NAD is Founded
A group of forward-thinking hi-fi distributors became frustrated with the stale hi-fi industry in Europe and joined forces to create a brand focused on value over superfluous design. Marty Borish – an American hi-fi industry veteran, took the lead in making the dream a reality. Saturating the market at the time were two philosophies, one being the pursuit of the best sound quality, price-no-object; and the other being the lowest price so long as the product emitted sounds that resembled music. Unhappy with this dichotomous approach by the industry, Borish started New Acoustic Dimension – ‘NAD’ for short – to ensure music lovers around the world could afford the best possible sound without the gimmicks that were commonplace in the industry.
NAD operated on a consumer-oriented model, prioritising the needs of hi-fi enthusiasts. Hesitant to carry large overheads of factory ownership, they opted to utilise contract manufacturing as an operational model. NAD’s early product designs were minimalist, without flashing lights or fancy embellishments contrary to their close competitors.
BEE and the 3020
Bjørn-Erik Edvardsen (BEE), a former Dolby Laboratories engineer, defied the expectations of what a 20 watt per channel class A/B amplifier could achieve with his completion of the 3020. Released in 1978, NAD’s 3020 Stereophonic Integrated Amplifier quickly catapulted the brand to a household name and eventually became the best-selling hi-fi amplifier in history.
Launch of the 5120 Turntable
The 5120 was a remarkable turntable known for its unusual design to better control resonance. The platter was placed on a spring-loaded platform that could absorb jitter, whilst the tonearm was flat rather than the common tubular shape and was cut out of the same material as circuit boards. The tonearm's design eliminated horizontal resonance, while vertical resonances were controlled via an adjustable counterbalance that moved along the axis of the arm and was mounted onto a spring-loaded mechanism. The light weight of the tonearm itself meant that the needle could travel effortlessly over the record and obtain more detailed information from its grooves, creating more accuracy in tonal reproduction than other turntables.
Class G Amplification
Next, Bjørn-Erik worked to perfect class G amplification, which involved a second and smaller power supply that would kick in only when those brief moments of dynamic power were needed. The first of such a design was called Power Envelope and debuted in 1984 with the 2200 amplifier. Later in 1997, PowerDrive was introduced via the C 320, which further refined the Class-G design, whereby the second power supply was always “on” and ready to handle increased loads without the need to switch “on”. The PowerDrive design eliminated potential distortions introduced by the second power supply kicking in. PowerDrive remained a feature in NAD’s product range until the adoption of Class-D amplifier platforms.
1987 Launch of the 6300 Cassette Deck
NAD's 6300 cassette deck was remarkable for its inclusion of two state-of-the-art technologies -- Dolby HX Pro and Dyneq -- that together corrected for the known treble-saturation of cassettes as a source and created some of the flattest frequency responses of any cassette deck, even those at many multiples of its price. The additional Dolby B and Dolby C circuitry resulted in extremely low signal to noise ratios.
Introduction to Digital Signal Processing
The release of the 118 pre-amp was the first product to feature the end-to-end digital design of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology. For all the time and effort put into the electronics inside the product, the exterior industrial design suffered, and the 118 was a commercial failure with only around 1000 units sold. Yet the essence of the 118 design lives on in NAD’s body of work to this day.
In 1999, NAD struggled under the weight of its own success. Canada-based distribution and brand development – Lenbrook Group of Companies, purchased the brand and integrated NAD into their global business, closing the UK headquarters and moving it and its key talent to Canada.
Rise of the Home Theatre Era
Lenbrook’s acquisition of NAD coincided with the growth in the home theatre category. As a result, an emerging issue for the industry was the highly contorted power ratings in AV receivers, as standards originally set in the 1970s by the US Federal Trade Commission for power ratings of two-channel amplifiers were ill-suited to rate AVRs and manufacturers and retailers began to take liberties in specifying power ratings. NAD took decisive action, prioritising the brand’s integrity and transparency to consumers and created its own power rating standard called Full Disclosure Power in 2002 with the introduction of the T 752, T 762 and subsequent products like the T 753 AVRs. The standard applied an average of power outputs across various frequency and amplitude levels with all channels driven to mimic real-world listening.
Modular Design Construction
Unlike most two-channel amplifiers, AVRs interfaced with video technologies as well as audio technologies. Together, the pace of change in video and audio technologies rendered AVRs virtually obsolete as soon as they were released, creating an unsustainable rate of product development for a niche brand like NAD. In 2007, NAD released a new AVR platform featuring an innovation inspired by the modularity and customisable nature of PC computers called Modular Design Construction (MDC). MDC allowed the body of AVRs to house fundamental functions like input selection, volume and tone controls, and audio signal processing, while fast-evolving video processing requirements along with novel inputs and features could be upgraded later with the insertion of a “module” into a dedicated slot on the back panel of the AVR. It is remarkable that the T 765 AVR can today be upgraded to include modern standards of technologies like Bluetooth, WiFi, Dolby Atmos and music streaming. NAD still sustains the MDC programme to the present day.
Move to Class-D
NAD becomes one of the first audiophile brands to successfully make the switch to class D amplification with the launch of the M2 Masters Series Integrated Amplifier. It featured an all-digital signal path using a technology Direct Digital Feedback Amplifier (DDFA). BEE and the NAD team cooperated with Zetex, the original makers of DDFA, to provide a real-world test bed that together allowed these teams to squeeze unbelievable audio performance from this innovative digital amplification platform, that resulted in a dramatic drop in noise and distortion over Class-A/B amplification and brought out a level of acoustic detail that was unfathomable before.
Introduction to Network Connected Music
Recognising that networks and the internet would drive service delivery in the decades to come, NAD releases the M50, a CD player and network music streamer that was the seed that eventually grew to become BluOS, the dominant hi-res multi-room streaming platform in the hi-fi industry today.
The Legend of Marty Borish
Martin L. Borish, founder of NAD Electronics, and the brains behind the brand’s 50-year legacy, passes away after a quiet battle with cancer. His influential vision behind NAD continues to resonate with hi-fi enthusiasts and audiophiles around the world.
The Legend of Bjørn-Erik Edvardsen
At the age of 73, NAD’s unassuming but genius audio engineer Bjørn-Erik Edvardsen Edvarsen passes away. At the time of his death, he had completed a 45-year career entirely with NAD while still actively designing products and mentoring a new generation of enthusiastic audio designers who continue his and NAD’s design legacy to this day.
Eigentakt and Beyond
Today, NAD continues to be most widely recognised for its leadership in developing amplification technologies, largely using a family of hybrid digital designs that are optimised for both digital and analogue sources of music. The M33, released in 2020, was the first commercially available amplifier to carry the Eigentakt technology, the latest in hybrid digital designs that boast near immeasurable harmonic and intermodular distortion, load-invariant power delivery, and clarity at low volumes that even the most expensive amplifiers struggle to duplicate.