Being a tad smaller and sleeker than the Pioneer Elite A-35R and with a more modest, more attractive non-shiny front panel, the NAD C316BEE integrated amplifier at a measly $349 measures about 17″ W by 3″ H by 11″ D and weighs 12 lbs. I love the size and shape of this little integrated amplifier. The rear panel is cleanly and logically arranged with five inputs, tape ins and outs, a rocker switch for main power, and a single set of user-friendly binding posts for easy connections. On the front panel there’s a small standby push-button, input-selector buttons, a headphone jack, a 3.5mm stereo minijack, and a large-ish volume knob. Smaller knobs for balance and defeatable (via a push-button) bass and Treble are also offered. The included remote control is unfortunately a joke. Its small, light and contoured to fit comfortably in the hand looks and feel nice but only work less than 50% of the time even with a new battery (and even after I exchanged the remote). I have to resort in buying a Logitech remote in order to make the integrated amplifier work via remote 100% of the time. Oh, on an more interesting side not, the C316BEE is named for Bjorn Erik Edvardsen, NAD’s director of advanced development, and descends from Edvardsen’s famed 3020 integrated amplifier, which is considered to be one of the most important hi-fi components of all time. The 3020 sold well over a million units in its time and still demands good money on eBay.
Sticking with the System Audio Aura 30 tower speakers, Pioneer Elite PD-D9 as the CD transport, Parasound Zdac as, y’know, the DAC, I replaced my faithful Pioneer A-35R MOSFET integrated amplifier with the NAD C316BEE and immediately heard what I had been missing all these years. Music was presented with a slightly wider soundstage but with much greater detail and better localization of images. Voices and instruments were given more space to breathe yet can I still can pin-point the location of each instrument within the panorama. The sound seems to bloom into my listening room with better intensity with delicacy, style, and grace.
I returned to my trusty reference quality Charice album and played “You’re All That I Need To Survive” from Warner Music (unfortunately the same Warner Music that releases the atrocious MP3-sounding Michael Buble ‘s “To Be Loved” album). The C316BEE’s performance freed Charice’s voice and her spacious recording that much more than my Pioneer Elite A-35R (both retailed at the same price with the same weight and similarly sized transformers).
The NAD seemed to have more “oomph” and “air” at the same time. Maybe the C316BEE usage of the new variant of the PowerDrive technology found in NAD’s Master Series components, which is said to maximize the short-term dynamic power sent to the loudspeakers causes this. I don’t know. While the C316BEE’s continuous power output is a claimed 40Wpc into 8 ohms, NAD says that its dynamic power—measured on 5ms peaks—is around 100Wpc into 8 ohms. However, that only explains the “oomph”. The NAD C316BEE had “air”, too. I again played the same track from Charice’s album and from the NAD I find a more fully expressed frequency range with a graceful yet authoritative performance. It’s fluid yet capable of bringing the crescendo the way it’s supposed to without a hint of out-of-breath feeling.
So although I still love my Pioneer Elite A-35R as much as before, I loved the NAD C316BEE more.
Thank you my darling Pioneer Elite A-35R for all the good times, but I deserve to have a much better time in my old(-er) age.
equipment used for this review:
Kimber Kable digital and analog interconnects
NAD C326BEE integrated amplifier
Parasound Zdac Digital-to-Analog converter via S/PDIF input
Pioneer Elite PD-D9 CD Player (used as transport only)
Pioneer Elite A-35R integrated amplifier
System Audio Aura 30 speakers
Vermouth Black Curse speaker wires