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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003



C370 integrated

as reviewed by Victor Chavira and Larry Cox


c370.jpg (6371 bytes)





Magneplanar 1.6 and B&W DM 302.

Magnum Dynalab 208 receiver.

NAD T541 CD/DVD player.

Nordost Quattro-Fil interconnects, Blue Heaven speaker cables, and El Dorado power cords.

Monster Cables HTS 1000 AC center. Vibrapods, Lovan Trisolator, and Echo Busters.


one.jpg (6551 bytes)The NAD C370 is yet another chapter in my survey of integrated amplifiers. The C370 has already been positively reviewed in the audio press for its performance and value, so this review will focus on two questions. First, how would the NAD perform when paired with benchmark speakers like my Magnepan 1.6s? Second, how would the C370’s all-transistor design compare to my tube/transistor hybrid Kora Explorer?

The Magnepans gobble up power like relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner, but the C370 had no problem satisfying their hunger. It is capable of delivering up to 340 watts into the 4-ohm 1.6s. As a result, music never lacked dynamics and scale. Dramatically compelling music like Beethoven’s Fifth was reproduced with great momentum. Kettledrums sounded taut and resonant, with instantaneous attack and decay. The C370 also created a reasonable framework for the orchestra to play upon.

With 340 watts available, it’s no wonder that the C370 exhibited admirable bass performance. A recording such as Live at MOCA by Bobby Matos features excellent playing by Rene Camacho on his baby bass. The baby bass has a unique sound, with its blunted pizzicato and dark timbre. The NAD recreated Camacho’s deft playing with impressive impact and control.

The C370’s midrange was respectable. Most of the music I played sounded neither thin nor overly aggressive. A CDR of some favorite songs by female vocalists did not motivate me to lower the volume to background-music levels. The songs were pleasant and engaging. Images were clear, but tended to stay on the same plane. The hybrid Kora Explorer, by contrast, imbues singers with a touch of warmth and air, giving them a sense of realistic shape.

The C370’s top end was another gratifying element of its sound. The tweeters on my 1.6s are about four feet long, and tend to be unforgiving of sizzle and glare. Watching a DVD of Pat Metheney’s Imaginary Day tour reminded me about the drummer in his band. Paul Wertico should more accurately be called a cymbalist, as the ratio of cymbals to toms in his kit is about two to one. Each cymbal has its own character and energy, which the C370 successfully reproduced. The only thing lacking was the added dimension that tube amps give, and even my $3K MD208 barely manages to render.

The NAD C370 is a very strong contender in the under-$1000 integrated amp market. Its value exceeds its price. Add to that its long list of switching features and its headphone output, and the search for an all-around musical bargain is over. The C370 has the power to drive finicky speakers like my 1.6s, yet has the balance and refinement that give the listener a big taste of the high end feast. Victor Chavira






Majeel Labs Pristine S-10 amplifier and E.A.R 864 preamplifier.

Audio Note CD3 CD player.

Ensemble Dynaflux and Calrad balanced interconnects. Speaker cables made from Belden 1219A wire & IXOS 6003a.

API Power Pack. BDR cones.


two.jpg (6646 bytes)NAD is a name associated with value, performance, and lack of frills. The C370 integrated amplifier breaks from the no-frills tradition to give you an almost completely remote-controllable system. For $700 you get 120 watts, the capability of treating the unit as either a preamp or an amplifier, remote control of source and volume, and a host of other features I never got around to trying. The C370 is not a "sweet" sounding performer, more of a straightforward, good-sounding amplifier, and one that may last forever.

It seems to me that American and British entry-level products generally provide performance that is a step above the mass-market receivers from Japan in terms of clarity and detail. The Japanese stuff, which formerly was bright and tinny, is now erring on the polite side, not revealing and not offensive, ho hum. This tends to invite cranking the volume to get sparkle, detail, and a sense of immediacy—sort of like screaming to get your attention. Where entry-level American "audiophile" products fail is in attempting to do one of two things: get great frequency extension, usually at the cost of quality, or sound like tubes, including doing the imaging thing. Typically you get one or the other, but not both.

The NAD C370 is somewhere between these two poles. It images reasonably well, but doesn’t sound like a tube amp at all. It goes pretty darn deep, and is reasonably extended in the treble region. Its more-than-workmanlike performance reflects its laboratory-level build quality. To the extent transformers, wiring, and capacitors can be art, the inside of the C370 is beautiful. Everything is really well laid out and probably very easy to work on. Its 120 watts easily and ably drove my 83 dB-efficient speakers, with quite good bass extension even at lower volumes. This is darned good performance—usually my speakers want either 200 watts or high volume to show off their deep bass. Without emphasizing transients, the amp sounded fast. Attack and decay weren’t as easily discerned as with multi-kilobuck amplifiers, but what’s new there?

The NAD is slightly dark sounding, with a rich, almost chocolaty sound. Male vocals had a resonant, full-bodied sound. Textures were good, although not delicate. Perhaps this is why this is not an emotional amplifier, at least in my system. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings sounded very nice, but was missing that indefinable character that moves me as a listener. On rock, jazz, and pop staples, the amplifier didn’t shout, "I’m unemotional," or otherwise announce its shortcomings, but it seemed, on quieter music, to lack emotionalism, while still conveying the beauty of the music. The presentation was just a little rougher, just a little less delicate than my $8000 reference electronics. Again, no surprise.

Using the "preamp out" provision, I hooked up my E.A.R. 864 preamp ($3000), and a bit of magic appeared. Textures became more delicate, images more palpable, and some of the roughness disappeared. The system took a step up, indicating that the amplifier section is capable of pretty darn nice performance. Here the Barber piece had more emotional content, while still delivering the beauty of the music. Like me, you’re probably thinking that the preamp is the culprit. Hooking the Majeel Labs Pristine A-S10 amplifier ($5000) to the "amplifier in" position, some of the magic delivered by the E.A.R. 864 showed up, though not as much. There seemed to be a plodding character to the sound, and it was not as liquid, or "continuous," if you will, as the C370 connected to the E.A.R..

I’m rather jaded at this point, living with a nearly $15,000 system, so take my criticisms with a grain of salt, but I don’t want to go back to a $700 integrated, as good as the C370 is. However, for $700 you get workmanlike performance, a nearly endless life of operation, and a remote control. The C370 will reward you with very good performance and a good measure of emotion, and if you want to step up to a higher level of performance, it will allow for that, too. Larry Cox




C370 integrated
Retail $700

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