NAD D 3020 V2 is the latest budget-friendly integrated amplifier coming from a brand well known for its good budget offerings. I’m somewhat personally invested in checking this out since my own HiFi journey started with a system based around NAD C320BEE, back in 2004. It was my first and I love it of-course, but more than that it was objectively a very good budget amplifier. A lot changed since then so let’s see if NAD still has it.
Build and Features
The first thing that struck me is how small and light this amplifier is. That’s made possible by switching to a class D amplification instead of a chunkier class AB used back in the day. The second thing I noticed and have no intention to cover for it is that the chassis feels more plasticky than I would like to see at this price point. But if you’re not an OCD type of person, once put in its place NAD D 3020 V2 looks pretty and stylish. A small remote control on the other hand is not that stylish, it looks like it came straight from the 90s. On a positive note, it’s very functional and responsive.
When powered on, the glossy front stripe lights up with stylish white LEDs that’ll inform you about the selected source and volume. These can be dimmed too which is something I truly appreciate.
On the back, you’ll find a lot of connections cramped in a small space. As I tend to use my speaker wires bare, I felt binding posts are too close to each other and to RCA inputs… and the whole contraption didn’t feel safe that way so I reverted to using banana plugs on my speaker wires. The selection of inputs and outputs is rich but clearly not meant for complex systems that’ll include more than one analog input, cause there’s only one pair of RCA inputs. So you can connect, let’s say, a CD player but then there’s no place for an external DAC, or Tuner, or BR player… But you do have a phono (MM) input for a turntable. Next to them, we find both Coaxial and Optical digital inputs, meaning there’s an integrated DAC inside. But wait, there are a pre-out and sub-out onboard too.
Just looking at the connectivity, NAD 3020 V2 is clearly aimed at a modern audiophile that will not use many analog inputs but will appreciate digital ones, as well as a phono input for, back to being trendy, turntables.
Sound (Analog Input)
I’ve started my testing using several external DACs to access the quality of the amplification itself. I have to admit I expected to hear the somewhat lean and lifeless sound of an affordable Class D module. Just to prove me wrong, little NAD’s tonality is actually bold and weighty, with plenty of body. This is definitely not the amplifier that’ll treat you with a class-leading amount of details or layering, but its rich tonality just felt right and soothing. Even more, tones are layered with a respectable amount of texture.
In terms of rhythm and pacing, I’d call it adequate. It’s not the quickest and the most nimble performer out there. If you want an amp that can sting like a bee, better look elsewhere, but if you want an amp that sounds bold and brave, you’re in the right place. Dynamics is great and NAD D 3020 V2 paints a picture in broad, powerful, strokes. When the punch is needed, punch you’ll get. Don’t get fooled by a modest 30 W power rating, this little amp was able to push even the lazy KEF LS50s with a respectable drive.
Sound (Digital Input)
I then moved to its digital section and connected my streamer directly to the coaxial SPDIF input. The sound became warmer and softer, with less extension in both bass and high-frequency regions, compared to any decent few hundred bucks DAC such as Loxjie D30. This is certainly a usable solution, but in my mind, it’s more of a convenience and meant for someone who doesn’t use digital files as a main source of music. But if digital files or streaming services are your main source of music, I’ll suggest using these digital inputs only so far until your budget allows you to add a better external D/A converter.
As mentioned, D 3020 V2 is on the weighty and warm side of things, especially when digital inputs are used. Because of that, I feel it’s best to steer away from any speaker that has a strong mid-bass presence. Combining this amp with speakers that are naturally quick and nimble makes much more sense. Something along the line of Monitor Audio or DALI comes to mind.
NAD knew what they’re were doing here, and that’s creating a very versatile but still good sounding integrated, that’ll cover the needs of most modern audiophiles that like to keep things simple and in as low a number of boxes as possible. If you find yourself to be among those, NAD D 3020 V2 can be a really good center of your system. And if your appetite grows along the way, the amplification section is capable to follow even better external digital sources. Heck, you can even hook an entry-level turntable to it and look hip in front of your company.
|NAD D 3020 V2 – CHARACTERISTICS|
Rated Power at 8 ohms: 2 x 30 W