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It is in the mail, my new DAC/integrated amplifier...the NAD C390DD. I have next week off from work and am really, really looking forward to connecting it to the rest of the audio equipment.

This will be the end of a few years of dreaming and saving money. It started when I read about the NAD M2 and soon after listened to it at the store. Right then I decided to start a savings account, it would take maybe six, eight years to have enough money for the M2, but I always hoped a 'little M2' in the classic series would come out sooner. And it did!

I honestly think I will have a budget system that will preform on the top end of what is in my fanatical reach.

One feature that I really think is neat is that you can have a digital crossover and use two active sub-woofers (left and right) to really fill those lower frequencies. I had one sub-woofer before and today I bought another one. Do people call this 2.2?

I hope the atmosphere will feel more real and relaxing with proper low frequency reproduction.

------The existing system-------
Apple MacBook using Audirvana software, Hegel HD10 DAC, Dared DL2000 preamplifier, NAD power amplifier, Focal chorus 826V speakers and Velodyne MiniVee SPL-800i sub-woofer.
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  1. owen_meany's Avatar
    I've been looking to add an integrated amp and a DAC to my current system (Onkyo Receiver + Monitor Audio RS6 speakers). Since i watch TV/Movies more than I listen to music, I need an Integrated Amp with home theater bypass to drive the front 2 speakers when I watch TV.

    What I can't figure out is if the 390DD can handle this. Is the 390DD a full on integrated amp + DAC? Or is it only useful for listening to digital music files?
  2. Lenrick's Avatar
    I'm not sure that I completely understand the question. The NAD C390DD as close to a DAC, preamp and poweramp in one box as you can get. With the two modules (HMDI and analog/phono) you can connect almost anything to it.

    I cannot see any reason why you should not be able to use it with your current receiver and speakers.

    So, I guess my answer to the question if "it only useful for listening to digital music files?" is no. You can for example connect it to a analog turntable and a TV.
  3. ecr917's Avatar
    Hi there

    I've been lurking in the CA shadows for the last few months and this is my first post. I just got my 390 last week, and seeing as I haven't noticed other owners posting about it, I figured I should say hello.

    I recently sold most of my gear and will be moving soon, so right now I'm just running CDs via optical, but I'm very much enjoying the sound. Once I get resettled in a month or so, I'll start to do some critical listening and trying different sources, settings etc. That said, I wanted to see if you've done anything with the settings, room correction etc. Any thoughts or suggestions on sources? I'll be happy to respond in kind as soon as I can.


  4. Lenrick's Avatar
    Hey Eric

    I too was 'lurking in the CA shadows' for quite some time before I officially joined two weeks ago.

    It is nice to get to know other people using the same amp. I'd love to hear all your comments. Personally I have not had much time to do any proper listening yet.

    I quickly went through some of the settings. My listening room is asymmetrical with a opening to another room not far from the left speaker. So I thought that a small change in the balance-settings might 'correct' this room-imbalance. But no, even a small change makes the sound notable worse. I also fiddled some with the treble and bass settings, but with the same results.

    But I guess you are most interesting in the room correction settings. I have more or less only gone into the menus and seen what it does. Did some very quick tests at 40 Hz, but I concluded that it should not be changed. But I'm planning to give it a more serious attempt with a frequency analyser while playing pink noise. I'm not knowledgeable in any of this, but I plan to have some fun and if I can make is sound better, great.

    I also tried the "Soft Clipping" function. I haven't looked up what it is suppose to do, but I heard no difference.

    Now after using it a while I have noticed that some albums sounds really great (better than before) while there is no difference with some other albums. The one album that stood out as an improvement was "The World's Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings 96kHz/24bit" downloaded from So I guess I can hear the quality of the recording-craftsmanship more than before.
  5. ecr917's Avatar
    I haven't done much more than you have. While I've played around with the basic settings, but I've found that I'm generally keeping the EQ neutral. I also plan to play around with the room correction, but it'll be several weeks until I get into my new place, so I'm holding off.

    The soft clipping is a standard NAD setting that essentially lops off the highs and lows during loud listening to prevent the amplifier from actually clipping (or speakers from being damaged). Unless you're driving the amp particularly hard or have really challenging speakers, I think it's probably unnecessary.

    I have been very impressed with the amp so far. It provides a lot more detail and transparency than prior systems of mine. Reading reviews of the M2, many of the writers mentioned the completely "black backdrop" of the sound, and I didn't really know what they meant - I do now. Notes have a little more edge and definition than I'm used to. While this is an overwhelming virtue in my eyes, I don't know if I would like the NAD paired with a totally neutral set of speakers (I use Mirage OM-6s which are omnipolar and throw off a broad, though less detailed, soundstage than traditional monitors).

    Thus far, I haven't had a chance to listen to anything above redbook quality, but it's nice to know that you're hearing a bigger difference with higher quality material. To that point, what are you using as a source? I believe that in a prior post, you mentioned using USB as your primary input - have you done any comparison between the different inputs?

    Part of the reason I ask about inputs is because I'm trying to figure out how to set up the front end of my system, which is going to be a ground up assembly. I've mostly been playing from disc or vinyl over the last few years but decided that it's time to join the modern world. Most of my digital tracks are older mp3s so I'll be going through the process of ripping everything to lossless, a process I'm not looking forward to, but which is necessary. Ultimately I'd like to use a wireless solution with easy iPhone/iPad navigation, so Sonos and Airport/AppleTV are likely candidates. It seems that the experienced CA folks are several steps above these solutions, but honestly I'm not convinced that it's worth the effort of some of the more extensive (and expensive) solutions I've read about. Ultimately I've decided to err on the side of convenience rather than absolute fidelity. I plan to pose some questions to the broader group, but would be interested to know how you're running things right now.

  6. Lenrick's Avatar
    I use two sources and two inputs.

    For convenience I stream music from my stationary iMac computer via WiFi to an Airport express connected to the C390DD with toslink. This is also the primary way my wife uses the system (but she streams from her computer and her music library). The music is ripped from CDs to Apple lossless audio format. This is extremely convenient since I can control everything with my iPhone. Very nice solution, but it does not deliver high resolution music and iTunes does not easily play FLAC.

    For proper listening I use a MacBook laptop computer connected to the C390DD's digital coax 1 input. To achieve this have a M2Tech HiFace USB to SPIDF converter. (For info on all these gadgets, I recommend The well tempered computer -site, see link below.) The music is mainly high resolution (88kHz/24bit or higher) FLAC files downloaded from HDtracks or similar store. I use the Audirvana software. This as convenient (or inconvenient) as using CDs I would say, you can change track with a remote control but have to go to the system and manually change album.

    I also imagine that when I have friends over they would like to put a USB-stick with mp3 music in the front USB port.

    If you go for the Sonos or Apple solution you will not be able to play high resolution music, at least not straight out of the box. I know there is a company that does something to the Sonos stuff making them play hi res. If you are interested I think I could find the web page again.

    If you have the money, I think the Meridian Sooloos Media Core 200 seems like a very attractive solution. With an iPad you get what you need for roughly 5000 US$ I think. Too much for me at the moment, but it is what I'm aiming for.

    Did I answer all your questions?

  7. ecr917's Avatar
    Thanks for the thoughtful and speedy response!

    I've been considering a similar setup to yours - streaming for everyday listening and a wired for critical/hi-res listening. I'm not sure how much hi-res content I'll be buying, given the artists and styles of music I generally listen to, but it would be nice to have the option. Do you hear any difference between FLAC files played via Airport vs. wired?

    Also, as a matter of curiosity, why do you use USB to SPIDF given the asynchronous clocking and hi-res playback for USB? It seemed from reading reviews and comments that conversion isn't necessary.

    As for the Meridian piece, it sure seems like a great piece, but is way above my head for now.
  8. Lenrick's Avatar
    There are ways of making iTunes play FLAC (plug-ins, scripts and hacking, those sort of things), but I don't like to go that way. I'm not sure if Amarra or Pure Music is an alternative, but they are quite expensive and I feel Audirvana (free) suits me. So I have never really tried streaming FALC files to the Airport. Once I used the Rogue Amoeba Airfoil program to stream FLAC files played in VLC to my old system, but that sounded awful. I have no idea why.

    So every time I listen to my FLAC-files I have to use the wired MacBook, for ripped CDs I can use either streaming or wired. I might spend some time in the future to find a better solution, but now I think this is good enough.

    Have you tried the 'Find HD music' -site (link below), you might find some of the artists and styles you are looking for?

    I'm going to try the asynchronous clocking and hi-res playback for USB direct as soon as I buy a USB cable (I would like a proper one from a audio store and haven't had the time yet). The only reason I use the USB to SPIDF is that I needed it to make my last system asynchronous. I will loose the ability to play music sampled at 192kHz, but I have very few such tracks so I don't think it will be a major loss.

    Eloise (Audio_ELF) wrote somewhere that she will try USB direct as well as via the HiFace. So I'm also waiting a while to hear what she has to say.

  9. ecr917's Avatar
    Yeah, the iTunes FLAC issue is annoying. I haven't figured out what I'm going to do yet, but I'm approach the bridge soon, so I'll need to get an answer.

    Thanks for the HDTracks link. I've been keeping my eye on them, but honestly they don't have much that interests me yet. I'll probably grab some tracks soon so I can do comparisons (and decide if there is enough difference to my ears to warrant the investment). I think it's going to take one of the big boys (amazon, itunes etc) to start pushing higher quality recordings before I start seeing many recordings that interest me. That seems to be a few years away yet (if at all).

    I was able to do some comparisons between USB and optical CD inputs. I played the same tracks and switched back and forth between inputs and honestly I couldn't hear a material difference. There are probably people with better ears than me that would claim otherwise, but honestly I found it encouraging that there wasn't a massive quality drop. That said, the testing was pretty cursory, so I'll be evaluating my opinion over the coming weeks and months. In the mean time I'm going to keep queuing up material from different sources and see if I can find any differences.

    So far, I've been really impressed with the unit.

  10. Lenrick's Avatar
    Today I will borrow a normal 0.5m USB-cable for computers from work, and try it for a while on my C390DD. I'll write as soon as I have listened and compared it to the HiFace.

    It is nice to know that you hear no apparent difference between USB and optical CD inputs.

    The link I was trying to share was not to HDtracks, but to another site. A search-site for HD music that searches about 20 different stores in one go(HDtracks included).

    Maybe HDtracks has the largest range of music, but it might still be worth a try, 20 stores should have larger range than one.


    I just tried the USB direct. It did not sound good at all, something must have been wrong. There was also a clicking noise, not unlike the 'crackling fire'-sound heard when listening to vinyl records but periodic once every second or so.

    More precise what I did was: I connected a 0.5m long USB-A to USB-B cable from my MacBook to the C390DD's Computer input. Selected "NAD..." in the Audirvana preferences and Computer input on the C390DD. Then I played one 192kHz/24bit and one 96kHz/24bit track. Both sounded bad and had the clicking noise.

    I'm not sure what could have gone wrong. Any suggestion what I should do to find the source of the problem? Could it be Audirvana?