NAD C546BEE review

A talented player, but stiff competition edges it out Tested at £500

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A talented player, but stiff competition from Marantz edges it out


  • +

    Attention to detail

  • +

    taut and precise across the frequency range

  • +

    good build

  • +

    USB input


  • -

    Could do with better timing

  • -

    not as entertaining as rivals

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When we last reviewed the NAD C545BEE CD player, it impressed us enough to get five stars. Three years on, and NAD has released the new NAD C546BEE: it’s not a replacement, but seen as the ‘bigger brother’ of the older model.

Two changes are immediately noticeable. One is the addition of a USB input that will accept MP3 and WMA tracks stored on a USB drive. The second is cosmetic: the 546 retains the sturdy build and matt black finish with smooth buttons that give it a clean and uncluttered look, but the fascia now includes a rotary control.

Turning it selects tracks, while pushing it plays and/or pauses the music. It’s responsive and pleasant to use – a nice touch from NAD.

Other upgrades include an overhaul of the audio circuitry and component selection, as well as separate power regulation for its analogue and digital sections. The aim is to improve upon low frequencies and overall precision, and it’s successful.


NAD C546BEE: Sound quality
Play the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy soundtrack and the NAD glides through the elegant and mournful music with a good attention to detail. Play the track Esterhase, and each note is delivered with precision and subtlety.

Its dexterity with the top of the frequency range shows in the way it follows the progression of the piano notes and maintains the tension of the piece. That’s underlined by basslines that are strong and taut, although a wider soundfield would ensure that instruments such as the violins feel less swamped.

The timing of the C546BEE could be improved upon though. Play Maroon 5’s Harder to Breathe, and snappier and more precise timing would make the song all the more enjoyable.

NAD C546BEE: Tough competitionA rival CD player such as the (admittedly pricier) Cyrus CD6 SE2 would zing through the track with razor sharp precision and timing; you’d be able to locate all the separate instruments in a song.

The Award-winning Marantz CD6004 is a more pressing competitor, at just £310. It offers greater authority and a more spacious and open sound. That said, the C546BEE is a well-built and talented CD player with good detail definition.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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