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Future-fi for every budget: NAD embrace Roon, Dirac

  • How much would you expect to pay for an integrated amplifier that delivers 80wpc into 8 or 4 Ohms (Hypex UcD), headphone output, MM phono stage, 2 x analogue inputs and “eight channel DAC” (likely an ESS) fed by 2 x coaxial, 2 x TOSLINK or aptX Bluetooth (but no USB)?

    For their identically specified full-width C368, NAD are asking €999.

    Where this integrated amplifier takes a more interesting turn, making the leap to ‘super-integrated’, is with its optional MDC BluOS module (€499) from sister company Bluesound. The BluOS module slots in to one of the C368’s two available sockets to add hi-res multi-room network streaming.

    “With the optional BluOS module, the C368 can connect to your network and be controlled through a smartphone, tablet, or desktop, and connect wirelessly to any other BluOS-enabled device to create a multi-room High Resolution Audio system.”

    Alongside AURALiC’s Lightning DS, BluOS offers one of the better in-house-developed streaming music experiences but it has the functional edge over its Chinese rival with 1) Spotify Connect and 2) control apps available for ALL major operating systems: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Kindle.

    For many a digital audiophile, Roon remains king of the streaming software hill. Today brings good news: the MDC BluOS module is now officially Roon Ready. Inserted into the C368, we have an 80wpc ‘Direct Digital’ Class D amplifier with headphone output, MM phono stage and Roon Ready streaming, all for €1499.

    And much like offerings from Devialet, AURALiC, microMega, Arcam, Moon by Simaudio (and others) we have yet another example of computer power sitting at the heart of an integrated amplifier. Multi-box functionality from a single piece, only now, thanks to NAD, more affordable. Future-Fi for everyman.

    For the Future-Fi-er with deeper pockets, last week NAD quietly announced a strategic partner with Sweden’s Dirac Research to bring Dirac Live’s room corrective capabilities to “select products in NAD Electronics’ Masters and Custom Install lines.” 

    Masters Series products include (but are not limited to) the M50.2 file server and M12 Digital Pre-amplifier/DAC introduced at Munich HighEnd 2016.

    From the release: “Dirac Live is a patented room correction technology that not only corrects the frequency response, but also the impulse response, of a room’s loudspeakers. As the most advanced room correction technology available on the market, Dirac Live is unique in that it provides true impulse response correction over a large listening area, improving the depth, positioning, and distinction of individual voices and instruments. Using multiple measurement and mixed phase correction, Dirac Live helps audio systems to create a natural, realistic and transparent sound with tighter bass and reduced room modes, in a way previously not possible.”

    Again, amplifiers with computerised hearts.

    The full announcement can be read here.

    Further information: NAD | Dirac Research | Roon Labs

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube or Twitter


    1. Audiophiles need to drop preconceived ideas and realize that this kind of thing is the future.
      Keep reporting on it, John

    2. I have used Dirac, liked it, then moved on to DEQX and liked it even more. Once you have heard what good DSP can do it’s impossible to go back.

    3. It turns out that not only will the optional MDC BluOS module make the amp a ROON ready, it will enable full MQA decoding / “unfolding,” something I didn’t see mentioned, and was surprised to learn about in an earlier review of the C368 at soundstagesimplifi dot com.

    4. I realise that these arent strictly 2-channel solutions, but any broad brush discussion of *affordable8 streaming/multi-room systems should include Yamaha’s MusicCast and Sony seem keen to stick their toes into multi-room audio, albeit with gear that few serious audiophiles would consider worth their time and money. Granted, the modularity of NAD’s BluOS modules is tough to beat in any competing product – including those from its BluSound sibling – but its interesting to see Yamaha putting real money into this from soundbars to high-end AV receivers.

      Longtime readers will recall your sadness when Logitech killed off the Squeezebox golden goose and Auralic/HiFiBerry/NAD etc took several years to fill that void – the main negative I can see is that they all seem intent on implementing their own proprietary protocols for transport. My experience with Roon confirms that RAAT is far superior to vanilla UPnP as a reliable means of linking source, controller and renderer, and the same would seem to hold true for MusicCast and BluOS. Great, right up until Brand X decides to go in a different direction and that IP goes with it – particularly common in an industry where the big fish routinely swallow the smaller, more agile players. ‘By the way, which one’s Pink ?’ …..

      The other problem – at least to my tiny mind – is whether devices from different vendors will talk to one another (which is effectively what we’ve done with conventional systems since the 1940s). Compare that to the push in pro audio for each new AES67 product to talk to its competitors:

      Does this sound familiar ?

      ‘If you try and connect equipment using two different protocols it simply won’t work.’

      McLovin, always looking to insert an RJ-45, er, *Lightning* connector somewhere

      (Apologies for the TLDR rant – I guess I had a few things to get off my chest 😀 )

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