NAD vs. Cambridge Audio

I've been researching an integrated amp for my Studio-20s and am thinking NAD or Cambridge Audio. I like the CA 650A but the NAD C355bee
has gotten very good press too. I am looking for something in the 60-90w/ch range.
How does NAD and CA compare in terms of sound quality?
Build quality, reliability?
I like the look and layout of the CA but NAD has a good rep. Sound quality will be priority.

This is for stereo, music only.

I have owned the NAD C352 and the Cambridge Audio 849A, not exactly what your looking at but I preferred the NAD. No contest in my mind.
When I had a a pair of Studio 40s I used a NAD. It was a good match. The Studios can be a bit bright. The NAD has a warmer presentation that softens out the harshness.
fwiw I have read the Cambridge amps are slightly forward in the mid to upper region...
NAD, hands down. The Cambridge models I've heard have a certain annoying shrillness to them.

The Rega Apollo might also be worth hearing although it might be 2-300 dollars more.

You won't go wrong with the top of the line NAD models.
i've owned the 50w nad c355 and the 80w model (i believe the c372) and prefer the cambridge. while the nads have undeniable virtues--great energy and oomph--to my ears they have certain unnatural grain at the top end and lack the transparency and detail i sought. i personally have not had good luck with nad's quality--most of the nad components i've owned have had problems, their amps less so than their sources. no to complicate your decision, but my first choice in the class you're considering would be arcam alpha or diva.
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NAD is great value and makes amazing music. Highly recommended. Never heard Cambridge.
A NAD DC amp burned up my beautiful B&W DM7s but that was an early version. I'm still holding a grudge.
CA edges out on NAD on vocal. NAD performs better than CA in the high and bass department.

CA looks better but does not have pre-out which may or may not be an issue with you.

NAD does have pre-out which I like but they are bland on the outside. I can hook the NAD's pre-out to a pair of power subs or use the integrated NAD as a pre-amp for another more powerful power amp.

Dollar wise both are good. I am a bass guy so I prefer NAD.
Hieule5, all of the Cambridge pieces have pre-outs with the exception of the 340A. Hooking up a sub is not a problem at all.
I disagree w/ most of the generalization on CA posted here. I find it tuneful w/ outstanding PRaT, creamy and articulate, w/o a hint of harshness in my system. Bass does not take front stage but it all there and very definable. It's sound reminds me of Linn w/ a very intimate and involving sound. I've owned NAD briefly, and have heard NAD at many other times and find it course and rough around the edges. Just my 2 cent.
We just did a head to head with a NAD 375BEE and a Exposure 2010S. The source was a Rega Apollo and a NAD 565. Rock and blues were used. The NAD and more bass a slightly more drive but the Exposure had more detail, larger stage ,better defintion and depth. The NAD came off as slightly warmer while the Exposure wa more neutraland liquid. The NAD seemed a little rough asnd not as transparent. I could see the NAD having a slight edge if one listened to Metalica all day. The Exposure sounds like real music and made the NAD sounmd somewhat mid fi ish. Sad part is I wanted the NAD tto wib. keith
Using the Cambridge 640av.2 which Matches well with my 740c the sound is clean and musical,without being to bright or harsh,IMO. But i dont think ya can go wrong with Nad. Larrybigbird.
Exposure is more expensive than the NAD 375BEE and a better mid range should be expected from a more expensive amp. Besides, I don't know if Exposure are comfy driving 4 ohm load speakers like Totem & Dynaudio.

NAD and CA are both entry level and they are both good for the money.

My Dynaudio demands decent continuous wattage so my Dynaudio dealer recommended NAD and indeed they sound very good together.

NAD sounds warm and that could help with speakers that sport metal dome tweeter like your Paradigm Studio 20.
Anyone owns Dynaudio speakers & CA amps? Can you please share with us how well they partner each other?

When I shop for an amp to partner with my Dynaudio, I spoke to Dynaudio N.A and they said that NAD can partner well with Dynaudio which has been consistent with my experience.

My experience listening to Dynaudio speakers and other manufacturers that use Dynaudio drivers, as well as discussing these speakers w/ sales staff has indicated that they do there very best w/ high quality amplification w/ deep bass, and outstanding drive and dynamics. I would think NAD my be on the lesser side of adequate amplification, not that it isn't usable.
Well, I ended up buying a Naim Nait 5i. I listened to a CA650A against the Naim and definitely liked the Naim sound better. It seemed smoother and the CA seemed to have the highs overly accentuated. I've been using the Nait for 2 weeks now in my living room and the setup sounds wonderful !!!

Great choice, and definitely worth the extra money. It has a very organic sound that is captivating and involving.

CA gear, like some other brands, might be bright w/ the wrong cabling, speakers, etc. Because of a bad mix of gear, is why some folk go for softer, warmer gear, as it is just blend easier to mate. I find my CA amp staggering for the money in my system as it is set up. It's all about synergy.

That is one thing I've always liked about Linn and Naim. The synergy in their full system makes it hard to do much better for the money spent, even though it is a bit pricey. They make it easy to enjoy the music.
My vote goes for the NAD. I have not heard Cambridge Audio but I do own Arcam.
I just received a 315bee to power Studio 40s v4. It's bit early to talk about it as the amp has been playing for only 15 hours, but I can say that, right out of the box, it is distinctively heavier on the bass / upper-bass frequencies compared to arcam (arcam maybe the same as cambridge audio with a higher price tag). Much much warmer. Another thing that striked me is how much more detail it reveals. Really, this little NAD could make the 3x more expensive arcam pass for a bestbuy superstore brand. In any case, burned-in or not burned-in, it plays loud without shouting, it is very musical, and it feels a lot more dynamic/powerful than 40wpc. Very nice indeed. I do not know yet if I need more power; I will make the decision to keep it or to get the 326 next week.
How can someone say one brand is better than another brand he admits he has never heard. That is illogical.
Having heard both--but not with the various speakers in question that everyone who has auditioned may have employed, I would say that the anwser is a bit complex.
The NAD is 'punchier' a trademark of that piece--but,(to my ear) a tad bit more grainy--think Krell versus, Pass for example.
The Cambridge was to my ear a much more 'musical' sounding piece--some may say 'coloration', I can't argue in either direction.
For listening to MY favorite music on the speakers I like, the Cambridge is more musical.
Both are great products and well represented though. If you can try both...try to do so.

Good luck,

Naim is a very reputable brand. They are more pricey than Creek & Exposure but they are well known for driving difficult loads like Dynaudio & Totem with little problem. You have chosen wisely. Good deal.

I think it depends on what genre of music that you listen to on a regular basis and also how much of your budget to be allocated for the speakers to decide whether to go with NAD or CA. It also depends on what type of speakers that you have in mind. If you have silk dome tweeters, you do not have to go with NAD. But if you have metal dome tweeters, NAD's warm sound may be an easy way out for you.

I have auditioned CA with a pair of Arro at a local dealer a year or two ago. From my note, the Totem Arro, CA 540A, and 540C combo produced a holographic imaging, the "there there" imaging that most jazz & vocal fans are willing to pay good $$$ for. There was decent bass for jazz & vocal but not enough for rock, hip hop, or rap.

High is extremely smooth but a pair of hand coated silk dome tweeters on the Arro may be a factor here. Bass is a bit recessed for my taste but for fans of jazz, piano, small ensemble, and vocal, they will have no complaint. A pair of fast power subs could do the job very nicely filling in the bottom octave for small footprint speakers like the Arro or the PSB T45. The CA amp & CA CD player combo has great chemistry with that Totem Arro. No wonder that dealer has sold more Totem Arro, CA amps & CD players than anything else in his store. Problem is he does not carry Dynaudio and NAD so that I can do direct AB testing.

Now, the NAD 326BEE high is pretty smooth, partnering a NAD 545BEE. IMO, the NAD 326BEE will also have great chemistry with revealing speakers like the Totem Arro or the Dynaudio Excite X12 or even the PSB Image T45.

From my experience the NAD 545BEE CD player is a very neutral player for the $$$ and more neutral than its brother C326BEE.

If you are a bass guy, you will like the NAD 326BEE & 545BEE combo than you like the CA 540A & 540C. If the designer at NAD can find a way to tweak the NAD 326BEE just a hair so that the 326BEE will be more focused on the high and the midrange than the midbass as it is now, NAD will have a repeat success as they did with the NAD 3020 decades ago at least at this price point.

It also depends on your philosophy of a good set up. Some people would allocate 40% for speakers, 30% for amplification, and 30% for the source which is probably more wisely than my preference.

My preference is 45% to 50% for speaker, 25% for both amp & the source.
What I have heard from a couple of dealers who sell both is that the NAD is more dynamic and the Cambridge is warmer/smooth/more polite sounding than the NAD. Also that the new NAD classic series XX5 is superior to the XX2 series in that it is less warm and more detailed. I was told the NAD M3 is on a different level than the Cambridge 840A V2 (cost should be considered).
The one thing that amazes me about the NAD is their ability to drive hard to drive speakers despite their low wattage. Something to do with its power envelope.
Cambridge Audio is to Arcam what Volkswagen is to Audi.
My older Arcam alpha 8 integrated + 8p bi-amping combo belongs to a league well under the NAD 315bee.
The NAD 315 offers more of everything. Arcam is 4x more expensive than NAD, and Cambridge Audio is 2x more expensive than NAD.
So what is your point? That $$ don't always translate into sound quality. What about system synergy too. Lots of variables, Chris.
$$$ don't always buy happiness. Thus more $$$ don't always translate into sound quality. Cost is not an object is another story but how many consumers can afford to write a $100K check to bring home a pair of Dynaudio Evidence. Not so many.

Arcam has a sizeable following in the UK, Europe, & the CommonWealth nations. But in North America, NAD & CA sell more amps than Arcam. IMO, Arcam is not in the same league that of Naim or Cyrus so they cannot command top dollars. They are more expensive than both NAD & CA thus they are not that popular like entry level electronics like NAD & CA.

But I do agree with ChrisR about the NAD 315BEE. The chief engineer & designer of NAD, Edvardsen, is a good designer. He is probably the best budget component designer in the industry like Paul Barton of PSB. To label the NAD 315BEE & the PSB Alpha B 1 as "giant killer" is a misnomer but such components do offer a lotb of sonic satisfaction for almost very little $$$ from you.
Both amps are really good. I think the C-355BEE is a bit laid back sounding with Paradigm speakers for my taste. I really like their amps in general with the right speakers, and I think the 315 is a screaming deal. The Cambridge seems to me to have higher aspirations than the NAD at a similar price point, going after a little more resolution and thinking they can get away with it. I think they have done a pretty good job.
Haven't read all responses but would urge you to look at Rega amps. I have used many NAD amps before but personally feel Rega is far superior. I own a Rega Brio in my room sys but power is less than what you are looking for.

This amp has honestly suprised me.Pay attention to Sam Tellig's comments on Streophile review with regard to sounding like 2A3 tubes (I laughed at first). I can testify he's not joking as my main system is also around the same tube.

Good luck with your purchase.
I really like Rega turntables and CD players. The thing with Rega amps is that the British do not believe in subwoofer (no pre-out) and the Rega amps are a bit under power which is something that you should consider before your purchase. Stand mount speakers due to its physical character tend not to sound their best with underpower amps.

This may be a problem for people like me who listen late at night or early in the morning since you have to crank the amp up a bit for the amp to be in total control of the woofers.

I am not surprised that Rega is very appealing to people who listen almost exclusively to vocal & jazz. But for a person who owns dynamic speakers like Dynaudio & Totem, that person may have to look somewhere else.

NAD amps do not a phono stage but NAD amps are cool for people who want a utility amp that can drive almost any tough load speaker, listen exclusively to CDs, listen to all genre of music, and also hook up the NAD amps to their LCDs to watch movies.

There are always compromises in designing budget amps for any audio company and Rega is not an exception.

Rega is a great product but to say Rega is far superior than NAD or CA for that matter is merely stating one's personal preference rather than providing empirical findings based on facts & circumstances, ie."I report but you decide".


I agree with your general comments but IME there's nothing empirical about audio. My opinion is subjective based on persoanl preference & I am stating that I love this $600 brio. I did not state it's superior to CA as I have only heard HT amps.

I have used quite a few NAD amps starting with the THX218 final being the C272. I've been though the ususal high-end merrygoround of equipment like many: Linn, Naim, Levinson, Krell, Plinius etc. & have ended up with fleawatt category. Supratek + 2A3 amps + Mauhorns + REL sub as main listening preference. Music Jazz, Vocal, Instrumental

My second system & HT is McIntosh (Mac processor+MC252) with TDL Refernce Transmission line speakers. (18Hz-20Khz).(Music ROCK, classical) These are one of the few speakers I liked for bass, dynamics over Dynaudio's. I am specially familiar with the Dyn Craffts.

The reason for listing my systems is to give a background of my listening preferences. That said I would still claim the Rega Brio (not heard many other Rega) is still FAR superior to even the complete Linn system I owned let alone NAD.

I shake my head every time this cheap Brio is playing though my TDL's. (Brio+TDL+Linn Ikemi+ Transparent Musiclink bi-wire + Grover UR pure silver cables, general power conditioning). Maybe an un-intentional synergy thing at it's best. Who cares but I am surely enjoying every minute of it & hughly impressed with the Brio!

As you said "I report YOU decide".
Mr. Dilly

We can always agree to disagree since people perceive value differently.

I am a simple guy so I like to stick with tried and trued partners. I drive nothing but Toyota & Honda. They are not fun to to drive like BMW but I don't have to worry much about maintenance costs besides normal wear & tear.

Dynaudio & NAD are pretty much Toyota & Honda in the audio field. That is why I have always sticked with them. Time and time again, I have tried new products but still end up owning a piece of NAD & a pair of Dynaudio in my place.

I might try CA electronics in the future but that would be at least another 5-6 years from now when Dynaudio release a new line of speakers.
My experience with the Cambridges has been with the CD player: the 840C. I liked it, but ultimately found it to be too "polite," which Robert Harley noted in TAS. From the reviews of the amps, the amps are a bit more aggressive, which stands to reason: manufacturers build complementary components. For example, Goldmund turntables were slightly dark (I had a Studio/T3F arm), BUT their electronics and speakers (I had both Goldmund Super Dialogue and the Goldmund Mimesis 9 back around 1990) and neither of those was dark. If anything, the Mim 9 was slightly "yang'ish" as HP noted in his review of the amp (TAS issue 65).
I've read closely the reviews, and the Cambridge CD players are "soft" (the 840C has beautiful treble, but transients are softened) and a bit withholding, as I said earlier. Amps: the opposite. Put the two together and you have a balanced combination.
One thing I haven't seen mentioned about the NAD -- and I just bought a C326BEE, which arrived today: they can sound quite delicate. Another poster mentioned Arcam and Cambridge might sound alike in the bass and I agree: the midbass on the Arcam FMJ22 and the bass on the Cambridge 840C are both recessed a bit (more the Arcam's failing than the Cambridge, but the Cambridge has demonstrated this trait with Usher 718s, Hales Rev 3 and Nola Vipers). The "punch" is there, but it's lightweight. Neil Gader mentioned this in his review of the Cambridge 550 on the website as well. The NAD isn't merely "forceful" or has "better bass." It's lyrical (i.e., a woodwind solo can sound heartbreaking, not just "soft") and instruments seem to have quite a bit of the human touch (aka, microdynamics). Voices sound highly expressive, not simply loud.
I also wonder about the power cord, line conditioner AND wall outlets people use. FIMs outlets are very clean, but slightly soft: The Teslaplex I use for the CD player is quite neutral, but everything sounds more 3D (and that shouldn't happen on every single recording. Recordings should change even from cut to cut). The Oyaide R1 outlet is forceful, forward, delicate and airy. The line conditioner I use is Audience Adept aR2-T (Teflon), which is so very uncolored as to allow you to actually hear what your component's inherent traits are: nothing covered up here.
I can't agree that ALL NADs are grainy in the top, although the C320BEE was slightly so, and unrefined on top of that. The older versions and the non-BEE may have suffered from that. The C326BEE is considerably more refined at the top, no grain, and SEEMS liquid enough. It's not the last word in extension, but it goes out as far as I can hear (around 16-17k) Of course, mine is brand new, so it may turn dry as the desert, but I rather doubt that.
And I myself wouldn't pick an Arcam Diva over an NAD. The Arcam Diva line, if you listen closely, has a dry treble - a lack of "bloom" - that you should hear before deciding. I had a Diva A65+ and felt a bit indifferent to it: besides the lack of bloom in the treble, it's slightly reticent in bass dynamics and weight, although very clean. Frankly, the last Alpha that I heard with killer bass dynamics was the Alpha 6, which has a VERY strong midbass (which makes the images 3D: that's where the 3D effect comes from. Weak midbass? Your images will lack "authority.")Got it for a friend's system and it still rocks hard, but can also be very delicate. I'll be hearing it shortly when I'm back in the the San Francisco Bay area. However, the current FMJ line is an excellent line as well, and not very expensive!
Now, the NAD is highly "immediate"- sounding and excellent on vocals. Nina Simone sounds mesmerizing on an NAD: whatever mood her song is comes across clearly, as do opera singers. In fact, especially with a tuner hooked up and heard live from the Met on a Saturday afternoon (we were only 60 miles from NYC), the power and beauty of their voices left little to complain about.
I bought the NAD again because it sounds musical, delicate, extremely dynamic, has very low noise (I'd say as low as Cambridge's, but read the signal to noise specs), has finely focused and well-rounded images and is quite grainless. I heard them through Sound Dynamics RTS-3s, which are so grainless, someone could have switched my Avalon Eclipse speakers with them and I'm sure I would have noticed if I was only listening for utter grainlessness. And the NAD did its part very, very well.
So, I'm a NAD guy again. For a while. I may buy something else, but I'll not be selling this baby again. That was a mistake I needn't repeat.

Interesting to hear your response but you discussed cdps and the subject is on the amps.

As this entire posting reveals, it's all about synergy. The best sounding amps and/or cdps is the one you like in your system, in your room, and w/ your ears. Others may differ.
I understand your point.
The point is exactly as you have said, "synergy." And amps and cd players made by the same manufacturer will typically complement each other to the point that, where the amp is weak, the cd player is strong, and vice versa.
And I believe I mentioned Arcam, Goldmund and Cambridge amps, if you re-read my post. I also pointed out a review of the Cambridge on, TAS' website. It can be a resource for the original poster. And, I did point out I had just purchased an NAD integrated. I'm familiar with Cambridge's sound synergy between their amps and cd players: I'll say it again. The CD player will be slightly laid back, the amp slightly aggressive up top. Having owned both, it is germaine to the subject to point out, as you yourself brought up, the synergy of systems.
You castigated another poster for not having heard both: that doesn't hold true in my case. What I didn't state clearly enough is that, while I did HEAR the (Cambridge) amp, I didn't BUY the amp, only the CD player. I"m sure there are others who've heard the amp longer than I did, and I would defer to their more extended experience. I don't think 3 days is enough to hear everything that is going on: otherwise, reviewers could write a review in 3 days!
However, when I, personally, say I have "experience," I don't mean in a store, where I have no control over the room, electrical outlets, line conditioners or electronics or speakers - or anything else, for that matter. I take home, and listen over the course of a weekend, to a component. MOre likely, I also mean "I bought the unit." (But not the amp, in this case). I didn't hear the amp as long as the CD player obviously, but I remember its sound.
Sorry for the confusion: I could have stated it more clearly.
Sorry you misunderstood me. I've been in this hobby a long time I find that synergy is paramount wether a product succeeds or fails. That is all I'm more, no less.

Though I have have a modest system currently that I use a CA amp in, I find none of the brightness and lack of bass you describe in my system. I find the CA640 v2 wonderfully musical and peppy. (excellent synergy) You find the same with your NAD. Superb!

As far as the other individual you assumed one is better w/o out hearing has no credentials, and I stand by my comment.
Im sure you have more experience with the amp, as you've lived with it longer. I was referring to the CD player's bass, which, as Harley pointed out in his review, was not its greatest strength. He did allow that, in balanced mode, it gained in that area.