At one point in time, other than being known as one of the best stereo amplifier brands, NAD was known for nondescript grey audio components that sounded great and didn’t cost a lot of money. Features and fluff were kept to a minimum, with the bulk of the budget put into high-current amplification. That way cost could be kept low, but the amp could be built to drive both high and low sensitivity speakers with low distortion. They marketed their stuff as “affordable high-end”.
Now, they still make components that sound great while keeping cost low, but some like the $699 D 3045 Hybrid Digital DAC/Amp, have broken out of the “plain grey box” format, while adding some bells and whistles that cater to the modern audiophile.
Features at a Glance:
* 2 x 60W Hybrid Digital Amplifier
* Two-Way Bluetooth powered by Qualcomm aptX HD audio
* Asynchronous USB 24/192 Input supporting MQA and DSD
* HDMI Audio Return Channel
* Coax and Optical Input
* MM Phono and Line Input
* Preamp Out
* Sub Out
* Headphone Amp
* IR Remote
Build and Functionality
The NAD D 3045 came out late 2018, taking the flexible industrial design language first introduced in the D 3020 Integrated Amplifier/DAC and basically turbocharging it, with double the power and more digital features. It’s also larger with a more premium look, using a digital display for volume and source selection, unlike the D 3020 which uses led lights for the same purpose.
Like the D 3020, the 3045 has a space saving design that allows you to use it upright or laying on its side. The display changes orientation to follow the position being used, allowing it to be easily read no matter how it’s setup. In a desktop or bookshelf setup, the upright position works really well allowing you to pack a hifi amplifier, headphone amp, and DAC in a space the width of a thick book. Or if you have a standard audio rack it will lay down on its side and work just like a standard integrated amp.
The compact size is made possible via the use of NAD’s 2 x 60w Hybrid Digital Amplifier, an efficient design that allows this small unit to drive even low sensitivity loudspeakers while producing very little heat. To me, the tradeoff is a slight lack of warmth in the sound compared to some class A and AB designs, but I may be nitpicking here because the difference is very slight, and the flexibility in placement offered by this design makes it worth it.
In the box, you get a small remote which is common for NAD amps, two power cords, one for European use and one for the U.S., a quick start guide, and rubber feet you can stick on the bottom of the unit for isolation.
Usually, when you buy a compact amp like this, you will end up having to settle for just a couple of inputs and outputs, but the D 3045 has a decent selection with 2 analog inputs, 1 digital coax input, 2 digital optical inputs, a Moving Magnet phono input, a set of sub/pre-outs, and an HDMI input for connection to the T.V. The HDMI input worked really well bringing over the sound from the Tidal app on my Amazon Fire Stick.
There’s also an Asynchronous USB input for attaching a computer which supports High Res streaming via PCM, DSD, and MQA. The USB input supports 24 bit/384 kHz content, while the coaxial and optical inputs only go up to 24/192, and that’s for PCM only, which is pretty much par for the course for integrated amps in this price range.
Streaming via aptX HD, the 24-bit Hi-Res version of Bluetooth, is available on the 3045. It will give you sound pretty close to a wired connection if your tablet or phone supports it. (For example, my LG V40 phone supports aptX HD and I love it) Bluetooth is two-way as well, meaning you can stream your non-Bluetooth sources wirelessly from the amp to your headphones.
You can also plug in your old-fashioned wired headphones into the low impedance, high current, headphone amplifier. I tried it with my relatively hard to drive Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed headphones, and it drove them to ear-splitting levels effortlessly, with good sound quality to boot.
For testing purposes, I used the D 3045 with the PSB Alpha P5 Bookshelf Speakers, and it was a great matchup. The NAD is a very balanced sounding, quiet amp, giving you exactly what the source provides with very little accent. The sound is a little laid back yet still transparent, so it draws you into the music. That matches well with a pair of lively speakers, like the PSB Alphas I used it with.
My source was the TIDAL desktop app playing from my HP Envy X360 laptop connected via USB to the D 3045’s internal ESS Sabre DAC.
Listening to one of my favorite test tracks, “Cantaloupe Island” by Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, the 3045 showed its ability to present a nice soundstage that was deep, wide, and focused at the same time. I like this song because there are many well-recorded instruments on the track, and a quality amp can separate them and place them precisely across the stage. The NAD did a credible job of this, competing well with other amps in this price range like the Cambridge CXA60. The sax, piano, bass guitar, and other instruments were all separated nicely.
Another hallmark of a good amp is that it can really drive the rhythm of a song. This is done primarily with fast, tight bass reproduction, and the 3045 really excelled at this, exhibiting wonderful command of the bass on the Alpha P5.
For those who are space challenged, the NAD D 3045 is a relatively affordable and flexible option that packs a lot of functionality in a small space. It supports all the hi-res file formats, has two-way hi-res Bluetooth capability, plus a wide variety of analog and digital inputs. It will make vinyl and digital folks happy. It also has the gusto to drive power-hungry headphones and speakers. Not to mention it sounds good. If you are looking for a modern, space-saving, hi-fi system hub, the D 3045 is definitely worth an audition.
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