Comparo: NAD 7100 vs Pioneer SX-1250

Pioneer SX-1250 vs NAD 7100 Monitor Series Receiver

Pioneer SX-1250 vs NAD 7100 Monitor Series Receiver

I’ve had my restored Pioneer SX-1250 in my main stereo rig for a while now and I’ve been very happy. There’s always power to spare and my restored Polk Monitor 7s sound golden. With the massive Pioneer glowing from behind its thick glass and aluminum faceplate the music has never sounded so good. I have my Sony blu-ray player hooked up through the RCA outs for CD duty, a my Yamaha P-500 hooked into Phono 1 and an iPod cable leading into the Tape Monitor 1 leads, accessible by flipping a ‘monitor’ switch on the front of the amp. All very cool and working well.

Not long after having everything put together I hooked the Pioneer up to my B&W ASW600 subwoofer. Now I run the Polks via the sub’s crossover, crossing at about 50hz. With the system dialed in the effect is imperceptible but exquisite – a well-integrated sub makes all the difference.

Pioner SX-1250

Pioner SX-1250

Here’s an illustration of that.

I recently brought home a mint NAD 7100 monitor series receiver and a pair of Infinity Qe speakers. I was eager to test them all, and compare the NAD to my Pioneer. I’d earlier tested the NAD 7240PE against the Pioneer and been very impressed – the NAD had excellent treble and powerful, well-controlled bass and a soundstage wider than the big 1250. All that it lacked was a little of the warmth and glow of the Pioneer.

So I bring out the NAD 7100 to test against my Pioneer.

NAD spun up to play with the big Pioneer SX-1250

NAD spun up to play with the big Pioneer SX-1250

The 7100 receiver is a member of the Monitor series, which came out a generation after the ‘power envelope’ series which my 7240 belongs to. The principles involved were the same however – a basic package housing good components with peak power much higher than the rated RMS watts. In the case of my 7100 (or the 2100 amp or 3100 integrated using the same components) the rated power was 50 watts into 8 ohms, but peak wattage could hit as high as 200 watts into 8 ohms, and up to 330w into 2 ohm loads – very important for correctly portraying crescendos and transients in music.

The appearance of the 7100 is close to the earlier 7240 – grey case with a small red LED display, black plastic dials and buttons. But the 7100 comes with a remote, and more of the controls utilize electronic switches which can also be actuate by the remote, in departure from the more basic controls on the 7240. The remote is itself not too pretty but is designed to be able to control a large part of the NAD component family, from preamps and amps to CD players and the like. That’s convenient. I like the look and feel of the 7100 over the 7240PE – it feels a step newer.

So how’s the sound?

At first I tried the NAD hooked directly to my Polk Monitor 7s, and then contrasted with my Pioneer pushing the Polks through the B&W subwoofer. Source material was played through the Sony disc player. I told myself I would focus on the music and not the bass, and even turned down the crossover on the B&W after a while to get a clear reading between the two machines. When I tested in that configuration I found the NAD to be exacting and with greater treble but lacking in body. The Pioneer seemed to hit the midrange much more honestly and glowingly. I was quite disappointed in the NAD, actually. I knew it shouldn’t end that easily however.

So I unhooked the subwoofer and tried again. Just the Polks for both systems. It was like night and day. Both receivers were much more evenly matched. Now the NAD felt like it had more bass power and control than the big 1250, despite the rated power deficit (The Pioneer is rated at 16ow continuous). Without the presence of the subwoofer coloring the page, the NAD exposed more – the image and soundstage with the 7100 is wide, instruments come out of the darkness. High end (cymbals, transients, and the like) are alive and vivid, not overdone. With the Pioneer, I was missing these things, and always thought that it was the laid-back nature of the Polks’ Peerless tweeter letting me down. Now I knew that was not the case. In comparison with the NAD’s honest and clean soundstage, the Pioneer’s was blurred and compressed. Playing Heart’s ‘Crazy for You’ was a good example – there’s a lot of activity going on behind the vocals and it’s difficult to separate the elements of the chaos into their constituent parts. The NAD did that and stayed musical. The Pioneer didn’t get there.

Another great disc for demos is the soundtrack to The Thomas Crown Affair – it moves from latin to jazz, to piano and R&B. Once again the NAD impressed with its clear presentation. The Pioneer fell down a bit once again.

One place where the Pioneer did outshine was in its warmth of presentation. Especially with female vocals, the Pioneer gives a beautiful voicing that sounds honest and warm. The NAD in comparison sounded thin. But perhaps that thinness was actually honesty – I don’t discount that I’m used to the Pioneer’s artificially-warm voicing and could be compensating.

In any case, when comparing apples to apples, the result was clear – the NAD was a better performer. The treble was where I wanted it, detail was higher, imaging keener, bass better defined. My beautiful Pioneer had been beat. So the 7100’s now in its place and the Pioneer is in storage (sniff).

So what did I learn?

First, a good subwoofer adds a lot. The B&W, even with the crossover turned down to 20hz (where I thought it would be effectively turned off) adds amazing depth to music. It moves air at the right times and gives fullness. Properly dialed in with the speakers it enhances them to such a degree that the entire system cannot be compared to those same speakers sans sub – there is no comparison. A good sub is audio umami.

Second, my beautiful Pioneer is out of the rotation. It looks amazing. It glows. It’s tactile. It’s the inspiration for this blog. But even with every capacitor replaced and with some modern updates and solutions, it came in second to the NAD. At least for me. It’s still a beautiful and accurate system, better than a vast vast majority of what’s out there. As for a vintage item, it’s one of the best I’ve heard. Everyone should enjoy one at some time. And the golden voice is enchanting – once you’ve heard it you don’t want to give it up. If another person other than me had run this comparison I think that the Pioneer could have easily won hands-down. It’s that good and for a large part these tests are wholly subjective.

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~ by silverfacestereo on February 17, 2014.

3 Responses to “Comparo: NAD 7100 vs Pioneer SX-1250”

  1. could you please tell me how you hooked up your subwoofer to the NAD 7100?

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    • Hi! My subwoofer allows you to run speaker wires from the receiver into the sub, and then back out to the speakers. The sub’s internal crossover pulls out the sub frequency and passes on the rest of the receiver’s signal on to the speakers.

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  2. Great Review. I love NAD equipment. I also like old silver faced Sansui equipment of similar vintage to your Pioneer. Very good comparison you did there. Thanks for mentioning that you were listening to Heart (and not Classical or Dire Straits that so many audiofiles use to compare) it helped me understand where you where coming from musically and sonically when making comparisons.

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