Bill Freehorn again: I just wanted to make a small correction to one of my prior review's comments, so as not to hurt ubid or Nakamichi: The button that I thought was scratched/scraped, actually only had tape glue stuck to it. I removed the sticky stuff with my finger and it's as good as new now.
I just got the unit today from ubid with the DTS upgrade (I have some questions about how to make sure I have DTS, since the unit was upgraded and the manual doesn't mention DTS). It was an absolute steal at $509 including the DTS upgrade. It is refurbished, but other than one small button that has been scraped/scratched, the case is in brand-new condition. It must have been a return after a few days or (short term) demo. It even included both remotes, which I was worried about receiving, since the auction stated "remotes and accessories MAY be missing.
So far I love it! I would like some advice, about the best settings for delays and also speaker levels for Dolby Digital DVD playback. I like to get plenty of sound from the rear surrounds. Maybe someone can suggest some good levels.
This unit sounds great and is built so well, that I may very well keep it for 10 or more years. It is 12:15 at night, so I can't test everything without waking or disturbing my neighbor. I'll post a follow-up soon. The Dolby Digital sounds crisp, clear and powerful. It doesn't include all the DSP settings, that really aren't that useful anyway.If someone could e-mail me (email@example.com) with instructions on how to make sure DTS is installed properly and working fine, I would really appreciate it.
The value rating is based on the price I paid, although even at twice the price, it would still be a good value in my opinion.
This amp is solid, puts forth beautiful sound in Prologic mode; I'm still waiting for my digitial cable to arrive, and I have high hopes for digital reproduction. However, I'm not blown away with analog music reproduction; it's a step up from the old Sony, to be sure, but not what I expected from a component of this caliber. I am driving 8 ohms into 4 ohm speakers, so that probably has something to do with it. It's less than a week old, so I'll keep playing and tweaking, and probably post another review in a month or two.
Value rating is based on my price ($700 with the DTS upgrade, which is normally $600 alone, through Ubid.com).
time for a little review... I haven't truly tested all the ins and outs, but since I've had the unit for some weeks now, I can give a pretty good, accurate review of its capabilities. in a nutshell: it's great. easily worth the ~$950 I paid for it. here's how the individual sections breakdown:
the preamp section is awesome. very clear, clean, and seems to throw a great big soundstage. my previous preamp was a CJ PV10A, a tube preamp, and this Nak may well throw out a bigger (better?) one. it's worth the money just as an A/V preamp, without a doubt.
for the first week or so, I only used it as a preamp, since I have 4' bi-wired cables, AQ Sterling, which made using the built-in amps quite a hassle. anyway, finally got around to testing the amps as well, with some bi-wired Kimber 8TC cable. in a nutshell: not bad. seems pretty similar to my Marantz MA-22 mono-blocks. I can't tell you specifically what the difference was, but overall, I felt the Marantz/AQ setup was superior. maybe more punch, slam, energy... definitely better cymbals (treble) from the AQ wire versus the Kimber. granted, the Marantz/AQ setup should be better as the retail on that setup dwarfs the Nak amp by quite a good deal: ~$4200 with cables versus ~$1000 or so for the 5 channel Nak amp. since I already have the more expensive stuff, I can get the (slight) sonic benefits. however, there is no doubt the Nak amp holds its own, and easily wins the "value" rating. recently, I've been using the Nak amp with the AQ cables, after a little speaker rearrangement, and can say that although I haven't really done any critical listening with this setup, the Nak amp compares very well with the Marantz mono-blocks, once the speaker cable is the same.
the DACs are top quality also. compared to my Wadia 12 DAC, a separate $1500 piece of equipment, the Nak DAC is very comparable, again likely winning the "value" judgment hands down. my Wadia has a much greater output level, 4V versus the normal 2V of most analog equipment, so that needs to be taken into account as the output level changes the dynamics. once that is factored in, the Nak and Wadia do seem quite similar. I suppose the Nak's newness helps here as digital seems to get better and cheaper year by year. the Wadia 12 is unchanged since its intro in 94 (I think), whereas the Nak was first made in 97/98 (correct?). since I still have the Wadia, for now at least, I use it instead of the Nak DAC, but assuming I sell the Wadia, I likely won't complain much in soley using the Nak as my decoder. I haven't separately compared the AC3 decoding of the Nak to that of my Toshiba 3109 dvd player, as I am sure the Nak is at least equal, if not far superior to the decoder in the dvd player.
oh yeah, the remote: excellent piece and very, very convenient. my only gripe is that the buttons are all similar, but since the remote is very easily programmed and customized with a little experimentation, it is a very welcome addition to my A/V setup. it controls my TV, CD, DVD, VCR, and of course, the Nak IA-1z itself. awesome!
problems: no subwoofer level test-tone and no composite to S-VHS switching. the lack of a subwoofer level test-tone is quite annoying as it is very difficult to accurately setup a sub without one. the lack of composite to S-VHS switching is an annoyance, as I run all my video sources through the Nak, but it's not really a problem as my TV has enough A/V ins and outs to compensate.
note: all this testing/reviewing is only 2 channel (stereo) mode. considering that the Nak IA-1z is a multi-channel, AC3 unit, that is merely icing on the cake.
in conclusion: the Nak is an excellent integrated A/V amp. individually, the unit breaks down very well against some high quality competition. taken as a whole, it is a great piece of equipment that must surely rank as one of the better buys in audio today. the A/V digital preamp qualities are at least equal to anything I've compared, including a $2500 B&K Ref20. factor in the included 5 channel amp, and it's a genuine bargain at or near its MSRP of ~$3200; considering the $950 I paid, it's a down-right steal... I haven't decided what to do with my Marantz mono-blocks and Wadia DAC, but considering that I can probably sell them for a good bit more than I paid for the Nak, this is likely the finest audio purchase I've yet made. in an audio purist sense, it's not really an upgrade, thus the 4 overall rating, but in a practical/value/convenience sense, it most certainly is. great purchase!
The build is sturdy. Runs cool (no fan.) Trouble free operation since out of the box. Sounds very clean and natural, even at high volume. It is versatile in system configurations. The 5.1 AC3 mode adds a different dimension to music listening. It performs well in the home theater setup, but powered sub(s) will be needed if you like heart pounding sound effects. This unit cannot automatically sense and switch between AC3 and stereo. This can be a little inconvenient when you program the DVD player to play multiple disks (maybe including CDs) and they have different sound formats. As is, this unit is a good value. If you want DTS, Nakamichi will charge you 600 bucks for the upgrade.