NAD has developed almost every type of high-end audio product one could think of during its 48-year run which began in the United Kingdom in 1972 before the brand made the trip across the pond to Canada where it has resided as part of the Lenbrook Group which also includes PSB and Bluesound.
NAD made its mark selling amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, CD players, and tuners and its current line-up in 2020 includes innovative streaming products, headphones, home theater systems, and more traditional products like the C 316BEE integrated amplifier that we recently reviewed. The NAD C 588 turntable is a most interesting departure for the brand which is clearly focused on the digital network streaming category and dare we say – a genuine sleeper in a category with far too many average sounding options right now.
During the unboxing process, it became rather evident that the C 588 was created in collaboration with a specific European manufacturer; there are a number of design features like the carbon fiber tonearm and some smaller items that point to that, and also explain how NAD was able to keep the price below $900.
But before you think that NAD has just created a turntable in partnership with a rival to meet the demand of the market, there are a number of other features that make this stellar turntable worth considering over the Rega and Pro-Ject.
Under the Hood
The C 588 is a very sturdy deck manufactured from very dense MDF; the entire table weighs 20 pounds and you can feel the difference in the manufacturing quality compared to a lot of the tables between $400-$800. NAD has put a lot of effort into the durability of this design and it is well worth the money based on the design features, and robustness alone.
Glass platters have never been my favorite; ringing and a thinness to the sound that has to be fixed elsewhere in the playback chain. The C 588 does utilize a very dense glass platter with a supplied felt mat and it took a few records (and a different mat) to get over my disappointment.
Rega has spent a lot of time and R&D money over the years perfecting their glass platters (the outside edge is thicker and heavier creating a flywheel effect) which are used on very lightweight plinths. It works for their tables and the sales figures reflect that.
NAD’s 10mm glass platter is very stable (benefits of an excellent sub platter assembly and isolated DC motor) and the table has excellent speed stability.
The C 588 also includes very thick and inert metal feet with vibration isolation built into the assembly.
The turntable utilizes a custom designed 9” carbon fiber tonearm shaft with an adjustable fixed metal head shell and features a decoupled counterweight and magnetic anti-skate compensation.
Installation of the counterweight is not particularly difficult but setting it with the supplied stylus pressure gauge takes some patience as the settings are too broad. I switched out the NAD gauge for my Shure SFG-2 ($40 at Amazon) which has more exact settings and produced a more accurate result.
Adjusting the azimuth of the 2M Red was facilitated by the design of the head shell and I applaud NAD for making this easy to accomplish.
The C 588 will be relatively painless for users to set-up (with a few caveats) with the pre-installed Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, and I have to commend NAD for their rather generous supply of set-up tools, and accessories – not every manufacturer provides all of this with their tables.
The dustcover works smoothly and is quite inert; at no time did I feel that it was negatively affecting the sound of the table at all.
What’s in the box?
- Turntable (tonearm and catridge pre-installed)
- Sub-platter (pre-installed)
- Felt mat
- 45RPM adapter
- AC power adapter (attached 4′ DC cord)
- 3 AC plug inserts (US/UK/EU)
- 47″ Stereo RCA cable with ground lead
- 4 Protective discs
- Stylus pressure gauge
- Plastic tonearm bearings tool
- Paper cartridge alignment tool
- Pair of cloth gloves
- Quick Setup Guide
Life is all in the setup…
The NAD C 588 displaced two beautifully restored Thorens turntables from Vinyl Nirvana that have been part of my system for almost 6 years and the results were interesting to say the least; the 2M Red was no match for the Ortofon 2M Black on the Thorens TD-160 Super, or the Dynavector 10×5 on the Thorens TD-145, but the overall package for $899 defied all of my expectations.
Phono pre-amps included the Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2, Croft Phono Integrated, and the internal phono section of the NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier.
The NAD C 588 made some beautiful music through the Q Acoustics 3050i ($839.99/pr at Amazon), Magnepan LRS ($650/pr), and PSB Alpha P5 loudspeakers ($399/pr at Amazon) – with the 3050i being my favorite of the three with the turntable connected to the NAD C 316BEE/Pro-Ject combination.
Anyone who tells you that it’s impossible to build a great sounding system below $3,000 has no idea what they are talking about.
Everybody counts, or nobody counts…
Listening to Freddie Hubbard’s Hub-Tones (Blue Note 80 Vinyl, ST-84115), the C 588 demonstrated its ability to put real weight behind a performance; something that I have not heard from a lot of the entry-level turntables that sound quite flat and colorless in my opinion.
The NAD (even with the 2M Red which is one of my least favorite cartridges) reproduces the music in the grooves with sufficient impact in the bass, excellent midrange resolution, and more than enough detail to make relaxed sounding loudspeakers like the 3050i wake up from their nap.
The 3050i ($839.99/pr at Amazon) is a wonderful speaker that requires a bit of a firm hand (or whip) to really show off what it can do – the C 588 demonstrated that with something like the C 316BEE or Tube Box DS2 ($800 at Amazon), it can be a truly engaging source in a more expensive system.
Stanley Turrentine’s Hustlin’ (Blue Note Tone Poet Series, ST-84162) shows off his rich tone on tenor sax and the C 588 delivers it up with both ample color and definition; Turrentine, Shirley Scott (organ), and guitarist Kenny Burrell are presented in their defined space with a genuine feeling of being in the room with the listener.
The C 588 gets top marks for being very quiet and letting you hear nothing but the music; the noise floor is very low for such an inexpensive turntable and you are rewarded with the ability to hear deep into every recording – including bad ones that are not miraculously transformed into stellar audiophile pressings (sorry).
Regardless of the genre, the C 588 pushes the performance outward and does a wonderful job of carving out the recording space if it exists on the record; which is especially more impressive when you consider the cartridge at the end of the head shell is only $99.
I did try (article forthcoming) 2 other phono cartridges on the C 588 and the experience confirmed that the turntable is capable of much more performance if you can swing the cost of the upgrade.
Before putting this article to bed, I did mount a $450 MM cartridge on the C 588 and isolated it from my media credenza with the ZaZen isolation platform from IsoAcoustics to see if the turntable had a performance ceiling; and would it make more sense to tell readers to just spend $1,500 on another table/cartridge combination.
My restored Thorens TD-145 with the Dynavector 10×5 cartridge would cost around $1,900 in 2020 so that felt like a relatively fair comparison.
It wasn’t at the end of the day; the Thorens had greater presence, detail retrieval, and slightly better pacing, but some of that has to be chocked up to the $300 difference in the price of the cartridges, and the modifications implemented by Vinyl Nirvana.
None of that diminishes just how good this turntable does sound. I was rather taken aback by the uptick in performance when I upgraded the cartridge; it will prove to be quite significant depending on the rest of your playback chain.
Does it make sense to buy the NAD C 588 with the stock Ortofon 2M Red and just enjoy how much music it can reproduce?
Does this $900 turntable challenge most of the tables I’ve heard below $1,000 and leave many of them in the dust?
It certainly does.