NAD’s novel thinking delivers a decent alternative to the established favourites
Powerful and ultra-refined sound
Build lacks a luxury feel
not the last word in dynamic expression
NAD’s come a long way from the must-buy amplifier of the late 70s and early 80s, the 3020. That amp was about simplicity and had a 20W-per-channel output; the NAD C 390DD is a fine example of doing things the hard way, and delivers 150W a side.
The NAD is a hybrid unit: a digital-to-analogue converter and digital stereo amp. It has no analogue stages in the signal path, so keeps the music in the digital domain right up to the speaker outputs. That helps it, NAD says, avoid the phase shifts and distortion inherent in analogue designs.
It can play content from standard digital sources, from USB devices and computers, at up to 24bit/192kHz. An optional DD AP-1 analogue-to-digital stage can be fitted, complete with phono equalisation, while the DD-HDMI-1 module adds three HDMI inputs and an output.
NAD C 390DD
NAD C390DD: Sound quality
But how does it sound? Well, for a smidge over £2000, pretty good. It’s precise and detailed, offering good scale and plenty of sonic authority. By the highest standards, though, it’s not as expressive or rhythmically adept as the best at this price.
Also the build quality isn’t entirely convincing – we’d expect more solidity and a nicer finish for the money.
But it can go loud, and just keeps going as you wind up the level. Plus, due to that digital amplification, the NAD remains physically cool, too. If you’re in the market for an amp at this kind of level, it’s well worth a listen.