Every industry has to evolve. High-end audio is no different. What hurt this industry was telling people that if they didn’t own amplifier ‘X’ for $10,000 or interconnect cable ‘Y’ for $3,000/1m – they were not part of our little club. We pushed women away because they were not welcome (even if they represent the majority of music listeners), and if not for the personal audio explosion, there would not be a new generation of listeners at all to replace audiophiles who are stuck in the past. One-box systems like the NAD D 3045 that sound great are the future. Active smart loudspeakers that sound great are the future. The NAD/PSB partnership has that covered as well – but let’s not let the cat out of the bag just yet.
Expensive separates are not the future of audio; the 35-50 year-old segment who are now parents have to worry about the cost of education, health care, and other expenditures that leave very little disposal income for dedicated two-channel systems. Listening habits have changed. Consumers still care about sound quality, but convenience trumps all. Audio companies who don’t understand this reality are doomed. Like the independent contractors working on the second Death Star. Doomed.
NAD has manufactured integrated amplifiers for more than 40 years; the original 3020 is one of the best-selling audio components of all-time and the brand has never abandoned the category for a very simple reason – they are bloody good at it.
The introduction of the D 3020 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier was a radical leap for the folks at Lenbrook; both in the departure from traditional class A/B amplifier design, and from an industrial design perspective. The D 3020 was a huge success (V2 sounds even better), inspiring the engineers at NAD to develop the fascinating D 3045 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier that I’ve been listening to for the past two months.
Have they succeeded in redefining the category at $750 for a one-box system that easily fits on a bookshelf?
Minus a few quibbles about the industrial design – NAD has created something very special with the D 3045.
Its best features have clearly inspired the competition to push the envelope as well; affordable integrated amplifiers (with some of the same features) from Cambridge Audio, and Audiolab have been battling it out with the D 3045 for supremacy with a number of loudspeakers in my home and the results have been very interesting to say the least.
The D 3045 supports two-way Bluetooth aptX HD audio (24-bit streaming depending on source) which worked really well with both my MacBook Pro running Tidal/Qobuz (through Roon), and to multiple pairs of Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones from Sony, 1More, and HIFIMAN.
NAD have integrated a moving magnet phono stage into the D 3045 which will be a huge selling point for those who already use a turntable or are looking to add one to their system.
The D 3045 is rated at 60 watts/channel which should be adequate for the type of loudspeaker that most listeners will consider partnering with this cool-to-the-touch hybrid digital amplifier that never loses its composure.
NAD has also included a HDMI ARC input for those of us who may want to use the D 3045 with their HDTV and a pair of loudspeakers; a scenario that I explored in two different rooms in our home with great success.
The rear panel of the D 3045 is easy to navigate and I applaud NAD for including coaxial, optical, and USB digital inputs; making it easy to connect a laptop, digital streamer, CD player, or HDTV without a HDMI ARC output.
The asynchronous USB 24/192 Input supports MQA and DSD playback which will delight audiophiles who care about either format but mean very little to 95% of the market who have no understanding of what they are – and who are really only focused on how their downloads, Spotify, and CDs sound. I say this not as a knock against the D 3045 but as a reality check.
What We Like:
Having owned a few NAD amplifiers over the years, I’ve become accustomed to their warm sounding tonal balance; with a certain degree of roll-off at both extremes. It is not a bad thing from the perspective that NAD amplifiers work well with a wide range of loudspeakers.
They may not blow your socks off, but they don’t make you want to listen to anything else either. Music has a soul in a NAD-driven system and that has to count for something; far more so than extreme levels of detail or soundstage depth that does very little to really connect one to the music.
The D 3045 stays faithful to the NAD creed, but digs a tad deeper on the bottom end which adds an extra layer of punch with the appropriate loudspeakers. Listening to the D 3045 with the PSB Alpha P5 (review forthcoming) illustrated that extra degree of control when I played Aphex Twin’s “minipops 67 [120.2]” from Syro (Tidal, 16-bit/44.1kHz).
The Alpha P5 are very small bookshelf loudspeakers but as I’ve discovered with the five integrated amplifiers that I’ve tried them with, they have surprisingly deep bass extension. The D 3045 took control with a very firm grip and energized my 16 x 13 x 9 listening space with Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and almost piece of electronica that I threw at them.
It is always informative when you can listen to an amplifier with a multitude of loudspeakers; a matter of timing allowed me to listen to the D 3045 with the PSBs, Klipsch RP-600M, Quad S-2, Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s, and Acoustic Energy AE100s.
The warm tonal balance was a better match with the Quad, PSB Alpha P5, and Klipsch RP-600M which all are more neutral sounding.
The Klipsch really liked the warmer midrange, and slightly rolled-off top end, but their expressive personality revealed a wart in the D 3045’s performance; a lack of bite when the music calls for it.
The D 3045 work incredibly well with a wide range of music; Hank Mobley’s Workout (Tidal, 16-bit/44.1kHz) powered through with just enough top end energy to keep the Klipsch behaved, but there was a mild reduction in the dynamics department that could make the D 3045 sound restrained with certain types of music.
Vocals are a strong test for any amplifier and the NAD D 3045 passed with flying colors. It may not have the fleshed-out sound of an EL34 or EL84-based tube power amplifier, but with the Klipsch, and PSB loudspeakers there was much to admire from a $750 digital amplifier. Midrange colorations were almost non-existent with Sia, Natalie Merchant, Alicia Keys, and Peter Gabriel. You hear what is on the recording without any added flavor and without a loss of detail.
The industrial design of the D 3045 deserves points for style. It looks like nothing else, stays cool even when driven very hard, and the rear panel has every possible input/output one could ask for. I’ve been listening to other amplifiers that don’t come close to the NAD in that regard.
The plastic casework doesn’t work for me at $750. Not when the Cambridge Audio AXA35 which costs $350 is finished in a solid metal case, or the Audiolab 6000A which will run you around $1,000 is built like an Abrams M1A2 tank.
The source selection dial on the D 3045 is very fiddly. The supplied remote control didn’t work out of the box – which was annoying but not a deal breaker. The operation of the dial became slightly annoying until I figured out exactly how to cycle through each input without turning the dial aimlessly in circles.
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the D 3020 V2 more than a few times, and while it doesn’t have as much power, or the functionality of the D 3045 (which is hard to beat), it can sound slightly more engaging depending on the loudspeaker and type of music.
Who Should Buy This?
If you’re looking for a one-box solution that supports streaming, vinyl playback, two-channel home theater use, headphones, and support for 2-3 digital sources – the D 3045 needs to be on a shortlist to audition. It will fit on any desktop, bookshelf, or media unit and make wonderful sounding music.
I would stick with neutral sounding speakers with strong dynamic capabilities when using the D 3045 if you want to really maximize its strengths. It is a very capable amplifier that won’t break the bank and offer many years of high-end playback performance. Solidly recommended.
For more information: NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier
FEATURES & DETAILS
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
Disclaimer: This product was sent to me by NAD free for review. The unit was sent back to NAD post-review. Amazon Affiliate links above earn me a commission if you purchase a product using the link.