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NAD C 510 Direct Digital Preamp/DAC Preview

NAD C 510 Direct Digital Preamp/DAC

NAD C 510 Direct Digital Preamp/DAC


  • Product Name: C 510
  • Manufacturer: NAD
  • Review Date: August 15, 2014 08:00
  • MSRP: $1299
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting
  • Buy Now
  • Direct Digital Architecture produces no noise or distortion resulting in best possible sound and reduced listener fatigue
  • Direct Digital innovation offers state-of-the-art performance at an affordable price
  • Analog stage operates in true balanced mode driven by Class A biased operational amplifier. Delivers best possible performance with virtually any amplifier
  • High Connectivity- includes connectivity for wide variety of digital sources
  • Easy to use intuitive interface is simple with easy access on the front panel and supplied remote control

Executive Overview

NAD is well known in the audiophile world. Lately, they've been bringing to market a number of products that are allowing audiophile to admit that digital media is here and can be played by expensive gear. While other manufacturers are only recently adding such inputs as Optical and Coaxial (and many eschew the same for analogue only offerings), NAD has embraced these connections and even USB. 

We approve of this move and think that audiophiles will as well.

NADs new C 510 is a digital preamp/DAC, which is similar to calling a car an automobile with an engine - any preamp that accepts digital inputs must have DACs. In NADs defense, their C 510 can be connected directly to your computer (Mac or PC) via a USB Type B connection (the square one) allowing you to use it as a standalone DAC. 

As a preamp, the C 510 has no amps but it does allow balanced or unbalanced connections to your external amp. While it accepts HDMI (two inputs), optical, coaxial, and AES/EBU inputs (one each), it can only output stereo. These connections are all 192kHz/24bit capable for the highest possible audio quality.


NAD C 510 Rear Panel

The C 510 has, of course, 192/24 DACs but can accept no analog inputs at all. There is an HDMI output but it is labeled for video only. The analog outputs (for connection to your amp) is powered by a Class A amplifier, which sounds impressive though the amount of power needed to power these connections is so low that it feels more like bragging about the thickness of the carpet in the trunk of a new car. However from a purist standpoint Class A has the lowest possible distortion and many audiophiles seek out this type of biasing scheme in their preamp and power amp choices. 

For custom installers, NAD has included RS-232 control. 12-volt triggers will make connecting to and powering up and down an amp a cinch. The front panel has buttons to cycle through the inputs and a volume knob.

The thing we really like about the C 510 is that it is an easy and no-nonsense way to add high-end digital content to an existing analog-only system. The downside is the price. At $1300, it may be cheap by audiophile standards but it only offers a USB Type B input and XLR outputs over receivers priced a quarter its MSRP. There are other standalone preamp/DAC offerings out there for a fraction of the cost (see the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 for an example) with most of the functionality. Of course, part of the audiophile culture is to pay more for fewer features in the belief that this somehow will translate to better sound. In this, NAD has surely succeeded.

For more information, please visit www.nadelectronics.com.

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About the author:

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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Recent Forum Posts:

ski2xblack posts on August 16, 2014 09:21
Hmm. I would think many folks who would buy such a thing would be running a 2.x rig. Their C390DD integrated has dual sub outs, adjustable hp/lp filters, and PEQ, but this unit does not? Boo, hiss!
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