Integrated Amplifiers

NAD C 390DD Direct Digital Integrated Amplifier


Setup of the NAD C 390DD Direct Digital Integrated Amplifier

I connected the NAD using my reference cables, which include DH Labs signal cables and Synergistic Research signal and power cables. My current system is built around a pair of Focal Electra 1008 BEs, a JL Audio F112 subwoofer, and various source components, the details of which are listed at the end of this review.

The initial sound, like the looks of the C 390DD itself, was rather blah. It wasn't all bad, however, and even moments after powering on, there was an astonishing amount of bass, and I'm talking kick-your-front-door-in bass. This was both a positive and a negative, however, as my subwoofer no longer blended seamlessly with my main speakers. I found it initially difficult to find a mix I liked, despite playing with both the NAD's and the F112's settings to the point of annoyance. I figured I would address the subwoofer issue later and so for the time being, I shut it down completely. The bass output of the Focal's was much stronger than what I was used to, to say the least.

Encouraged by what I heard, I played a few Radiohead albums on vinyl. The results were not altogether satisfying. Most noticeably, the mid-range sounded flat and distant. With some patience dialed into my brain, I switched to Redbook CD through the coaxial output of the Oppo DVD player, listened a bit more, and a second positive trait began to stand out, which was confirmed switching to Apple TV—no matter which input, the NAD was dead silent. Painting its sonic pictures on a canvas utterly devoid of background noise, the NAD is easily one of the quietest amplifiers in my memory. Despite greatly piquing my interest in its abilities though, the NAD wasn't altogether ready for critical listening. I pulled up Apple TV's classic hip-hop radio station through one of the NAD's optical inputs, lowered the volume a bit and let it play. A particularly busy period at work allowed me to do this over the next several weeks every day before leaving for the office.