Pushing the Envelope: NAD 7240 PE

I’ve been wanting to try out a vintage NAD receiver for a long time. Based on popular reviews (check out Steve Guttenberg’s review of the NAD 3020 here ) an early-series unit looked to be too enticing to pass up.

NAD 7240 PE in all its glory. Courtesy Canuck Audiomart

NAD 7240 PE in all its glory. Courtesy Canuck Audiomart

NAD (New Acoustic Dimension) was founded in England in the early 1970s with a philosophy of focusing on the sound first. Components were there to perform, not to shine. Their vision allowed for a high-end sound and lower-end prices but resulted in some dumpy looks – amps and components were uniformly greyish squat boxes with small plastic buttons popping out here and there. The aesthetic was definitely in contrast to the bombastic shiny metallic space-race instruments on display from Japanese brands of the time. But then again NAD was free to devote all of their development dollars to the sound quality of the amp, and not to machining gorgeous tuning knobs from pure ingots of aircraft-grade aluminum.

My NAD 7240PE. Note integrated volume/balance and space-age radio tuner rocker buttons.

My NAD 7240PE. Note integrated volume/balance and space-age radio tuner rocker buttons.

From early on NAD also focused on incorporating ensuring high levels of dynamic headroom in their amps, meaning that a lower-rated sustained power amp could spike to much higher wattages to handle musical transients, ensuring clean playback at top volume. It also means that when you test a NAD, you’re likely getting more power than the box advertises.

The 3020 reviewed by the Audiophiliac at the link above was advertised as pushing 20 watts per channel at 8 ohms, but could provide as much as 58 watts at 4 ohms or a bruising 72 watts at 2 ohms. First off, those are some extremely impressive numbers for any amp, much less an entry-level model. And stability as low as 2 ohm impedance is also nothing to laugh at – most modern home theater amplifiers are rated for no lower than 6 ohms, and some will start to get a little crispy while they’re at it.

It’s rare in the home audio world that a manufacturer under-states bragging-right stats like wattage, which is intriguing in and of itself. The fact that folks uniformly raved about the sound made it even harder to resist.

So I found one to call my own.

It wasn’t after a long search, however. NADs are pursued by a small following of people in the know – when a NAD comes up for sale locally on CL or the like it’s either priced very high (cognoscenti and sentimental value push up asking prices), or it’s priced bargain-basement and snapped up posthaste. I had to focus on the latter category since I didn’t have the free cash to invest in a top-order vintage NAD unit, so I kept my eyes peeled.

I eventually found a single-owner NAD 7240 PE receiver locally and took it home. It had spent its life pushing a pair of Time Frame TF350 speakers (almost took those home too!) and hadn’t been used in 5 or so years at all.

My 7240 is a later-generation unit in the NAD line, one generation or two after the legendary 3020 series. PE stands for Power Envelope, which was the marketing moniker of the time for NAD’s high-current amp system. The 7240 was rated at a 40 watts per channel of steady power, but its +6 dB of dynamic headroom provided up to 160 watts/channel at 8 ohms, and up to 200 watts per channel at 2 or 4 ohms for short bursts.

What? 200 watts per channel? Out of this little thing? That puts my monster Pioneer SX1250 to shame!

So bringing it home, I simply had to put it to a test with my newly-restored SX-1250.

First came the visual inspection. The 7240 is typical of the NAD family – grey metal box with black plastic buttons. As this is a receiver, preamp, amp, and radio tuner are all included in the package, which is a tidy 16 x 4 x 15 inches. There’s a small red LCD display which notes the radio station, even when you’re switched to CD, Phono, or Video. There’s an integrated volume and balance dial on the right (which has a great damped turning feel), as well as some bass and treble knobs and sound contour controls. I was happy to see a loudness button, which I use ,and amused to see the soft clipping and Bass EQ buttons, which I don’t.  Around back you have the usual RCA inputs, 5-way binding posts, as well as a switch to move amplifier impedance from 8 ohms to 2-6 ohms, based on speakers. I kept it off the 8ohm slot since I run a lot of larger speakers with lower impedance.

NAD 7240PE. Displaying radio station all the time on red LCD.

NAD 7240PE. Displaying radio station all the time on red LCD.

Rear of NAD 7240PE. Not much to see here, folks.

Rear of NAD 7240PE. Not much to see here, folks.

I hit the green power switch on the left of the faceplate and waited for everything to warm up. I did the same with the big Pioneer.

I then tested both receivers with my Boston Acoustic A200s and Klipsch KG4s.

Nice!!

The NAD inhabits two worlds effortlessly. It manages to sound exacting and clear up into the highest ranges just like modern equipment does but brings in some emotion and lushness to the music similar to a vintage unit. Just like my Pioneer VSX-820 there are no top-end losses of detail, which is something that is harder to say with other vintage equipment. The spread and balance between treble and midrange was good – one was not overpowering of the other. In comparison to my SX-1250, the midrange was not as honey-sweet and didn’t ring with the same round tones. It wasn’t as if anything was missing but there is a sonic difference between the massive Pioneer and the NAD. I would more call it a contrast in tonal philosophy, which allows both amps to go home happy.

NAD 7240 PE with Insigna DVD player. Low profile, good sound.

NAD 7240 PE with Insigna DVD player. Low profile, good sound.

On the low end I was very impressed. Bass was massive. This thing felt like a diesel on idle to me – you knew that there was plenty of grunt just waiting for you there if you wanted to push your foot down a little more. That said bass was controlled and kept in check with the upper reaches. No booming or exaggerated low end like I’d heard on some cheaper Pioneer and Sansui receivers.  Very very nice. Just as Pirelli advertised – power with control.

In contrast, my SX-1250 was a little less detailed at the higher reaches but much more golden in the mid tones. Bass was comparable, imaging not as good as with the NAD. But definitely a more vintage vibe.

IMGP3146

I note that this test was with material from an iPod Classic. The songs are high bitrate but I’m learning that the SX-1250 is sensitive to input material and doesn’t seem to really shine with the iPod. I’m interested to try it more with a CD player when I’ve got my basement listening area unpacked – with my Yamaha P-500 phonograph the Pioneer is magical. I guess that also means I’ll have to haul the NAD back down for a test of its phono stage too.

So I really really like the NAD. It is deceptively powerful – there are buckets of reserve waiting to be used. Sound quality is exceptional, and reflects its transitional place in my mental pantheon of vintage receivers  – the 7240 is clear and can be clinical in a digital era sort of way but it doesn’t lose the emotion and warmth of the vintage set in the process.

NAD 7240 PE even more flattering in this light. Courtesy eBay

NAD 7240 PE even more flattering in this light. Courtesy eBay

Pitting it up against my newly-returned SX-1250 I honestly wondered whether I needed both. The NAD is far too nice sounding for the function I currently have it performing as living room ambiance generator paired with my KG4s. That said, tuned into classical or jazz and with the KG4s properly placed from the wall, the NAD’s powerful and controlled bass mitigates some of the boominess out of the KG4s’ rear passive radiators and leaves clean tones down to 40hz, perfect for some of the upright bass and lower orchestral notes that carry so well across my long living room.  And Led Zeppelin sounds awesome too.

If you have the means I definitely recommending picking up a NAD. For their performance they are an amazing value. They are relatively easy to come by and pretty durable – units of more recent vintage have their share of weak spots in the components but for the most part these can be mitigated with some re-soldering and minor repairs – just do your internet homework. And if you’re into going new, NAD’s current designs continue to bring top-notch sound with entry-level audiophile pricing. You really can’t go wrong.

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~ by silverfacestereo on September 27, 2013.

28 Responses to “Pushing the Envelope: NAD 7240 PE”

  1. I bought one these in college (1988ish) — still use it. It’s sort of funny that you ding it for its looks — I was impressed with how it looked like lab equipment and that it wasn’t all gaudy and lit up. I still like the pure utilitarian look it has and love that there isn’t a single blue LED anywhere on it.

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    • Thanks for your comment! I am definitely more of a gaudy blue-light type of guy. But that said the looks of the NAD are growing on me, and I love the sound. I actually just picked up another 7240PE.

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      • Hi There, I have a NAD 7240PE, NAD 5060 & NAD 6325. I’m the original owner and haven’t used them in about ten years, they’re in great shape and have been in a sealed box since I retired them. I’d like to sell them for a very reasonable price. If you’re interested, make me an offer. I live in NYC. Thanks – Doug

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  2. Thanks for the review! I am shopping around for a 7240PE myself. I have a pair of KEF Uni-Q which I hope to use with the 7240PE. Any thoughts on that?

    By the way, you mentioned you’ve picked up another 7240PE, I hope it’s not the first one didn’t work out?

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    • I’ve only heard good things about the KEF speakers so you should be fine. I purchased a second 7240PE because the opportunity presented itself – my first one is running strong! The second one, however, has issues….

      Thanks for reading!

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    • Hi There, I have a NAD 7240PE, NAD 5060 & NAD 6325. I’m the original owner and haven’t used them in about ten years, they’re in great shape and have been in a sealed box since I retired them. I’d like to sell them for a very reasonable price. If you’re interested, make me an offer. I live in NYC. Thanks – Doug

      Like

  3. Hey folks, I dug one of these out of a skip, it had a sorted rectifier which I replaced and there you go, wooohoooo. The Phoenix has risen from it’s ashes. Another piece of vintage audio legend has been saved.

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  4. Got mine years ago.still going strong

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  5. Nice review Hope u finally hooked up a turntable Nad was highly noted for there phono stage and I believe the 3020 sold over 600,000 units when first introduced because of this. ps eliminate the ipod and feed it a real signal . I promice that that will blow ur mind

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  6. Maybe setting the dvd player on top of this is not a good idea.

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  7. Great review. I have 4 Nad’s 7240pe, 7225pe, 3020, and a new 316bee. They are all wonderful. The 7240pe I bought new, 7225pe and 3020 from vintage vendors. The amplification is great for the money.

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    • Hi There, I have a NAD 7240PE, NAD 5060 & NAD 6325. I’m the original owner and haven’t used them in about ten years, they’re in great shape and have been in a sealed box since I retired them. I’d like to sell them for a very reasonable price. If you’re interested, make me an offer. I live in NYC. Thanks – Doug

      Like

      • Hi Doug, thanks for writing! I have plenty of NAD gear right now but I’ll be in touch if I know of anyone who is interested!

        Like

      • Thanks for getting back to me.

        I’m trying on CraigsList, but I don’t expect much from that. I’ll probably drop them off at Goodwill on Monday if I see no interest over the weekend.

        Thanks Again – Doug ____________________ Doug Rosa http://www.dougrosa.com/ 212.366.4898

        >

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      • Hi Doug,

        Hearing you have a NAD7240PE for sale is tempting me – if it’s in good shape and you are willing to pack it up and ship down to Florida where I am, I might be very interested to purchase it!

        – Dennis

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      • Hi Dennis,

        Thanks for your interest. I sold all 3 items locally this weekend.

        – Doug ____________________ Doug Rosa http://www.dougrosa.com/ 212.366.4898

        >

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  8. I have a NAD 7240PE. Had it since new. I am a audio imbecile however. How can I plug in my iPod, iPhone etc?

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  9. hello i just buy one 7240PE without user manual
    i am searching the user manual EN or French of this ca you help me ?

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  10. Great review! Just picked up a mint 7250pe for $50 cdn. Been looking for a NAD for a while and this was perfect. Looks like new, no static or noises, just smooth operation. Dual turntable, CD, tuner sound incredible. Replaced an old Technics that I thought was pretty good. The NAD blows it away. Very happy with it.

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  11. Love my 7240PE, Dug it out of a trashcan on a rainy afternoon, took it home and it works great, a little deoxit, and good to go, had very low DC offset values as well, I always check this when trying a new receiver
    or amp, found a matching CD player for it for $30.00 on craigslist. My vintage 80’s rig is puching a set of “The smaller Advent speakers” that I re foamed and recapped after I found them in the bulk trash area of a friends condo complex. I think I have about $50.00 in the whole rig….LOL!!
    The little NAD holds its own well against some other things I have drug home and exceeds most.

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  12. Love the 7240; durable and beautiful sound. Have had mine since 1986, paired with 4 ohm Infinity RS5b’s. Minor repairs recently, and re-foamed the speakers; only time anyone has touched them. Originally complemented them with two NAD cassette decks, NAD CD, Technics turntable, and Akai reel to reel. Today, keeping it simple paired only with Bluetooth interface streaming music from my iPad, and used for home theater. Handles any music genre with grace and power, as if it were live. The sound is great from either digital or analog sources; NAD don’t care, and delivers the subtlest nuances to heart stopping lows. As to those that would part with the 7240, sacrilege – they will have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

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  13. Has anyone set one up with a separate power amp?

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  14. Michael, have you set up a 7240 with a separate amp? I just picked up one along with a NAD 2600 and was wondering how that might work out. Need to clean and test first but for a total investment of $20 can’t go wrong..

    Like

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