NAD 304 - Best SS amp ever?

I'm being silly, of course, but my experience with this integrated amp has been really baffling. I'll give a brief historical outline

I. Bought one in 1994 on the strength of Corey Greenberg's utterly excited "this is real high end audio for $300!" review in Stereophile (btw, this review isn't anywhere online that I can find). After owing it for a few days, the skeptical retailer asked me if it sounded as "glorious" touted? Well, powering my lil' Dahlquist DQ-16s, the answer was YES!

II. In 1995, something went wrong and I needed a repair. That was the old "green circuit board" version. Borrowed a Quad Amp and Preamp...maybe a 405 with matching preamp? Sounded big and warm.

III. Got the NAD 304 back with new Blue circuit board. Sounded way bigger, more dynamic, and clearer than the Quad set-up. Loved it! had to sell it off later that year to help with some debt.

IV. Bought one in 2008 for $175. I'm using it to power Triangle Zerius 202s. I know, not the first combo you'd imagine, right? Sounds very clean and not lacking tonally, but now I'm looking for more dimensionality and palpable presence. I have tried using more powerful NAD amps, a high-powered Adcom, and I'm currently trying a Parasound HCA-750A. Everything sounds...ordinary. To be fair, the Parasound has warmed up and is starting to sound pretty good, but it doesn't exactly blow the 304 away.

Am I going to going to have to look at much more expensive gear? Tubes, maybe? Some of the amps I've tried have been very affordable, but the Quad and the Adcom were kind of ridiculously high-priced IMO, and the 304 was hands-down the winner in those shootouts.

Has anyone else had a similar experience - and if so, what did you finally choose upgrade with?
To rephrase the question,

Have you ever upgraded from an NAD 304? If so, what was your upgrade path?
I am using one with a video system in the living room-tryed a McCormack amp and not much difference.

I have another in a two channel music only system powering Paradigm Studio 100,s-tried a MF 3.2-a few cd's sounded better but overall I liked the more forgiving nature of the Nad. I am going to try hybrid integrated next.

We will probably be ridiculed but this has been my experience.
Right on, Dred, thanks for sharing your experience!

The 304 is one of those products that really merited its excellent Stereophile review.

I wanted to update my findings in that, after further listening, the Parasound HCA750A *is* an upgrade in image solidity and deep bass. It's a more powerful sounding amp for sure. I still like the 304 though.

My next attempt at an "upgrade" will likely be an upgraded B&K ST-202. Dred, please keep me updated with your hybrid integrated experience.

Also, are you using the stock jumpers? I am using 20" of Kimber PBJ between the Pre and Amp sections.

This is so fun!
NAD amps are pretty good deal for the money and I agree with you there.

I have owned 3 different NAD amps so far (C352, C372, and C162/270 combo) and currently have 2 NAD amps(C372 and C270). I even purchased a NAD M-15 for an HT plan but my girlfriend said no thus I had to reluctantly part with my NAD M-15 (surround pro/pre-amp).

My only gripe with NAD is its poor quality control. I bought 2 NAD CD players C542 and C515 and they both fail within a week (CD tray not closed completely and play button on the unit does not work) However, my local NAD dealer was a G and allowed me to trade in the C542/C515 for a NAD C162 pre-amp.

I am not sure if this is just my experience but I think with NAD amps, preamps, and CD players if they don't break down or malfunction within 30 days, they will last you at least 3 years and continue to sound warmer as aged (NAD 3020 and NAD 320BEE) which is a great sonic attribute that I highly value.

IMO, NAD can outdo Adcom, Rotel, Arcam, and even Parasound within the same price range.

With a budget of $200, I am looking for a good deal on either the NAD C270, C325BEE, C315BEE, or C218THX locally:-))
I owned a 304 for quite a few years, then passed it down to my (much) younger brother after I upgraded to a 320BEE. It was an excellent amp for the money. The only reason why I replaced it was for the remote control.

While its a great integrated, its no McCormack IMO. Not that I'm saying Joelv is crazy or hard of hearing. Everyone's system and room are different. I currently own a Bryston B60, and the differences are night and day. There's nothing the 304 does that the B60 doesn't do significantly better. The B60 costs about 10x the 304, so take that as you will.

I ran the 304 with a pair of PSB Century 500i, then a pair of PSB Image T55. It powered them just fine in a small room. The 304 struggled a bit with the T55s in a medium sized room. The 320BEE did a better job as far as grip and control are concerned. I can't imagine the 304 powering a difficult speaker like the Paradgim Studio 100. Maybe in a very small room, but the Studio 100s need some room to breathe, which would cause different problems. Please don't take that as an insult to your hearing. Again, everyone's room, system, and ears are different.

In my different rooms over the years and with my differing gear over the years, the 304 was a great integrated for the money. So long as it wasn't asked to do things beyond what it was designed to do, it performed spectacularly. Having the 320BEE and 304 at the same time, the 320BEE bettered it in every way. Not a night and day nor a huge improvement, but an improvement none the less. The B60 leaves the 320BEE and 304 for dead. Then again, it should.

The only issue I had with my 304 was solder joints at the inputs. One phono channel input and one CD input's solder joint cracked over time. It was about 10 years old at that point. My father being the master mechanic he is, re-soldered the joints and it worked flawlessly for another 5 or six years. It had the green board.

The 304 sadly died about 6 months ago. It was my first non-mass market component. It got me through college and started my crazy hifi obsession. It went with me to graduate school and moved with me when I landed my first 'real job.' I bought a 320BEE a year later and passed it down to my brother. It got him off his mp3 addiction and he's now headed down the right path. I wish it would have made it to college with him, but the 320BEE will admirably take its place. Our 304 will be missed.

You know, I'm using the 304 as a pre-amp now. After a few months with my Triangles, I am hearing the 304's limitations... namely rolled off extreme highs and lows. Shortly after writing this, I spent some serious listening time with the Parasound amp and realized that it was pretty great, if a little "hard" sounding in my system.

I'm curious about the 315Bee and the 325Bee as well. I assumed they would be only marginal improvements, but a remote control would be awesome.

I'm curious about the B&K ST-140 (the older, 70WPC one), the ST-120, and the newest Parasound Zamp. I've also heard some great things about the Onkyo A9555 Class D integrated.

Finally, I take no offense at anyone's opinions about the 304 (or any of my gear) for that matter. Taste is taste, and good is good. Cheers!
Joelv - my brother has NAD (I don't remember model #) and he replaced stock jumpers (thick U shaped bars) between pre and power amp with Audioquest Python jumpers (6" $25). It opened rolled off top end.
What do you use for source units? Cd/digital or phono or both?
I'm not sure if the source question was directed to me, but I'll chime in...

Original source I used was a Playstation1 while I saved money. Upgraded that to an NAD 523 changer. Huge improvement. From the 523 to a Rega Apollo. Even bigger improvement. The 304 was good enough to show definite differences each time. Even non-hifi guys heard big differences.

Original turntable was a Technics SL-BD2 with Grado Blue. Upgraded that to a Pro-Ject 1Xpression. Added a Dynavector 10x5 and Speed Box. The only piece I didn't hear through the 304 at one point or another was the 10x5.

Regarding the 304 to 320BEE...

Everything is improved. Lows, mids, highs, noise. etc. Not a night and day difference IMO, but an overall improvement. You lose a phono stage. Gain a remote and 15 solid watts. Those 15 watts may seem insignificant on paper, but they become very obvious when driving speakers louder, in a larger room, more difficult speakers, etc.

I thought the price was well worth it for the 320BEE. I haven't heard the 315BEE. I heard very little difference between the 320BEE and 325BEE. Personally, I'd save a few bucks and get the right 320BEE over a 325BEE. If no good ones were available for the right price, then get a 325BEE.

My sources are: SONY DVP-NS715P as a CD / DVD player, Technics SL1200 with KAB Fluid damper and Cardas arm rewire w/several cartridges :)

I replaced the jumpers with 20" of Kimber PBJ which is different, though not an obvious improvement.

I can also say that the phono stage on the 304 is not quite as robust sounding as the one on the 7100 (at twice the retail cost)... which, while I'm at it, has anyone here used the Bellari phono stage? $250 and Stereophile Class B rating from Michael Fremer... is it really that good? I'm skeptical.

I miss Lonnie Brownell's reviews. I found that his and, previously, Corey Greenberg's reviews were aligned with my own tastes more than anyone. I also have a soft spot for Sam Tellig.. but I'm way off topic here. :)

I'm unemployed, so no new gear for me for awhile. Anyone need a recording engineer?

The Nad 3155 intergrated is very highly regarded...and more difficult to find(maybe ebay but thats a whole other post) any rate...NAD amps are phenominal value for the money...they sound big, bold, and very in control...much more like a high powered hi-end amp...I also have heard nightmere stories regarding QC issues concerning their CDPs...just my .o2....
An update: My stalwart 304 has developed some problems - flakiness/fuzzyness/intermittent cutting out in the right channel. I understand capacitors and solder joints are usually to blame, so I'm going to have it repaired.

In its stead, I'm using my new Trends TA-10.1, touted as 6 Watts of giant-killing, audiophile magic.

So far, I'm disappointed, but I am waiting for the batteries to discharge and recharge so I can try that option.
OK I just have to update this.

I now feel that the Trends TA10.1 is the best amplifier that I've ever owned. It's in another league, completely, from the NAD. Big sound stage, stable, big images, gobs of detail.

I'm out of town but will likely post a review of this when I'm back. If anyone wants to discuss how awesome the Trends TA 10.1 is, feel free to e-mail. I'm thrilled!
Hello, Iv had the B&K st120, 140, and the 202. There ok , warm , then can tend to be a tad dark,grainy. I had a b&K st120 and Jolida JD-t5 tube pre and it sounded smeared , dark I just did not like it! I sold them both. Iv bin out of work , so I wanted something cheep, and I had some Nad in the past when I was much younger. SO I pick up a 304 and Ill tell yea hand down, blows them out of the water!! Smooth, musical , with nice light sound with nice punch for it size!
I hate plastic, but it sounds very,very nice! the other system was with MHTZ 33e tube cd player and it did not not sound as good as the NAD 304 with a vintage Sony cd player! The phono stage sounds nice with a Lafayette T-6000 TT. with a vintage ADC cartridge from the same year. 1975.
I also have a Tangent 100 I amp and Myryad Z140, the Z140 is a 1,100.00 amp and the Nad still sounds nicer. The Z140 is very nice build and sounds very good,but a tad sterile and hard. Speakers used Snell K3s and BA cr8s. both sound very nice! Its bin fun!!
How does the Acurus compare with the Nad? This was written only 10 months ago. I must assume that you purchased the Acurus sometime this year and didn't like it. Very disappointing if someone wants to buy the Acurus.
Un fuerte abrazo,
No experience with a 304 but I do have experience with another NAD amp. Years back I owned a very costly 2oo+ wpc amp which developed a fault. I sent it to madrigal for repair and while it was being repaired I put in an NAD amp into the system with barely 1/10th the power. I was shocked at how close the NAD was to the broken amp at less than high volume levels. This showed me how good NAD could be within its design limits. The build quality did not seem nearly as robust on the NAD but sonically, it proved to be the real deal.
A good Tripath amp will ruin a lot of NAD owners...fantastic sound for peanuts.
I bought a Trends TA-10.1 used on eBay, and it's easily the best amp I've owned. But there is power limitations, I got some ADS L-780's and this pairing is stuff dreams are made of. I'm a HUGE Trends Audio fan now...WOW!

To chime in this long outdated thread, my upgrade thread started in 1979 when at the age of 11, I moved with my family to a new home where the previous owners left their Pioneer rack HiFi there, namely a small receiver, a turntable and speakers.

In 1985, I upgraded the receiver to an integrated amplifier Harman Kardon PM-650, and the spaekers a year later to Allison CD-7 (8" woofers and nipple-shaped paper tweeters.

Much later, in 2000, I was loaned a tube amp, Audion Sterling, a single ended EL34 one at that, and I upgraded the speakers to a pair of cloned Scanspeak set-up.

During the years 2001-2016, I changed from integrateds to separates, and entered the realm of tube amps and vintage/antique speakers. Now my rig is Nakamichi CA-7A, Marantz 8b/McIntosh MC240, and JBL 4320 stacked fours.

Last year, I bought an NAD 302, then another NAD 306, and finally I got myself feeling in love with the NAD sound, and bought some receivers lick 7020, 7155, 7175, and also Pre/Tuner 1700, 1155 pre, and a bunch of their old cassette decks.

I imagine the NAD 304 was a product in between the likes of 302 and 306 so my impression on my NAD 302/306 may be relevant to the 304, too.

Sufficient to say, paired against my other more expensive amps, I tend to like the sound of higher end NAD receivers like the 7155 and 7175, and these are best driven by my tube pre-amps such as Mcintosh C-11 or C-20, and Audible Illusions 3 or 2D.

My usual setup for cable TV and movie watching is NAD 1700 as preamp, NAD 7155 as amp, and my JBL 4320 stacked fours. When I want to lusten to some serious LP and SACD/CD, I move in my Nakamichi CA-7A preamp (or any other tube preamp I have), and my trusty Leak TL\50+ (KT-88 tube amps).

I am saying, NAD gears are so good, I live with them on a daily baisis along with my higher end pieces and I am happy about their sound all the time.