtlety or detail – vocalists are granted full expression, and the C356BEE handles transients confidently – but these are secondary traits.
First and foremost, this is an amplifier that likes to sink its teeth in.
And it's not that this is an especially wearing trait, it's more that the scrap for primacy can result in a rather congested soundstage, sacrificing a little depth.
So, then, if you value uncomplicated drive and attack in your music, you'll find the C356BEE a tireless companion – but those who like to put their feet up every now and then might fancy a rather less boisterous amplifier.