The NAD 3020 integrated amplifier put the company on the map in the late 1970s when NAD was still an acronym for New Acoustic Dimension. Designed by Bjørn Erik Edvardsen (BEE), the 3020 looked and sounded like nothing else.
Unboxing the C 355BEE, I noted that NAD’s core values are not only fully intact, but supplemented by a host of contemporary engineering touches including a front panel input for iPods and MP3 players, extensive multiroom facilities, and Edvardsen’s new Distortion Canceling Circuit and power supply technology.
Tip: The C 355BEE’s super-fast volume ramp up/down will help develop your reflexes!
The C 355BEE’s tonal balance leans to the cool side of neutral, so if you’re attracted to the warm sound of tube amps, the NAD won’t be the best way to go. That said, the amp is gutsier and more rock-and-roll-capable than any affordable all-tube amp. Power was plentiful enough to drive my Dynaudio speakers, but the NAD sounded even more potent through the high-sensitivity Zu speakers.
“Wicked As It Seems,” from Keith Richards’ second solo CD, Main Offender [Virgin] gave the C 3555BEE a chance to kick out the jams. Oh yeah, the sound was viscerally alive and yet still precise, and the heavy reggae beat rippling through “Words of Wonder” remained intact even as I bumped the volume higher and higher.
The vibes on Bucky Pizzarelli’s Swing Live SACD [Chesky] demonstrated the C 355BEE’s deft control over the percussion instrument’s shimmering harmonics. I was present at this live session and remember being focused on the sound of the vibes, and I can tell you the NAD gets them just right. The NAD reproduced this classic Chesky, single-microphone recording with a soundstage that stretched wall to wall in my room, though the depth of the soundstage felt foreshortened, just a bit.