NAD C 715 DAB Review from Hi-Fi World
April 1, 2011
This review is for the NAD C 715 DAB Receiver / Tuner. All below comments on the NAD C 715 DAB CD Receiver apply to the C 715 Compact Music Systems except the comments on DAB, because the C 715 Compact Music Systems does not have a DAB tuner built in
NAD C-715DAB £429
NAD have traditionally been well known for their affordable yet well designed separates that offer fine sound per pound. However, more recently they have expanded their portfolio somewhat, moving upmarket with the Masters series and going funky with the new Viso Five surround sound DVD player/receiver. The new C715 compact music system is their first such design and fits right in with the other contenders in the test as it measures 110x215x359mm (HxWxD) and, yet again weighs in at 4.5kg – is this some sort of EU standard for mini systems I wonder….
The C715 is available in two variants, one with and one without DAB (the latter offering a price savings of £100). As a result of these two options, the C715 also offers an AM radio in addition to FM and DAB. 30 presets are available for AM and FM and DAB benefits from 99. The CD player plays only conventional CDs but can accept CD-Rs and MP3/WMA encoded discs.
For interfacing with the outside world, the C715 DAB has a good range of connections. At the rear are three line level inputs, two with matching outputs, plus a single subwoofer output. There is also an optical digital output for connection to an external DAC, and another nice set of chunky loudspeaker binding posts.
"If you value sound quality above all else, though, then it has to be the NAD C715 DAB"
On the front panel, behind a natty little cover, are a headphone output and a stereo 3.5mm jack input. Also here is a USB socket that can not only replay from external USB sources, but can also record music from any of the internal sources or inputs to an external device connected here. The C715 DAB is available in black only and offers a modest-sounding 25 Watts per channel. However, knowing NAD’s amplifier design abilities, this will be conservative and the C715 DAB is unlikely to be troubled by ‘difficult’ loudspeaker loads.
From the first bars of the first tune through the CAB tuner, the NAD announced itself as something a bit special. DAB performance was very impressive, endowing both spoken word and music with detail, dynamics and atmosphere – most unlike DAB in fact! The C715 DAB picked up a wide range of stations with little difficulty (although still not matching the Pure) and held onto them firmly. Bass was well weighted and tidy, the top end was clean and clear and in the middle the NAD gave excellent levels of detail. It even made impressive inroads into laying out a sizeable soundstage across the listening area.
After the disappointment of the Onkyo, it was with some trepidation that I switched to FM, but again the NAD scored highly. It brought in the stronger stations loud and clear and was still able to pick out the weaker ones, even if they did remain rather hissy. My listening coincided with an interview with Jack Nicholson on Radio 2 and I ended up listening to the whole of this, nor because I am particularly a fan, but because the NAD was quite startling in its presentation of this segment. The image projected beautifully out of the loudspeakers and every tiny vocal inflection of both interviewer and interviewee was strong and obvious.
"The C715 DAB is the most consistent across all sources and sounds absolutely superb whether playing a CD or when tuned into a radio station, either digital or analogue."
With music on FM, the C715 DAB was equally adept, building on the already fine DAB performance to show just how far ahead the old analogue system still is in sonic terms. The NAD excelled, with spatiality and detail; my only slight criticism being that it lacked the bass weight of the TEAC.
With a CD in the player, the NAD continued its sonic dominance and, if anything became even more impressive in the way in which it made the little Q Acoustics loudspeakers vanish. In their place was a wide, deep and immersive soundstage that filled the listening room and added magnificent atmosphere to everything. Individual instruments were easily discernible, but were melded together into a remarkably cohesive whole. Bass was tight, rhythmical and solid, although still not quite as deep as the TEAC, and the top end was remarkably uncoloured and incisive, but without ever tipping into harshness.
As hoped, this test does indeed prove that enjoyable sound can come in small packages. All candidates here have their own particular strengths and will find themselves many happy owners. The question of course, is, which one would we choose?
First to consider would be the Pure Legato II. As a standalone unit, this is much more of an attractive proposition as I still feel that the optional loudspeakers hold it back somewhat. However, with a good pair of separate loudspeakers like the Q Acoustics 1020i, the Pure is given more of an opportunity to really show its mettle.
Where these abilities really lie are in terms of radio performance. The sensitivity of both the DAB and FM sections really is most impressive, and if you are a radiophile or enjoy scanning the wavebands of an evening, then this is the unit you want. In sound quality terms it is a little consistent, being rather thin sounding on DAB, and rather dull on FM but it never becomes unlistenable. The CD player is also a fine performer, with a sturdy-feeling slot loading mechanism and the Pure remains an eminently competent unit and good value of money.
Spending a little more does bring you more quality, though, in the form of the £329 Onkyo CR-715DAB. This neat little unit brings about an improvement in DAB sound quality, if a loss in sensitivity and number of stations at your disposal. That is not to say it is lacking in DAB sensitivity terms, however, it’s just that the Pure is exceptional in this respect!
Where it is lacking, however, is in FM performance, with the review sample unable to pick stations up without hiss, which is disappointing. However, given that virtually all FM stations are available on DAB, this becomes less of a concern, and the Onkyo remains a good choice with very fine DAB and CD performance.
There is, of course, one thorn in its side at exactly the same price, namely the TEAC DR-H300DAB. To my eyes, this is the nicest looking of all the units on test, has the smartest display and the most rewardingly tactile controls. In fact, it’s just a shame about the flimsy CD/DVD tray but it does its job well enough I suppose. It is in the TEAC that the three main sources start to show a consistency in performance, with the unit turning in excellent sound quality on DAB,FM and CD. Differences are relatively minor, such as the DAB lacking the impressive bass clout of the other two, but the TEAC sounds excellent no matter what it is playing and, as this includes DVDs, one could almost start to question the wisdom of spending another £100 or so on the NAD.
However, when you listen to it, that wisdom becomes clear. The C715 DAB is the most consistent across all sources and sounds absolutely superb whether playing a CD or when tuned into a radio station, either digital or analogue. Although it lacks the low end welly of the TEAC’s FM and CD replay, it offers a truly inspiring soundstage to all sources and really fleshes out music to fill the listening room. The top end is sweet and supple and the midrange is lifelike and articular. Add in fine build quality and NAD’s traditionally understated power output abilities that will likely drive virtually any loudspeaker you care to connect to it, and it shines out as the star of the test.
All in all, these are four fine products, but both the TEAC and the NAD stand out. Pick the former for an all-round excellent performance, if you value the DVD replay facility and particularly like the styling. If you value sound quality above all else, though, then it has to be the NAD C715 DAB. It really does come across as a fine budget separates system that’s been shrunk in the wash!