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User Review: D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier - Gorgeous chunk of audiophile tech

November 2, 2013

Products: D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier

I've had mine for a little less than a week now. I switched from saving up for a Peachtree Nova 125 to this because of a single chunk of the Stereophile review: "[...] but toward the end of the listening period I hooked it up to a pair of glorious KEF LS50s ($1499/pair) and turned the volume up high. I was bowled over by the sound, which easily matched the best I'd ever heard at home, [...]" Before I start, some context: I'm a bit of an entry-level audiophile - I appreciate decent bits of kit, but am convinced that differences between much of the higher-up stuff is pure psychology, so I draw my line earlier than most ardent audiophiles. (and even if it's *not* pure psychology, the fact that *I think it is* means that my brain is primed *not* to tell the difference between different bits of equipment... Damn you, brain.) I'm running an old Mac Mini as a headless HTPC, with my 14000-strong iTunes library (all CDs ripped to ALAC, or - over the last couple of years - wavs downloaded direct from the labels) freshly transferred onto a Synology NAS. The Mac is plugged directly in to the D 3020's USB port, to take advantage of the latter's DAC and jitter correction. And on the other side of the D3020 are a pair of Kef's LS50s. That little lot is replacing what I had the previous day: the Mac in a different room, beaming to an Airport Express wired into a NAD C350. I've listened to a enough of a variety of stuff through it - from Tycho and Emika to Congo Natty and Photek - to get a good impression of its abilities, and I have to say: I'm very impressed. There seems to be a lightness and an airiness there that wasn't there before - a sense of there being more space. The C350 always struck me as a big bruiser, and coloured the music accordingly. The D3020 seems to bring with it a delicacy that I rather like. It's still got punch, and can still go loud. Even my wife, who tolerates rather than celebrates my low-level audiophilia, thought it sounded immediately better, and loves the improved sound. Very glad I went for it. Love the design of it as well - not only visual, but tactile. I'm a real fan of things that are 'confidently ugly' (the LS50s being a glorious case in point). The design isn't *quite* right (in my opinion, the fact that NAD have labelled the volume knob 'volume' is something that spoils its aesthetics more than you'd think), but it's an awful lot better than most out there. Highly recommended.

Pete - London

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