Dave’s Faves – NAD C388

NAD C388 $1600, 150×2 Stereo Integrated Amp


NAD has just upgraded its integrated amp line to Hybrid Digital technology. Distortion levels are astonishingly low. There is transparency in spades. Horse power is typically NAD, meaning solid into
any impedance and able to hit peaks that leave the other guys quaking.

This leads me to NAD’s new C388, a fantastic sounding integrated amp with a passel of very useful features to boot. C388 is rated at 150×2 but will jump to peaks of 1000w!

First of all, musically C388 is smooth as silk. It purveys more detail than anything I’ve heard in this price range and delivers a larger, well placed, ROCK SOLID image in the process. Play any of your female vocal albums (I’m not interested in men singing love songs) and you’ll be impressed with how warm and expansive the sound is. Its competition in this range sounds harder & edgier.

C388 also has high levels of testosterone. You can punch substantial speakers like Bryston A2s or Magnepans real hard, and C388 won’t mind. While my main musical interests are classical piano and female singers, I have to reveal… I have a guilty pleasure- the Hammond B3 jazz organ.

Back in the day I would lug around my 60 pound open reel deck with a mixer and a pile of mic’s, to record a good friend who played a mean B3 and sang with a band. Dealing with the logistics of that MESS will test your commitment to our hobby. What I learned from these 1975 ish recordings is that you could achieve immediacy from live recordings that you couldn’t get from professionally recorded albums. Much was lost in the production process of commercial albums. Master tapes were dramatically superior. With the evolution of digital recording techniques and equipment, we’re able to achieve that level of immediacy today. It’s the sound of… the grill cloth being pulled off your speakers. Lifted veils. It offers dynamic contrast that can literally startle you.

The B3 is an amazing instrument. The dynamic contrast of a fine player like Brother Jack McDuff, Baby Face Willette or Count Basie in his prime- could literally SCARE you with a fine hifi. When they
hit the volume pedal- look out! Many amps are fine playing the B3 at a coasting volume, but when the organist stomps on the pedal, typical amps distort or even shut down. They go to ribbons at the disparity between cruising and IMPACT. C388 doesn’t get bucked off the bronco. It hangs right in there, even with very challenging speakers. C388 will comfortably handle any speaker that would make sense to run with a $1600 integrated.

I’ll make a special appeal to you phono hounds. C388 has a superb built in MM section that isn’t an afterthought. It has precisely accurate RIAA EQ and a vitally important subsonic filter to eliminate
rumble. With this extra attention to detail, C388 beats the mass fi guys in playing vinyl.

C388 has a top notch 24/192 DAC with two OPT inputs and two Coax inputs. Any modest CD player or streaming device (like Blue Sound or Sonos) will benefit from the improved DAC of C388. If you run a CD player digitally into most integrateds with a DAC, the improvement is subtle. That’s not the case with C388. The on board DAC makes a distinct improvement on CD and a DRAMATIC improvement on Blue Sound or Sonos!

C388 has two additional aux ins. It features preamp outs in case you want to add a subwoofer or larger power amp. C388 doesn’t have a USB input- no loss! The other guys waste their money on a funky asynch USB input & trade off massive performance in power and smoothness. C388 has a fine headphone amp on board as well. It has speakers A/B and Blue Tooth.

The new NAD integrateds, with C388 leading the parade, have become my favorite affordable
integrateds, supplanting PeachTree in the process.