NAD C 446 Digital Media Player Preview
|Hard Drive Capacity
|LAN, Wifi, Antennas, 3.5 mini, 12v trigger
|Optical Digital, Analogue Stereo
|17 1/8 x 3 15/16 x 13 7/16 inches
Media streaming is here to stay. If it isn't clips from YouTube or TV shows from Hulu or movies from Netflix, it is music from one of the multitude of services out there. You can stream to your phone, your pad, your receiver, your Blu-ray player, your display. We are probably only a few years away from streaming to your toaster. When NAD made their recent receiver announcements, we found it odd that they didn't have much in the way of streaming. Well, it makes sense now. The NAD C 446 Digital Media Tuner is a standalone box that brings streaming services to your NAD electronics. It features the same stylings of their new receivers and should match well for a very impressive stack.
To start with, NAD didn't focus solely on steaming. They've included a finely tuned radio (RF) and intermediate (IF) frequency which gives the user an improved audio quality while listening to FM/AM radio broadcasts, compared to other radios. The C 446 also allows the user to decode analog FM/AM as SPDIF digital output and likewise, listen to digital formats in a high quality analog output. If you are in an area with DAB/DAB+ radio, it is also supported though HD radio is not.
As you can see, there is a WiFi antenna connection as well as a 10/100 Ethernet wired connection. Analogue stereo output as well as optical digital is onboard. The TOSLink connection is not limited to digital content only, the NAD C 446 will convert the FM/AM signal to digital for a single connection solution. RS-232 and 12 volt triggers are available for custom installers. There is a front mounted USB port for streaming media off a USB stick (MP3, FLAC, WMA, WAV, and AAC supported).
What makes or breaks a media streamer is their streaming ability. The NAD C 446 can access Internet Radio using vTuner or Last.fm with a paid account. It is DLNA and UPnP capable which allows it access to many of your networked devices. While Windows devices most likely will work out of the box, you'll need some sort of aftermarket program to access your content (there is not native iTunes support). This will add a little to the price tag but will give you access to a number of apps that you may use for control. The NAD C 446 comes with a remote but NAD, in their setup video, suggests that you'll need to do all the initial setup from the front panel.
There are a few concerns with the NAD C 446. First, it seems like if you are going to include an FM/AM tuner, there should be an HD radio tuner on board. Last.fm is a perfectly fine service but where is the support for Pandora or Rhapsody or any of the others? Having to pay for an aftermarket program for iDevice support seems a bit odd considering the price and prevalence of such devices. Also, for a company like NAD that is focused on audio quality, reports that it tops out at 24-bit/48kHz resolution (in spite of the claims of a 24-bit/192khz DAC) is disappointing. When you see the inside of the C 446 the first question you'll ask yourself is why they couldn't have found a place for that in their receivers. That's a lot of empty space in an $800 box.
This isn't the first time that a company has split out functionality into separate boxes (look at pre/pros and amps compared to receivers). The key, however, is to make sure that your offering is a complete package. That seems to be far from the case here. With Apple offering AirPlay support in their hockey puck sized AppleTV and major manufacturers offering receivers at around the same price as the NAD C 446 with better streaming options and a full receiver to boot, it's hard to see how consumers are supposed to get excited by this offering. We're hoping that the next Media Streamer from NAD will have a better feature set.
For more information, please visit www.nadelectronics.com.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.