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User Review: 317 Stereo Integrated Amplifier - Spartan

September 27, 2012

Products: 317 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

The Bottom Line: Superlative integrated amplifier for all kinds of music. Spartan features but excellent build, sublimely musical sound, enormous power and fine remote control will yield many happy years of listening pleasure. The NAD 317 is a spartan integrated amplifier of excellent build with just enough inputs and outputs to satisfy all but the most demanding users. It's very stable, high current toroidal design translates the rated 80 continuous watts per channel into enormous power reserves at 2 ohm loads for peak musical demands. The performance is on par with amplifiers that cost many times its price. On the rear panel the preamp outputs and main amp inputs allow the sound hobbyist to patch in an external processor, or run the 317 in parallel with another fine amp or preamp. The front panel's appearance exudes elegant simplicity. The remote control is very well thought out and easy to use. As heard with an NAD T550 DVD/CD player as the source and a pair of Paradigm Monitor 7 speakers as the reproducers, the sound of the NAD 317 integrated amplifier is sweet, smooth, detailed, with very wide dynamics and exceptionally clear reproduction of voices. Although badly engineered CDs will be fully exposed, the typical performance can be characterized as having superb octave to octave balance, with smooth clear highs, beautifully open midrange and very tight extended bass. I do not hear any spurious resonances at all. Whether amplifying a solo instrument like the piano, or a full symphony orchestra, the sound comes across with great lateral impact, superb transient attack, warm ambience and extended echo. When listening to classical music one has the definite feeling of being transported to the sound venue of a concert hall. The 317, however, does justice to all kinds of music. The Platters, in Mercury's digitally remastered CD "Millennium Collection", sound as though they are performing right in front of you. You simply forget that you are listening to a recording. If pop, rock and folk music sound wonderful through this amp, the reproduction of operatic, symphonic, chamber and jazz works is nothing less than sublime. Not just the tone but the inner timbre of every instrument can be heard and savored. The sound stage has impressive depth, height and width, with excellent imaging, definition and details. The voices of individual male and female soloists, as well as those of large choral ensembles, are reproduced with astonishing clarity but without any hint of exaggerated sibilants. One can hear the unique colors, subtle qualities and nuances of each vocal performer. Concert DVDs like "James Taylor Live at the Beacon Theater" and "Jazz Channel Presents B. B. King" will knock your socks right off. Classical CDs such as Handel's "Acis and Galatea" (Christie, Erato label) and Handel's "Messiah" (Pinnock, Archiv label) are just heavenly! The Hallelujah Chorus is breathtaking both for the clarity and the grandeur of the choir. Delicacy of detail makes the artistry of the soloists all the more moving. An opera of massive forces, like Verdi's "Aida" (Solti, London label), comes through with tremendous impact as well as refinement. Thus, the loud trumpets in the Grand March have plenty of bite but, (for the first time in the many years I've been listening to this early 60s stereo recording), do not sound overly bright and ragged. Dramatic soprano Leontynne Price, who was famous in the title role, sounds just as she did live in the theater - in one word, glorious! In the fifteen months since I have been listening to music through this amplifier I have not heard any unmusical or otherwise undesirable sounds of its own. There is a very slight low frequency hum in the left channel, which NAD explains is part of the amp's toroidal design, but it can be heard only if one holds his ear up to the speaker grill. The nearly inaudible hum disappears completely once music begins to play.

Bryan Nenok - England

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