NAD C388, connecting my headphone amp

rimbaud65

Novice Member
nad_c388bluos2_r.jpg
Just purchased the mentioned amp from NAD and after setting it up I'm real pleased until I was going to hook up my dedicated headphone amp to the system. It used to be Tape out from my previous amp to the headphone amp's line in, but how to hook this up? I will appreciate any help with this! I just can't imagine that NAD isn't allowing people to connect their headphone amp's, so I must be missing something very fundamental in terms of connecting things here. Could I for instance connect from Line in on the NAD amp to the Line out on the headphone amp? I just want to complete setting this up today.
 
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Steven

Senior Moderator
Welcome to the forum. I cannot see any analogue outputs to output the dac to an external amplifier and google says this unit has a built in headphone output. So it seems to be designed as an all in one device primarily for home cinema speakers with the headphone port offered as a convenient feature.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
The NAD has been designed with it's own headphone section and it seems there is no other way to connect a standalone headphone amp. NAD are obviously happy with the quality of their headphone output. This seems to be the consensus of the replies you've received in your previous thread.

However, you've not mentioned what headphone amp you have. Some, like my Lehmann Linear, can be used as a pre-amp and be connected by line in to the NAD.
 

rimbaud65

Novice Member
Thanks for replying. After a day or two this has been sorted out and there is actually a way to connect. You can connect from pre out on your NAD to line in on your dedicated amp, but then also go in and turn off speaker A on the menu system. I will compare the headphone amp inside the NAD with my other amps later on, so we will se how good it is.
 

ChefCombo

Novice Member
New poster here. Hello!

So happy to see this topic. Shopping for headphones and wondering if my C388 dedicated headphone amp is any good. I’d love to know what your comparison was like to a separate amp.

What kind of headphones are being used? I’m considering a pair with high impedance (Senn HD600) or not (AKG K712). There’s virtually no reviews on the quality of the headphone amp, so any info to reference would be sincerely appreciated.
 

rimbaud65

Novice Member
New poster here. Hello!

What kind of headphones are being used? I’m considering a pair with high impedance (Senn HD600) or not (AKG K712).

Actually very similar headphones, in fact I have a pair of Sennheiser HD600 and a pair of AKG K701. Have a headphone amp for each headphone, Musical fidelity X-Can V3 for HD600 and Heed Canamp for K701, which is carefully chosen to get the most out of them, hopefully. My initial impression, and from what I've read, this NAD amp indeed give you a better sound for headphones than is usually found. For myself I think I will continue to drive my Sennheisers with my X-Can but I'm looking forward to some EQ-changes for my AKGs with this NAD option, just for comparison with my Canamp, and thus add some bass to the earphones. AKG is wonderful, I use them primarily for classical and jazz, but they could in fact use more bass. AKG K712 will have more bass by the way, but some reviewers complain they're still lacking. AKG give you a alot of detail, is like you're hearing everything in the music and if you're into classical and jazz I would go for it. If you have a more allround taste, or like music with punch I would definitley go with the Sennheisers. Hope this helps!
 

rimbaud65

Novice Member
New poster here. Hello!

So happy to see this topic. Shopping for headphones and wondering if my C388 dedicated headphone amp is any good.

Have a question for you, too. Liked C388 right out of the box and was instantly pleased. My KEF Reference 203/2 really started to sing right away! So the question is, is there a burn in period for this amp? Did you notice any improvement after a week or two, after 100 hours, 200 hours?
 

ChefCombo

Novice Member
Thank you for the info rimbaud65! I’ve read 100’s of HD600/650 and K712 reviews trying to figure out which I’d prefer. I listen to a lot of jazz, indie, classic/new soul and some classical (HD600’s, right?). But I LOVE detail, and enjoy feeling like I can hear every nuance and breath of a vocalist or subtle guitar work (K712?). I also play games occasionally (K712). Reviews make the Senns sound like a cant-miss for music, but the AKGs seem to fit my needs. Great to read about a similar situation with the C388, an I’m curious how it sounds powering the HD600’s when you have the time.

I really like the C388 as well. I didn’t notice a break in period - it’s doing what it did when I first fired it up, which is powering my B&W CS9s with ease and sounding great. But I was hoping it might open up after a while - I could use more midrange as vocals seem recessed. But that could be my speakers/turntable cartridge/tube preamp setup...
 

rimbaud65

Novice Member
Thank you for the info rimbaud65! I’ve read 100’s of HD600/650 and K712 reviews trying to figure out which I’d prefer. I listen to a lot of jazz, indie, classic/new soul and some classical (HD600’s, right?). But I LOVE detail, and enjoy feeling like I can hear every nuance and breath of a vocalist or subtle guitar work (K712?). I also play games occasionally (K712). Reviews make the Senns sound like a cant-miss for music, but the AKGs seem to fit my needs. Great to read about a similar situation with the C388, an I’m curious how it sounds powering the HD600’s when you have the time.

I really like the C388 as well. I didn’t notice a break in period - it’s doing what it did when I first fired it up, which is powering my B&W CS9s with ease and sounding great. But I was hoping it might open up after a while - I could use more midrange as vocals seem recessed. But that could be my speakers/turntable cartridge/tube preamp setup...
Like I said, I would recommend AKG for classicial and jazz. HD600 are extremely neutral and is often used as reference when testing other headphones. They're really great and to my ears they have substantial bass even though the HD650 added more bass. However, if you're leaning towards the AKG you certainly have your sight on a nice pair of headphones. If you find them too lean in the bass region you can probably adjust your NAD amp by adding more bass. They should be great for you. And yes, I will get back when I have had time to listen to the HD600 directly through the NAD amp. As of now I have had only 30 minutes or so listening to this C388, so it's still very early for me to say pretty much anything. Only that I was very pleased plugging in it and what I heard right away. It was a very clear improvement compared to the previous one.
 
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rimbaud65

Novice Member
Thanks but I don't need your counsel to state mine on the subject.
Yes sir, I hear you. Capacitors might need some time to go for 100%. But I agree, this whole field is a bit tricky and lots of impressions given are most likely psychological in nature. It's like a TV setting, yesterday it was so perfect in colour but today it's not the same. What happened? Having said all this I think most people would say there is a bit of time to get an amp to its full potential.
 

ChefCombo

Novice Member
Bumping this thread. Rimbaud65: did you have a chance to test the headphone amp on the C388? Wondering how it handles the HD600!
 

ChefCombo

Novice Member
Thanks for replying. After a day or two this has been sorted out and there is actually a way to connect. You can connect from pre out on your NAD to line in on your dedicated amp, but then also go in and turn off speaker A on the menu system. I will compare the headphone amp inside the NAD with my other amps later on, so we will se how good it is.

I am also now interested in connecting a headphone amp to the c388. How did you get the instructions you describe? I can’t find anything out there - NAD makes it really difficult to figure out.

Does that mean you’re shutting down your speakers every time you want to use headphones? I figured you could just turn down the volume, but that makes sense.

Also, we never found out how your headphones sound on the built in amp! I actually called NAD today and they wouldn’t tell me what the power output was, so it’s safe to assume it’s not strong. But I’m still curious to know before buying a set of cans.
 

rimbaud65

Novice Member
Bumping this thread. Rimbaud65: did you have a chance to test the headphone amp on the C388? Wondering how it handles the HD600!
Sorry, I haven't really have time to make an extensive listening. Just when I
I am also now interested in connecting a headphone amp to the c388. How did you get the instructions you describe? I can’t find anything out there - NAD makes it really difficult to figure out.

Does that mean you’re shutting down your speakers every time you want to use headphones? I figured you could just turn down the volume, but that makes sense.

Also, we never found out how your headphones sound on the built in amp! I actually called NAD today and they wouldn’t tell me what the power output was, so it’s safe to assume it’s not strong. But I’m still curious to know before buying a set of cans.
Sorry to say I haven't had time really to fully test the NAD amp for headphones, so I'll have to get back to you on that as far as a review. Having said that, I did plug my Sennheisers in and you do get volume and I would in fact think that it is fine enough, but compared to a dedicated amp with high quality it's another story. I can definitely say Sennheisers wants tube amps, so if you are to buy I would higly recommend a tube amp of some sort.

When you connect as I've described from pre out on the Nad to line in on you headphone amp it will work but the volume is integrated so you can increase and decrease volume on both your headphone amp and on your NAD. When I plugged it in I couldn't turn down the volume on the NAD because that will give no sound to the headphones, even though I had my dedicated amp turned up fully. Hence I got confused. On the menu system you have several options, increase bass and what not and you can also go in and turn off speaker A, which will turn the speakers off. Then you'll just turn them on again. It's a simple thing.
 
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ChefCombo

Novice Member
Wanted to revisit this thread with my own experience, if only to assist any other NAD C388 owners looking for information on this topic.

I can attest to rimbaud65's advice of plugging a headphone amp into the preout and disengaging "Speakers A" prior to using. But I noticed that I had to turn up the C388 as high as 65% to get a quality signal to the amp (I'm using a JDS Labs Atom amp), and then turn up the Atom relatively high, unless I engaged the additional gain. It just seemed like a lot of power just to run a pair of headphones.

So I called JDS Labs and they told me that the V output of the C388 preout was unusually low (0.5V). But the headphone output was at a preferable 2V. They actually recommended running the line out from the headphone jack to the Atom amp. I tried this, and although it made a slight difference in how high I was turning up the C388, it didn't justify having to run a cable out the front of the C388 every time I wanted to use headphones. A long story short to say I settled on using the C388 preout and additional gain on the Atom to achieve my preferred sound.

It needs to be mentioned how exceptional the customer service was at JDS Labs. They responded to by email within an hour or so, and had clearly investigated the C388 to give me solid advice. Highly recommend their business.

I am now demo-ing a pair of HD650 and HE-400i and both sound great with this setup.
 

rimbaud65

Novice Member
Thanks for additional information on this. HD 600 is 300 ohm so it takes some power to drive, but it was strange though to hear how unusually low (0,5V) the C388 preout is since that is the only reasonable way to connect headphones, unless you run them directly out of the headphone jack. However, I will not say this is much of a problem. Just turn up the amps a little bit more and you will get enough volume for your music. I am saying all this for one reason, and one reason alone, that I don't want anyone hesitating bying the NAD C388 because of this headphone discussion. NAD C388 is a splendid amp. Haven't had as splendid before.

You will get a very high quality sound from quality speakes, as in my case the KEF Reference 203/2. And you will be able to connect headphones, either by the pre out or directly out of the jacket.

As a sidenote of not much importance perhaps, I would prefer HD 600 before the HD 650. They are more natural sounding.
 

ChefCombo

Novice Member
Agreed. The NAD C388 is a great integrated amp. It is powering a pair of B&W CM9 S2's and does so very well. Great sound. And now that I know how to utilize a headphone amp via the preout I would recommend it even more.

Enjoy listening!
 

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