NAD C 338
This weekend I took the plunge and decided to order a NAD C 338. I have been thinking about buying a new amplifier for several years, but not the specifically a 338, or even a NAD. I ended up going with this amplifier because there was £150 knocked off because it was ex-display or had been returned. Not a big issue for me as long as it sounds good.
And well, the amplifier does sound good. I am far from an audiophile or even remotely knowledgeable in this area, but it seems a bit more sterile, perhaps even colder, than my previous one. It's definitely different. The main advantage is the lack of hum which was a constant issue with my old Sony amplifier (along with many other problems). In particular, vinyl sounds quite a lot better! I am assuming the pre-amp built into the Sony amplifier was quite poor. The problem is that now I want a better cartridge…
My old amplifier's headphone jack was broken and finding a socket which was the right shape was a bit difficult, it was also unable to provide enough power to drive my AKG 702s, which are very high impedance headphones. The NAD 338 does a pretty decent job of driving them if I turn the volume up enough, without introducing any distortion.
This amplifier has digital inputs of course - something my old amplifier does not have. To get audio from my TV previously, I had to take it from the headphone jack, which for some reason introduced a lot of distortion and clipping. Fortunately my TV has a digital coax audio output, which does not appear to adjust the signal in any way from HDMI. Quite nice. Due to my previous issues with DACs, I decided to try and skip them completely outside of the amplifier and order a HiFiBerry had for my Raspberry Pi. This takes audio from the Raspberry Pi CPU and outputs it as optical audio, which I can feed straight into my amplifier at 24 bit, 192K. It has no arrived yet but when it does, I will play quite a bit of my music in this fashion assuming it works as described.
The amplifier has WiFi (for Chromecast) and Bluetooth. I am not expecting to use these features very often. The main annoyance I have had with the amplifier is that there is no authenticated pairing when connecting via Bluetooth. So, anyone in the general area of my house (thin walls) will be able to start sending audio to my amplifier, and it will automatically change over to the Bluetooth. This has not happened, but it isn't unlikely that it will not happen at some point in the future. I have emailed them asking if they might add this to a future firmware upgrade.
Having WiFi has some perks other than Chromecast support, such as a Telnet interface which appears to be compatible with the old NAD RS232 protocol for automation purposes. You can send commands such as
Main.Volume=-20, which I think is quite a nice feature, if not heavily undocumented.
Here is a photo of the amplifier along with my fairly old CD player.