Extended Comparo: Yamaha CA-1010 and NAD 3080

 

Yamaha CA-1010 and NAD-3080

Yamaha CA-1010 and NAD-3080

I finally got around to some extended listening of the two new integrated amplifiers in my stable: the Yamaha CA-1010 and NAD-3080. It was quite interesting.

I lined them up and flipped them on to warm up. Both are beautiful units in their own way – the Yamaha is a silver beast, a modern take on the 1970s brushed-steel stereo aesthetic. The NAD on the other hand is almost a missing link – its metal face is painted a battleship grey with yellow lettering painted on. It’s almost halfway between the silver metal 1970s units and the black plastic stereos that would become prevalent in the 1980s. It’s also different from subsequent NAD units, which would come in a different grey color with white lettering of a different typeface. Very interesting.

NAD 3080 Integrated Amp

NAD 3080 Integrated Amp

NAD 3080 Detail. Typeface and color slightly different than in later models

NAD 3080 Detail. Typeface and color slightly different than in later models

The NAD is rated at 90 watts per channel at 8ohms at 0.03% distortion. The dynamic headroom at 8 ohms is high in typical NAD fashion, meaning that the amps dynamic power for peaks jumped to 160 watts for short periods, or 200 watts at 4 or 2 ohms. This thing has plenty of juice.

To keep the comparison simple, I used my iPod Classic and a 30 pin connector to RCA cord plugged in to the aux outlet on both amps.

NAD 3080 detail

NAD 3080 detail

The 3080 was first. the songs on comparo this time around were as follows:

Heart – Magic Man

Lorde – Royals

Radiohead – Paranoid Android

Pink Floyd – Breathe

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

I thought these songs had ample opportunity to test vocals, imaging, bass, and treble. I was right.

The NAD emphasized some of the qualities that I’ve come to know in models later in the line that I have already demoed, in particular the 7240PE and the 7100 Monitor series. The NAD has a clean sound with a good bottom end. In my mind, either due to the amp’s age or late 1970s vintage status, I thought that it had a bit of that ‘vintage’ sound – there was a pronounced bass and low end (plenty of power there) and a tiny bit rolled off top end. The amp itself stayed cool while playing into my Polk Monitor 7Bs. On all songs, and with ‘Royals’ in particular, the NAD was fun to listen to – I didn’t analyze the songs as much as I sat back and enjoyed them.

Needles dancing on NAD 3080

Needles dancing on NAD 3080

I also kept the tone controls out of the signal path, but the NAD has bass and treble controls with separate crossover switches to allow you to dial in more or less bass and treble at four spots in the spectrum.

It was fun to watch the meters jump with the music. Since I sit pretty close to the Polks (about 7 feet away from each) and they are reasonably efficient, I had the NAD’s meters set to the lower position to see more activity. You can push a button that changes how the meters read the power current to make things look more interesting. Otherwise I wouldn’t have barely rated moving the dials on this powerful amp at my listening levels.

The Yamaha is a beautiful beast. It’s about the same size as the NAD, a bit taller and narrower. It’s equally heavy, ad 40+ pounds. The specs match up with the NAD, with the Yamaha running about 100w/channel at 8 ohms and 120 watts at 4 ohms. Most interestingly, the amp allows you the option of running at a more efficient class AB amp for full power, or a class A output at 20 watts per channel. Class A operation basically has the amp running full power at all  times, heating it up but creating a better sound. I kept it in the Class A mode since I never pushed the amp much further than 5 watts per channel.

Yamaha CA-1010

Yamaha CA-1010

Speaking of which, if you’re running relatively efficient speakers, wattage dials really help you understand how much power you’re using at any one time. Sitting 7 feet back from my speakers and with the volume turned up to quite loud for my tastes in my basement room, I never saw the needles jump any higher than maybe 5-10 watts per channel. I guess if maybe I had harder to drive speakers or more room to fill with sound I would need more juice. That said I know that watts aren’t everything in judging a power of an amp, and even at low volumes I have often observed that a powerful amp will show more control and cleanliness in sound going to speakers than a weaker amp.

Yamaha CA-1010 detail

Yamaha CA-1010 detail

In any case, the  Yamaha lived up to its ‘Natural Sound’ name. At least I guess it did. The sound was very clean, and immediately upon comparison with the NAD it sounded uncolored. There was much less bass than the NAD. The frequency reach was there but it didn’t feel as weighty as the NAD at all. And at least in Class A configuration the tone controls didn’t seem to make any change in the sound. I’ll have to try it again in Class AB and see how it changes.

The Yamaha’s precise playback meant it reached a little higher and sparkled a bit more in the top end.  The chimes in ‘Magic Man’ lingered a bit longer on the  Yamaha than on the NAD. And whereas I rocked more on the NAD listening to ‘Royals’  the Yamaha seemed to uncover rough spots in the recording, or at least in my MP3 version of it – the song sounded less like a fun thumpy pop song and more like a sparsely-mixed march, which was weird.

Yamaha CA-1010

Yamaha CA-1010

When comparing the two amps I kept wondering whether the perfect mix between the precise top end of the Yamaha and the controlled bass of the 3080 was right behind both of them in the NAD 7100 in my speaker rack. I didn’t get a chance to throw it into the mix. Right now the 7100 is my favorite music-only amp, and until recently was my sole playback source, even for film. Since I got a new Pioneer VSX-823K for my HT duties the NAD 7100 has not been seeing much action, as with the Pioneer’s nice internal DAC, multiple processing modes, and very good sound quality, it’s hard for me to discern any music quality difference that would necessitate me unplugging and re-plugging the speakers from the Pioneer to the NAD.

Bottom line is that with the 3080 I love its fun sound and terrific esthetic. To me it feels late 1970’s punk for some reason – when everyone mainstream was disco shiny, here was an upstart with a rough look blowing everyone away with some serious chops. I love that. And I love that it was the beginning of a terrific line of stereos I have all over my house. But right now I don’t have a special place or application that only the 3080 can fulfill.

The Yamaha however is still intriguing to me. I see a lot of potential there. I like that the philosophy for its sound diverges considerably from its Pioneer and Marantz contemporaries. I still haven’t gotten everything out of it yet, and so I have more exploring to do.

Yamah CA-1010 and NAD-3080

Yamah CA-1010 and NAD-3080

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~ by silverfacestereo on April 21, 2014.

One Response to “Extended Comparo: Yamaha CA-1010 and NAD 3080”

  1. First, I own a CA-2010, which is almost the same as yours. Thing is, I keep a Pioneer amp around for its great bass and soft treble. But Yamaha is what you want for serious listening : lots of details, freq extension, overall balanced sound. I’ve heard people say that Yamaha is “Crap in, crap out” and that’s about it. Your source and recording must be good, and this amp will reward greatly. Great power and great phono amp, if you’re into LPs. Add a nice DAC to your set and the result will please you. Even the headphone out sounds good on this. Still lookinig for a nice pair of speakers to get the most of this amp!

    Like

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