For decades NAD amplifiers have had a reputation for high-quality audio combined with a minimalist design. My brother bought one when we were teenagers and from that point, his stereo system ruled our house … NAD expanded into home theatre systems, but the company hasn’t forgotten its roots. I just wrapped up testing on the new NAD D3045 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier. This amp is designed for music fans, and represents a throwback to classic NAD offerings. It’s compact, built to drive a pair of speakers and features a PHONO input for connecting a turntable. At the same time, it offers a lot of power and is absolutely packed with the latest digital technology, including support for Hi-Res audio streaming.
NAD describes the D3045 as “heart + soul you can hear.” I have to agree. For music lovers, this is an amp that makes the most of all your audio sources—including a turntable.
Initial impression, wrapped in velvet
I’ve reviewed many stereo components and systems over the years, but the NAD D3045 was a first: inside the box, the amp was packaged in a velvet bag.
I was caught off guard by how compact it is. The amp sits upright, so its footprint is very small. The back panel is absolutely filled with inputs and outputs, with no space wasted. The front is dominated by a large knob (volume) and a smaller one (input selection). On top is a touch power control and there’s a discrete, unlabelled headphone jack on the front panel. Other than that, the glossy black surface is unbroken until it powers up. At that point, an LED display shows the selected input and volume.
It’s a pretty minimalist setup (an NAD speciality), but also very modern and sleek-looking. The one issue to be aware of is that the glossy black finish was an absolute magnet for fingerprints, and also attracted dust—both of which are quite noticeable on black …
Compact, yet powerful and jam-packed with connectivity options
The NAD D3045 is a deceptively compact amplifier. I say “deceptive” because looking at it from the front, you would have no idea of how capable it is. As mentioned, that back panel is absolutely packed with inputs and outputs—both digital and analog (thus the hybrid designation). There are also connectors for a pair of speakers, and output for a subwoofer.
That connectivity extends beyond physical to include wireless. It supports Bluetooth wireless streaming, with aptX HD and 24-bit Hi-Res audio. And this little amp has plenty of power as well, with 60W per channel on tap at less than 0.005% THD.
I connected a good pair of bookshelf speakers and a turntable to the D3045 and the audio it produced was fantastic. I also streamed music from an iPhone and I have to say, it’s pretty hard to go back to streaming to a portable Bluetooth speaker after that …
Just remember that as good as the NAD D3045 is, the sound it produces is limited by the components you connect. You’ll want a decent pair of speakers for it to drive in order to get the best results.
NAD D3045 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier key specs:
Better than a vintage amp because it also includes modern music tech
The resurgent popularity of records means that a growing number of people now own turntables (and if you’re looking to make that leap, check out our guide to buying a record player). The problem is that most manufacturers dropped the PHONO input on their amps and receivers decades ago, when the vinyl record was presumed to be a dead format.
That has made vintage amps—made during the turntable’s prime—a hot commodity. Buying vintage has never been the perfect answer, though. Decades old stereo equipment comes with a high risk of mechanical failure. It is also completely lacking in support for new audio technology.
The NAD D3045 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier is the ideal solution. This is a modern amp that welcomes back the turntable with an old-school PHONO input. While your records never sounded better, the D3045 also supports all the latest audio technology including optical inputs, HDMI and Hi-Rez Bluetooth streaming. It also has an asynchronous USB input, which means you can output audio from your PC and take advantage of the amp’s high-performance DAC for superior audio playback. That DAC also makes for a great headphone music listening experience, by the way.
Don’t discount its ability to improve your TV’s audio
The D3045 Digital Hybrid amp is clearly aimed at being the heart of a high-quality music listening system, as opposed to being the brains of a home theatre audio setup. But that doesn’t mean this amplifier can’t pull double-duty to dramatically improve your TV’s built-in audio.
Remember, it has HDMI ARC input and optical audio input. The result may not be 7-channel surround sound, but the NAD D3045 will drive a pair of speakers at 60W per channel, and it has an output for a subwoofer. That means stereo audio that blows away what your TV is capable of on its own, with the option of adding impressive low-end rumble. Connect your TV using the HDMI ARC input and you can even use the TV’s remote to control the whole system.
This is a great solution for vinyl lovers who also want streaming
There are a few downsides to being a music lover who is big into listening to records. The first is that an audio system that takes full advantage of the vinyl can take up a lot of space. The 80s vintage receiver my turntable is connected to is 43 cm wide, meaning it takes up even more space than the turntable! Compare that to the 7 cm width of the upright NAD D3045 and you can see a key advantage already. In addition, the NAD amp has all the latest high tech inputs, including support for Hi-Res Bluetooth streaming.
Put it all together—performance, features, and the space-saving design—and the NAD D3045 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier may just be the ultimate choice for those who want the best of both analog and digital music sources. Just make sure to pair it with a good set of speakers, and maybe think about wearing white gloves if you’re going to move it around.