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Which NAD Integrated Amp And DAC To Select?


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After more than six months living off a modest headphone and DAC system (AudioQuest Dragonfly and Sennheiser HD 600) I am ready to rebuild a modest speaker based system. I have already made the move on a pair of speaker finding a terrific buy on a set of Focal Chorus 714V's.

 

My my need is simple since my system will remain simple. There will be only two sources, my Mac Mini and Dish satellite receiver. I like to buy local and have narrowed my choice is two NAD integrated amps, the D7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier and the C356BEE Stereo Integrated Amp. My budget is $800 (the starting point for these two amps) to $1200 (needed if I require a separate DAC). Here are my thoughts on the two pieces and I would be interested in your opinions.

 

NAD D7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier

  • Lots of cool about this. Definitely the technology leader with advanced features like an iPad remote app, supports Air Play.
  • It has the necessary digital inputs I need (USB for Mac Mini and optical for Dish Network
  • Built in USB 24/96 asynchronous DAC
  • 50 watts per channel definitely enough to drive the very efficient Focal speakers in a smallish space
  • One negative is lack of a analog input. If I should ever wish to upgrade to an external DAC I could not use this.
  • The major downside is the sound, not awful but a little digital, strident though I have not heard it with my speakers.
  • Total cost $799

 

NAD C356BEE Stereo Integrated Amplifier

  • Your basic stereo integrated amp feature set. Lots of analog audio connections of which I would only need one.
  • Comes in two variations, the standard and one with a 24/96 asynchronous DAC module. Price $799 or $899
  • With the standard model I either have to purchase an external DAC within current budget $400 range) or I could temporarily use the AudioQuest Dragonfly which I have liked as a headphone DAC but wonder about using it like this.
  • With the DAC module I am fully functional but I kind of question the potential quality of the DAC (as I do in the 7050) versus an external.
  • 80 watts per channel with the big upside of sound. The C356BEE sounded much more natural to me.

 

So what would you do, go for the technology, form and function of the 7050 but maybe give up a little on the sound for $799, opt for the C356BEE with DAC module for $899 or go the C356BEE with an external DAC at around $1199.

 

I do have to hold the budget down as I will also need to add some cabling in that will probably cost me $300 and what I spent on the speakers keep me under my $2400 (I can't squeeze any more juice at this time) budget for the whole system.

 

Thanks

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Direct digital. Why would it be giving up anything in terms of sound? I would guess (not having heard these, but having heard the C390DD) that this beast would sound the best.

 

If you decide you don't want it, you could probably re-sell it to one of us.

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Direct digital. Why would it be giving up anything in terms of sound? I would guess (not having heard these, but having heard the C390DD) that this beast would sound the best.

 

If you decide you don't want it, you could probably re-sell it to one of us.

 

There was just more warmth or body to the sound of the C356BEE which doesn't say the 7050 sounded bad and it does have a cool/form factor going for it. I think I might be more concerned with the DAC part if I don't like that I have to change it all.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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There was just more warmth or body to the sound of the C356BEE which doesn't say the 7050 sounded bad and it does have a cool/form factor going for it. I think I might be more concerned with the DAC part if I don't like that I have to change it all.

 

Don't settle. Get what sounds best and what you think will be enjoyed for a long time to come. Leave an upgrade path that does not abandon components after a short lifetime. Each addition should make a SIGNIFICANT improvement in your system. My opinion.

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Direct digital in theory should provide the most uncolored, accurate reproduction. However, that doesn't mean it sounds best. Tube amps clearly distort the reproduction, but apparently in a way many people find pleasing. I didn't read what you wrote carefully enough the first time. If you aren't pleased with the sound, don't go for that.

 

What about the Nuforce DDA-100? It is about $500.

https://www.nuforce.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=306:dda-100&Itemid=962

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Direct digital in theory should provide the most uncolored, accurate reproduction. However, that doesn't mean it sounds best. Tube amps clearly distort the reproduction, but apparently in a way many people find pleasing. I didn't read what you wrote carefully enough the first time. If you aren't pleased with the sound, don't go for that.

 

What about the Nuforce DDA-100? It is about $500.

https://www.nuforce.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=306:dda-100&Itemid=962

 

 

It wasn't that the Direct Digital 7050 sucked in comparison just a different sound. I am limiting myself somewhat in my selection because I want to buy from my local dealer who has treated me really well over the years and has a generous trade up policy. His entry level stuff in my current budget range is NAD and Cambridge Audio and the NAD stuff seems to be a little newer design versus the CA which is more of a V2 type thing of what I had owned several years back.

 

I am going there tomorrow and going to try a little more detailed audition of the two.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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It wasn't that the Direct Digital 7050 sucked in comparison just a different sound. I am limiting myself somewhat in my selection because I want to buy from my local dealer who has treated me really well over the years and has a generous trade up policy. His entry level stuff in my current budget range is NAD and Cambridge Audio and the NAD stuff seems to be a little newer design versus the CA which is more of a V2 type thing of what I had owned several years back.

 

I am going there tomorrow and going to try a little more detailed audition of the two.

 

The 7050 would seem to offer lots for the money. And that method of keeping everything completely digital until the power output section of the amp is a big plus in total system transparency. But if you have heard it and it isn't your preference it is not a good choice.

 

The other thing is something you should ask yourself, and you already mentioned it. If this all in one 7050 sounds good would you want to swap just to try new things in the near future or not? If so, separates are better. You can swap DAC or Amp individually. As you said, changing anything is going to mean changing everything with the 7050. Now your AQ Dragonfly should work pretty well as the source to feed the C356BEE. You likely will be pretty happy with the sound even if it is not optimum. Then you can take your time and pick out the best DAC for yourself. You won't be left without a nice musical system using the Dragonfly for a bit.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Don't settle. Get what sounds best and what you think will be enjoyed for a long time to come. Leave an upgrade path that does not abandon components after a short lifetime. Each addition should make a SIGNIFICANT improvement in your system. My opinion.

 

+1

DAC technology is changing very quickly. My DAC is less than two years old, and it's already antiquated. OTOH, you can get decades of service out of a good amplifier. Go with the "separates" concept, and if that amp has more power to spare, all the better.

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It wasn't that the Direct Digital 7050 sucked in comparison just a different sound. I am limiting myself somewhat in my selection because I want to buy from my local dealer who has treated me really well over the years and has a generous trade up policy. His entry level stuff in my current budget range is NAD and Cambridge Audio and the NAD stuff seems to be a little newer design versus the CA which is more of a V2 type thing of what I had owned several years back.

 

I am going there tomorrow and going to try a little more detailed audition of the two.

 

Get the one you like now. You will always be able to up grade DAC down the road if you feel the Dragonfly doesn't cut it or sell the Dragonfly for $75 and kick in another $75 for the new one right now. Speakers, amp, dac in my opinion of order of importance.

David

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You mentioned that your dealer also carried Cambridge Audio. The Cambridge Audio 651 A has a built in USB DAC as well, and is about $879.00, so in your price range. I have experience with both Cambridge Audio and NAD, and they are both good products in their price range.

I work someplace that sells stuff.

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You mentioned that your dealer also carried Cambridge Audio. The Cambridge Audio 651 A has a built in USB DAC as well, and is about $879.00, so in your price range. I have experience with both Cambridge Audio and NAD, and they are both good products in their price range.

I agree as I have owned several Cambridge Audio products in the past including a 840A V2 integrated amp. I had missed the DAC inclusion on the 651A and will look at that also.

 

What at I like about that option along with the C356BEE NAD with the DAC module is that should I want to upgrade and add a higher quality DAC (DSD capable?) in the future they have analog inputs to accept the output of that DAC. With the 7050 not having any analog inputs I would never be able to opt for a different DAC to use with that unit. But, I am enamored with the feature set, form and function of the 7050.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Don't settle. Get what sounds best and what you think will be enjoyed for a long time to come. Leave an upgrade path that does not abandon components after a short lifetime. Each addition should make a SIGNIFICANT improvement in your system. My opinion.

 

+1

DAC technology is changing very quickly. My DAC is less than two years old, and it's already antiquated. OTOH, you can get decades of service out of a good amplifier. Go with the "separates" concept, and if that amp has more power to spare, all the better.

I use a C356BEE, and like it very much. Its modular design was an attractive feature, and when I bought it, the modular DAC was not available. After the modular DAC came out, I called Crutchfield about it, and the price for the modular DAC was $250, and they recommended it not be installed by the user. I use the C356BEE in conjunction with a Peachtree DAC-iT and a V-Link 192. I feel this route produces a better sound than the USB input of the DAC-iT. The V-Link also eliminated clicks I would get when turning on lights, etc. At some point, not in the near future, I will probably upgrade the DAC, not the amplifier. I am very pleased with the sound as it is now.

Jim

 

Harlan Howard's definition of a great country song: "Three chords and the truth."

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Hey Mike - definitely buy the one that pleases you the most. I have not heard the D7050 for more than a few minutes in passing, but it sounded very clean and pleasing to me. Of course, the C356BEE is a rock solid dynamite amp, and you can bypass the Pre part if you wish later and use it as a pure power amp. Very versatile.

 

My choice between the two would depend upon what DACs are available within your budget. A Peachtree DAC*ITx mates very well with the NAD amps, as do many other amps in the < $500 range. NAD's own DAC also sounds pretty darn good, and of course, mates very well with the C356BEE.

 

Let the dealer put the combinations together for you, and choose what your ears and heart tells you is the best sound for you. :)

 

Since you are also looking at Satellite TV, might I also suggest some of the NAD AVRs? They usually have very good DACs in them, easily comparable to all the under $500 DACs I can think of. Your dealer might have a deal for you on a 757 or something along those lines. The 757 is 60wpc (more if you are only driving two channels) and is built with MDC technology to make upgrades very easy. There are a couple available down here in the $700 range. It would also give you a lot more options to play with. :)

 

 

Lastly, at $2400, you might be in range of a used NAD 390DD - the sound of which is superb by any measure.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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What about the Nuforce DDA-100? It is about $500

The DDA-100 also won't do 192k and can't be used with an external DAC. I'm facing the same choices - I want to build a direct digital system to see how it sounds, but I'm having a little trouble justifying something that won't let me play 24/192 files or higher. Still, the DDA-100 is not that expensive and I want to know what it sounds like.

 

If you like the NAD gestalt, I wouldn't make any decisions without hearing both NADs with familiar program material through your own speakers, if at all possible. I have larger Focals, but the sonic statement they make in the high end is similar in character to your 714s and the high end is even more revealing than my LS3/5as. So if you find the 7050 lacking warmth and you like a warmer sound, you may be even less pleased with them through Focal's excellent (in my opinion, anyway) tweeters.

 

I've also been considering the TEAC AH101. But it requires a driver for high res reproduction, and there's no driver for Linux. I'm using a BeagleBone Black as my music player right now, and it's a Linux box with no digital out but USB - so it appears that I'd be limited on ultimate quality. I inquired twice (via email and their website messaging system) about Linux through an AH-101. After acknowledgement of each inquiry, I got no further response of any kind.

 

If you decide you don't want it, you could probably re-sell it to one of us.

That's exactly what I'm counting on if I find that an all digital system really doesn't float my boat. But I gotta try - no leaping, no learning.

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I use a C356BEE, and like it very much. Its modular design was an attractive feature, and when I bought it, the modular DAC was not available. After the modular DAC came out, I called Crutchfield about it, and the price for the modular DAC was $250, and they recommended it not be installed by the user. I use the C356BEE in conjunction with a Peachtree DAC-iT and a V-Link 192. I feel this route produces a better sound than the USB input of the DAC-iT. The V-Link also eliminated clicks I would get when turning on lights, etc. At some point, not in the near future, I will probably upgrade the DAC, not the amplifier. I am very pleased with the sound as it is now.

 

Hey Mike - definitely buy the one that pleases you the most. I have not heard the D7050 for more than a few minutes in passing, but it sounded very clean and pleasing to me. Of course, the C356BEE is a rock solid dynamite amp, and you can bypass the Pre part if you wish later and use it as a pure power amp. Very versatile.

 

My choice between the two would depend upon what DACs are available within your budget. A Peachtree DAC*ITx mates very well with the NAD amps, as do many other amps in the < $500 range. NAD's own DAC also sounds pretty darn good, and of course, mates very well with the C356BEE.

 

Let the dealer put the combinations together for you, and choose what your ears and heart tells you is the best sound for you. :)

 

Since you are also looking at Satellite TV, might I also suggest some of the NAD AVRs? They usually have very good DACs in them, easily comparable to all the under $500 DACs I can think of. Your dealer might have a deal for you on a 757 or something along those lines. The 757 is 60wpc (more if you are only driving two channels) and is built with MDC technology to make upgrades very easy. There are a couple available down here in the $700 range. It would also give you a lot more options to play with. :)

 

 

Lastly, at $2400, you might be in range of a used NAD 390DD - the sound of which is superb by any measure.

 

-Paul

 

Thanks for both input and everyone else. This won't be quite the system I left behind when I moved out of the house. It I believe it will be rock solid and enjoyable. Lots of variables to consider. As soon as I finish this MRI on my knee I am heading to the dealer to pick up the speakers and demo and discuss the electronics. I may or may not make a decision on that today.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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The DDA-100 also won't do 192k and can't be used with an external DAC. I'm facing the same choices - I want to build a direct digital system to see how it sounds, but I'm having a little trouble justifying something that won't let me play 24/192 files or higher. Still, the DDA-100 is not that expensive and I want to know what it sounds like.

 

If you like the NAD gestalt, I wouldn't make any decisions without hearing both NADs with familiar program material through your own speakers, if at all possible. I have larger Focals, but the sonic statement they make in the high end is similar in character to your 714s and the high end is even more revealing than my LS3/5as. So if you find the 7050 lacking warmth and you like a warmer sound, you may be even less pleased with them through Focal's excellent (in my opinion, anyway) tweeters.

 

I've also been considering the TEAC AH101. But it requires a driver for high res reproduction, and there's no driver for Linux. I'm using a BeagleBone Black as my music player right now, and it's a Linux box with no digital out but USB - so it appears that I'd be limited on ultimate quality. I inquired twice (via email and their website messaging system) about Linux through an AH-101. After acknowledgement of each inquiry, I got no further response of any kind.

 

 

That's exactly what I'm counting on if I find that an all digital system really doesn't float my boat. But I gotta try - no leaping, no learning.

 

 

I am am comfortable with the Focal sound and familiar with it as I have owned a couple of pair a few steps above the 714V and I got such a good deal on them in my opinion new in box at a price that would be decent for used

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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The C390DD I had the good fortune to borrow was exceptional in many ways. If I were starting out all over again, I think I would have gotten this instead of my Nova + external amp. My only hesitations were due to paying for features that I would not need or use (like HDMI), and I think my inefficient speakers would benefit from more amplification power (alternatively, I could get better/more efficient speakers). I have no analogue components, and I only have one digital component -- my mac mini. If I wanted to set up a 2.0 or 2.1 system with this and my TV, it would be the perfect solution.

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I am just now home and have just opened the Focal Chorus 714V speakers. They look great. The color is "Havana" brown, a walnut and I haven't had that color of speaker in years.

 

I have also just opened the NAD D7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier. Yep, I went that direction. I discussed with the dealer the same issues as presented here and most importantly the sound. Two things about my previous comments on the sound. When I listened to the C356BEE it was in a listening room and using Focal Chorus monitors. I don't remember if they were 700 or 800 series. For the D7050 they were connected to a display system in a hallway between listening rooms and I heard them with some very small desktop speakers. This time a pair of the current version of the Chorus 714 were available in a listening room and we moved the D7050 into the same room as the C356BEE. There was still a difference in the sound between the two but the distinct preference I heard previously was not there. I liked what I heard in both, one with maybe more detail which I like and one with more warmth which I also like.

 

So now I embark on the set up. I have about 3 hours before I have to go out. I should mention I was wrong on the price of the NAD D7050. It was $999 not $799 but all in all I stayed well under my targeted budget even with Kimber speaker ,USB and optical cables.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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I am just now home and have just opened the Focal Chorus 714V speakers. They look great. The color is "Havana" brown, a walnut and I haven't had that color of speaker in years.

 

I have also just opened the NAD D7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier. Yep, I went that direction. I discussed with the dealer the same issues as presented here and most importantly the sound. Two things about my previous comments on the sound. When I listened to the C356BEE it was in a listening room and using Focal Chorus monitors. I don't remember if they were 700 or 800 series. For the D7050 they were connected to a display system in a hallway between listening rooms and I heard them with some very small desktop speakers. This time a pair of the current version of the Chorus 714 were available in a listening room and we moved the D7050 into the same room as the C356BEE. There was still a difference in the sound between the two but the distinct preference I heard previously was not there. I liked what I heard in both, one with maybe more detail which I like and one with more warmth which I also like.

 

So now I embark on the set up. I have about 3 hours before I have to go out. I should mention I was wrong on the price of the NAD D7050. It was $999 not $799 but all in all I stayed well under my targeted budget even with Kimber speaker ,USB and optical cables.

 

Now just let them "settle" in for a few days and then listen to see what you have there. Sounds like a good combo.

David

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I think you made a good decision with the 7050. That type of amplification is very clean and transparent. It won't pretty up or warm up a cold or nasty recording. But with good recordings it can be something quite special. But they also don't excessively accentuate less than stellar recordings. You will notice them as lesser recordings, but nothing more than that.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I am sorry to report a significant problem for me and the NAD D7050 Direct Digital Amplifier. The first, not really critical, is that I wanted to mount this on my cabinet shelf in the upright position but I could not. The lower shelf of the unit isn't high enough or adjustable. The upper shelf the NAD could stand upright but there is a one inch face trim board the would cover the top of the NAD. So it has to be placed on its side which it is designed to do.

 

Most importantly is the second issue of the unit overheating. The first time it happened I was playing music for about 20 minutes and all of a sudden the music was off. Looking at the screen I could see that JRiver was still playing. Looking at the NAD D7050 I could see that the standby button on the side of the unit was red (it is Amber when the unit is off and blue when On). Also the front display was showing "Overheating". The standby button would not function to turn the NAD off and neither would the remote control "Off" work. I had to unplug it to shut it down. The unit was ever so slightly warm to the touch while the Mac Mini, two Lacie HDD and the Dish receiver, all of which were also on and running, were cool to the touch.

 

My my little AVR cabinet is a four shelf with 2x2 and the cabinet does have doors with glass inserts which I had closed. That was my first suspicion to the potential cause of the problem. That could be an issue for me because leaving those doors open places them just inside the Focal speakers providing a not so nice reflective surface of glass and wood. I thought of one potential resolution, which I would prefer not to do, was to remove the glass panels from the cabinet doors.

 

First I let the unit sit disconnected from everything for about 30 minutes. I then carefully reconnected it and it booted right up and seemed fine. This time I left the cabinet doors open. I began playing music again and in about another 20 minutes the exact same thing occurred, red light and "Overheating". I disconnected everything. Sent the dealer a couple of emails and was ready to package it up after returning home from a night's engagement.

 

The dealer was gracious enough to respond on Saturday evening offering to exchange the unit with his demo unit until his order for more D7050 had come in.

 

When I got home last evening I decided to give it one more go. The unit had been disconnected for four hours sitting on the kitchen counter. I carefully reinstalled in verifying all connections (geez there is only the speaker cables, USB for the Mac Mini and optical for the Dish box, what could I do wrong). Reinstalled I hit play on JRiver For Mac and the music began at 10:19PM. At exactly 11:19PM, exactly one hour later the NAD D7050 shut down again. This time although still just slightly warm to the touch the casing seemed to have a slight arch to it.

 

Off and and out she went and it is packed up for return to the dealer. A couple of thoughts. First I must admit when listening for the short periods I did something did not sound quite "right". Defining what that "something" is I don't think I can do and I am unwilling at this point to try and evaluate it further.

 

The he second issue is that I an now kind of squeamish about having this device and wonder if I should do an about face and get the NAD C356BEE with the little Cambridge Audio DAC instead.

 

In the meantime my AudioQuest Dragonfly and Sennheiser HD600 are back in business and supplying my music fix for the morning and that really nice looking pair of Focal Chorus 714V are staring at me disconnected.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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I an now kind of squeamish about having this device and wonder if I should do an about face and get the NAD C356BEE with the little Cambridge Audio DAC instead.

Most electronic failures not from deterioration or wear & tear occur in the first few days of use - the phenomenon is called "infant failure", and it's sadly not uncommon in items as sophisticated in design and execution as computers and other modern devices like audio equipment. As frustrating as it is, I don't consider it a reason not to go with a replacement, if I was happy with the item before it failed.

 

So if it were my amp that fried itself, I'd gladly accept your dealer's kind offer and see how you like the 7050. You'll get to use one that's already run in, which is another benefit. If you find that this one's also not quite right, it sounds like your dealer will understand and work with you to find an amp that makes you happy.

 

I know how this event makes you feel - it's happened to me several times. In fact, my work computer was replaced last week (HP 8400 for a 4 year old 8000). I spent several hours setting up Apache, ColdFusion, all my data sources, my server partitions etc. It did an auto-update of Windows the first night and wouldn't boot when I came in the next morning - no boot into safe mode, either. So back it went and I just set up another 8400, which has been fine for 2 days.

 

Modern electronics are enigmatic - we love them dearly but keep our fingers crossed every time we throw the switch, hoping they'll power up and function normally. Talk about a love-hate relationship......

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