Review: NAD C740 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Rate me as a CD fan (not vinyl) of acoustical instrumentation in primarily small combo jazz, world/ethnic, blues, bluegrass, and classical. I listen to all genres except opera, country or most pop. Rock interest in limited. My requirements are that the instruments sound fully realistic and that the imaging and soundstage represent what I'm used to from playing in bands. That's no small order...

I also listen to FM quite a bit. One, and only one, but great jazz station in my area. It serves to introduce me to a wide range of music that is not available in friends' collections, in local libraries, in most record stores here, etc. - or at least not available for detailed listening. Clarity makes a difference and I'm in a metropolitan area with both quite a number of stations and all the interference you can muster to defeat them.

I bought the NAD after reading countless reviews of NAD musical quality for surprisingly lower prices and after much nail biting auditioning in showrooms (can anybody improve on the awful showroom experience please?). When my old amp developed an incurable hum I had to make the move. Not having even much of a lowfi system at the time, because I thought I couldn't afford what my ears demanded, it was a tough choice. Would the NAD improve it or just languish in my musical backwater?

Another decision point was: separates vs. integrated receiver.

Well, right out of the box I knew I had made the right choice! NO HUM - in fact, an incredibly quiet sound floor. Silence is SILENT, period. No power conditioning necessary for the first time, though it was the same house and circuitry. FM reception (I have it hooked up to an attic TV antenna) is as very good, as good as I've ever heard from any system in my area; tuning is effortless with more choices than I'll ever use.

In fact, the controls on the NAD are known for being uncluttered and straightforward and they are indeed that. Whatever you need is there, just not overly complicated or excessively decorated.

Now to the music: Great! Very "musical" as they say. Very detailed and imaging and soundstage are wonderful. Power? I don't use much, but it appears that the power ratings are truly conservatively rated, so power to spare. This one delivered my radio, and especially my CD experience in a highly satisfying way. In fact, it drove me to start upgrading the rest of my equipment to match, because this amp is just so capable and proves what can be done for relatively little cost. I'm quite satisfied with my choice of an integrated amp/preamp/receiver, too. Less complicated for not significantly less capability - only thing less is the number of inputs/outputs and the phono section, nothing on the sound front.

Other pluses: Can handle video input and all kinds of other input/output that I have yet to want to use. You won't find this essentially 2 channel amp lacking in features. I did not need any of the tone controls anymore (no surprise), because it truly is a NEUTRAL machine, though they're there if you want them. A form of soft sound clipping for the loud rock guys is there; doesn't have any use with me yet. NAD Link system, which permits simple chaining of NAD components so that they're controlled from one remote, is a real plus if you stick with the newer NAD line.

Weaknesses? Not in the musical reproduction sense at all, but in the apparent construction: The case appears flimsy and can vibrate. Nothing you can't cure with a few square inches of Dynamat, though. The remote is awkward in your hand, weak in sunlight and very directionally sensitive for an IR device, and it doesn't have a full keyboard for controlling CDP intput, but it does have the ability to control centrally at least half a dozen different devices.

There is no separate output for a subwoofer, which is puzzling because they're ubiquitous. The workaround suggested by NAD is to hook up a Y to the odd pre-main amp jumpers (this is one weakness to consider replacing with a short IC of quality anyway) and attach the sub to the Y. It works as they say it does and makes the volume control on the subwoofer part of the regular amp/remote volume control, which is very convenient and balanced. I don't detect any sound degradation with this arrangement, but am still experimenting to see if I can't eke out some improvement - just a suspicion, not a serious weakness.

I highly recommend this receiver and NAD in general. The more I audition, then buy their line, the more satisfied I have become. I have no hesitancy about seeking out their components FIRST. They are rated by honest professional reviewers as the "low end of the true hifi" market; I'd say that's quite accurate. Lower prices (not cheap), but far higher quality than you would expect and very satisfying to use by ay measure.

Associated gear
NAD C541i CD player
Energy XL 15 bookshelf speakers
Silver Audio Bullet 4 ICs