I have to admit, I don’t like streaming as a replacement of CD purchase. It is never meant to be like that. Streaming is a replacement of radio. It is customizable in terms of creating a playlist but you always rely on the Internet to make it work unlike downloadable purchase or your physical music collection. So when my client lent me his NAD C658 for me to assess, I accepted it with no great excitement.
Although essentially a pre-amp, the C658 can also be used as a standalone network music streamer and a DAC. You can connect it to a power amplifier or active speakers with a choice of balanced or unbalanced outputs, two RCA analog stereo inputs, plus two Toslink optical and two coaxial digital inputs. There’s a subwoofer output with adjustable crossover for people who want their music to be full spectrum, a moving magnet phono stage for vinyl users like myself and a Type A USB input for computer listening. Twin expansion bays allow for potential upgrades, meaning the C658 is more ready for the future than most.
Being a network streaming device, there is an Ethernet port for a wired router connection (which I recommend to everybody to use whenever you can), plus dual-band Wi-Fi for wireless linking. There’s also a two-way aptX HD Bluetooth function that allows you not only to send audio from a Bluetooth device to the C658, but also from it to Bluetooth headphones. If you prefer your headphones wired (again, this is my preference), there’s a dedicated output with ¼” jack on the front panel. Inside, the C658 uses the popular ESS Sabre 32-bit DAC allowing sample rates of up to 32-bit / 192 kHz. Most popular file types are supported, including FLAC, WAV, AIFF, MP3 and AAC. DSD and MQA can be played using the BluOS desktop app.
Not surprisingly, NAD uses the BluOS system for hi-res streaming. This is simple and intuitive, and the app (which is free for Android, PC, Mac and iOS) looks great and operates beautifully. It gives you most top streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Qobuz, HD Tracks and Deezer. Your own hard drive-based music collection is also accessible, too. With BluOS, the C658 can be used as a hub to stream HD music wirelessly to other BluOS-based products regardless of brand in other areas of your home, all controllable via smart devices and computers.