NAD C 3050 LE Integrated Amplifier Page 2

As Dirac is executed in DSP, all analogue sources must first be converted to digital. Radically, the C 3050 LE does this in all cases, even if you elect not to use the Dirac function. If you are an 'analogue diehard' then this might be a leap too far...

sqnote Vintage Verve
Sonically, the C 3050 LE remains true to its NAD heritage. Although it doesn't possess astronomical power reserves, the amplifier is very capable and boasts an appealing, full-bodied bass extension, presenting a wall of sound which isn't too dense or dull. Equally, it isn't overcritical of source material. Listening to a range of sources, including Internet radio and Bluetooth streaming, via my DALI Rubicon 2 standmounts, I was struck time and again by how well the C 3050 LE handled low-quality streams.

Even when casually listening to HiFi Sean and David McAlmont's Happy Ending [Plastique Recordings FAKE129CD] over Bluetooth, there was an expansive, relatively uncompressed feel to soul-infused pop songs such as 'Beautiful' and 'Maybe'. The aptX support probably helps, but regardless, it didn't sound like the lesser streaming option on offer.

Compared to up-range NAD integrateds with Purifi amplification [HFN Oct '22], the C 3050 LE is a little more colored and a bit less precise. Again, that helps with lesser source material, but also adds warmth and organic character to 'The Sun Won't Set' [Traces Of You; Deutsche Grammophon 479 1051], a captivating song off-setting Norah Jones' vocals against half-sister Anoushka Shankar's sitar playing.


The ‘LE’ version of the C 3050 is distinguished by its pre-fitted wireless/wired LAN MDC2 BluOS module [left] alongside BT, HDMI (eARC) and coax/optical digital ins, MM/line inputs, pre out/main in jumpers and A+B 4mm speaker terminals

Pucker Up
Taking measurements for Dirac isn't too time-intensive on a two-channel system, although instead of the included puck-shaped mic, I used a UMIK-1, opting for a very focused series of nine measurements. The C 3050 LE has five slots you can upload filters to, which allows you to experiment with different target curves. There is a level decrease when enabling Dirac, which makes comparisons more challenging, but this is to increase headroom for processing, says NAD.

Speaking from experience, fiddling around in Dirac can be a bit of a rabbit-hole, but at the end of the tunnel there are significant sound quality improvements to be found. Case in point, with both Taylor Swift's Midnights [Republic Records; 48kHz/24-bit] and Beethoven: Triple Concerto; Symphony No.7 [Deutsche Grammophon 483 8242], featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Daniel Barenboim, Dirac increased the sense of resolution and accuracy significantly. It tightened up the bass on Swift's 'Anti-Hero', but the difference was more marked with the classical works, as there is more microdetail to expose. Milage will vary depending on the acoustics of your room, of course.

Spinning Discs
The C 3050 LE's phono input is converted into the digital domain, possibly making some vinyl lovers hesitate, but with a Pro-Ject X1 [HFN Aug '19] and Pick it S2 MM cartridge playing The Chopin Project [Mercury Classics 00028948115068], I can't claim I immediately disliked what I heard, or that I was hearing something 'digital'. Even with Olafur Arnalds hitting the highest notes on his violin there was no sign of distortion or lack of detail. But the performance, which should be spacious and on a grand scale, felt a bit flat, missing some dynamics.


NAD’s SR 10 full system remote gives direct access to volume, mute, input selection, Dirac room correction and A+B speaker selection

Spinning the album again, but with the Pro-ject X1 looped through a Primare R15 phono amplifier and into a line input on the C 3050 LE, there was some extra depth and a more balanced tonality on show. An external stage is therefore one clear upgrade path for this unit, although I would still rate the phono amp as quite acceptable. And on the plus side, NAD's approach does allow you to apply room correction on all sources, including a turntable, which some will welcome.

After a discussion with editor PM about NAD's HybridDigital technology – which, from the standpoint of the Class D Hypex power amp modules, is not remotely 'digital' – I was curious to hear how the C 3050 LE's preamp stage was influencing the overall performance. To this end I connected an iFi Audio NEO Stream [HFN Mar '22], which has its own volume control, straight into the C 3050 LE's 'Main In' RCAs. This bypasses all the amplifier's digital stuff in the onboard preamp, converting the C 3050 LE into a 'pure' analogue Class D power amp.

21St Century Toy
Listening to Alice Sara Ott's Chopin: Complete Waltzes [Deutsche Grammophon 477 8095] without the C 3050 LE's preamp stage found added clarity and just a tad of extra agility to the piano runs. Does that make the price paid for all that digital goodness offered by BluOS and Dirac, plus the built-in DAC, too high? That's stating the case too strongly, next to losing sight of what this commemorative model is about: offering a vintage feel but certainly not an old-fashioned sensibility when listening to music. And with those pre out/main in links, you have the choice to either indulge or bypass those 21st century features!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
There's no faulting the broad functionality offered by NAD's C 3050 LE. It truly is a do-it-all, combining excellent streaming options with broad connectivity. The inclusion of Dirac is a boon, if you are willing to embrace significant digital processing. Some compromises are made, but at the end of the day you get a vintage box with the latest tech inside. What's that about having your cake and eating it?

NAD Electronics International
Supplied by: Sevenoaks Sound and Vision, UK
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