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TAS C 372-Working Class Heroes

December 20, 2007

NAD C 372 Integrated Amplifier

 

The $999 C 372 is the most powerful integrated amplifier in NAD's "Hi-Fi" Series, and as with every NAD amp built from Day One, the C 372's power capabilities are conservatively rated. Though it is spec'd to deliver 150Wpc continuously into 8 ohms, during short dynamic peaks the C 372's power climbs to 220Wpc at 8 ohms and 340Wpc at 4 ohms. For those who need massive power, the C 372 can also be run in a bridged-mono mode (with the addition of the $699 C 272 power amplifier), in which case output doubles to a steady 300Wpc.

The C 372 uses classic NAD technologies, such as "soft-clipping" (only desirable during your most raucous parties, when you won't notice—or probably even care—that it's stifling dynamic range), a defeatable tone-control circuit (leave it off for the most natural sound), and NAD's trademarked "PowerDrive" circuit topology, which is said to automatically sense a speaker's impedance characteristics and adjust its power supply to maximize performance. You may also separate the preamp and power-amplifier sections via a pair of rear-panel jumpers. While this arguably makes for an easier upgrade path by allowing owners to say, buy a better amp or preamp and later upgrade the other half, I wonder how many customers actually do that. No matter. It, too, is a standard feature, first found in the classic 3020 integrated amp, and remains a part of the NAD vibe.

"The C 372 is the most neutral NAD integrated amplifier I've yet heard"

Also, like every other component NAD has ever made, the C 372 is a no-nonsense, plain-Jane, performance-first design. Yes, it has remote control, and, yes, the wand is an improvement over earlier designs. But the C 372's graphite chassis and faceplate are in serious need of a redesign. Despite the W site's claim of a "new cosmetic appearance," the faceplate looks pretty much like NAD's have looked for the past 20 years. It's functional enough, but not very pretty. However, despite this quibble I must also say that once the music starts you probably won't give a hoot what the thing looks like.

First and foremost, the C 372 is the most tonally neutral NAD integrated amplifier I've yet to hear, and I've heard a lot of them over the years (but not a Masters Series model). NAD amps have traditionally been a little overly warm, a touch romantic sounding, if not especially detailed. These qualities can be a benefit when building a budget system, as entry-level loudspeakers are often bright in the treble and in need of a little added warmth. But when you start nearing the thousand-dollar mark, today's speakers (like the Paradigm discussed below and the B&W 685 I reviewed last issue) require a more detailed, honest-sounding front end. And, boy, does the C 372 deliver.

On a superbly recorded CD of voice and electric guitar, Jeff Buckley's Live at Sin-e [Columbia/Legacy], I was struck by how this NAD managed to reproduce Buckley's voice without adding a chesty coloration, sharp edges, midrange fattening, or excess sweetness. The amplifier also did a good job of revealing the ambient space of the club this live recording was made in, and the rich, reverby twang of Buckley's Fender Telecaster.

C372 Integrated C372 Integrated Amplifier

Even more impressive was the C 372's way with Matthias Bamert and the BBC Symphony Orchestra's reading of Roberto Gerhard's Symphony No. 4 "New York" [Chandos], Here, the C 372 revealed a surprising transparency, immediately unveiling the recording venue's ambiance and size, and a precise sense of the layout of the instruments within. The C 372 delivered the near-strident bite of a trumpet, the delicacy and air of a flute, the sharp pluck of pizzicato strings, and the fleeting interplay of celesta, harps, and a wide variety of percussion. Its balance was neither warm nor cool, but pretty much right in the middle.

And all that power proved itself to be most handy when it came to Led Zepplin's How The West Was Won [Atlantic]. Recorded in 1972, this 3-disc live set captured the band at its best. If you're in the mood for twenty-five minutes of "Dazed and Confused" at near-concert levels, have no fear that the C 372 is going to let you down (assuming your speakers won't). First, this amp laid out a huge soundstage, one that seemed to occupy the entire front-half of my listening room—and I mean wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Against this backdrop, the NAD unfolded Robert Plant's staccato cries and whispers, Jimmy Page's piercing blues licks, John Paul Jones' fat lumbering bass lines, and John Bonham's take-no-prisoners drum assaults. I pushed SPLs as far as I felt comfortable, and the C372 never broke a sweat.

If you're in need of a fair amount of power and looking for a no-BS amp, NAD proves, yet again, to be a name you can count on.

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