NAD C370 integrated amplifier Page 3
The C370 held its own so well that I was inspired to reach for Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra's new multichannel hybrid CD/SACD recording of Mahler's Symphony 5 (Telarc 2SACD-60569). Listening to the concluding Rondo-Finale, I was most impressed by how the C370 sorted out dense, complex passages with exceptional rhythm and pacing while delineating a realistic sense of an acoustic space. Nor did massive transients cause it to lose air and distinction between images—as when it conveyed the delicacy and sonic integrity of a triangle through the blustery blast furnace of the final few bars, in which the timpani strokes had chakra-shaking impact and the brass had body and bite. While such a warm, dynamic recording meant that issues of tonal richness and midrange coolness were never far from my mind, I was also aware of a more closed-in soundstage than I was used to from my reference gear or more expensive integrated amps. Still, the C370 added few obtrusive colorations, save for a bit of crystalline presence up top—and even that wasn't terribly italicized or fatiguing.
That's because, unlike some of the integrated amps I've lived with over the past few years, the NAD C370 didn't emulate a tube sound, but wore its pedigree proudly, as if to say, "I'm a solid-state amp—wanna make something of it?" What really stood out about the C370's voicing was its cool, open midrange.
Some of you might recall how, in my original review of the Mesa Tigris integrated amplifier (August 1999), I noted that it had a sonic signature—several, in fact—and was something of a tone machine, particularly in its depiction of midrange detail. The C370 didn't really confer a signature on the music, and its presentation was much more of a piece with Jack Webb's Dragnet ("Just the facts, ma'am."), but what it lacked in ultimate midrange detail, juiciness, and liquidity it more than made up for in smoothness, clarity, and neutrality—if not that nth degree of transparency.
Listening to Murray Perahia's recordings of Bach's English Suites Nos. 2, 4, and 5 (Sony Classical SK 60277), I was impressed by how the C370 depicted inner detail and the piano's tonal balance, maintaining speed and coherence even when this supreme virtuoso jacked up the dynamics. Likewise, when I cranked up the gain, the amp maintained a tight hold on the music, delineating a wealth of midrange detail without favoring any of the frequency extremes, becoming overly bright or boomy, or compressing the sound. And while I can't say the C370's portrayal of midrange detail had the magical shimmer, liquidity, and otherness of beefier, more sophisticated tube and solid-state integrated designs (such as the Mesa Tigris), I was oblivious to any colorations or distortions that might have detracted from the music.
That's because, on the whole, the NAD C370 was a nice, quiet, efficient, forgiving amp with excellent drive and good soundstaging. On Jonathan Faralli's performance of Elliot Carter's Eight Pieces for Timpani, from Percussion XX (Arts Audiophile 47558-2), the depth and lateral imaging of the drummer's five-timpani array was excellent, depicting a convincing picture of an acoustic space. Even more impressive was the C370's control of timbre and dynamics, going from a whisper on the Saëta section to a shout on the opening of Canto, where it effortlessly conveyed the transient impact of a big drum stroke while maintaining all the right spatial cues.
Finally, in the boogie-down portion of my listening, I revisited one of the smartest, best-recorded rock/pop/jazz fusion records of all time: the Police's Zenyatta Mondatta (A&M 75021 3720 2). The speed, weight, and palpable snap with which the C370 reproduced Stewart Copeland's bass drum on "Voices Inside My Head" were prodigious, and the NAD offered a vivid portrayal of the song's holographic electric ambience against a deep, black background. The highs, which seemed somewhat italicized in the main room and system, sounded sweet and luminous in my wife's studio, never etched or fatiguing. I was also impressed with how the C370 retained its top-to-bottom balance even as I cranked up the volume. Only when I pushed it much harder than was really necessary did the treble get perhaps a bit grainy. I did try the Soft Clipping, but found this added a touch of opacity and a diminution of soundstaging depth and transparency.
But generally, I found that the C370 had ample headroom, and in the less revealing setting of my wife's room, the cut and boost of the NAD's tone controls (at 100Hz and 10kHz) was basically non-invasive, leaving the midrange clear, airy, and open. While I understand the notion of keeping signal paths as direct and simple as possible, I'm glad NAD included a balance control—still a very handy feature in a small room. It let me effectively optimize the soundstaging from the off-axis perspective of the couchin that room.
It's Your Money
The NAD C370 ain't long on style, but I found it alive with substance—a real blue-collar champion offering an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Its smooth, authoritative, solid-state sound was delivered with conviction: warm, dry, and solid, never edgy or fatiguing.
If you're looking for more personality and refinement, you'll have to dig deeper in your pockets. However, as the flagship offering of NAD's high-performance/high-value Classic Series, the C370 is an exceptionally solid, versatile, musical performer.