Improve stereo imaging on an NAD 3020?

Discussion in 'Solid State' started by filmis, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. filmis

    filmis Member

    Messages:
    79
    I'm listening to two amps I have, a Sherwood S-7100A and an NAD 3020, on a pair of AKG K240 Monitor headphones. EDIT: I also tested this using a loudspeaker switch to switch between the two amps, in a blind test.

    The NAD definitely has a cleaner sound, and vocals sound very well rounded. But the stereo imaging of the Sherwood kicks the NAD out of the park. When I look under the hood, I think I have a clue as to why - the signals for both channels are handled by physically separate boards on the Sherwood.

    So I was wondering whether there are any minor alterations I could try to make on my NAD that might improve the stereo imaging? E.g., bypass the balance controls, adjust the bias or something... I should mention that I recapped it recently and while it sounds great, maybe there's something that should be calibrated after?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  2. SoCal Sam

    SoCal Sam Lunatic Member

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    16,778
    Turn off Soft Clipping If that does not help, put the 3020 on the shelf. The 3020 has a following but it is still budget.
     
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  3. filmis

    filmis Member

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    79
    It is off. Thanks for the input.
     
  4. rkgren1

    rkgren1 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Location:
    Yorktown, VA
    Sam's right.
    Your S-7100A is a seriously good receiver.
    If the NAD does not please you as much, then keep it as a spare while enjoying the Sherwood.
     
  5. Eastham

    Eastham More Class A than ever! Subscriber

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    That's what I love about my Sherwood, such a wide, spacious and (to me) detailed sound, blows the rest of my gear out of the water.
     
  6. mbz

    mbz Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    785
    Location:
    Melbourne, Victoria
    Second the sentiment on the NAD3020, delivered an OK/good sound on a modest budget, when comparable gear cost "$100-" more.
    Refurb's (recap, metal film, diode,,,) two of them, still did not have a decent sound stage. I consider something like the yamaha CA-800 or
    Kenwood KA-7100 or ... as the entry point where things get interesting. Not familiar with the Sherwood, during this era, all the manufacturers
    made some good amps.
     
  7. slimecity

    slimecity Super Member

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    Every amp is different Im afraid. If the NAD doesn't have it, it doesn't have it. It still does pretty well in other respects though.
     
  8. filmis

    filmis Member

    Messages:
    79
    It does, that's what had me so torn. Because on quiet passages when listening at the relatively low volumes one does with headphones, the NAD has a crisper sound and the vocals are beautifully supported and rounded. But the soundstage was lifeless compared to the Sherwood.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
  9. filmis

    filmis Member

    Messages:
    79
    I know, I absolutely love it. I never used to listen to the radio, but the Sherwood makes it sound so good that I have to! And I remember listening to Sarah Vaughan's No Count when I first hooked it up. I was in blissful shock; it was like hearing it for the first time.

    I was very fortunate with this unit. Popped up on the local CL, had a friend pick it up for me and I haggled down to $30, which I more than made up for by selling a previous unit I had. The walnut case and metal front were in impeccable condition, and when I peeked under the hood it was obvious that it had been fully professionally serviced recently... Not a speck of dust to be found. Definitely worth at least 3 or 4 times what I paid for it.
     
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  10. highend64

    highend64 Active Member

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    Location:
    Central CA
    I had a NAD 3020 amp it sounded quite good to me. Then again I didnt use the headphones jack. Might be the headphone amp on the NAD that might be the culprit not the overall main amp of the NAD.
     
  11. filmis

    filmis Member

    Messages:
    79
    Not all of the NADs were built equally. I've heard it said the earliest NADs had the best sound; the preamp section was on a physically separate board, and signal was carried through coax cables from different parts of the board. These are easily identifiable, by, among other things, the 4 large ps caps in the corner of the amp close to the headphone jack.

    I have what I believe is the second iteration of the 3020s; the 4 caps are moved to the center of the board, there is no coax, and there is no separate board for the preamp section. It still sounds pretty damn good, and better than my Technics SA-424 (which is nothing to sneeze at) - better soundstage, and much better responsiveness in the bass and midrange. No contest. But I did do a blinded test of all 3 amps on the same speakers and the Sherwood came out victorious.

    I think I will use the NAD as my headphone amp, mostly because of how sweetly it plays vocals.
     
  12. highend64

    highend64 Active Member

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    415
    Location:
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    THis the actual NAD 3020 I had. Mine had the PS caps in the center.
    [​IMG]
     
  13. slimecity

    slimecity Super Member

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    1,556
    Location:
    New Zealand
    The biggest issue to me with NAD is good circuit design however very cheap parts, especially caps. If a recap hasnt been done then it probably should be, with quality caps.
     
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  14. ev13wt

    ev13wt Super Member

    I have never heard either amp, but could it be that the Sherwood has some sort of "sound field expanding" slight "magic" going on and the NAD is actually "closer to the source"?
     
  15. filmis

    filmis Member

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    79
    Are there 2 or 4 caps?
     
  16. NAD80

    NAD80 Super Member

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    Wonder how the NAD would compare to the Sherwood if it had a recap/restoration upgrade done? AKA Leesonic treatment.
     
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  17. filmis

    filmis Member

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    79
    I don't know, but I don't think so
    I recapped it recently with Nichicon and ELAN caps because it buzzed (and the buzzing was fixed after recapping).
     
  18. NAD80

    NAD80 Super Member

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    1,150
    Location:
    Carlisle PA
    Leesonic would replace the small Ecaps (10ufd and below) with film caps (Wima). Beef up the power supply among other upgrades. Would have to check his restoration threads. What was buzzing?
     
  19. highend64

    highend64 Active Member

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    415
    Location:
    Central CA
    I believe mine had two PS caps but not really sure.
     
  20. filmis

    filmis Member

    Messages:
    79
    I've seen the threads, I admire the effort, but I'll pass on such labor for the time being, especially since I don't know if I'll hear an appreciable difference.

    EDIT: And I was curious about what made the buzz, so I replaced the caps one by one (or in matching value pairs) and would turn it on. The culprit ended up being, if I remember correctly, one of the 330uF caps. I think I left some of the caps in the phono stage since at that time I wasn't planning on using that. It was real tricky, the board really is cheaply made, and often the solder pads would lift. I would just push them back down and hope for the best (and no issues so far).
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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