Should I steer clear of class D amps

I’m finally upgrading my amp. I currently have an Onkyo TXNR 636 which has served very well but it’s now the weakest component in my system.

I’ve a budget of up to £1200-£1300 and been looking at the NAD C3050.

I was initially drawn to the NAD C3050 when I saw the VU meters but these are not deal breakers if I can get a much better amp without them, but I really do like them. I spoke with a dealer and he mentioned all NAD amplifiers are now class D and that’s now where I’m stuck procrastinating my purchase. My understanding was class D never really took off, despite the power efficiency due to the HF noise caused by the PWM. Times change things improve but I can’t find much about how they have mitigated this, in fact an article in EETimes refers to how the tests performed for THD etc are quite irrelevant in a digital amp and quoted figures may be very different in real life. In essence, the way of testing makes them look better than they are. This may be true but do they sound good? We all know vinyl is technically an inferior medium but I certainly prefer it’s sound.

I am listening to classic/ heavy rock and a mixture of lossless streaming from a NAS into a Cambridge Audio CNX V2 and vinyl off a Technics 1500C with a Pro-Ject DS phono stage all into monitor audio bronze 5s. 

I need a new amp. I need slapping out of my indecision but it’s not an insignificant amount of £££ and I want to get it right. Should I stick with AB ? My electric bill can’t withstand class A or valve regardless of sound quality. 

Also what’s the thoughts on NAD in general, I’m my youth they were good amps, but then so were Pioneer. 


@nosleeptilldownload I couldn't agree more with the statement that your hearing trumps all specs and arguments from critics (professional or otherwise). I also couldn't agree less with your statement that "vinyl is technically an inferior medium". Of course, many things are relative. Given a relatively good turntable with reasonably good arm & cartridge, proper set-up, decent phono stage, clean records and good recordings, incorporated into a relatively good sound system, I haven't heard anything yet that significantly bests the fidelity of good, clean, well recorded vinyl, even in direct A/B comparisons. Admittedly, I haven't heard 7 figure systems catering to digital sound, but I have spent serious seat-time with 6 figure such systems. Some ears prefer digital, some vinyl, and that's just fine. To each his own! Personally, I rely on digital mostly for convenience (dinner parties; doing chores around the house; etc.) but turn to vinyl when I and audiophile friends can park our butts in the proverbial sweat spot(s), enjoy a nice beverage or two, maybe some snacks and just kick back, relax and, as the Dobbie Brothers would say: "Listen to the Music".

As for VU meters, yes, they are very cool. I own a MAC, or should I say, my MAC owns me? My opinion on this is not to be swayed by VU meters. Some are accurate; some, not so much. Regardless, they do nothing for sound fidelity.

With regard to NAD and/or Class D amps in general, I confess I haven't spent much seat-time with many. My last experience was with a 60-watt NAD integrated (can't remember model number), Martin Logan Motion 60xti, Spendor A7, Totem Hawk, Paradigm Prestige 85F & 95F and Qobuz premium streaming service in a relatively good sound room. Finally whittled down the speaker choices to the ML and listened to those for about a half hour or so. After about 10 or 15 minutes at concert volume, the sound became fatiguing. After about 25 minutes and an oncoming low-level headache (my audiophile friend experienced the same) it was time thank the shop owner for his time and get on my way. A couple weeks later, those ML sounded nothing short of fantastic when paired with a Simaudio Moon NEO 340IX and a Marantz CD6005, using the same music and also at concert volume, albeit in another shop's sound room. Was it the sound room influence that made the difference? The Marantz CD? The difference in amplification? I was and still am inclined to think it was the amp.

I've read that Class D and/or other hybrid designs are the future. Maybe so. I don't know much, if anything, about that kind of stuff but I do know what my ears like. Let YOUR EARS be the judge!

@jbuhl - good catch, yes the quote is mistakenly out of context.

Nevertheless, in my system and to my ears, the NC1200 amps did not compare favorably to the Class A and AB amps I was using, for the reasons stated.  I don't know whether NC1200 is now considered older technology but at the time they were around $10K/pair and were being touted as a replacement for Class A.

I have not tried GAN or Ice modules, so I cannot comment on those but all of the Class D versions seem to have their supporters.  Ralph's GAN amps would be interesting to try but not enough power for me.  As stated by several here, the best approach for the OP is to listen and select what he/she believes sounds the best. 

I’d much rather listen to street noise than the 2d plastic garbage of any class d amp I’ve ever heard.

I think the question is how Class D compares to the better Class A/B amplifiers at the OP's budget.  

My Linkwitz LX521.4 system uses the latest iteration of the HYPEX Class-D amp modules, 5 for each channel, 10 total (!). Without Class-D technology, I would need 5 (!) power amplifiers to drive the LX speakers (one for each speaker cone): simply unaffordable. Class-D amplification gives you a LOT of bang for the buck!

My preamp is a custom-built SUPRATEK Grange, a two chassis affair with 16 vacuum tubes total. My preferred output tube is the Takatsugi 300B single-ended triode. To your question: I find the combination of tubes and Class-D utterly satisfying, whereby the tubes provide me with air and soundstage-precision and the amps with very fast rhythmic response and amazing dynamics. For me, this is a final combo. Class-D amps have come a very long way (the concept stems from the 1950s) and have overcome all the historic shortcomings I am aware of. I think in a good Audio system, the preamp plays a more important role than the amp (unless the latter is really bad, compromising all other components), while of course, the source (an excellent TT, Tonearm and cartridge; and/or a state-of-the-art DAC), and first and foremost the loudspeakers are of much greater impact on the overall musical experience. But again, Class-D has definitely arrived. Coincidentally, my first higher-end system was built around a NAD integrated: solid performance overall, but a bit - how can I phrase this - "boring". This is by no means meant to be a negative, mind you. I am sure our fellow forists (is that a word?) will have ample recommendations for you and your budget. Best of luck!