Review (May 2009)
By Kevin Nakano
NAD is well known for high value when it comes to manufacturing components for budget-minded audiophiles. Recently, they have introduced several new products that have more in common with traditional audio components from the past than the more recent designs with a lot of bells and whistles. Many of NAD's new components include "BEE" in the model number — named after their legendary designer Bjorn Erik Edvardsen. His key circuit designs include PowerDrive, Distortion Canceling Circuit, BEE Clamp and an all new and more highly refined circuit layout. There are many consumers out there who are more interested in a good 2-channel system rather than 5 or 7 mediocre channels with a massive amount of decoding options. NAD has focused on simple and proven design topologies that preserve the audio signal and keep the sound neutral and uncolored. The new C 725BEE Stereo Receiver does just that and provides listeners with a pure two channel system. Sure, the unit has a pair of tone (Bass and Treble) controls for those looking to boost or cut the lower and upper frequencies, but in our case we didn't use them at all and engaged the Tone Defeat button instead. There was something very refreshing about not having to worry about a multitude of settings for a given input on a receiver. NAD's C 725BEE only has one input selector and each of the inputs are for a two-channel analog input.
We are not saying the C 725BEE does not support some modern features. The receiver includes a line level Zone 2 output with a fully independent source selection control that allows the user to add an amplifier in another location and listen to all the same sources connected to the C 725BEE. In addition, a separate remote commander is included to control the C 725BEE from the remote location using independent IR codes. The IR input and output sockets on the rear panel make it easy to attach any of the many IR repeaters on the market today. The C 725BEE also sports an RS-232 port and is certified compatible with Crestron, AMX and Savant system controllers. The inclusion of a 12V trigger input and output gives additional flexibility and compatibility for custom installations. A detachable AC cord also helps during custom installation process.
The front panel has a pleasant looking and informative 2 line vacuum fluorescent display. This type of display seems to be a favorite among A/V component designers as they are easy to read, regardless of the ambient lighting. The controls on the front of the C 725BEE are minimal, yet provide enough flexibility to maximize functionality. The top right knobs control the Main Volume and Zone 2 Selector. The lower knobs are for Bass, Treble and Balance control. The buttons in the middle select the input (MP, CD, Tuner, Disc, Aux, and Tape) with an additional button for Tone Defeat. Independent Speaker Select buttons activate the corresponding speaker jacks on the rear panel. The buttons on the upper left of the unit are for power and tuner controls (Blend, Info, Memory, Tuner Mode, Preset and Tuning) The C 725BEE has a sensitive FM tuner that features excellent audio performance with sound quality that rival the best tuners. RDS data is also supported giving text information about the FM station and songs being played. There is an AM tuner for legacy broadcasts.
Unlike many cheaper receivers we have seen, the C 725BEE uses sealed reed relays to switch the audio signals instead of the cheaper CMOS type solid-state switches. Purists typically dislike the use of solid state switches in the audio signal path as they tend to degrade and color the signal. Relays and other mechanical switches have the potential to minimize resistance and keep noise at their lowest possible levels. The C 725BEE uses precision audio grade (film) capacitors in all critical circuit locations for the best performance and reliability. This receiver includes some green features that keep power consumption under 1 watt while in standby mode. In addition, the PowerDrive technology improves amplifier efficiency during playback, creating less heat.
The back panel of the C 725BEE resembles one of the first receivers I owned as a kid. There was something nostalgic about it and as I looked into the design of this unit, it became clear to me that I would spend more time listening to the sound of the C 725BEE and less time writing about all of the modes and features incorporated into the design. Two sets of speaker jacks are provided for set A and set B. The C 725BEE can drive speakers as low as 4 ohms, something rare on receivers in this price range. Five sets of stereo inputs are provided for the different sources. Zone 2 has a set of outputs and there is a loop around for the main pre-outs and the amplifier inputs. This allows the receiver to use a separate amplifier if so desired. There is even a line level subwoofer output for those who want to connect a separate subwoofer. All the RCA jacks are gold plated for better long term reliability. The unit is also supplied with an AM loop antenna and a dipole antenna with a 300 ohm to 75 ohm adapter for the FM antenna input. This worked great at our location in the Los Angeles area. The C 725BEE supports RDS (Radio Data System) and displays this transmitted information from the local stations.
Just below the speaker terminals is a Soft Clipping switch that can be turned on or off. NAD engineers incorporated this circuitry to help prevent the DC nature of conventional clipping from damaging speakers (especially tweeters) when users inadvertently set the volume level too high. NAD’s patented selectable Soft Clipping circuit gently transforms the music waveform as the point of distortion (clipping) approaches, resulting in much clearer reproduction all while helping to protect speakers from damage.
Dock Your iPod
NAD C 545BEE CD Player
The C 545BEE comes with the new NAD CD-8 full function IR remote control that provides all of the common features one would expect including Open/Close, Play, Pause, Stop, Skip-forward, Skip-back, Scan forward and Scan back. There are dedicated buttons for Random, Repeat, A-B Loop, Display, Program, Clear, Numeric Keys (for track number), Filter (normal or slow) and Dim. The repeat mode can be used for a single track of for the entire CD. The CD-8 remote control gives users direct track access and programming capabilities. Up to 40 tracks can be programmed by the user. Basic functions of the CD player can be accomplished using the SR-8 receiver remote for those who like to use only a single handheld. Like the C 725BEE receiver, the C 545BEE CD player consumes less than 1 watt when placed in the standby mode.
The C 545BEE pays close attention to all aspects of the design that affect sound quality. Like all great audio products, the toroid-based power supply uses separate linear power regulators for the analog and digital sections of the design. High quality Burr Brown OPA2134 op-amps are used in the signal chain instead of the much cheaper ones that are available and used in so many other CD players. Aside from the single film type output capacitor, no other capacitors that can potentially degrade sound quality are used in the signal path. NAD designs the analog output impedance to be very low at approximately 300 ohms to prevent accompanying equipment and cables from loading down the signals.
Billy Cobham's Slow Body Poppin' from his Best Hits CD revealed the accuracy and punch of this system. The bass guitar sounded fluid and uninhibited. We attribute much of this to the simplicity of the signal path and the design of the back-end amplifier with its large dynamic headroom. The SubSeries 6i subwoofer contributed another octave lower than what we heard from the Tower T speakers. Sarah McLachlan's song I Love You from her Surfacing CD has bass below what the main speaker can produce and it became clear that the subwoofer was reproducing these deep notes with ease. In many ways we still prefer using only the main two speakers (PSB Imagine T's) when listening to certain types of music simply because of the beautiful midrange we experienced.
- Kevin Nakano
NAD C 545BEE CD Player
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