NAD L 40 CD Receiver
Sugg. Retail: $899(CAN)
Distributor: Lenbrook Industries Ltd.,
633 Granite Court, Pickering, Ont. L1W 3K1
(905) 831-6555 FAX 837-6359
(Reprinted from the Almanac 2000 Audio Ideas Guide)
If the reviews in this issue are any indication, the CD/receiver is the hottest new category in electronics, at least for stereo systems (in home theatre it seems to be multidisc DVD players). The NAD L40 comes without speakers, so I thought a good coupling would be with the wonderful Paradigm Reference Studio 40, though Paul Barton, designer for NAD sibling company PSB might not agree. Oh well, Paul, we’ll get to one of your new models in our next issue.
The L 40’s simplicity starts with its name, and continues to its operation. The remote control is small and hand friendly, while the front panel has just what you need: you’ll find no goofy gizmos, no GUI menus, and no deadly DSP. It is also limited in the number of external sources that can be used, so we’re also talking simple system. In addition to the internal CD and AM/FM Stereo tuner, you can add only an Aux (if you can find one), and a cassette deck, for which there are also record outs. Additional RCA outputs are provided for Preamp Out to interface with a larger system or multi-room use, and the company’s own NAD Link, which may allow remote control of other components. This would require another remote, since the one that comes with the L 40 doesn’t have the necessary buttons.
The CD drawer is at left, just right of the Power button and headphone jack, while the display is at centre, with control buttons and large Volume control at right. Beneath it are small rotary knobs for Treble, Balance, and Bass, left to right, respectively. All the CD controls are under the display.
Most of the time you’ll use the remote, which has only 13 well- spaced buttons that can all be reached with a normal size thumb with the unit in hand. It will not control anything but the receiver, not even an NAD cassette deck or Aux, but provides input selection, CD Stop, Play Pause, Skip, this latter button pair also selecting tuner presets, and Volume up/down. The one operational idiosyncrasy I encountered was that you have to go to the front panel to open the CD drawer, even though that button is also Stop when a CD is playing; the second press opens the drawer. However, when you follow logic and try this on the remote, it doesn’t work. However, I discovered (What, me read manuals? The Reviewer’s Federation doesn’t allow it!) that if I pressed the Play button on the remote the drawer would open when there was no CD inside; however, when there’s a CD inside you have to go to the front panel to open the drawer. More on the CD player below.
I haven’t said much about the tuner so far, and there’s really quite a lot to say. This is a receiver for the serious FM listener. And that’s not just because it has RDS display; I could find only 2 stations that showed it, both with call letters: CBL-FM (the only one of the 3 CBC frequencies to show RDS) and Buffalo’s WYRK.
One of the features for those trying to pull difficult signals out of the ether is tuning in 1/100th mHz increments, ie; 94.10, 94.11, 94.12, etc. This can allow off-tuning to receive close together stations that interfere, though stereo signals require being right on frequency.
You won’t have to do this much, anyway, because this tuner is so selective, as well as being sensitive. It pulled a whopping 52 stations out of the air in pretty average reception conditions, including several I’d never heard before, including a Niagara Falls tourist information station broadcasting from the Skylon Tower. There are 30 station presets, and these can even be named, using a complicated scrolling process. This allows you to make up for what the broadcasters aren’t doing with RDS, though you’ll never get a scrolled weather forecast this way (and, speaking of just such extra radio services, look for our coming feature on the new digital radio services, DAB, now operating in the Toronto area; we’ve got it in the car from Pioneer, and will also look at the Arcam home tuner soon).
As I said, the L 40 tuner is also very selective, and close together stations are no problem, and this also increased the station count. There’s a cluster of stations around 103 that usually merge. Here, Hamilton’s 102.9, Cobourg’s 103.1, somewhere’s (probably Buffalo’s) 103.5, and 103.9 all came in well in stereo, only 103.3 being a casualty of selectivity. Maybe a McIntosh MR-80 would bring them all in (the FT-1’s performance is similar to that of the NAD), but this reception, especially a clean stereo signal from CFMX, 103.1, is a real accomplishment. Perhaps more important, the L 40 tuner is a very good sounding one, coming rather close to our Fanfare FT-1, but just lacking that last bit of audio transparency. For a receiver this is outstanding performance.
And on to the CD player. We put it through the standard tests, starting with the Verany calibrated dropout CD. In the single errors, it managed through track 34 (2mm), ticking on 35, and in the narrow gauge dropouts it handled 41 (1.5mm), while in the double dropouts it played through 48 (2 x 1.5mm), ticking and jumping ahead on 49 and 50.
The Canadian-made CD CHECK disc was played cleanly only on Track 1, with a small amount of ticking on 2, and a lot above. Because the L 40 has no digital output we could not hook up the DED Pro digital error counter. Our random error disc caused a lot of ticks and repeated phrases right from the beginning, the player locking up completely at the 1-minute mark exactly, and then skipping forward, to lock totally at 2:10.
And, finally, the see-through CD we use to test for manufacturing defect sensitivity was not well played, either, with loud ticking and distortion on tracks 1, 2, and 3, this gradually decreasing by tracks to a small amount on 4. These results suggest a player that may be sensitive to CDs with pinholes, or with insufficient aluminizing, and will have trouble with other dropouts larger than 2mm. However, most Red Book standard CDs should play perfectly (the dropout limit is a low .2mm).
In listening the CD player showed no reluctance to track and play discs, and sounded very good, as did the receiver as a whole. The amplifier is rated at only 20 wpc, but is claimed to be able to provide 80 watts into 2 ohms and drive difficult loads easily. It is said to be identical to the amp used in the NAD 310 integrated amplifier. It sounded clean and neutral, with plenty of power with the Paradigm Studio 40s. You might want something with more bells and whistles, but, as the Stones say, “if you try, sometimes you get what you need.”
The NAD L 40 is a seriously simple component for the audiophile and music lover who listens to FM and CDs, and it could be augmented with the company’s PP-1 phono preamplifier for those also having vinyl collections (perhaps this is the Aux we were alluding to earlier), and still not bust the budget. I think NAD has a real winner here for sound and sensibility.