NAD Electronics D 3020 hybrid digital amplifier review: Best AV receiver replacement solution

Built-in amplifiers have been around for decades, but they have quietly become a viable alternative to AV receivers, thanks to today’s TVs. offers extensive conversion capabilities and many more built-in amplifiers including an optical audio input.

It’s the scene we reviewed the NAD D 3020 ($ 500 street), along with a number of other built-in amplifiers that include an optical audio input. The D 3020 is the best in the class, with excellent sound quality, solid feature set (including built-in Bluetooth) and a sleek, compact design. The D 3020 also has a dedicated subwoofer output, which makes setting up a 2.1-channel speaker system simple, plus a USB port, so you can connect it to a computer for full-scale audio playback. high resolution. And not like Teac A-H01The D 3020 can be powered on and off from its remote, so it works well with popular remote controls.

Cost is the biggest issue with the D 3020. It feels expensive when you compare it with Sony STR-DN840 ($ 400 street price), lower costs and offers more functionality, including six HDMI and Bluetooth inputs, built-in Wi-Fi and AirPlay. In the end, you’re paying for the D 3020’s amazing compact design and minimalistic simplicity, rather than a big box with tons of features you might not need.

We think it’s a worthwhile trade-off for many buyers, especially if you’re fed up with frustrating, bulky AV receivers and can live without surround sound. The NAD D 3020 may be expensive, but it’s a powerful little box that can power your living room for years.

Design: Smaller, more beautiful black box
The NAD D 3020 isn’t the smallest built-in amplifier we’ve ever reviewed, but it still feels wonderfully compact, 2.31 inches tall, 7.38 inches wide and 8.63 inches deep. It can be placed in the more traditional horizontal orientation, but you can also erect it vertically and the NAD includes some sturdy rubber feet to keep it stable. The D 3020’s 3-pound weight is a decent weight, heavy enough to be a “serious” audio device, but light enough to be easily installed in your living room.

NAD D 3020

Sarah Tew / CNET

NAD D 3020

Even compared to Marantz NR1403 (right), the NAD D 3020 (left) was much smaller.

Sarah Tew / CNET

It’s also a nice looking case, wrapped in a glossy finish around the sides, with the rest of the amp covered in a textured matte black finish. Turn on the amp and its front-facing display lights up, showing you the selected volume and input level in glossy white letters. Overall, the D 3020 certainly doesn’t compete with Peachtree Audio Decco65’s gorgeous curved wood and arguably the super minimalistic NuForce DDA-100 looks even better, but the D 3020 is still a sleek, sleek amp still, style, especially compared to a full size AV receiver.

NAD D 3020

Sarah Tew / CNET

Seen from the front, there seem to be no buttons on the amp, only a headphone jack and volume buttons. Around the side you’ll find two touch buttons: one for powering, one for moving through sources. The side placement isn’t ideal in either landscape or portrait orientation, but the D 3020 is small enough that you can get them in most cabinets.

NAD D 3020

Sarah Tew / CNET

You can also control the D 3020 with the supplied remote. It has a nice size and shape, it feels very solid in your hand, but the button label is the same color as the button so it’s hard to see. You will also notice there is no dedicated mute button, which seems like a monitoring button. If you are using the D 3020 in your living room, you would be wise to replace the trigger with one block remote control.

Features: Multiple inputs and built-in Bluetooth
The D 3020 has four inputs on the back: two digital audio inputs (one optical, one coax), one analog, and one “mixed used” input that can act as one end. into additional optics (in use converter cable) or a minijack input. It’s a good set of ports for an integrated amp, even for living room use, as you can Use your TV as a converter and connect its optical output to the D 3020.

NAD D 3020

In addition to all the audio inputs, you’ll find a 12-volt trigger input.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Those intending to use the D 3020 in the living room should also note the lack of built-in decoding for Dolby Digital or DTS bitstream formats. In most cases, that’s not the point, as most TVs “dumbfounded” the incoming surround music to PCM stereo, which means you don’t need any decoding. If your TV transmits a “bit stream” audio signal, you will want to adjust the settings so that the TV does not transmit or configure your source devices (such as a Blu-ray player) to decode. to PCM.

NAD D 3020

Sarah Tew / CNET

There’s also a USB port on the back that you can use to connect your computer directly to the amp, after installing the correct drivers. We tried using the NAD with a MacBook Pro and it worked flawlessly, allowing us to listen to our iTunes music collection as well as tracks in high resolution.

Another benefit is that the D 3020 includes a dedicated subwoofer output, something many of its competitors don’t have, including Onkyo A-5VL, NuForce Diaand NuForce DDA-100. You can still connect those amplifiers to subwoofers with speaker level inputs, such as a budget Dayton Sub 800But a dedicated subwoofer output is more convenient and helps with significantly less clutter. Note that the subwoofer output is a slightly irregular minijack connector, so again you may have to purchase one. adapter.

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