The NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier (buy at Amazon) is a budget friendly $799 integrated amplifier from one of the industry’s most storied audiophile brands. Its power section provides 50 continuous watts of output into both 4 and 8 ohms, which might seem odd until you learn that it relies on Hypex UcD amp modules. It comes well-equipped with inputs, featuring four digital ins (two optical and two coaxial), two line-level RCA audio inputs, and a phono input for moving magnet cartridges, as well as a full-size headphone jack. One of the more unique things about this integrated amplifier is that it also has built in Wi-Fi, integrated Chromecast connectivity, support for Spotify Connect, and a Bluetooth connection to boot.
What Makes the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier Special?
- The C 338 is very future-focused. With its Wi-Fi connectivity, Chromecast support, and Bluetooth antenna, you don’t have to worry about adding another box to handle streaming.
- The remote app is great. This might seem like an easy thing to get right, but as a person who has tried various digital remotes, often they are slow and not well laid out. The NAD remote app was intuitive and easy to use on my iPhone 13.
Why Should You Care About the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier?
If you’re looking for a future-focused integrated amplifier at a reasonable price, the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital amplifier is worth checking out. Chromecast connectivity gives you access to a lot of content from your phone or tablet, provided the app you’re using supports it, and most of them do with the notable exception of Apple Music. The amp also leaves you with lots of room to add other source components if you’re looking to use a CD player/transport, and it has a phono stage built in if you’re looking to add a turntable.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier
- The physical remote that comes with the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital amplifier is awful. It’s small, made of plastic, and I couldn’t even get it to work. If the app hadn’t worked, and there will be people who won’t bother with adding an app to their phone, this would be a situation where you’d likely pack it back up and return it quickly.
- You will need to be somewhat selective with your choice of speakers. There are plenty of speakers out there that the C 338 will drive just fine. The Paradigm Premier 700F the PSB Alpha T20 (review pending) included. But there will also be plenty of speakers that will need more current, so make sure you check your speakers before pressing the Buy Now button.
- Chromecast isn’t for everyone. I completely understand why NAD wanted to include this technology in the C 338, but it does come with its issues. First, you need the Google Home app on your smartphone or tablet to use it. Second, if you’re an iPhone user and you’re using Apple Music, Apple wants you to use its AirPlay technology, which this integrated amplifier doesn’t support.
Listening To the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier…
I checked out “St. Andrew’s Fall” (Streaming 44.1kHz) by Blind Melon from their final album Soup (buy at Amazon). Blind Melon, despite existing during the heyday of grunge, had a very Southern rock twang to them, and their sound was certainly more full and lush than their counterparts at the time. I listened to this track with a pair of PSB Alpha T20 floorstanding speakers. The sound didn’t feel too bright or sharp on the top-end, either from the acoustic guitar, violin, or from the tone of singer Shannon Hoon’s voice. The soundstage was nicely presented but was a little polite, meaning I wasn’t sucked right on to the stage.
Another song I checked out was the Pearl Jam track “Gone” (Streaming 44.1 kHz) (buy at Amazon) from their self-titled release (If you’re looking for it physically you might know it as “the avocado album”). If you’re not familiar with this album, the band has long since left the dirty grunge sound of their earlier days, and this track is clean and clear by contrast. When played through the previously mentioned Paradigm Premier 700F speakers, it had a wide soundstage, and I was easily able to separate the guitar, bass, piano, drums, and the vocal layers. One thing I would note is that some of the more subtle sounds, such as the distortion early in the track, were harder to pick up at lower volume levels, but in the 60-70 dB range those subtleties were much more noticeable.
I wanted to really try and push the amplifier a bit more with Makaya McCraven’s track “High Fives” (Streaming 44.1kHz), from his 2022 release In These Times (buy at Amazon). This modern jazz track features many different sounds and was something that I thought might be more difficult for a lower-powered amplifier to separate, as you have a lot of layers to the percussion, as well as bass, guitar, a flute, among others in what ultimately creates a very full and worldly sound. While the C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier performed admirably, as I expected some of the instruments did get to be a bit muddied and ultimately took away from the quality of this track.
Does the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier Have Any Resale Value?
Today, it certainly has some resale value. I saw one of these sell used for $450 in December, which is close to 60 percent of its retail value. While NAD is a well-known name, and one that sees lots of distribution, I would question what the value of this unit might be in a few years, especially if Google was to move away from Chromecast Built-In. Digital components don’t hold their resale value all that well historically either, but given the $799 price tag, if you’re getting five-plus years of enjoyment out of this, you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
Who Is the Competition for the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier?
Denon’s PMA-600NE ($499) (buy at Amazon) comes at a lower price, and providers similar power output at 45 watts per channel. What this product doesn’t have, though, is Chromecast Built-In or Spotify Connect. But if you already have a streamer, or you plan to use primarily other source components, you might want to look into this option.
The Rotel A11 Tribute ($799) packs 50 watts per channel, but relies on Class AB topology instead of the innovative HypeX Class D modules of the NAD. A11 Tribute also has a pre-out if you want to use it as a pre-amp down the road, which certainly adds some value. One thing it doesn’t have, though, is a dedicated subwoofer out channel, something the NAD does have.
The PS Audio Sprout100 ($799) (buy at Amazon) is one I reviewed recently, and it is certainly a very competitive product. The Sprout does deliver more Class D power, and it also has line out so you can use it as a preamp if you want to add more power. However, it doesn’t do streaming as well as the NAD, nor does it have as many digital inputs.
Final Thoughts on the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Amplifier
As an entry level audiophile component, I think the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital amplifier (buy at Amazon) can be the ideal gateway for many people who love music and maybe would see themselves as future audiophiles. The biggest reason for this is that it can be a just-add-speakers type of system for the modern user who already has a digital music subscription and is looking to take things to the next level. Really, you can add a decent set of bookshelf speakers to this system and you’re coming in right around the $1,000 mark, while still being able to add a subwoofer to fill out the sound, and there is a lot of room to add other source components, should that pique your interest down the road.
As a whole, I believe the product does have its limitations with its power output, but from a value perspective, I think NAD hits the nail on the head. That said, if I was going to put something into one of my parents’ homes, I would avoid this type of system as the physical remote isn’t great and they aren’t likely to stream music, so I think there would be better products out there if you’re someone who is primarily going to listen to physical media.