NAD 6300: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

NAD or New Acoustic Dimension started in 70s as a result of Dr. Martin Borish effort to make low cost but high audio quality amplifiers and other HiFi components. I don’t want to waste Your time bubbling about 3020 amplifier and other stuff, since any living audio being on the Earth could tell You this. Anyway, nowadays NAD is owned by Canadians (The Lenbrook Group) and makes some good and some less good equipment, which I had pleasure to test during my previous engagement for the audio magazine. Times change quickly and even NAD doesn’t always spend the money where it counts – on the inside but for several reasons on hard aluminium panels, housing etc. I must admit that I am not convinced they ever did this – my opinion is that they didn’t make things mechanically cheap and with design two thousand years old just to make it better inside. They just wanted to have reputation as the positive bad guys of HiFi arena and to save more money for stake holders. Easy and effective.

Now let’s talk about NAD 6300. I hadn’t any other NAD deck before, so I can’t comment it. But I know that 6300 was their only three head deck which, of course, doesn’t by default make it the best of all NAD cassette tape machines. On the other side, 6300 is the best of all NADs according to Internet rumors. And there is more, much more.

This deck is made in Japan. NAD made very few things out of Taiwan and China, to keep the costs down. So, NAD 6300 is actually made by Japanese OEM company. All my efforts while trying to recognize which one actually made it didn’t bring any success. NAD 6300 is arguably one of the ugliest decks I have ever seen. It is so ugly that it becomes beautiful once you get used to it. It has small depth, it is painted in boring grey colour with no shine or nice finish. It looks  almost professional in some way and so Communist Russian in the other.

There are no frills, sentences on the front panel that should make anybody confident of buying such a deck. No Japanese marketing and design tricks. Thin red letters say “Monitor cassette deck”, so this should mean it is not an ordinary quality piece of equipment. There are also Dolby, HX Pro and Dyneq words on the front. Wait a minute! Dyneq? Shouldn’t this be only on Tandberg decks? And HX Pro? Shouldn’t it do the same thing as Dyneq? Or not?

Well NAD 6300 was the first deck (and the last one  as long as I recall) to incorporate BOTH systems at the same time. HX Pro was invented by Dolby Labs but redesigned by Bang&Olufsen. Dyneq is Tandberg’s trademark. In few words both are supposed to deal with high frequency materials, allowing better tape saturation and dynamic range with transitients and keeping out distortion as far as possible. Both do this during recording process but HX Pro does by varying bias and Dyneq by dynamic changes in recording equalization circuit. So NAD 6300 doubles efforts both in recording current (bias) and recording equalization circuits. In the practice, if well implemented and adjusted, NAD 6300 should be able to get every possible dB of dynamic from any tape, great details on high frequencies etc.

Peak meters are consisted of twelve LEDs per channel and have been made to be visible in two colours: green up to +1 dB and orange starting from +3 dB. Meters are extremely fast, one of the fastest I have seen, but unfortunately they don’t have peak hold function which would be a great addition and help.

Transport commands are pretty user friendly, with distinctive Rec and Play buttons, other are just the same with no prints on them, but are easy to use. Starting a recording activates red LED and that is it, no other LED that will tell You which function has been activated. There is also a so called “CAR” function, aimed at recording cassette tapes for use in the car stereos these days… As I understand, it should add some kind of loudness to the recording, changing tone right after it alters inputs, so result could be heard even if not recording, just monitoring the input. Unfortunately I couldn’t hear any difference and spectral analyzer on my computer didn’t find any changes, I guess on my NAD this is not working well.

Dolby B and C systems activate two different colour LEDs on the top of the deck, far away from the switches. I don’t like this. Tape type is manually adjusted and can be differentiated only by the switch position. Monitor switch is a little one, and very hard to tell if You are monitoring tape or source… You have to learn which position means what. The main record level knob is so ugly that it reminds me more of some kitchen cookware than one used on cassette deck. It has simple dot-type labeling, no linear numbers, dBs etc. Inside is another knob, used for recording balance. Despite it’s ugliness it  works excellent.

The quality of knobs and switches on 6300 is top notch. Tactile feel is excellent, like on Sansui, Technics, Pioneer, Sony etc. high quality receivers from the age of monster receivers wars.

There is one addition to standard set of commands: play trim button. This works easy, like delicate treble tone control, changing characteristics of equalization circuit during reproduction. It is intended to boost or lower the level of high frequency sounds in the case music has been recorded on another deck and lacks or has too much of this. User can also use it to the certain extent in the case there is an azimuth misalignment between two machines but play trim is not intended and can’t be effective replacement to auto azimuth system. Play trim is well implemented control: it changes the sound very gently, and is pretty usable if you have many old tapes recorded on some poor machine but would like to keep them and listen to them for sentimental reasons.

Counter is LED based four digit type. It has two modes: digital and time counter, the latter working only during recording and playback. The user should know that it it using time counter by two dots in the middle of display. i.e. 1:00 means one minute and zero seconds and 100 means one hundred on the counter. It is clever implementation, but on my deck two dots dividers turn off after some time, for no reason – probably a software problem within counter microcontroller circuit.

NAD 6300 has so small depth that it looks like Nakamichi BX300 or many Technics decks from 80’s. Remove the cover and You will see that it has a several printed circuit boards, but everything is pretty well laid out. Bias circuit can be adjusted for each channel and every type of tape, which is very good. There are also other trimmers for similar functions (not record sensivity, I am afraid) but I can’t comment on them since I couldn’t get my hands on service manual and the PCB is not labeled in such a way that it explains which trimmer does what.

Under the hood is partially screened transport. While Japanese companies would yell that it is a double capstan, three motor direct drive drive, NAD doesn’t say a word about this. But the truth is that it carries one of the most popular transports in high class audio decks, made by Sankyo. Additionally it is newer version and has gears instead of idler. Only two belts, that is all, this Sankyo transport is very solid and durable. The same is used on Teac V7000 and Nakamichi CR4, for instance. So, NAD 6300 REALLY looks much better inside than outside. There are also a few relays, one of them covering output instead of standard bipolar transistors. Nice touch.

The sound of NAD 6300 is the one of the high class cassette deck. So ugly machine with beautiful music reproduction, it reminds me of Nakamichi BX300.

Crystal clear presentation with good soundstage is something you could notice in the moment. NAD 6300 doesn’t add much of it’s own character, it remains pretty natural to the original recording. Micro details reproduction is also very good, with decent level of transparency often seen in this class of HiFi decks. Comparing it to much cheaper and well known Pioneer CT-959 and JVC TD-V1050 which both had 1.200 DEM list price, I must admit that I like micro details retrieval even better on TD-V1050 (without HX Pro). But what makes 6300 different from the crowd is beautiful timing during reproduction of music, and great level of rhythm – NAD 6300 doesn’t sound “just” like a cassette deck, it sounds like a high class audio equipment even if you could find better “detail champions” in it’s price class. Combination of HX Pro and Dyneq works well, with no obvious impact on high frequency details which happens so often on other cassette decks while recording using HX Pro. The general character of sound is pretty on natural side, slightly remaining of B215 but without this level of 3D soundstage and transparency B215 has. Anyway, Revox B215 cost almost twice comparing to NAD 6300. In general, 6300 is very good cassette deck: beautiful inside, with small number of options. User friendliness should have been better, with oscillator aided calibration and peak hold metering but I can live without it. Sound is somewhat specific: beautifully shaped and with good character and body, but would not be to everyone’s taste.

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