HomeTheaterHifi.com
X

NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier Review

Today, I’ll be checking out NAD’s new C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier. It’s a two-channel unit that packs 80 watts-per-channel of continuous power into a slim chassis.

Class D hybrid amps deliver clean, accurate sound without a lot of waste heat. Exceptional stability allows them to drive even the most difficult loads without strain. Nearly any speaker can be used. Another area of versatility is its input panel. Not only can you hook up traditional analog sources (including a moving-magnet phono cartridge), there are coax and optical digital inputs along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for streaming. Chromecast is built in too, so it’s feasible to simply plug the C 338 in, connect two speakers, and enjoy.

Highlights

NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier

  • Compact single-ended architecture with low distortion
  • Can be controlled by the supplied remote or the free app
  • Frequency response is independent of variations in speaker loads
  • Runs cool in a confined space
Introduction

NAD has leveraged its hybrid digital amplifier technology into a wide variety of products. With efficient signal paths come low distortion and the honest, neutral sound NAD is famous for. The C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier takes a rugged and reliable two-channel design and adds digital inputs along with Wi-Fi streaming capabilities and built-in Chromecast. Now you can enjoy clean, pure sound from both wired and wireless sources.

NAD INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Type:

2-channel integrated amplifier

Continuous Output:

50 watts-per-channel into 8 ohms

THD:

<.03% (250-50mW, 8 & 4 ohms)

S/N Ratio:

>98dB (A-weighted, 500mV input ref. 1W @ 8ohms)

Clipping Power:

>60W (1kHz .1% THD)

Input Sensitivity (for 50w in 8 ohms):

Line In – 380mV, Digital In – 18% FS

Peak Output Current:

>18A (in 1 ohm, 1ms)

Damping Factor:

>300 (ref. 8 ohms, 20Hz & 6.5kHz)

Frequency Response:

+.3dB, 20Hz-20kHz

Channel Separation:

1kHz >75dB, 10kHz >65dB

Sample Rate:

Up to 192kHz/24-bit

Standby Power:

<.5W

Dimensions (WxHxD):

17 1/8 x 2 13/16 x 11¼

Weight:

10.7lbs

MSRP:

$649

Company:

NAD

SECRETS Tags:

NAD Electronics, C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier, Integrated Amplifier, Chromecast, Integrated Amplifier Reviews 2017

There is nearly nothing the C 338 cannot do. Not only can you hook up analog source components, there’s even a moving-magnet phono stage for those participating in the resurgence of vinyl. If you’d rather keep things simple, stream your music over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from today’s top services like Tidal and Spotify.

Speaker pairing is easy as well with 80 watts-per-channel of continuous, low-distortion power available. Peaks of up to 300 watts are also possible. At the relatively low price of $650, there isn’t much more an audiophile could ask for, unless you’re willing to spend a whole lot more money. The C 338 looks to be a fantastic component, suitable for casual and critical listeners alike.

Design

The NAD C 338 amplifier provides a selection of three stereo analog inputs and four digital inputs (two coaxial, two Toslink). One input can handle a moving-magnet turntable cartridge. The digital inputs can accept PCM up to 24/192. A 3.5mm headphone jack and RCA sub out (mono) finish out the complement of connections. Boxed with the small but fully functional remote, are three antennae; two for Wi-Fi and one for Bluetooth. The NAD C 338 is the first integrated amplifier I’m aware of that has Chromecast built in. This allows you to stream high definition music files directly rather than simply mirroring the signal from a phone or tablet.

Secrets Sponsor

The front display contains a volume knob, source selectors, and a bass EQ button to assist in the integration of bookshelf speakers and a sub-woofer. The display is a VFD that turns off after a few seconds once a command is selected. The top of the amp is sealed without the ventilation holes usually found on conventional Class A/B amplifiers. Being Class D, it runs cool even after prolonged usage and can be placed into tight confines without worry of overheating. The assigned labeled inputs are streaming, BT, TV, Phono, Coax 1 & 2 and Opt 1 & 2. When the bass EQ is engaged, an indicator lights up. The volume display is a large and legible white text that turns off a few seconds after an adjustment is made. Selected inputs remain lit, but the tiny wording is virtually unreadable from across the room.

On the backside are the above-mentioned inputs, two three-way binding posts, three antennae attachment posts, and a removable power cord. The color is the ubiquitous dark grey seen on almost all NAD products (though, I seem to recall my first NAD receiver back in the 80’s as being a dark olive green). The unit is slim and light, but feels and looks quite solidly-made.

Secrets Sponsor

The Hypex UcD module (analog Class D type) is an NAD-tweaked design that is said to improve current delivery into speakers with low impedance. Distortion is reduced by the module’s output filtering and FETs. Frequency response is largely independent of the speaker load, whether eight, or four ohms. This makes the NAD C 338 well-suited to almost any speaker.

Setup

Setting up the NAD C 338 was straightforward. The remote and antennae are in a separate box and the only instructions consist of a double-sided page with pictures that show how to set things up, step by step. Once you download the app, you can adjust inputs and volume with your phone, as well as the remote. The handset is basic, but it fits comfortably in your hand. It is IR, so you’ll have to point it directly at the NAD C 338. Your phone however, will find the NAD C 338 on your network and control it wirelessly.

The app was easy to use and gave me no trouble. Downloading Chromecast on my iOS system was a bit of a challenge, but I connected it to Spotify without too much hassle. I also hooked up my OPPO UDP-103 so I could spin some silver discs. Two of the antennae in the back are for Wi-Fi while the third is dedicated to Bluetooth. They simply screw on and can bend into any plane you choose, but vertical is usually optimal. I had no connection issues once the unit was set up. I imagine you could walk around the house and not lose your signal, but everyone’s domicile is unique.

Listening

Listening to some music I’m intimately familiar with gave me the chance to listen for any noticeable difference between my reference system (Emotiva UPA-1 mono-blocks and UMC-200 pre/pro) and the NAD C 338. My digital interconnects are Zu Audio Firemine coaxial while analog signals flow through Kimber PBJs.

Billy Joel “Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2”

I have had this disc set for many years, back in the days when you could join a mail order service for a penny and get 10 CDs for joining. I always felt that this pressing was flat and lackluster. The sound quality was not much better than what you would hear from FM radio.

After getting my hands on the new limited MoFi upgrade on SACD, I could finally hear what I was missing. The bass line is strong and punchy, the soundstage is wide and deep, the piano sounds like a real piano, and Joel’s voice is clear and resonant. Cranking it up on the NAD C 338, it made my Revel F36s sing out, loud and proud. Small details began to emerge that I could not hear on the old mix, and I know that this is more about the recording than the actual performance of the NAD C 338, but I was impressed that the C 338 reproduced the sound so naturally and with beautiful dynamics. The front-panel display does not show the sample rate, but I know that the OPPO UDP-103 samples SACD at 88 kHz. Seeing the rate on the NAD would have been a bonus for me, but I don’t fret too much about looking at my stuff every time a song comes on. But still…

Copland “Fanfare for the Common Man”

This Telarc disc from Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops is an absolute must-own. I play this piece more often when demonstrating my system than any other recording I own. The sense of space when the tympani sounds was wonderfully realized with the NAD C 338.

The brass had that nice “zingy” sound that you hear when it resonates. When played at the proper volume, it almost literally plasters you to your seat (and even more so when played back in multi-channel). Here again, I could discern the naturalness of the brass tone and hear the occasional intake of breath before the player exhaled into the mouthpiece. The NAD C 338 delivered lots of clarity and strong, tight bass thwacks.

After some extended play, I placed my hand on top of the C 338 and felt virtually no heat. If you are looking for an amp with power, but have limited space to install it, the NAD C 338 may be ideal. Very little room is needed for ventilation.

Simon and Garfunkel “The Complete Works”

Here, I was listening to the natural sound of their harmonious voices and the acoustic sound of Paul’s guitar-playing. A few selections from this disc set were recorded live in Carnegie Hall, and the ambiance of that venue was beautifully realized on the C 338.

During the quiet sections, you could hear the faint sounds of people in the audience shifting in their seats or coughing quietly. The duo’s later albums started to use more bass, drums, and electric guitars for accompaniment, and the rocking rhythms were foot-tappingly good. In between tracks, I also noticed dead silence from the NAD; no hiss or static. I am finding that that is a hallmark for good Class D design these days.

Spotify – The joy of streaming with this service is that it opens you up to many different genres that you might never listen to otherwise. I will be listening to Sinatra one minute, then Bear’s Den the next. I recently re-discovered Jean-Michel Jarre Essential Collection. It has some massive synthesizer sweeps and some catchy tunes like Oxygene, Pt. 4. The NAD C 338 made exploring new music fun and easy. This amp is just as much at home in a dorm room as a living room. With the convenient app, you could spend a Saturday afternoon just chilling with the NAD C 338 and if you have small bookshelf speakers, just engage the bass EQ to fill in the low-end without distorting the sound and over-driving the speakers.

Conclusions

THE NAD C 338 HYBRID DIGITAL INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER offers great sound, Chromecast, Wi-Fi, and the ability to drive any speaker for a very-reasonable $650.

Likes
  • Built-in Chromecast
  • Easy-to-use app
  • Handles almost any speaker load
  • Hybrid Class D amp provides low heat and low distortion
Would Like To See
  • Sample rate info on front display
  • Ability to leave display on
  • Ethernet connectivity

I still have not fully embraced streaming for music as I am usually too purposeful when I want to listen. My shiny disc collection is not going to disappear anytime soon; however, the ability to stream music over the network is a great way to explore new horizons. The NAD C 338 will provide great sound by any method you choose. Though the remote was fine, I ended up using my iPhone to control the inputs and volume. This hybrid digital amp sports both analog and digital inputs. If you have a turntable, you’re still in luck. With a decent set of bookshelf speakers, the NAD C 338 can provide you with everything you need to widen your musical horizons. And thanks to Chromecast, you’ll have many nights of “pleasant streams”.

Categories: Integrated Amplifiers
Tags: C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated AmplifierChromecastFeaturedIntegrated AmplifierIntegrated Amplifier Reviews 2017NAD Electronics
Jim Milton: Jim Milton has been interested in high fidelity since his college years in the late 70's. It was there that he first became interested in classical music. He has been part of choral music, both in opera and oratorio and is an avid collector of classical music from the Baroque through the Romantic periods. He enjoys an occasional night at Boston Symphony Hall or attending an organ concert at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME. Currently he is the director of Nuclear Medicine at the North Shore Medical Center, located just outside of Boston. He also serves as an adjunct professor for Salem State University where he teaches a course in nuclear instrumentation. During his leisure time, he enjoys listening to his music collection and an occasional movie with his wife of 30+ years. Living on the longest stretch of sandy beach north of Boston offers him plenty of opportunities to take a relaxing stroll or soak up some sun. "Remember, acquiring good A/V gear takes lots of time...but doesn't necessarily take lots of money."

View Comments

  • Did you remove the capability to zoom in on pictures embedded in the article? Miss that. :-(

    I'm surprised they didn't include pre-outs for adding additional amplification in the future if needed, most of the integrated amps I've shopped offer that. Makes you wonder.

    • I see where you are coming from, but I think this product is designed to take advantage of their Hypex UcD module. If you are looking to by-pass their amp module and use your own amplifier, the NAD C510 Direct Digital Preamp DAC might be better suited for the job, especially if you stream from your computer.

  • I am unable to load the specs on the NAD website. The specs you list state 50W output into 8 ohms but your article states 80W without specifying the impedance. I need to drive 90db sensitivity speakers that are rated as a 4 ohm load but their impedance curve is all over the place. I am wondering if this NAD will be to able handle this load. I know the Ncore modules don’t care about load swings, but am not sure about the UCD modules. Can you please shed some light on this.

    Also, are bench tests coming.

    Thanks!

    • Stunta,
      An impedance rating is usually an average. Few consumer market speakers are rated at 4 Ohms continuous. If a speaker designer has taken a lot of time to tweak his design, he may rate the speaker into 4 Ohms. The lower the Ohm, the less resistance the amp sees when sending a signal to the speaker. Generally, a deep bass signal can present a 10 Ohm resistance, where a very high treble note on piano may drop the load to 4 ohms.
      Now, that said, the UCD modules have the "umph" to push the least impeding signal of 4 Ohms without difficulty. Think of 4 Ohms as a large pipe with water flowing through it. If the amp suddenly has a large pipe, it may not be able to handle the sudden drop in water pressure and thus run out of juice. 8 Ohms is a medium sized pipe with some increase in pressure. When playing music, the Ohm load is always swinging up and down. The NAD can deliver 80 watts, stably, between these swings. You do not mention what speakers you are using, but unless they are somewhat esoteric, I am confident that the C 338 will work just fine for you. (That said, I would not suggest using this NAD to power your Wilson Watt Puppy speakers. Let the quality of the amp match the quality of the speaker). Hope this helps.

  • Hi, I enjoyed your review.. :)
    A couple of days ago I purchased the NAD C 328 from one of the only importers in Denmark. Went back and forth between the C 328 and C 338 in the store. The seller told me that NAD describes these two amps as sonically identical, the only difference being the inclusion of Chromecast Audio. Looking at NADs website, they're both rated at 50w continuous, although the 338 has higher values listed for dynamic power. Another review on your site lists the 328 at 50w, while you list the 338 at 80. To make matters even more confusing, they draw 80/100w from the socket. What gives? :P I've gotta know if there's a difference in sound / power, it's driving me nuts.

    • NAD states for the 338:
      50W x 2 Continuous Power into 8 or 4 Ohms
      90W / 150W / 200W IHF Dynamic Power into 8 / 4 / 2 Ohms.

  • There is nothing it cannot really do.... hmm, this looks more as an advertorial. How about USB input for example? The newer iMacs no longer have optical sound output and if you want to use USB, which also supports a wider badwidth that the toslink optical cable.

    • YMMV, but for my particular needs, USB is trumped by Chromecast. I only have a few hi-rez music files on USB these days. All of my music listening from my Mac mini streams from a WD MyCloud to the NAD