I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from the NAD, especially considering how demanding my Aerials are, with their low efficiency and even lower impedance swings. My speakers are tough to drive and wimpy amps need not apply. I decided to throw caution to the wind, jump into the deep end and hope for the best. I loaded ...And Justice For All from Metallica (Elektra) into my Esoteric player, turned the volume way up and cued the song "One." As soon as Lars began to hit the bass pedal on his drum set, I knew the NAD could deliver the goods down low. Bass drum hits were deep and tight, delivered with force that thumped in my chest. As the song grows in complexity with the addition of a second bass pedal, James Hetfield's angry vocals and guitar overlayed with a wailing solo of Kirk Hammett, the NAD never lost composure or became congested. I was impressed, as this classic, perhaps best-in-class heavy metal record, isn't engineered by David Chesky, if you catch my drift. It often sounds thin and lacks dynamics, despite the dynamic, demanding nature of the music. This said, the NAD C 725BEE lived up to the musically meaningful torture test, earning top sonic grades.
Never happy leaving well enough alone, I wanted to see just how far I could push the receiver before I found its limits, specifically to test the soft clipping feature of the NAD. It wasn't until I turned the volume to what seemed like 11 that I started to notice a harshness creeping into the upper frequencies. Next, I engaged the NAD's soft clipping circuit to see if it worked as advertised. It did and, to my surprise, the harshness completely vanished, even at full output. I kept this feature enabled, because I heard no reason not to, and it allowed for more extended jam sessions at typically ridiculous decibel levels. Purists might scoff at this idea, but I listened with the soft clipping on and off and it only helps, never seeming to hurt the sound.
After assaulting my senses with Metallica, I moved to the other end of the spectrum looking for some simple, stripped-down music. I loaded up "All Apologies" from Nirvana's acoustic performance on MTVs Unplugged, which has been on heavy rotation on my iPod lately. What struck me was how realistically the NAD was able to recreate the live performance on my demanding speakers. Describing a live performance is difficult, but your ear instantly knows it when it hears one, and mine were fooled. Listening to Kurt Cobain on such a raw recording is still eerie to me; I remember watching this performance debut on MTV back in the day. The NAD could make the highs sparkle and capture the three-dimensionality of the acoustic setting, as only an audiophile amp-preamp combo should be able to do. I was captivated.
In sticking with a nostalgic era of music for me, I grabbed Out of Time by R.E.M. (Warner Brothers) and selected "Shiny Happy People," which features Kate Pierson from the B-52s. Pierson's sexy, somewhat raspy voice soared at louder levels in my room. The track has great texture. With the NAD C725 BEE, you can hear into each layer if you want to put your musical attention into the song. If not, the warm highs and solid dynamics make for a highly pleasant musical experience. I could see a love affair brewing with this receiver.
If you are a vinyl lover, be aware that the C 725BEE does not provide a phono input. This shouldn't be a deal breaker, however, as NAD offers the PP2 MC/MM phono preamp as an accessory for a reasonable $129 investment.
I mentioned the looks of the unit before. NAD is clearly trying to do something visually different with this new series of products, yet the concept is so retro that I can't help but wish for the old NAD gray look. You could argue that I am stuck in my ways.
The $799 NAD C 725BEE was comfortable with every type of music I could throw at it, sounding better than any receiver should, especially at this price point. It was powerful yet refined, like a megabuck high-end stack of equipment without all the fuss and pretensions. It's designed with the environment in mind and by people who understand music and know how to reproduce it properly. If you are a music lover and looking for a receiver with the heart of separates, the NAD C 725BEE may be just what you are seeking. It's hard to imagine anybody doing a music-only receiver better at the price.