Canadian hi-fi manufacturer NAD has announced a new stereo amplifier with high-definition audio streaming capability and an HDMI eARC port for connecting to 4K TV. The announcement comes ahead of next week’s Munich High End Show, an audiophile paradise that draws hi-fi fanatics from all over the world.
NAD C 3050 is a continuation of model A limited edition version the same amplifier that the company released in late 2022. Produced in 1,972 numbered units to commemorate NAD’s 50th anniversary, this model felt like a trial balloon to see how hi-fi fans would react to the retro amp design.
The test drive was clearly a success as the owners best stereo speakers quickly bought the limited edition C 3050. Now the NAD amplifier is widely available and it is priced at a not outrageous $1,399 (about £1,125 / AU$2,100).
The return of the C 3050 is good news, mostly because with its chunky buttons and control knobs, glowing VU meters, and wooden chassis, it’s literally the best-looking integrated stereo amplifier we know of. When it comes to hi-fi, retro is a winning proposition and the C 3050 harks back to the heyday of the 60s and 70s when brands like Marantz, Yamaha and JBL made similarly cool looking gear.
Looking beyond the retro exterior design, the C 3050 is a fully featured, modern integrated stereo amplifier with 100 watts per channel into 8/4 ohm impedance. It has both analog and coaxial and optical digital inputs, as well as the aforementioned HDMI eARC port. A moving-magnet phono preamplifier allows you to connect one of the best turntables, and there are dedicated subwoofer and headphone outputs, and a patented MDC2 socket to accommodate the NAD MDC2 BluOS-D module ($599).
While the MDC2 BluOS-D module is an optional extra, listeners will also want to get one to take advantage of the multi-room high-resolution wireless audio streaming capabilities the C 3050 provides. This feature is controlled via the excellent BluOS app, and the MDC2 BluOS -D additionally supports Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and AirPlay 2, as well as two-way aptX HD Bluetooth which allows you to stream audio to the amplifier as well as use a set of the best wireless headphones for listening.
Another feature that the MDC2 BluOS-D module brings to the table is Dirac Live. Dirac Live processing provides both time- and frequency-based room correction and covers not only the bass but the full frequency range of the speakers.
Analysis: a return to the retro future
Retro is all the rage in the hi-fi world, with a wide range of brands looking to their past for inspiration. And while we can’t say we’re fully in line with some of the retro speakers we’ve seen (The JBL 4329P Studio monitor powered speaker exception), vintage-looking amps like the NAD C 3050 are very attractive.
advent music streaming services made listening to music a standalone activity. Streaming from the best wireless speakers is controlled by apps, and many also support voice commands for an even more complete hands-free experience. That’s partly why vinyl records are back, and retro components like the C 3050 with big buttons and warm, engaging VU meters are objects of audio desire – you want to physically interact with them instead of letting Alexa do the job for you.
At the same time, equipped with the optional NAD MDC2 BluOS-D module, the C 3050 provides all modern conveniences such as high-definition wireless streaming and room correction. It even supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands if that’s something you want to get involved with!
Standing with one foot in the future of audio and the other in the past of audio, the C 3050 is the kind of component that will help keep your hi-fi alive and kicking. It’s good that NAD decided to produce over 1972 of them.