And lo, the Lord decreed that there should be a fourth generation of this particular CD player. The C520 begat the C521, which begat the C521i, which begat this, the C521BEE. And so it came to pass.The ‘BEE’ suffix indicates that this model has been tuned by NAD audio guru Bjorn Eric Edvardsen, a boffin of long and distinguished pedigree who has been involved with the design of many NAD hi-fi products.
In comparison to its predeccessor, this player boasts improved compatibility with CD-R/RW discs, low-output impedance to make the machine less sensitive to the cables you use, and separate power supply regulation for the digital and analogue sections. There’s also a digital output, buffered and isolated with a transformer to maintain a high-quality feed to digital recorders. Got all that?
No, it isn’t the best CD player in the world – at £200 what do you expect? – but it’s an honest, open and involving machine for the money. No matter what music tickles your fancy, the C521BEE sounds exciting. Rock and dance tracks thrive on the plentiful bass: some might say it’s overpowering, but you just have to be careful when hooking it up to the rest of your kit. There’s plenty of warmth and scale, which gives classical music the room it needs to deliver the emotions and pluck at your heartstrings.
It might be a little on the safe side compared with the more forthright players at this price, but it’s less likely to have the treble some listeners find fatiguing. This balance also means the NAD will easily slot into a wide range of systems, and sound striking whether used with bright, fast amps and speakers or those with a more lush presentation. That bass may be big, but it’s well controlled, while the midband and treble integrate well to give a fine sense of detail and atmosphere. The whole sound is suggestive of a much more expensive piece of kit.
The only drawback is the Cambridge Audio 540C. The differences only appear to be small, but when you put them all together, the Cambridge Audio player is the more accomplished machine overall.