NAD C542 versus NAD T533 for Music (stereo)


Najmi Jarwala
Unregistered guest
I posted this in the CD Player forum and thought I'd post here also, since a lot of the discussion appears to be on this forum. My apologies if the double posting is not appropriate.

Looking to replace my CD player. Its for a music-only stereo setup (Receiver HK 3480). Would it be better to stay with something like a NAD C542 or is worthwhile going to the T533 which provides DVD-Audio as an option. Both appear to be similarly priced (~$399). At the same price, would not the C542 have intrinsically better build/component quality? Also, even if I get DVD-Audio, by the time it mixes down to stereo, is the difference still perceptible. Since my receiver is HK 3480, the DAC native to the CD player is important.

The Cambridge Azur 540D versus 540C (both at ~$349) offer the same tradeoff...



Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 2053
Registered: Dec-03

Please see my reply under "CD players".

NAD C542 versus NAD T533 for Music (stereo).

Najmi Jarwala.
Unregistered guest
Thanks for pointing me to the reviews, John. Awesome thread -- a ton of good info. I also read a thread starting with the review of the 540D by Rick.

From these threads, the following "truths appear self evident" in a manner of speaking...

- DVD-Audio is far superior to CD given its higher resolution and multi-channel format.
- DVD-Audio, even when played on 2-channel stereo will still deliver superior sound to a regular redbook CD.
- High end dedicated CD players (as Rick mentioned in his review, comparing the audio quality from his 540D to his CL20) will retain their superiority to low/mid multi-format players.

Here is the critical question, whose answer I could not quite extract. Maybe there is no easy answer, but let me try it anyway.

Does a DVD player like the T533/540D have enough technology advantage (because the DAC has to deal with higher resolution formats, etc.), so that the quality of sound produced by a regular CD is at least as good as the sound produced by a similarly priced CD player (C542/540C)?

Conventional wisdom would declare otherwise, given the significantly higher functionality that the T533/540D need to provide. However that does not always prevail in these products and I was hoping, in a sense, I could have my cake and eat it too!! Maybe that is wishful thinking.

While the future may lie with DVD-Audio, and I'd love to have the oppty to experiment with it, my reality is the large CD-collection that I currently have, whose sound quality I'm hoping to improve as a first step.

Should I continue to post this within the current forum, DVD forum, or is this more appropriate under the CD forum? It bridges a few topics...

Thanks again.


Silver Member
Username: Myrantz

Post Number: 606
Registered: Aug-04

Not having experienced NAD DVD players to be able to discern their CD playback quality I am not really qualified to answer your question. But, generally speaking, usually only high end DVD players (eg Arcam etc) will provide excellent sound in CD playback. Others will provide mediocre to good sound quality and some quite poor.

The alternative is to use the DAC's in the receiver (depending on quality). I have a Yamaha 5 disc changer which in anyone's standards is average, but using a toslink connection to my Marantz sr-7300 the sound quality is quite good - and better than through our rather expensive Denon DVD-2900 (using the Denon's processing). Universal DVD players have many tasks and few can replicate the sound quality of a high end, dedicated CD player - for cd playback of course.

Of course, when playing surround movies or hi-res foramts is when the universal players can really show their stuff!


Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 2057
Registered: Dec-03

Thank you for writing so clearly.

"Does a DVD player like the T533/540D have enough technology advantage (because the DAC has to deal with higher resolution formats, etc.), so that the quality of sound produced by a regular CD is at least as good as the sound produced by a similarly priced CD player (C542/540C)? "

Answer:- I do not know. If you can find an answer, then please let us know!

Rick Barnes put a similar question to me soon after I started the "NAD T533..." thread, linked from the above link. My answer was that any gain from using a dedicated CD player will be marginal compared with the gain of having DVD-A. I still have that view. In my opinion the T533 CD performance is excellent. My only CD-only player is a Marantz CD 475 LE from about 1988; the T533 does better than that, and that is all I can say from my own experience.

My Rantz also makes a good point, as usual. For CD, I hear no reproducible difference when switching between the analogue and digital connections between my T533 and my NAD T760 receiver. I conclude the effective limit to sound quality is inherent in the CD format.

It seems to me that you would be advised, Najmi, to take these questions, and some test discs, along to a reputable dealer, who will be happy to arrange a demonstration.

And once, again, let us know what you find!

All the best.

Silver Member
Username: Myrantz

Post Number: 607
Registered: Aug-04
John A

Just so you know I'm not an ignorant old toad I did send a welcome back on this thread:


Well, there you have it - John A says the T533 has excellent CD performance. He is a very credible witness!


Najmi Jarwala
Unregistered guest
My Rantz:
Thanks for your feedback. My receiver is the HK 3480. While I am VERY happy with its stereo performance, it precludes the option of using the receiver's DAC. It has only analog inputs. It does have limited signal processing capability internally - it has a proprietary "VMAx mode", something that is intended to create a more spacious sound field with two speakers. It must therefore go through an ADC->processing->DAC chain. That capability unfortunately does not help me in this situation.

I do need the CD/DVD player to have a decent DAC.

I agree that I will need to take some test discs for a spin. I will definitely let you know what I uncover. I am just starting down the path of quality audio and wanted to educate myself. You and others in this forum have convinced me that I owe it to myself to experience DVD-Audio. Probably the excuse to start planning my next multi-channel rig... :-)


Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 2060
Registered: Dec-03

Many thanks. Ignorant; never. Old toad; I doubt it. Old rogue; I am sure of it.


Good luck. Does the HK 3480 have "Ext 5.1"? That is the key question. Normally you would use the player's DACs, and the analogue connection, if you have the choice. If not, probably connect the stereo analogue inputs of the receiver to the L and R channels of the 5.1 output on the player.

Bronze Member
Username: Ojophile

Toronto, ON

Post Number: 57
Registered: Jun-04
In case you haven't seen it yet:

Audio Enz Magazine's review of the NAD T533 - October 2004 issue



Najmi Jarwala
Unregistered guest
No I had not, Ojophile. Thanks.

I have got spun off, for the last couple of weeks, on work related stuff and have not had a chance to follow-up on this quest. I did talk to two NAD dealers. One of them will let me audition a C542, T533, and the C521BEE over the next weekend. Both dealers swear that for redbook CD playback the C542 will be superior to the T533. I hope to check this out in my home and will post what my untrained ears ascertain!

By the way, the reason for including the C521BEE was to see if the weak link in the chain is my amplifier/speakers. I have a decent receiver the HK3480, but I realize its not exactly top of the line. It might not let the subtle sonic differences between the three players through, in which case I might as well save some $$...
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