It’s awfully easy to get spoiled in this industry. Gear that I could not possibly afford is dropped at my door, and for a brief window of time I live under the illusion that my champagne-and-caviar dreams have materialized. Such was the case when I reviewed NAD’s Master Series M3 integrated amplifier in Issue 163—a superb effort that I only grudgingly relinquished. But NAD didn’t leave me empty-handed for long.
The 720BEE is heir to NAD’s classic 7020 receiver (and the more recent C740). Its 50Wpc amplifier section is based on the company’s C320BEE integrated amp, but here equipped with an RDS AM/FM tuner and a secondzone output that allows music to be exported to speakers in another room (separate amplifier required). The absence of the video functionality of the Rotel RX-1052 and the iPod jack and USB connectivity of the Outlaw RR 2150 may suggest that the C720BEE is strictly old school. But NAD compensates for these omissions with a hefty toroidal transformer, defeatable tone controls, remote control, and subwoofer output—a thoughtful nod to the expanding sub/sat marketplace. The only misstep is the lack of a volume-readout on the front-panel display.
When partnered with a high-performance speaker of medium sensitivity, like the Proac Studio 140 (review to come), the NAD continues its tradition of midrange neutrality and resolution, and freedom from noise and gritty treble artifacts. It reveals more inner details and microdynamics than it has a right to at this level. To hear what I mean, listen to Holly Cole’s puffs of breath as she tests the mike at the beginning of “Take Me Home,” from Temptation [Alert]. It also shows a fair share of transparency at the end of Sinatra’s “Angel Eyes,” from Only The Lonely [Capitol]. When the Chairman sings, “’scuse me, while I disappear,” the NAD captures a voice weary with regret—the very atmosphere of the wee, small hours of the morning.
These tracks cut both ways, however, by revealing the NAD’s mildly subtractive personality. There is some shortening and lowering of the soundstage during Rutter’s Requiem [Reference Recordings], and the NAD doesn’t quite resolve the complex microdynamics and imaging of such a large collection of voices. At the bandwidth extremes, it does lack a bit of air in the treble and pitch control in the bass. So the acoustic stand-up during “One For My Baby” is not as defined or dynamic as it could be, and when Diane Reeves hits a lyric hard in the Good Night, and Good Luck soundtrack [Concord], the NAD thins some of the chesty resonance from her voice.
I’m a big fan of radio, so a tuner’s sonics had better be able to shoulder the weight. The C720BEE performed strongly, reproducing orchestras with a dimensionality and dynamism that were arresting. The NAD can’t match the sensitivity and dynamic explosiveness of $1000-plus stand-alone FM tuners like Magnum Dynalab’s MD-90 or 106T, but it had good adjacent-channel separation and pulled in even some of my local low-power favorites strongly.
The NAD C720BEE validates a no-nonsense philosophy that rejects the “bells and whistles” philosophy of audio by letting its musicality do all the talking. Make no mistake, I still miss the M3, but nothing takes the edge off the loss like this honey of a BEE. TAS