The 1970s were notorious for many things, but an achievement somewhat forgotten by history is the notoriously good-sounding – and cool-looking – hi-fi gear produced during that era.
Audio companies like JBL, Yamaha, and Marantz have been glancing back at their classic 1970s speaker and amplifier designs to create new versions with the same look but updated innards. And now NAD has joined the same retro-themed party with its limited-edition C 3050 LE Stereophonic Amplifier.
With its walnut veneer wooden case and golden LED-lit VU meters, one each for the left and right channels, the C 3050 LE sports the warm, welcoming look of the best integrated amps of that era, and would be a perfect match for many of the best stereo speakers. The amp was produced to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the brand, which launched back in 1972, and will be manufactured in a limited release run of 1,972 numbered units.
While NAD’s integrated amps in the 1970s typically had a power rating of 20 watts per channel (spec’d across the full frequency band, which was a uniquely consumer-friendly approach for the time) the C 3050 LE is rated for 100 watts per channel using the same “Full Disclosure Power” approach the company has been using for decades.
Features include Wi-Fi streaming via the company’s app-controlled BluOS multiroom platform, AirPlay 2 and two-way aptX HD Bluetooth support, the latter for connecting to the best wireless headphones, and an HDMI eARC input. The retro yet thoroughly modern C 3050 LE also features a phono stage for connecting one of the best turntables and a headphone amplifier to plug in the best over-ear headphones.
Pricing for the C 3050 LE is, you guessed it, $1,972 / £1,756 / around AU$3,530. The limited edition integrated amp will be sold at select NAD retailers starting in mid-November.
Analysis: for hi-fi, what’s old is new again
A 50-year anniversary offers a fantastic opportunity to look back at your past, and NAD, an innovative brand that has consistently produced affordable components backed by the company’s reliable Full Disclosure Power ratings, has lots to boast about.
Throughout most of its history, NAD’s integrated amplifiers have had a basic, conservative look – they were there to make music, not to be gawked at and drooled over. The limited edition C 3050 LE, on the other hand, hits all the 70s hi-fi design high points – big knobs and buttons, warm-looking VU meters, smooth wooden exterior – and is absolutely drool-worthy.
This new nostalgia trend in the hi-fi world – along with the companies mentioned earlier, brands like Mission, Wharfedale, KLH, and NAD’s sister-brand PSB, have all released speakers with vintage-inspired looks – is a very positive development. That’s because it lets designers tap into the elegance of hi-fi’s golden age while producing speakers and amplifiers that take advantage of the massive technical advancements that have taken place since the originals were produced and sold.
For anyone who misses out on NAD’s limited-run integrated amp, the good news is that a standard C 3050 version with similar specs and many of the same features will also be available, and it will be sold through NAD’s full worldwide retailer network. At $1,299 / £1,160 / around AU$2,075, it will be less pricey than the limited edition version, but you can be sure it won’t have the same awesome vintage vibe.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.