Categories: Amplifier Reviews

NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier Review

NAD takes a no-nonsense approach to sound quality with cutting-edge technology and delivers high-end audio at a mid-fi price point.

The D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier may look like a desktop amp, but it can easily drive the most demanding speakers to high volumes without difficulty. A cool-running design delivers a continuous 60 watts-per-channel into 8Ω with dynamic peaks of up to 200 watts into 2Ω. A large input complement includes analog, moving-magnet phono, coax, optical, HDMI with ARC, and USB. Two-way Bluetooth means you can stream from your phone to the D 3045, then out to a pair of wireless headphones. Wrapped in a diminutive chassis, it can be installed out of the way on a bookshelf, or on the back corner of your desk. It provides amazing two-channel performance for just $699.

Highlights

NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier Highlight Points

  • Compact chassis can be installed virtually anywhere
  • Runs cool even with demanding speaker loads
  • Accepts every manner of analog and digital input
  • Two-way Bluetooth with Qualcomm aptX HD
  • USB input supports 24-bit/384kHz with MQA and DSD
  • Clean and neutral sound with tremendous dynamic range
  • Premium build quality
Introduction

Since I purchased my first NAD product in 1984, a 3020 integrated amplifier, I have been a fan of their simple and elegant approach to audio reproduction. That amp was a revelation for me in college and their components still impress me today. In 2013, I reviewed the spiritual successor to that legendary brown box, the D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier. Today, I’ll be checking out its steroid-laden bigger brother, the D 3045.

Like the D 3020, the D 3045 uses NAD’s hybrid digital design which comes from the Dutch company, Hypex. It is fundamentally a Class D module, but NAD has optimized it for greater flexibility with a variety of speaker loads. It can drive just about anything you want to connect at a continuous 60 watts-per-channel including the Axiom LFR1100 4Ω tower speakers I’ll be testing with.

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The D 3045 can accept analog sources, including moving magnet phono, digital components through coax and optical, and even HDMI and asynchronous USB. And its tiny chassis means you can set it up in any space, large or small. In short, there is little this tiny amp cannot do. Let’s take a look.

NAD D 3045 HYBRID DIGITAL AMPLIFIER SPECIFICATIONS
2-channel Integrated Amplifier
Input Sensitivity:

82mV (ref. 500mV out)

Maximum Input Signal:

>5.5Vrms

Signal/Noise Ratio:

>98dB (A-weighted, 500mV in, 500mV out, ref. 2.828V out in 4Ω)

Channel Separation:

>75dB (ref. 1kHz)

Frequency Response:

±0.3dB (20Hz-20kHz)

THD:

Analog Inputs:

1x MM Phono, 1x RCA, 1x 3.5mm

Digital Inputs:

2x optical, 1x coax, 1x HDMI/ARC, 1x asynchronous USB

Outputs:

1x RCA out (sub out), 1x 3.5mm headphone

Sample Rates:

24-bit/192kHz digital, 24-bit/384kHz computer

Other Features:

aptX HD Bluetooth, DSD, MQA

Control:

12v trigger in

Dimensions:

2.8” x 9.3” x 10.5” (WxHxD)

TITLESPEC:

DESCRIPTION

Weight:

7.9lbs

Warranty:

Two years

Price:

$699

Company:

NAD

SECRETS Tags:

nad, digital amplifier, integrated amplifier, amplifier, d3045, Amplifier Review 2018

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Design


NAD packs tremendous performance and amazing capability into the D 3045’s small chassis. Rather than the typical 17-inch wide box, it stands up like a book, and it’s not much larger than an average hardcover volume. At less than three inches wide and 10.5 inches tall, it can be placed just about anywhere. Ventilation is not a concern thanks to its cool-running internals. Small grills run along the bottom, but they don’t need much clearance to pass air through. If you want to run it horizontally, NAD has provided eight stick-on feet, so you can adorn any surface of the amp you want. The display even rotates to the correct orientation automatically. This flexibility means it can provide quality audio in any space from a dorm to a large living or media room.

The front and top surfaces are a continuous strip of piano-black trim that goes from vertical to horizontal with a smooth curve. When powered off, you see only a small orange icon glowing up top and two large knobs, one for volume and one for source selection. Power the D 3045 on by either touching that glowing icon or with the small remote. Then, a light blue display appears showing the current volume level and active source input. The knobs turn firmly with light detents on the input selector. Below the display is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Around back is an input panel that supports just about any source you care to use. In addition to stereo RCA and 3.5mm inputs, it accepts moving-magnet phono signals (RCA with ground screw), digital sources through one coax and two optical connections, along with HDMI/ARC and an asynchronous USB port that accepts MQA and DSD up to 24-bit/384kHz. The digital inputs top out at 24-bit/192kHz.


The remote is cute as a button being less than four inches long and about 1.5 inches wide. It has discrete on and off keys along with volume, mute, and source controls. In the middle are two buttons, one is labeled Dim and it sets the front panel display brightness. The other is called Bass and it has two functions. One is to toggle through multiple bass modes. You can set the sub crossover at 40, 80, or 120Hz; or engage a bass boost of 6dB. Tip: if you have full-range speakers, don’t do this. It made my Axioms bloat rather unattractively. Its second function is to toggle Bluetooth on and off. Hold it for a few seconds to do that. At the bottom are transport keys for the Bluetooth input. The handset is not backlit and feels a little cheap, but it gets the job done.

The D 3045 has been described to me as, “a D 3020 on steroids.” It employs the same UcD modules licensed from Hypex. It’s optimized for high current and low impedance which means it can drive nearly any speaker load without strain or change in sound quality. In my D 3020 review from 2013, I received a white paper from NAD that laid out the technology’s chief benefits. Here’s a refresher:

  • Load invariance, meaning it doesn’t change sound with different speaker impedances
  • Unaffected by very low impedances
  • Loop gain is constant over the full audio frequency range leading to low distortion even at high frequencies
  • Ability to be constructed with all discrete parts (no expensive control ICs)
  • Excellent EMC (electro-magnetic compatibility) performance
  • Low, flat output impedance for good bass control
  • Flat response in all loads
  • Distortion that is extremely low even into low impedance at the highest frequencies

NAD rates it conservatively at 60 watts-per-channel continuous into 8Ω. While this may not be an impressive figure, it should be noted that most listening in the home takes place using no more than one watt, with occasional peaks up to 10. The D 3045 can peak at up to 200 watts into 2Ω. And since it performs equally well with speakers of different impedances and efficiency ratings, I saw no reason why I could not hook it up to my Axiom LFR1100 towers.

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Setup

Connecting the D 3045 to my LFR1100s this way means I can only listen to the front array of drivers. Normally, one would use a DSP module with four channels of amplification to engage the speakers’ omni-directional capability. So, for this review, they are functioning as a pair of M100s. They are a full-range ported tower rated at 4Ω and an efficiency of 93dB (1w/1m) in-room. Normally, I drive them with an Emotiva XPA-5 power amp which weighs as much as ten D 3045s!

Installation could not be simpler. Connect your speakers to the excellent five-way binding posts, connect your source device(s), and plug in the provided IEC power cord. Power on by touching the glowing icon on top then select an input with the smaller of the two dials. The front panel display shows the current volume level, which always defaults to -20dB at powerup, and the active input.

For my testing, I connected an OPPO UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player via coax. This usually results in slightly cleaner sound than HDMI because of its inherently lower jitter. If you plan to use a hi-res source, the USB input is asynchronous and supports DSD up to 24-bit/384kHz along with MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). Sadly, there is no BluOS functionality like that found on some other NAD components. If you want to go wireless with the D 3045, Bluetooth with Qualcomm aptX HD technology is included. It’s two-way so you can stream from a phone or tablet into the amp and listen to the output with wireless headphones. Of course, can-fans can plug into the 3.5mm headphone jack on the front.

In Use

My usual audio review consists of listening to familiar recordings where I can pick out specific details that I know should be there. Most components are able to present the material competently and I can find out what I need to know in an afternoon or two. The D 3045 was a different story. In short, it made me want to keep listening. My single afternoon turned into several, where I went through a whole litany of recordings on CD and streamed over Bluetooth from my iPhone. This is one impressive amplifier.

My experience began with a simple test. After hooking everything up, I popped in a Queen compilation that started with Bohemian Rhapsody. It offered the expected detail and dynamic range and I was just about to move on to another disc when Another One Bites The Dust came on. The opening bass line grabbed my attention with possibly the tightest control I’d ever heard. I don’t often listen to music through the Axioms full range without a sub. The D 3045 had no trouble finding all their bass potential and exerting its mastery over it. I wound up listening to the disc for another hour, it was so compelling. Freddie Mercury’s vocals were perfectly placed in a phantom center channel with just a hint of grit that you don’t often hear.

Next up was Jimi Hendrix and Axis Bold as Love. I often listen to this album in the car and though its sound system is adequate, it’s somewhat mushy with this disc. The NAD laid down the law and had no trouble separating Jimi’s guitar from the less-defined drums and bass lines. His vocals also came through with perfect balance and placement.

Before moving on to classical selections, I played a few tracks from Metallica’s Hardwired to Self-Destruct. It’s one of their better-mixed efforts and leaves out the compression artifacts that plagued past releases. I could play it as loud as I wanted without distortion. My ears set the limit, not the D 3045. By the way, Lars Ulrich is one of the most rushing drummers I’ve ever heard. No wonder they argue during recording sessions.

I wanted to try the Bluetooth feature, so I thumbed through a few selections on my iPhone. Immediately obvious was the difference between tracks ripped from CD in Apple Lossless and downloaded content. Ripped songs could be played as loud as desired and only a faint hint of compression crept in at high volumes. Frank Morelli’s bassooning carried plenty of detail in its overtones and balanced nicely with the accompanying orchestra. One selection included guitar in a lovely timbre with its cleanly plucked strings offset against the bassoon’s warmth. When I selected a compressed track (256kbps), I found there was a volume limit though I could still turn it up fairly high. This speaks well to the capabilities of aptX Bluetooth and its higher transmission bitrate. Other components usually stop the fun at volumes just beyond the background level. The D 3045 is worth buying just for this feature.

For classical CDs, I turned to my familiar recordings of Brahms symphonies performed by the Chicago Symphony. These discs date back to 1991 and don’t deliver the shimmering detail of modern digital recordings. It takes a good amp to flesh out every nuance. The D 3045 brought out detail I hadn’t noticed before like cello players squeaking their fingers as they slid up and down the fingerboard. It brought a human quality to the performance that many amplifiers just can’t reproduce.

My final selection was a disc of Rossini Overtures performed by the Montreal Symphony. It sounds a bit more modern, though it was recorded just a year later in 1992 and features a lot of character. You’ll be tapping your feet and dancing around the room by halfway through. I was reminded of a televised concert where Sir Georg Solti conducted an entire program of these overtures with nothing more than tiny movements of his fingers and eyebrows. The D 3045 is a supremely musical amplifier that remains perfectly neutral and accurate.

Conclusions

The NAD D 3045 HYBRID DIGITAL AMPLIFIER is the best integrated amp I’ve heard for under $1000. Honestly, you’d have to spend a lot more than $1000 to beat it.

Likes
  • Unfailingly accurate and detailed sound
  • Phenomenally tight and controlled bass
  • Drives large speakers with pleasure
  • Tremendous quality and functionality in a small chassis
Would Like To See
  • BluOS streaming

I can’t imagine anything that would improve the D 3045’s sound quality in a significant way. For $699, it delivers audio equal to more expensive products. It has every feature one could want in an integrated amplifier and it can drive just about any speakers currently sold today. Its character is definitive NAD – neutral and accurate with seemingly endless power reserves. It may be rated at 60 watts-per-channel but trust me, you won’t find its limits in a home environment.

Though I have waxed on about the D 3045’s audio prowess, I must note again how super-convenient it is. It’s small enough to be hidden on a bookshelf or corner table and generates almost no heat. Ventilation just isn’t a concern. It’s equally happy driving a small pair of bookshelf speakers, or a pair of large towers. My Axiom LFR1100s are rated at 4Ω and 93dB efficiency; not a tremendous load but one that would heat up most mid-fi receivers. The D 3045 barely rose above room temperature, regardless of volume level. Distortion? It just doesn’t exist from this amp. I twisted the volume knob past the point where I could stand it and heard only clean sound. One caveat, if your source material is poor, this amp won’t help. It is neutral and honest, like all NAD products.

Some enthusiasts may have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea of a tiny amp with such lofty capabilities. But it’s very real. It doesn’t have to be a large and heavy box to sound good. NAD proved it with the D 3020 five years ago and they’ve proved it even more with the D 3045. It doesn’t just think outside the box, it throws the box in the recycling bin. This amazing component receives my highest recommendation.

Chris Eberle

Chris' passion for audio began when he took up playing the bassoon at age 12. During his third year at the New England Conservatory of Music, he won a position with the West Point Band where he served for 26 years as principal bassoonist. He retired from the Army in 2013 and is now writing full time and performing as a freelance musician in Central Florida. As an avid movie lover, Chris was unable to turn away the 50-inch Samsung DLP TV that arrived at his door one day, thus launching him irrevocably into an obsession with home theater. Dissatisfied with the image quality of his new acquisition, Chris trained with the Imaging Science Foundation in 2006 and became a professional display calibrator. His ultimate theater desires were realized when he completed construction of a dedicated cinema/listening room in his home. Chris is extremely fortunate that his need for quality audio and video is shared and supported by his wife of over 25 years. In his spare time he enjoys riding his recumbent trike at least 100 miles per week, trying out new restaurants, going to theme parks and spending as much time as possible watching movies and listening to music. Chris enjoys bringing his observations and discoveries about every kind of home theater product to as many curious and well-informed readers as possible. He is proud to be a part of the Team and hopes to help everyone enjoy their AV experiences to the fullest.

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Tags: AmplifierAmplifier Review 2018d3045digital amplifierFeaturedIntegrated AmplifierNAD

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