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NAD 214 power amplifier

[Italian version]

[NAD 214]

A new affordable amplifier from New Acoustic Dimension can hardly be considered big news, as NAD is THE specialist of value-for-money hifi with audiophile pretentions, and as NAD majors in amplifiers.
And yet, the 214 power amplifier marks an interesting departure from past policies for NAD.
With this amplifier, that occupies the slot of affordable high power amplifiers below the gigantic 208 and 218, NAD stopped using its well-known peak output power promoting technologies like Power Envelope and Extended Dynamic Power.
Instead, the new siblings are utterly simple and conventional bipolar class B power amps. To me this is a relief, as some people feel PE and EDP can influence the ultimate sound quality of an amplifier in the negative way.

Let's take a closer look at the 214. Conservatively rated at 80 Watts in 8 Ohms, this amp delivers peak powers of 110/180/250 Watts in 8/4/2 Ohms, indicating a rather healthy power supply.
As this is a plain stereo power amplifier, there are not many features here: only optional Soft Clipping (to protect the speakers against amplifier overload during prolonged loud listening) and provisions for bridging.
The internals of the 214 are dominated by adequate heatsinks and by a large Swedish toroidal transformer. The small PCBs are neatly laid out and all components are of above-average commercial quality.
Overall, this China-built component inspires confidence with its no-nonsense and cost-effective approach.
It can further be noted that the (now discontinued) 216 is virtually identical to the 214, with a larger power supply and more output transistors leading to a nominal ouput power of 125 W. And for those of you who insist on labels (i.e. you with the Lacoste shirt there!): the 216 is THX certified.

The NAD 214 was used in a system of compatible pricing, comprising a Linn Axis/Akito LP-player with AT-OC9 cartridge, Marantz CD-52SE CD-player, Quad 34 preamplifier and Magnepan SMGb planar magnetic speakers.
Normally these latter loudspeakers are driven in my system with a modest Cyrus One amplifier, resulting in a sound that is very listenable, but also compressed, shut-in and lacking detail in the lower registers.
With the 214 and playing a Morphine track, the Maggies' bass was suddenly transformed: it sounded tight, deep (well, deeper than usual) and beautifully controlled.
This control of the lowest frequencies opened up the total sound stage, making it wholy 3D and exact.
In fact, this was the best image depth and width I ever heard from these particular loudspeakers.

Trying music ranging from Monteverdi's Maria Vespers (recorded in San Marco in Venice, no less), to the warm sounding latest by Morphine and grungy and boomy things from U2 told me that the 214 is essentially neutral, with a sharp and focussed quality pervading midrange and treble.
The only flaw I found was a slight residual dryness in the highs: just the notion, the idea that treble indeed still can be a bit more liquid.
But I can easily forgive this, as the 214, given its low price, is one of the most desirable powerful amps I have ever encountered (well, note that I wrote this in 1994!).
People looking for a powerhouse for rock music or for a big home theater should shop here!

Copyright © 1997 Werner Ogiers

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