Editor’s Note: Carlo Lo Raso here. At RMAF 2018 while I was checking out what was new in the NAD/PSB room, the Lenbrook (parent company) reps and I got into a discussion about the state of the audio hobby in general (being predominantly full of aging hipster silver-hairs like myself) and if the current millennial generation is at all interested in the kind of gear we are. I mentioned to the reps about my 17-year old son Peter and the kind of noise or should I say “music” that he listens to. And while he’s loathed to admit it, Peter (like his old man) does indeed harbor a fascination for audio gear and is savvy enough to appreciate the difference a good sounding system can make. Well, one thing led to another and, before we knew it, my son found himself willingly recruited into conducting his first long-form audio system review. The fine folks at NAD/PSB assembled a capable entry-level system that was very much suited to Peter’s listening habits. It consisted of: the NAD D3045 Hybrid Digital Amp, a NAD C558 Turntable, a pair of PSB Imagine XB bookshelf speakers, a PSB Subseries 250 Subwoofer, and a pair of NAD VISO HP70 Bluetooth headphones. So, without further ado, we present the NAD/PSB Desktop 2-Channel System Review by Peter Lo Raso.
NAD/PSB Desktop 2-Channel System
- The entire system handles everyday use very well and is easy to live with.
- PSB Subseries 250 and Imagine XB Bookshelf speakers image and mesh seamlessly together.
- NAD C558 turntable is aesthetically pleasing and does vinyl LPs justice.
- NAD D3045 amplifier is surprisingly compact, full-featured and comes with AptX Bluetooth.
- NAD VISO HP70 headphones offer a warm, insulated sound that does not grate nor displease.
Before a seasoned high-fidelity audio fanatic reads the following review, it should be noted that I probably have no idea what the heck I’m talking about (yet) but I did have a very good time putting together this critique. As a little background, my dad has been an audiophile for as long as I remember. Some of my first memories are of watching movies in his beloved home-theater setup and aimlessly drawing with crayons in his art studio as he played Al Di Meola, Eric Clapton, or Steely Dan on his studio listening rig. By inviting me to write reviews in cooperation with Secrets, I suppose he aims to turn me on to the audio hobby. It makes sense, considering that music is one of my greatest passions and I listen to it whenever possible (though our tastes may differ wildly). And thus the adventure began as I arrived home from school one day to find a few enormously huge boxes sitting in my bedroom.
It should be noted that to the new-wave, jazz or classical music consumer, most of my music choices may sound like noise and it would be easy for them to claim that something such as the NAD-PSB setup I am reviewing here is wasted on my kind of music. They may claim things like, there is no nuance or detail for the Imagine XB speakers to stretch their wings on and that they would be better suited to play something akin to an alarmingly well-groomed new-jazz artist aimlessly noodling away on a guitar or such. They might have a point if I was only listening to grindcore or raw black metal, but there are a myriad of reasons that a metalhead, such as myself, should treat themselves to a halfway-decent stereo rig. There are countless bands in the realm of technical death metal and progressive metal that could put the guitar work of that afore-mentioned well-groomed man to shame (Necrophagist, Animals as Leaders, Rivers of Nihil, TesseracT, and Meshuggah to name a few) and absolutely warrant higher-end gear to pick up the tearing solos and growls and do them proper justice. So, the new-jazz listener can rest assured that I did not test this NAD/PSB desktop system with tracks from Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Wormrot, but with music that can use the extra fidelity.
NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier
2-Channel Integrated Amplifier
82mV (ref. 500mV out)
Maximum Input Signal:
>98dB (A-weighted, 500mV in, 500mV out, ref. 2.828V out in 4Ω)
>75dB (ref. 1kHz)
Frequency Response (Manufacturer):
<0.005% (@1W, 4 & 8Ω)
1x MM Phono, 1x RCA, 1x 3.5mm
2x optical, 1x coax, 1x HDMI/ARC, 1x asynchronous USB
1x RCA out (sub out), 1x 3.5mm headphone
24-bit/192kHz digital, 24-bit/384kHz computer
aptX HD Bluetooth, DSD, MQA
12v trigger in
Dimensions (W x H x D):
2.8” x 9.3” x 10.5”
NAD C558 Turntable
Belt Drive Turntable with Moving Magnet Cartridge
33/45 rpm, manual speed change
33rpm: ± < 0.50%, 45rpm: ± < 0.45%
Wow and flutter:
33rpm: ± < 0.15%, 45rpm: ± < 0.15%
0 – 30 mN, 0 – 3.0 grams
Effective tonearm mass:
Ortofon OM 10 (Moving Magnet)
Cartridge frequency range:
Cartridge output voltage:
Tracking Force Recommended:
1.25 -1.75 grams (15-20 mN)
Stylus Type: 20μm/mN:
Dimensions (W x H x D):
435 x 340 x 125mm, 17 1/8 x 13 3/8 x 4 59/64”
5.5 kg (turntable) – 1.74 kg (platter)
NAD VISO HP70 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
Closed-back Headphones with Dynamic Drivers.
Manufacturer Freq. Response:
20 Hz – 20 kHz +\- 1.5 dB
Bluetooth Codecs Supported:
SBC, AptX, AptX HD, AAC
320 grams (11.3 ounces)
Black with polished metal accents.
One detachable 1.5-meter (59.0-inch) headphone ribbon cable with 3.5mm plug, one 1.5-meter (59.0-inch) USB cable, one ¼-inch Phono plug adapter, one dual-prong airline adaptor, one travel clip, carrying case.
PSB Imagine XB Bookshelf Loudspeaker
2-way Stand-mount Loudspeaker
Low-Mid Frequency Transducers:
Single 5.25” Polypropylene/Ceramic Woofer with Phase Plug
Single 1” Titanium Dome Tweeter
Maximum Rated Amplifier Power:
120 Watts RMS
Frequency Response (Manufacturer):
On Axis @ On Axis @ 0°±3 dB 55 Hz-23,000 Hz
89dB (2.83V @ 1M)
1.8 kHz, LR4
Bass-Reflex via Single Rear-Firing Port
Five-Way Binding Posts
Dimensions (W x H x D):
6 ¾” x 12” x 10 ¾”
12.3 lbs (each)
Subseries 250 Powered Subwoofer
Sealed Active Subwoofer
Single 10” Polypropylene Woofer
Class D, Discreet MOSFET
200 Watts RMS (Continuous) 300 Watts (Dynamic)
Frequency Response (Manufacturer):
On Axis @ 0°± 3dB 25 Hz – 150 Hz
RCA Line Level L/R and LFE, High-Level L/R via 5-Way Binding Posts
RCA Line Level L/R and LFE, High-Level L/R via 5-Way Binding Posts, USB 5V Power Out
Variable 50 – 350 Hz (LFE)
13.625” H x 13.625” W x 13.625 D
High Gloss Black
NAD, PSB, Bookshelf, Desktop, Loudspeaker, Bluetooth, System, Loudspeaker Review 2019, Headphone Review 2019
The PSB Imagine XB Bookshelf speakers that arrived with the rest of the gear are a straightforward two-way, rear ported, design with a 5 ¼ inch woofer (with a phase plug) and a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter. They have a smooth and pleasing black finish and do not look unsightly with the grilles off (although I prefer to keep them on out of habit). They sit cleanly on my desk and allow my clutter to intrude without disrupting any balances or appearing awkward. From a build quality standpoint, they are not overly heavy but they do feel solid and seem to be well put together. In fact, a bit of a step above what I usually see from a compact speaker.
The NAD C 558 turntable is a belt-driven design and came preloaded with an Ortofon OM10 moving magnet cartridge. It has a thick tempered glass platter that came standard with a black slipmat, though I preferred to use my white Sunn O))) mat. The turntable has a hidden start-stop button just under the edge, at the front of the table. The base itself is made of coated MDF and also seems to be quite sturdy for something that looks more on the slim and elegant side. My dad says that the NAD C 558 has similar design features to some other turntables made by Pro-Ject and he suspects the two companies may have collaborated on this model. The turntable itself sits in a place of pride among my things, standing mightily before my bookshelves and fitting seamlessly with everything else. The design is slim, sleek, and easy on the eyes. However, it is worth noting that in order to switch between 33 1/3 and 45 rpm, one has to remove the entire platter and reposition the belt, which became a bit of a hassle. I also found that it took some time to get the arm VTF (Vertical Tracking Force) properly set, due to the nature of the counterweight. There is no useful precision dial or any sort of metric for how heavy or light the weight on the needle will be, proper adjustment requires the use of a scale and some patience.
The NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital amp which was previously reviewed by Chris Eberle, is capable of DSD and MQA playback (neither of which I use) and has AptX Bluetooth functionality. It has both optical and coaxial digital inputs along with a USB input that I plugged my desktop computer into for most of my streaming and digital listening. It also has a MM phono input and another line input that I plugged my dad’s old Sony Walkman Professional into (cassettes are amusing and still aren’t dead yet). The D 3045 also comes with a set of pre-out jacks should I ever want to hook up a bigger amp, doubtful that I’d need to, and a subwoofer output jack too. A traditional headphone jack for wired headphones rounds out the feature set. All told, it’s a pretty complete little box. Aesthetically, the unit is very compact. I like how it stands vertically and takes up a minimum amount of space on my shelf. It has the on/off button on the top and two knobs, one for volume and one for input. It comes with a remote that is used to pair Bluetooth items to the amp along with performing other standard functions. The NAD amp sort of reminds me of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The NAD VISO HP70 headphones which were reviewed by my father, have a closed-back design with noise canceling, dual beamforming mics, and included with it are several wires that allow for use with more antiquated, non-Bluetooth capable devices. I found them comfortable and appealing to the eye, but I’m more partial to in-ears personally. As headphones go, however, they were more than acceptable.
The PSB Subseries 250 sits below my desk, in the footwell. This sealed subwoofer has a beautiful black gloss finish and a soft, meshy screen covering the 10-inch driver, which protected it when my foot bumped into it occasionally. The back bears all the controls and indicators that one would expect on an active subwoofer, and the built-in amplifier boasts 200 continuous watts of Class-D power. If the subwoofer had been placed outside of my desk, more in plain sight, it would still look at home being as handsome as it is. There is nothing unsightly or alarming on the outside of this approximately 14-inch cube, making it convenient whether hidden or shown.
After pushing aside all the clutter and paraphernalia on my desk, my father and I began to set the speakers up. Once everything was in place, I started playing one of my LPs. My dad immediately rolled his eyes and asked if he could Bluetooth stream something from his phone that he was more familiar with to make sure the setup worked fine. I left the room to get a drink and returned to what seemed like elevator music playing from my speakers. I immediately felt as though I should have on an avocado face mask and a detoxifying kale-protein smoothie at my side. Overwhelmed with this foreign and frankly nauseating feeling, I left the room until he was satisfied and I could return to the warm embrace of Kraanium, Dying Fetus, and Cryptopsy. I’ll review speakers and I’ll do it with a smile on my face, but I don’t want to feel like I’m at a day spa while I’m doing it.
The Bookshelf speakers were situated at either side of my desk, facing straight out. To their left was the D 3045. To the amp’s left was the C 558, further along, my bookshelf. The Subseries 250 made itself at home in the footwell under my desk. When listening, I either sat in my chair, which was directly in front of the speakers or sat on my bed, which was across the room (roughly six or seven feet).
Before I had received this NAD/PSB set, I was using a Denon all-in-one system, that was older than me, in conjunction with two ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2 speakers, and whatever turntable my dad wasn’t using at the time. My setup was not the most sophisticated, but it served my purposes and sounded decent enough, especially after adding the ELAC speakers recently.
One gripe that I had with the NAD D 3045 amplifier was that the volume knob had a slightly disconnected feel, and I found myself having to crank and crank to get any noticeable change in volume. I think this is an issue with the design of the controller itself and has nothing to do with the sensitivity or power of the amplifier which seemed more than capable. This, in turn, was complimented by the input knob being a tad too sensitive, and I would often pass the desired input and lose it within a sea of other inputs.
Quibbles aside, the NAD/PSB setup as a whole possessed a clean sound that was able to portray media with justice, not disturbing the listener with inordinate amounts of low or high end. Each aspect of the sound was strong on its own, lending itself to the whole very well. The highs were assertive, but not piercing, the mids were strong, but not pummeling, and the lows of the subwoofer served as a firm base to be built on by other elements of the set. Compared to the ELAC Debut 2.0, the PSB Imagine XB speakers seemed to have a little more focus in the upper mids and treble area. This wasn’t in a bad way, I just noticed a little more detail and crispness especially on cymbals and high string guitar notes than I did with the ELACs. Otherwise, the Imagine XBs seemed to have an overall clear, balanced sound and the NAD D 3045 had plenty of power to drive them with ease.
The Polish blackened death metal outfit was the first to grace the newly set up kit, and immediately I noticed the difference that the addition of a subwoofer makes to a setup. This should come as no surprise to anyone, considering the purpose of subwoofers, but the extra bass authority was the first thing I noticed.
Inferno’s furious drumming pierced through the rest of the music, adding a dimension to it that I never noticed with in-ears or compact speakers alone. The setup as a whole interpreted the vinyl much better than my previous setup had, which was conducive to furious headbanging and screaming along to “We Are The Next 1000 Years”. The eerie children’s choir section of “God=Dog” was particularly effective on this setup, although I am unsure of why (ghosts?). The initial time spent properly dialing in the NAD C558 turntable had been worth the effort. The OM 10 cartridge tracked the album perfectly and didn’t lack for fidelity.
Sunn O))) is the band that all subwoofers should be measured with. I have no doubt in my mind about that. It is a relieving fact, then, that the Subseries 250 had no issue shaking my teeth loose in this case. The crushing drone of O’Malley’s “sub bass clinging to the sides of the valley” was projected through the monolithic cube by my feet, shaking the tchotchkes on my desk and alarming my dogs.
Atilla Csihar’s throaty and sluggish groan vocals induced goosebumps as he calmly recited poetic passages about passing eons in “Aghartha”. The setup was unfazed by Sunn O)))’s dogma of “MAXIMUM VOLUME YIELDS MAXIMUM RESULTS” and conveyed the lethargic atmosphere with precision. The NAD D 3045 had plenty of power on tap to push the Imagine XB speakers to some pretty silly volume levels when I was the only one around. Much fun was had.
The long and drawn out intro of the album’s title track was poignant on the PSB and NAD setup, and it mitigated the less-than-ideal quality audio files quite well. Due to Buzzov*en’s relative obscurity, finding a high-quality digital copy of Sore is difficult, but I found myself consistently enjoying the record despite the dubious quality of my copy.
I listened to the tracks “Hollow”, “Behaved”, and “I Don’t Like You” with the Bluetooth headphones, and there was no detriment in quality. The HP70s portrayed Kirk’s wild vocals and guitar work just as well as the Bookshelf speakers did. While nothing can replicate the chaos and bedlam of Buzzov*en’s live gigs, the NAD and PSB setup provided a good facsimile.
Excellent investment for everyday use, both for music lovers and audiophiles alike.
- Handles low-stress every day use and critical hi-fidelity listening equally well.
- Streamlined and easy to live with but feels like more than just a lifestyle system.
- More precise tonearm arm balancing system.
- Adjustments to dial sensitivities on the D 3045 amp.
The NAD and PSB desktop system allowed for considerable enjoyment of everyday sound wave consumption outside of the listening sessions used to gather information for the review. After additionally having watched several movies and YouTuber hate5six’s online footage of Code Orange’s show in Philadelphia, I feel it is safe to conclude that the gear included in this set offers an excellent starting point for the aspiring audiophile, while still leaving something to reach for. I don’t imagine that one would have to mortgage their house to afford any of these components, which is a major benefit in my eyes. I can enjoy my music, both vinyl and digital, with money left over. This system would suit both casual listeners and aspiring audiophiles alike, catering to fidelity and quality without sacrificing simplicity or cost. It can be adapted to better suit fans of any genre of music. This NAD/PSB system would also be an excellent choice for someone who lives in an apartment or condo as it excels at providing maximum sound quality with a minimum footprint and great aesthetics to boot. In summary, it provides solid quality and performance for a multitude of uses and I enjoyed my time with it profusely.
For more information on the NAD/PSB Desktop 2 channel speaker system, go to https://www.psbspeakers.com/product/imagine-xb-bookshelf-speaker