NAD C542 CD-player

The new NAD C542 is what the automotive press would call a "facelift." They took the C541i, which managed to excel more than once in the tests of mid-range players, slightly changed the finish, improved the remote control (now the player is equipped with a remote control with large buttons and an extended set of commands) - that's the new model! However, in advertising it is reported that the company did this also because it found a way to raise the quality of playback to a new level. However, nowhere is it reported what exactly was changed in the sound path, in the mechanism and other critical parts of the player. Well, let's take our word for it.

What is remarkable about the new product, which, like its predecessor, looks at the world with a rounded display with a small musical calendar? C542 has all outputs due on the status: normal linear, digital coaxial and optical. The system provides a trigger bus for automatic power management. The reading mechanism looks the same - we do not undertake to say with absolute certainty, but it seems to be one of the many Sony drives.

With digital filling, there is more clarity. The C542 has, as the description suggests, a 24-bit Burr-Brown delta/sigma converter. Well, since the player also has an HDCD decoder, it can almost certainly be argued that we are talking about the PCM1732 chip, which contains the specified decoder, a digital filter with eight times oversampling, and the above-mentioned DACs. But the latter in PCM1732 are not known to provide real 24-bit dynamic range due to reduced accuracy. Well, let it be - the one that is, with a margin, is enough for 16-bit CDs.

Behind the DACs is a traditional 4th order analog filter. Well, in order for the music signal to degrade less when passing through it, only Muse audiophile capacitors, which are manufactured by Nichicon, are used.

We listen. What the predecessor was famous for, the C542 also inherited: the sound is expressive and has an accurate dynamic relief, the entire harmonic and rhythmic structure of the musical material is presented at a glance. There are no complaints about dynamics or linearity. Unless there are some violations in the upper range. Namely: in the reproduction of high frequencies, there is a certain rigid structure, "transience", which can be mistaken for increased detail. There is no particular refinement or sophistication here, and this is a clear sign that the microdynamic qualities are less pronounced than the dynamic ones.

Here's our favorite "whisper test". Will the player handle it? The result is ambiguous. While there is no signal at all, the output is absolutely clean, the noise is negligible. Well, filtered well. But it is worth "talking" to the lower bits, as Noise Shaping immediately catches on. Even when the signal rises to a level where it could, in principle, be reproduced recognizably, "shaping" still does not leave him alone. But the digital "itch" is completely masked! Yes, the figure is "filtered" not just well, but perhaps even too much.

It turns out that "542" is taken to reproduce the slightest detail, but immediately begins to "treat" it from distortions determined by the PCM 44.1/16 format itself. Whether it is necessary? How much effort was put into the same good purpose in the players of the previous multi-bit generation! And one-bit DACs came and did everything.

However, this approach has undeniable advantages. Let's remember what immediately forced to pay attention to C542? On the most important thing for any music: the ability to reveal the harmonic and rhythmic structure. But this player has other advantages: an unusually deep stage, sharp and unambiguous localization, good resolution in the mid-frequency range, where, by the way, much more musical information is concentrated than in the upper one. Let's take a simple example. On one of the Silence Technology tracks, one can hear the noise of either rain or a fountain among the background sounds. All players in the test reproduced this sound, trying to "drip" every drop. And only C542 sounded so that dampness suddenly began to be clearly felt. What reality do you prefer?

NAD C542 CD-player photo