The C390DD draws on NAD’s design expertise accumulated while developing the highly regarded M2 Digital integrated amplifier. The M2 has been well reviewed and even scored an Editors Award from The Absolute Sound in 2011 for best integrated amplifier over $US3000 (note: quite a long way "over" - in Australia $7k, in Europe 6000 euros, in USA $US6k ).
Rated at 160w x 2, the C390DD it could be thought of as roughly a digital equivalent of the C375BEE, except it’s more than that - in several ways. Firstly, the digital design produces a totally uncoloured sound, almost immeasurable distortion, and an attention to detail beyond that of most analogue designs. Secondly, the NAD Digital Power Drive circuitry senses the speaker load and adjusts the amplifier’s output accordingly. It also adjusts power output on demand, so that crescendos are delivered with no fuss, just an immediate increase in the power for effortless handling of those big moments.
Thirdly, all the inputs are digital: 2 x optical, 2 x Coaxial RCA, an XLR AES/EBU and a USB. The signal path is entirely digital up until output to the speakers. The onboard DAC has asynchronous capability to better cope with and improve the audio from computer-based music. It’s really a DAC/amplifier, coping with sampling rates up to 24bit/192kHz.
However, while it can take direct digital feeds, you’d need to add a C446 streamer if you want to do Internet Radio, or online/network sources via streaming, plus AM/FM/DAB+ radio. With an eye to upgrades there are optional modules (part of NAD’s modular MDC approach) listed for other inputs too, one for HDMI (3 in, 1 out) and another for Phono and XLR analogue in.
As it comes, the back panel also includes Subwoofer Out, Optical Digital Out, 12v Trigger Out, IR in and RS232.
This is an all-out attempt to make a genuine high-definition digital amplifier with enough power to drive most speakers and enough high-end audio quality to satisfy everyone. As it comes it makes no concessions to analogue users, but the optional MDC module for phono input complete with another balanced (XLR) analogue input can adapt the amplifier to suit those who require such things in addition to the comprehensive set of digital inputs.
It is at the start of the higher end price scale but still in reach of a good many people, and for the price you are getting the best amplifier (with DAC) of this new genre available today, short of the M2 itself, about which noted authority Robert Harley said in The Absolute Sound review "NAD's M2 is a triumph on many levels, not the least of which is that it points toward a new direction in amplifier design and system architecture. I predict that years from now audiophiles will look back on the M2 as the progenitor of the next generation of audio."
So here it is, the next step, the next generation of audio.