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As mentioned, the C390DD in stock guise is exclusively digital with eight inputs. Those work out to two optical and coaxial S/PDIF each, AES/EBU and 3 x USB. Two of the latter, one front, one aft, accept passive storage and sticks, the third one connects asynchronously to PC/MAC but is limited to 24/96. This de facto converts the NAD into an external soundcard. But it's really a whole hub since one each coax/Toslink output can route signal to elsewhere whilst even the built-in amplifier can be bypassed, tapping analog preamplified signal via a pre-out on cinch. Add biwire speaker terminals and that's all she said.

Not so! There are currently two optional boards – an HDMI module with 3:1 i/o ports; and a €299 analog module with RCA/XLR line-level and MM/MC phono inputs with digital RIAA. This confirms NAD's realism. Most of us still retain one or two analog sources somewhere in our pads. But it's a somewhat twisted sense of realism since analog inputs are first converted to digital at the 48kHz video rate to be processed accordingly. That's a bit unconventional but in keeping with current trends à la Devialet and Wadia. For review I had a fully loaded loaner.

Time to raise the curtain and hit play. I kicked off with my Audiolab 8200CDQ's S/PDIF output. What was my header for this review? Surprise! Having driven a number of NAD integrateds all the way to the wrecking yard during my adolescence and having already reviewed their entry-level C316BEE for, I really was flattened out when the C390DD got going. Where all the familiar models had shared common ground with a peppy energetic somewhat unleashed signature in the positive sense of the word, this one hit a very different groove.

Take Robert Forster's The Evangelist, a memorial to his prematurely departed companion Grant MacLennan from Go-Betweens. "Demon Days" is a sad but richly orchestrated ballad which kicks off with a quiet acoustic guitar but grows more and more colorful from contributors like a Fender Rhodes, massed strings, female vocals and even a chorus. This number came across unbelievably mild and warm. Truth be told, had I heard this from behind a curtain, I'd never figured the amp to be an NAD – elegant as it was, fine-tipped, cultivated and distinctly not forward, metallic or otherwise in yer face. Even so plenty of detail expressed itself, say the somewhat excess reverb around the voice. “Demon Days” is a song one has to submerge into and the C390DD encouraged it by offering plenty of warmth and nuance.