In 1972, NAD (originally an acronym for New Acoustic Dimension) set out to create a new kind of audio company. They were a group of audio-industry veterans: manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and – above all – listeners. They were driven by passion for great sound and by the desire to cut through the marketing hype and over-elaboration that had become pervasive in the audio industry.
They wanted to provide what people really wanted instead of what they were being sold. It was this philosophy that attracted Audio Trends founder Stephen Lee to seek them out in the mid 1970's well before he opened the first Audio Trends store in Wantirna. As a lover of music and a keen-eyed salesman, he saw first hand how the market was being manipulated and liked what NAD were doing in both philosophy and of course product.
The audio industry that NAD entered in 1972 had been created by its own customers back in the 1950s. People who wanted something better than mass-market radios and phonographs had searched out public-address equipment and put the cumbersome pieces of it together as best they could. And some of them went into business to make what they were not finding.
By the time the "Rock Revolution" of the 1960s occurred, the interest in good equipment had become so obvious that the major players in the electronics industry had moved in to harvest the business that the audio pioneers had created. They brought a lot of expense, complexity, and hyperbole with them. The marketing of audio equipment took on so much "sizzle" that the steak became increasingly hard to find and enjoy!
The NAD team wanted to get back to the point or to the reality behind the knobs and the increasingly expensive faceplates. And they are still doing that today with every piece of equipment they design. However, it wouldn't be a NAD story if we didn't discuss their game-changer stereo amplifier from 1978 - the original NAD 3020. It was rated on paper at 20 Watts per-channel and priced the same as the top-selling Pioneer model of the day. But in reality delivered twice the rated power and 'cleaned-up' all competitors. Whether it was a marketing ploy or not we will never know, but sales were sky-high, magazines all over the world loved it and was really the product that launched the NAD brand internationally. Even today, a working model is surprisingly good. Yes, it has been surpassed but this writer believes it made all manufacturers stand up and take notice as well as inspiring some of the newer brands now available.
The real point of all audio equipment for the home is obviously enjoyment of lifelike, involving sound from music and movies. Some of the fun in buying audio components is deciding (and swapping views on) just how lifelike their sound really is. We all take as much pleasure in that as anybody else, but we should never lose sight of the central aim of enjoyment. The three qualities we and companies like NAD feel are central to creating it are (1)performance; (2) value; and (3) simplicity.
Here is a quick look at what those qualities mean to NAD, and what they think they mean to their customers:
In audio electronics, the bottom line is that the waveforms that go to a loudspeaker should be in every possible respect as identical as possible to the ones that were originally produced by the microphones used for recordings or broadcasts. They should look exactly like the original ones and they should have the same time-relationships and dynamics that they did at the outset. Keeping those factors straight – without adding any overlay of any kind – is what every NAD component is designed to do.
The process involved can get tremendously complex. As you go up the scale from lifelike to super-lifelike to "being there," more and more subtle and demanding things have to be done right. It takes an enormous amount of attention. And NAD supply that attention at every stage - from the conception of a design onward, to the delivery of the finished products that arrive in customers' living rooms – and their durability thereafter.
The NAD team like to make clear that every NAD component at every level is designed and manufactured for satisfying performance – for realistic, detailed, convincing reproduction of the original sound.
NAD are in business to serve intelligent people who want to spend what is needed and not more The absolute rock-bottom principle from which NAD design philosophy operates is that good design is never at the listener's expense.
NAD throw ingenuity rather than money at design challenges. After identifying the price levels at which we can take significant steps in performance, they focus on supplying everything they themselves would want in a given product. Their sincere aim is to satisfy people at home rather than just tempt them in the showroom. NAD, like Audio Trends want you to know you got it right the first time, instead of having to commit to an endless search for the satisfaction you should have had in the first place. Jointly, we always hope our customers will find at least a little more than they expected.
To the NAD brains trust, designing for maximum value almost always means achieving maximum real-world performance as well. Here is why:
Complexity is the enemy of good performance in audio equipment. Every step up in the elaboration of an electronic circuit is another chance to get it wrong – to introduce something that degrades the final accuracy of sound by forcing the signal to go around an extra corner on the way to the listener. From the NAD view point, unnecessary elaboration and expense go hand in hand with unnecessary distortion of some aspect of performance. Going for simplicity and high value encourages the kind of thinking that produces excellence.
Without skipping any step required for uncompromised performance, NAD look for and find straight paths where many others settle for going the long way around. The end result is very 'clean' and sound. People consistently notice it in NAD equipment. They also notice a level of sonic detail from NAD products that is the direct result of their not putting things in the way.
Simplicity has two other key benefits. One is that it is easier and more likely to realise optimum performance in real-world listening situations when you can get it simply and directly, without excess knobs or "features" that are confusing to master. The other is that it is more fun this way – because there is a special kind of pleasure in getting great sound from an unassuming piece of audio gear. One look at the simple charcoal gray front panel of the classic NAD component will tell you that "unassuming" is definitely NAD.
When it comes to performance, however, NAD are anything but unassuming. Everything that does not go into needless bells and whistles goes instead into internal component parts of extremely high quality. Inside their "gray boxes" you will find parts you otherwise would see only in very expensive equipment. NAD definitely put their focus on the inside where it counts, and you can hear the results.
Audio Trends has happily sold and recommended NAD for more than 30 years. It is one of those products that we can honestly say has helped us stay in business all these years. It is everything that you have just read and their products will give many years of musical satisfaction.