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Audio

Listening test: NAD's feature-packed D 3045 amplifier

The Audiophiliac checks out NAD's latest integrated amp.

NAD's feature-packed D 3045 amplifier

NAD

While I sometimes still think of NAD as the company that turned the affordable audiophile market upside down in the late 1970s, NAD is hardly resting on its considerable laurels. It's building audiophile gear for our time, over a wide range of prices.

Let's take a look at its new D 3045 stereo integrated amp. Where the NADs of old were Spartan affairs, this 60-watt-per-channel Class D amplifier is loaded with useful features including MQA high-resolution PCM audio, DSD and a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

More inputs than ever

The D 3045 is an update on the D 3020 we looked at in 2014. Likewise its connectivity extends beyond most stereo amps including both an HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) input and a moving-magnet phono input for turntables. In addition you get a 3.5mm stereo input, stereo RCA, two optical digital and one coaxial digital audio input, one USB input, stereo preamp-subwoofer RCA outputs, sturdy five-way speaker cable binding posts and a 3.5mm 12-volt trigger port. The built-in digital converter handles hi-res PCM formats up to 384 kHz/24bit, but DSD resolution isn't specified.

The amp also boasts two-way Bluetooth aptX HD so it can receive Bluetooth signals from your computer or phone, and the D 3045 can also send Bluetooth streams to headphones or speakers.

The amp measures a trim 2.8 by 9.3 by 10.4 inches (70 by 235 by 265mm) and it weighs 7.9 pounds (3.6 kilograms). The small remote control handles basic functions like volume, input selection, mute, bass boost and so on. I didn't like that the remote's bass boost button is so closely spaced to the volume down button -- I accidentally pressed it several times when I instead wanted to lower the volume. I really liked the D 3045's fresh look, but the mostly plastic chassis and big plastic volume control knob were disappointments, they felt cheap for a $699 component.

Listening

I started with the amp on the Magnepan .7s, but they're power-hungry flat panel speakers and the D 3045 was a tad underpowered for the job. The sound wasn't bad, just lackluster. Switching over to KEF LS50 speakers things picked up a lot, so I stuck with that combination for the bulk of my listening tests. The bass boost feature pumped up the bass alright, but it's too bad NAD didn't see fit to provide adjustable bass and treble controls, like the ones on my NAD C 316BEE amp.

Rear panel of the NAD D 3045 amplifier

NAD

I cued up the A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper, in which an assemblage of young jazz musicians deconstruct the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's, to put the D 3045 through its paces. The music moves -- there's nothing nostalgic about it. And pairing the D 3045 with the LS50 gave the tunes free reign.

Radiohead's Amnesiac was loaded with atmospheric textures and Thom Yorke's soaring vocals made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. As I continued listening I noted the sound was a little bright and grainy, but the D 3045 could play the LS50s loud, bass and dynamics had impressive impact for speaker's the LS50s size.  

The D 3045 also saw desktop duty with my Adam Audio F5 speakers listening to MQA high-resolution audio files streamed on Tidal. I love my job!

If you don't need all of the D 3045's up-to-date features check out the $399 (£249, AU$465) NAD C316BEE v2 stereo amp. It's a no-frills design and the two amps sounded nearly the same, but I'd still give the nod to the D 3045.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the full-size Outlaw RR 2160 stereo receiver. It outdoes the D 3045's feature complement, except for Bluetooth. The RR 2160 is a Class AB amp rated at 110 watts per channel for 8-ohm speakers and 165 watts per channel for 4-ohm speakers. I didn't have it on hand for comparison, but as I recall the RR 2160's sound clicked with both the 0.7 and the LS50 speakers!

The NAD D 3045's up-to-date functionality, compact size, and clean sound should all appeal to discerning audiophiles.