We now firmly live in an age of online music streaming, and naturally you want in. But while you may want everything the colossal and convenient world of streaming offers, you don't necessarily want it at the expense of your lovingly curated CD or vinyl collection or your handy USB hard-drives. So how about a multi-talented, does-it-all box of tricks that not only provides a gateway into streaming but also opens its arms to your turntable, CD player, USB stick or even TV and Blu-ray player? Enter the NAD C 658 (opens in new tab).
A What Hi-Fi?-Award-winning music streamer, DAC and preamplifier, the C 658 claims every right to sit at the heart of your hi-fi and home cinema system by offering a comprehensive streaming platform, a deluge of connections, encyclopaedic features and a class-leading performance – all in one neat, affordable box.
Just connect it up to active speakers or a power amplifier, download the free and intuitive BluOS Controller app onto your Android, iOS or Windows smartphone or other control device, and millions of songs are instantly at your fingertips. Just like that.
BluOS: streaming simplicity
That’s thanks to the all-inclusive BluOS platform at the cornerstone of the NAD’s streaming experience, which offers fuss-free access to the world’s most popular streaming services: Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, to name just a handful of the 15 available.
Have a curated library of songs of your own? The BluOS app is also your one-stop shop for playing any music you have on a network-attached storage drive, of which MP3s, AACs and WMAs right the way up to 32-bit/192kHz high-resolution files and storage-efficient MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) tracks can be played.
No modern-day hi-res platform is complete without multi-room capability of course, and the increasing expansion of the BluOS platform enables the C 658 to be paired with up to a mansion-friendly 64 BluOS-based devices not only from NAD but also from Bluesound and Dali Loudspeakers.
A hi-fi and home cinema hub
An all-encompassing streaming offering is just half of the C 658’s promise. It’s also designed to be the nucleus of your system, with a Swiss army knife of connections that allow you to embrace other music source components and physical formats. A coaxial and pair of optical inputs welcome digital sources such as TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles and CD players, while a USB Type A input caters for anyone with music stored on hard-drives, also accessible through the BluOS app. A pair of analogue line inputs offer a near-universal alternative for connecting sources, too, and your beloved turntable isn’t left out thanks to MM phono stage.
You can even directly stream music stored on your smartphone. Own an iPhone or iPad? Apple AirPlay 2 support allows one-touch streaming between the NAD and Apple devices. Use an Android device or simply don’t have an internet connection available? With aptX HD Bluetooth onboard, tracks up to 24-bit can be seamlessly streamed in perfect, non-compressed to the NAD from any Bluetooth-toting device. And with another Bluetooth trick up its sleeve, the C 658’s talent is two-way, allowing you to wirelessly transmit music to your favourite pair of Bluetooth headphones too.
NAD has carefully considered not only the versatility of the C 658’s digital- and analogue-friendly spec sheet but also its sonic potential. Feeding the digital connections is the ESS Sabre 32-bit digital-to-analogue conversion chip, one of the best performing on the market today with its wide dynamic range and incredibly low jitter performance. And to keep the analogue signal path as short as possible, and thus reduce the opportunity for distortion to creep in, all preamp functions are executed in the digital domain, including the digital volume control used in NAD’s flagship Masters Series components.
You needn’t worry that the future arrival of new technologies will render the NAD old hat, either. Its modular construction means that a) its major digital circuits can be replaced and upgraded down the line, and b) connectivity and features can be expanded through the purchase of the company’s Modular Design Construction slots. Already, owners can purchase the 4K-supporting HDMI switcher module to connect, and boost the performance of, HDMI sources such as games consoles or set-top boxes.
Room imperfections removed
Of course, no living room is equal or, sadly, acoustically ideal – which is why NAD has also granted another unique perk to the C 658: Dirac Live room correction. Typically reserved for AV equipment, and rarely found in two-channel kit, Dirac’s calibration technology analyses the formation and acoustics of your room and the impulse response of your speakers, and optimises performance accordingly. In a nutshell, it works to clean up any unwanted sonic colourations so you’re hearing more of the music as the artist intended it, and less of your acoustically disruptive room.
Download the Dirac Live app onto your phone or tablet, proceed through the easy-to-follow on-screen steps and – voila! – you have a perfectly honed performance that makes the very most of your speakers in your listening room; a sound that’s clearer, tighter and more focused.
Not only that, there’s plenty of technical tweakery to entertain your experimental side, so you can adjust the frequency response to, say, give you more or less bass, or apply sonic filters – all in the app. Hours of fun, all in the name of better-sounding music.
Explore the C 658 for yourself over at NAD’s website (opens in new tab), or pop into your local authorised retailer for a demonstration. It will be more than worth your while.