NAD C370 integrated amplifier Page 2
I did much of my auditioning of the NAD in my wife Mary's heavily carpeted, 12' by 17' by 10' piano studio. The current reference rig in Mary's room is fairly simple but decidedly hi-rez, and tweaked for all it's worth. There's the rich, dynamic-sounding, 85Wpc Musical Fidelity A3 integrated amplifier and its smooth, holographic sister, the A3 CD player. A pair of Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope Phase 2 interconnects (with a Master Power Coupler) link amp and source, both of which are equipped with a truly dramatic enhancement: the JPS Labs Kaptovator power cord ($1499/2m). Pound for pound, this state-of-the-art, super-hi-rez design is maybe the most authoritative, versatile power cord I've heard at any price. It's particularly serendipitous for power amps, where its speed, slam, clarity, linearity, and pinpoint resolution really make a system come alive. The Synergistic Research Designer's Reference2 ($2200/2m) might be a bit more holographic and detailed in the mids—particularly revealing of source components—but the stiffness of this multi-conductor design makes it impractical for such tight spaces. The Kaptovator is very flexible and just as revealing, with the kind of bass focus and extension JPS is known for.
A JPS Labs Power AC Outlet Center plugged into one of our ancient wall outlets gives us four more sockets to play with and cleans up the power straight out of the wall. Why all the ordnance when the JPS Labs Power ($450/2m) and Digital Power ($350/2m) AC cords offer more than adequate resolution and are more in scale with the price of the components? Because it's my job to hear around corners, and in this way I get to audition gear with a smile and a spit shine—best foot forward, and all that. (This is also why I isolate the amp and CD player on PolyCrystal cones.)
But the NAD C370 has a hardwired power cord, as perhaps befits its $699 price. This makes things simple and convenient for the average bear, but it's one of my few quibbles with the design. A biwire set of Synergistic Research's Alpha Quad speaker cables (also employing Active Shielding) complete the signal chain to the speakers, which were mainly Joseph Audio's RM7si Signature two-way minimonitors (on PolyCrystal stands), as well as the floorstanding, two-way Meadowlark Shearwaters in their Hot Rod configuration.
Of course, to establish a basis for understanding the NAD C370's sonic signature in the more humble environs of my wife's studio, it was necessary to spend quality time living with the C370 amp in my dedicated audiophile room. I placed it atop a short PolyCrystal amp stand just behind a pair of Meadowlark Hot Rod Shearwaters, a fairly sensitive (89dB/8 ohms) two-way floorstanding loudspeaker I'm currently evaluating. I used the same single runs of Synergistic Research Designer's Reference speaker cables with which I evaluated the Joseph RM33si Signatures in October, and 15' runs of Designer's Reference and Resolution Reference Mk.II interconnects (with Active Shielding) to the digital and analog front-end components on my equipment rack, which stands against the short wall, beyond the soundstage.
Right out of the box, the first thing I noticed in my main room was how the NAD was not as richly voiced in the upper bass and lower mids as the Musical Fidelity A3—which is not to say that the C370 didn't have excellent drive or offer beaucoup bass slam. Still, in auditioning Bill Bruford's beautifully recorded drum feature on Joe Morello's "Some Other Time"—from If Summer Had Its Ghosts (Discipline DGM 9705), his 1997 trio recording with Ralph Towner and Eddie Gomez—while the C370's portrayals of inner detail and transients were quite good, as was its localization of images, it seemed a touch dry-sounding compared to the A3 in terms of a more elusive quality: tone.
The trio's performance of "Never the Same Way Once" served to confirm this impression: Towner's acoustic piano was quick, detailed, and open, with a percussive immediacy and lyrical nuance to his attack. Bruford's cymbals possessed their full harmonic spectrum without any tizziness or undue sibilance, with real weight to the low end of his toms and bass drum, and authentic snap to his snare, without brightness or glare. As for Gomez's double bass, it sounded taut, tuneful, and harmonically accurate; it had real weight and presence, but was a tad laid-back, and lacked a certain richness.
Reaching deeper into my Ralph Towner stash, I turned to a trusty reference disc—A Closer View, with bassist Gary Peacock (ECM 1602)—to gain another perspective on the C370's bass response and tonal signature. On "Creeper," I was taken aback by the terrific speed, transient snap, and sheer drive with which the C370 conveyed Peacock's attack while sorting out the softer, more dulcet quality of Towner's nylon-string acoustic guitar. The presentation was a touch on the bright side—but then, I was using the same pricey, hi-rez but ruthlessly revealing cables and interconnects I would normally use with the $10,000 power/preamp combo of the hybrid tube/solid-state Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 and the single-ended triode Blue Circle Galatea that are normally found in my reference signal chain.