NAD C320BEE vs. Azur 340A vs. Second Hand Rotel


New member
Username: Spronkey

Post Number: 1
Registered: Sep-06
I'm stuck in my search for a new amp!

My system currently consists of (in order of weakest -> strongest parts):
Old Marantz PM25 Amp (~30wpc) & ST25 Tuner
JVC XL-V131 CD Player
Computer + Augidy2
Wharfedale Rubiance RB-23

The Rubiances are quite bassy (fairly big standmounts), but are flat enough above the 300Hz mark.

The amplifiers i've been looking at (along with their prices in USD - note i'm in New Zealand, so these are the cheapest I can get them) are:

- NAD C320BEE - $310 new
- Cambridge Azur A340 - $300 new
- Yamaha AX-397 - $310 new
- Yamaha RX-397 - $285 new (staff discount)

- Rotel RA-930AX Mk.II - $200 second hand
- Rotel RA-931 - $200 second hand
- NAD 302 - $125 second hand

I'm currently bi-wiring, which makes the A+B outputs of the non-NAD's somewhat appealing (but then I've been told to use just the A terminals and avoid switching circuitry anyway).

My music tastes are very broad and range from Rage Against the Machine-type metal/rock to Jazz Piano. I guess I'd quite like an amplifier that's both warm and clinical.

My listening room is quite small, and my 30W marantz is only a little too weak for all my listening volumes.

What are your recommendations? Also, if there are any other amps I should look at in the same price range (brands are hard to find here though - Rotel, Cambridge, Denon, NAD, Yamaha, Arcam, Rega, Naim are about all I've been able to find anywhere near my price range).

Budget is as low as possible - basically $350 is my top price.

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 4083
Registered: Dec-04

New member
Username: Pcpassive

Post Number: 5
Registered: Aug-06
I'm no expert, but i onw the Cambridge 340A,
it sounds pretty warm and laid-back, don't expect booming bass on this one, but the bass is still very smooth, and the amount of detail is very good. Voices come throuhg crisp and clear, it's like the amp focuses on the vocals a lot (i have no other way to explain it as i'm not an expert). The only downside of this amp for me that it lacks a little bit of body, but that's only my opinion. My advice is to go listen to those amps youself and let your own ear guide you. It's always a tough choice, as all the amps have their good qualities. Good luck.

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 4105
Registered: Dec-04
Keith, your choices are good, but you might want to revisit the beginnings, the source.
It always starts with the source. Some others might argue for amp/receiver, or speakers or cables or sub/ yadda yadda, it starts at the beginning.
A good solid source is everything. It only cost me a coupla grand and a coupla years to figgure this out.
Wasted time.
Find a good source. This could be, say a Nad 542 or a Rotel 1072 or a Rega Apollo, or something else, the source is everything.
Then build on it.
The JVC player is not cutting the mustard, so to speak.
Sorry if that is too much, but Keith, I am trying to save you money and time. Been there, done that, got the bills to prove it!

New member
Username: Spronkey

Post Number: 2
Registered: Sep-06
Thanks for the replies!

pcpassive: Hmm. I do listen to a lot of vocally music, but then I also listen to a lot of heavy beat music too..

I took your advice on listening to the amps - could only listen to the BEE and Yamaha 397. The rest are either boxed up, or second hand on the other side of the country :-( (and hence I would be relying on trademe (think ebay) user feedback).

I have eliminated the Yamaha though - at the price point the BEE just sounds better.

Nuck: funny you should say that as I had originally started my search for a new CD player, but have all but given up now because new decks are well out of my price range (surely they should cost less than entry-level amplifiers..), and second hand players have their own share of problems.

(CD-R compatibility, laser problems, good brands fetch premium prices regardless of age and condition.. seems like I will be waiting forever for a good one).

That leads me to another quick question - are 5-disc players from NAD, Rotel etc. worse than the single disc'ers?

Anyhow, there are plenty of consumer-grade Sony, Pioneer, Technics, Kenwood decks. But having a look inside the JVC makes me think most of the above would be a downgrade.

I'm not a circuit exper, but component wise, it has a few positive points - most of the capacitors are from Rubycon, it has lots of low tolerance (1%, 2%) resistors, and simple internal & PCB layouts with the power supply module well away from the main PCB, and only one or two "last-minute" jumpers soldered onto the bottom of the board.

I've seen plenty of expensive players' internal pictures, and comparing it to those, and Sony and Technics cheapies, it LOOKS like it's a better player. (Of course, that could mean absolutely nothing! - Gotta love hifi!)

I don't suppose any of the consumer-oriented brands are really worth a look?

So the problem arises: If I splash out on a new source I blow most of my amplifier budget.

Do you think the Marantz would let a new source shine? Would it even be worth upgrading the source without upgrading the amplifier as well?

Just a side note about the marantz amp to help give you an idea of it's condition, it's generally OK, except:
- the inputs are corroding slightly (not rust, more smoke damage from previous owner that doesn't seem to clean off?)
- same deal with circuit board, but some wire jumpers etc. also have slight rust.
- the treble pot has severe issues when moved from the defeat position.

At some point in the next 1-1.5 years, I will definitely be upgrading both amp and CD player. Given the above info, would you still recommend going for source first?

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 1451
Registered: May-05
I'm with Nuck on this one. Marantz and Wharfedale are both good companies. I have to admit not hearing any of models you own though. The weak point by far is the CD player.

What you're looking for is a personal thing. I'd suggest (I know, easier said than done) listening to the various CD players in your price range. NAD, Rotel, Marantz, and Cambridge should all make a CD player within your budget. They sound different from one another, and the best one is a matter of taste. None of them are perfect and all have trade offs. The best one would be the one that has the most of what you like, and sacrifices the least amount of 'essentials.'

If you're looking into staying with the Marantz amp and tuner for a while, I'd look into Marantz CD players. Even though they're not my cup of tea, they'll synergize best with each other.

If you're looking to get away from Marantz in the foreseeable future, I'd suggest looking at systems as a whole rather than CD players now, and integrated amps/receivers later. Listen to NAD amps and CD players, Rotel amps and CD players, etc. Personally, I'd say stick with the one brand approach. At this price point and level, they're voiced (is that the right word?) very differently, and it's very difficult to mix and match different brands with good results.

If you're going to upgrade the whole system over the next year or two as you state, I'd start looking at the whole systems now, and pick up the source first. I think this'll give you the most short term improvement. As it is, I doubt that a new amp will sound any better. It may be more powerful which can improve sound quality somewhat, but it really won't be anything to write home about.

For the music you suggested, I'd look into NAD and Rotel. They've both got trade-offs, but IMO are better suited for your music than Cambridge and Marantz. NAD will be a little laid back and somewhat soft, but will have pretty good bass. Rotel will sound more up front and brighter, but the bass doesn't go as deep or isn't as fast in my experience with them. Pick your poison here.

I went with NAD. I'd probably have been just as happy with Rotel, truth be known. At the time, my particular NAD set up fit my budget a little better, and I came across a good discount.

If you're going to keep the Wharfedales, I think NAD may be a better match theoretically, although I haven't heard them with Rotel to give an honest opinion.

If you're not looking to go over the $325US price point for either component, I'd say the NAD 320BEE and 521BEE CD player are going to be very hard to beat. If you can save up a few extra dollars, the NAD 542 and 352 could be the way to go, but Rotel is very enticing at this price as well.

Sorry if that was too much info and/or redundant...

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 1452
Registered: May-05
Just to add a few things -

Forget about the consumer oriented brands, they're a waste of your time. They're generally bright, harsh, have no midrange,and have bloated bass. I think they're trying to emulate car stereos.

Changers aren't 'worse' per se than single disc CD players, but they theoretically cost more due to more parts needed, and are looked at as mechanically less reliable, again due to more moving parts.

I have an older NAD changer and like it very much. It can obviously be improved on though (and will be soon). I've heard it side by side with comparably priced single disc players and it definately held it own. At the time it was like paying an extra $50 or so to have a changer.

Now adays, hi-fi cd changers are pretty hard to come by. They've fallen out of favor for some reason or another. The only two I really know of in this price range are Rotel and Marantz. The Marantz changer may be discontinued; I've only seen it advertised as close out and re-furbished. Then again, I haven't looked around for it, so who knows.

I think the Rotel changer is about $600 or so. It sounds pretty good. NAD doesn't make a changer. Denon and Onkyo do, but they sound slightly better than the mass market junk out there. McIntosh makes a phenominal changer for about $3000 if you're interested.

Again, for $325, my votes goes to the NAD BEE's.
« Previous Thread Next Thread »

Main Forums

Today's Posts

Forum Help

Follow Us