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"Mid-Priced Integrated Amplifier of the Year" 2012 – The Absolute Sound Magazine
"A Very Capable And Compelling Package"
The NAD C 390DD is not only a new concept in amplification, but also in audio system architecture. First introduced in the now famous NAD M2 Direct Digital Amplifier, Direct Digital technology has been praised for its transparent, dynamic and detailed sound quality.
Like the M2, the C 390DD has no analog stages in the signal path, keeping music in the digital domain right up to the speaker outputs. All preamp functions are executed in the digital domain without the phase shift, noise, and distortion that can plague analog designs, regardless of price or pedigree. The 35-bit architecture and 108 MHz master clock also make Direct Digital one of the most accurate DAC technologies available.
"This combination of sound quality and features makes the C 390DD a very capable and compelling package," notes Robert Harley in his July/August 2012 review for The Absolute Sound magazine. "I can't think of another integrated amp anywhere near the C 390DD's price that I'd rather own."
The Absolute Sound magazine was so taken with the C 390DD that it named it "Mid-Priced Integrated Amplifier of the Year" for 2012 in its January 2013 issue. "It all adds up to a great-sounding, forward-thinking virtually future-proof digital core of a 21st century audio system."
Modular Design Construction
The advantages of a pure digital system are many, but one drawback is the constantly changing delivery formats for digital content. Each of these formats typically requires specialized hardware and software, often with licensed IP and content copy protection. For this reason, NAD places all digital interface circuitry on easily upgradable modules. NAD calls this Modular Design Construction or MDC.
The C 390DD comes standard with one module, the DD USB 1 for USB interface and has open slots for two more modules. Optional MDC modules currently include the DD HDMI-1 HDMI Module and the DD AP-1 Analog Phono module.
The DD HDMI-1 offers three HDMI inputs and one output with video pass through. This opens up the possibility of using the C 390DD as the heart of a 'Video 2.0' system using the mandatory two-channel linear PCM soundtrack from Blu-ray or DVD to make a compelling two-channel high definition theater presentation. Many symphony orchestras and some specialty music labels are also released in HD recordings on Blu-ray or DVD. The DD HDMI-1 is fully 3D video compatible, but there is no surround sound decoding or video processing.
The optional DD AP-1 module is also very innovative, using super high quality Analog-to-Digital conversion to make analog sources compatible with the C 390DD's pure digital circuitry. Using 24/192 processing, the ADC circuit auto-ranges for the best possible resolution and lowest noise. The phono circuit has impedance settings for both moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges with gain automatically set.
Power Plus Almost Immeasurable Distortion
The C 390DD has a very high continuous power rating of 150 watts per channel with almost immeasurable distortion and noise. More importantly, thanks to NAD's exclusive Digital PowerDrive circuit sensing the speaker load and altering amplifier characteristics, power delivery into real loudspeakers is enhanced with the most efficient power delivery and best safety margin. The result is power output that can more than triple the rated power for short periods of time to accurately and effortlessly reproduce musical transients. Consequently, the C 390DD sounds even more powerful than its already impressive continuous power rating.
Since the C 390DD performs the functions of multiple conventional components, not only is the sound improved, but also the way a music system is configured can change as well. The C 390DD is ready for the world of computer audio with its asynchronous USB input that can directly stream 24/96 content from your PC or Mac. USB memory sticks and hard drives (Fat32) are also supported with both front and rear connections.
You can also add NAD's innovative C 446 Digital Media Tuner to stream and manage your internet radio and NAS devices as well as local FM and AM broadcasts. Naturally, traditional components like CD, DVD, and Blu-ray disc players can all be accommodated. Even older analog sources and turntables can be used with the optional DD Analog/Phono Module.
The Direct Digital platform includes a large amount of DSP processing power, and NAD has fully exploited this power with a toolbox packed with useful features. Even familiar features like the volume control benefit from the Direct Digital platform. Perfect signal tracking and channel balance combined with a total freedom from noise and distortion characterize this remarkable volume control. Traditional bass and treble controls also take on a new usefulness when distortion and phase shift are totally absent.
An 'electronic crossover' function is also included to easily allow bi-amplification or subwoofer integration. Frequencies from 40Hz to 200Hz can be selected with the high pass signal sent to the C 390DD amplifier section and the low pass sent to the preamp out.
Room EQ Filters
One of the major problems in any high power music system is what we call 'room modes' or 'standing waves'. The wavelengths in the bass frequencies are so large that room dimensions disturb the even propagation of the sound (think of water ripples in a fish tank – when the wave hits the tank boundary a reverse interference wave is produced). The result of this effect is that certain bass notes are reinforced and become much too loud, making the bass sound 'boomy'. This effect actually changes the perception of the harmonic structure of the bass instruments and spoils the illusion of 'listening through' to the acoustic space of the recording.
The simple solution is what NAD calls Room EQ. Playing back a supplied test tone sequence allows this problem to be easily tamed using your ears and the C 390DD Room EQ filters. There are six frequency centers in the low bass region that can be cut (or slightly boosted) to remove the 'boom' without reducing the low bass response. The width or 'Q' of the filter can also be adjusted to be wide or narrow to address a number of different room configurations.
This feature is coming soon via a firmware upgrade from NAD.
Software-Defined and Upgradeable
Not only is the hardware platform of the C 390DD flexible and upgradable, but also almost every aspect of this fine component is software defined and can be upgraded. Future MDC upgrade modules are in the works to add new features and functions. Existing features can be upgraded with a simple software update.
The C 390DD comes standard with eight inputs, and with the optional MDC modules, this can be expanded to 14! Inputs can be activated or hidden, and they can be renamed to reflect the specific source component attached. Listening Mode, Polarity, and SoftClipping can all be easily selected and adjusted. RS-232, IR inputs/outputs and 12V triggers all make integration with home automations systems simple and effective.
The Future Begins Now
The C 390DD boasts a small footprint, large power, low energy consumption, future-proof upgradability, software defined operation, backward compatibility, easy integration and a new high definition system architecture. All of this and more is combined with an extremely accurate DAC/amplifier in a radical yet affordable package. It just may upend your preconceived notions of what a music system looks and sounds like.
The following are the C 390DD's capabilities with respect to USB mass storage device playability.
Digital Input (Coaxial, Optical)
"Mid-Priced Integrated Amplifier of the Year" 2012 – The Absolute Sound Magazine
"The NAD C 390DD is an extremely sophisticated, forward-looking product whose feature set perfectly matches the needs of today's music listener. It is ideally suited as the core of a music-server-based system, yet will also accommodate those with multiple analog sources, including vinyl playback. In addition to a wide range of connectivity options, the ability to replace the digital-interface boards and update the software assures that the C 390DD won't be left behind in technology's inexorable march forward."
"This combination of sound quality and features makes the C 390DD a very capable and compelling package. I can't think of another integrated amp anywhere near the C 390DD's price that I'd rather own."
- Robert Harley, The Absolute Sound magazine, July/August 2012
Audio Advisor - NAD C 390DD Direct Digital DAC Amplifier