I was looking for a preamp that would handle all of my A/V toys but would also allow me to listen to music and enjoy it without compromise. I ended up getting this baby with the expectation that I could enjoy it given the reviews. I was rather hestitant to spend the money but I didn't want to have two systems in my place and no room for a bed.
I was never disappointed. I listened to preamp processors at friends homes before and since. Regardsless of their credentials, they always chewed up detail in the music- sucked the life out of great songs or recordings.
This is the only one (in my limited price range) that created a soundstage not just music reproduction. It also reproduced bass better than all the ones I heard and kept the treble clear and transparent.
They don't make these anymore but if they kept it up who knows where they could be by now.
First I would like to qualify myself as somewhat of finatical listener. I have many buds in Dallas that own high-end stereo shops and have heard quite a lot of good sound. To name a few, Meridian, Sonic Frontiers,Anthem, OCM, and much other audiophile grade components. I consider B&K,Parasound,Rotel and others to be in a sub-audiophile class than the aformentioned products. I've spoiled my ears and to be honest I did not hear a rig for home theatre that sounds better than my anologue rig for cds that cost less than 20k including cables and wire.
However, when my CA-1 and PA-1 arrived from ubid, brand new in box. I was anxious to set it up and get rid of the consumer Sony STRS or somthing like that the Nak not harsh,nuances in classical could be destinguished like my super rig and this was all played on a Toshiba DVD player. I did finally swap the CA-1 with my Forte' and listened to it comming out of the Thiels and my killer EVS DAC and was more detailed than my Forte'. I also switch out my Musical Design Amp with the PA-1 and liked the punch of the Musical Design primarily due to the bigger caps in the Amp itself.
I don't own the CA-1 but was a shopper when it his the planet. Mike in the 1st article, seems to be selling something else. This unit came out in 94, added DTS in 96 and is one of the best musical pre amps/all in one, if not the combo on the planet, for it's year. It was out of production, 2 years before the 5800 came out, thus Mike is making this all up. He couldn't consider and say something like that when that is 1k and 7 year old technology for 1` grand ,and compare it too just under 2 years invented, 2800 more, and talk about them reletively. I hate get on and trash. If I didn't have a Lexicon MC-1, I was going to buy that unit. I say that moving from a Denon 5600 which is great, but the Nak is true on music like a bat from Hell, and I have a SACD so old DAC's can kiss my butt at 24 bit/192 khz. I am sorry to tell the truth about MIke but dealers do this allot and is gives me a southern hive, or a vertical itch if you know what I mean. The best feature about this unit is the absolute tie to Db most say it, but Nak is the only that does it, that I have seen, my lexicon, denon, Onkyo,Sony didn't. It is also fast with pin point stop on changing the volume, all analogue, ala Levinson. If you get one of these, I am considering for my bedroom, find the matching 100 watt amp, trust me. 100 X 5, harmonic time alignment is not Stasis,but it matches this Pre perfect, last clue, match that with Canton speakers, and you own perfect audio Symbiosis. Now I am competing with the smart one's, but the best 3 way match I have ever heard, 2 places, 2 different systems and Reels, 6 different artists each time, my standard, and the same effect, 2nd is either the B&W 801 Naut with the McIntosh 600 X 2 /4 ohms or the Krell dual class A with the Thiel, get it guys. The former is allot cheaper.
I borrowed the unit for a week. The unit was used (in perfect shape) and had the DTS upgrade. I think the model year is 1996, but it could be 1997.
Overall, the CA-1 ranks near the top of the AV processors I've auditioned, delivering a clean, neutral signature, which, to my ear, sounds accurate. The Anthem AVM-2 has a warm bias, but is very smooth; the Parasound had an annoying digital whine (I thought they solved this?) and sounded thin; the Denon sounds great, but has 7 channels of amplification that I wouldn't use, so it's very expensive (ca. $4500 CAN) to use just as a pre/pro.
[Denon, please make a pre/pro version of the AVR-5800. It would sell nicely for $3000 - $3500 CAN. YES, there is a market!]
Much of my listening is 2-channel stereo, so reproduction of music is an important concern. The CA-1 delivers decent 2-channel sound via the analog CD inputs. There is no unexpected mid-bass bloom/warmth (as from the Anthem AVM-2, for instance). I did find the DACs to be a little weak, however, and noticed the aforementioned loss of the first half second or so of tracks from CDs when using the digital input. This was not observed via the analog inputs.
Bass management is showing its age, with no flexibility in crossover frequency. It is not possible to configure large speakers and use the sub.
For Home Theatre, the sound stage is somewhat front biased, but satisfying nevertheless. Unfortunately, the CA-1 produces an annoying *pop* when scrolling through chapers on a DVD, navigating the menu, etc. I hope I haven't damaged my speakers!
Build quality is very good. The remote is typical old school, with row upon row of identically sized, tiny rectangular buttons. Layout of remote is OK, not fantastic.
I intend to audition an Bryston SP-1 and will likely decide between the Nakamichi, the Bryston and the Anthem AVM-2.
I have had this for a little over three months now. This unit is obviously out of date, but it has DTS and is a very good A/V and stereo preamp. I am running this with a Carver sunfire amp. I was worried that the two would not sound good togther, but they do. My speakers leave much to be desired. I have a 1000W infinity sub and ARS8 mains, a BIC center, and Klipsch surrounds. Sounds like ubid? You got it. All speakers for a little over $1500. I have to admit the speakers do not quite sound right together and I hope someday to match with a better brand, but I do have plenty of sub and plenty of clean power and signal to drive everything, so it still sounds pretty good. On top of that this preamp lets one fine tune the gain to each speaker to perfect soundstaging. Like they say, start with the basics and move up.