NAD PP-3 Digital Phono Preamplifier (Review)

The Resurgence of Vinyl Records

NAD PP-3 Phono Preamp.

Vinyl records have seen a resurgence among diehard audiophiles and, surprisingly, with those who grew up in the iPod generation. I suppose a vinyl record is an oddity to the under-20 generation. Vinyl's comeback has also launched the introduction of several LP to Digital turntables, which converts a turntable's analog output to a digital bitstream, making it possible to archive a vinyl collection on compact disc.

I thought it was such a cool idea that I bought one. The turntable even came with computer software to remove clicks and pops and edit tracks once the record was digitized.

The NAD PP-3 Digital Phono Preamp

After purchasing the LP to digital turntable, I thought it would be a better idea if I could use my existing high-end turntable, a Thorens TD-125 MK II with its classic Rabco SL-8E linear tracking tonearm and moving coil cartridge. All I needed was an analog-to-digital converter and a way to get the analog signal into my computer for editing and burning a CD. When I read that NAD offered the PP-3 Digital Phono/USB Preamp, I immediately ordered a review sample to try it out.

NAD Electronics is a widely respected name in consumer electronics and has been making midline and high-end stereo and home theater components for many years.

The NAD PP-3 combines a phono preamp with an analog-to-digital converter with a USB output to connect to a PC.

The PP-3 comes with PC-compatible VinylStudio Lite software for converting records (and tapes) to WAV or MP3 files. MP3 files take less disc space and are compatible with portable music players, but include lossy compression. WAV files offer the best sound quality (closest to CD) and can be used with other editing software (Audacity, CoolEdit or Adobe Audition), which is not included with VinylStudio Lite.

Multi-Purpose Features

The NAD PP-3 has two phono inputs, one for a moving magnet phono cartridge, one for a moving coil cartridge. It also has an analog line-in for connection to a tape deck or other analog audio device. Outputs include an analog line-out and a USB output for connection to a computer.

The PP-3 is multi-purpose: It can be used to digitize records, add phono capability to a component that doesn't have a phono input (there are many) or to upgrade the phono section of an existing stereo or home theater component.

It has an external power supply to minimize noise and comes with a USB cable for connection to a computer.

Performance Review

I pulled out my best vinyl to test the NAD PP-3, including my LP of Linda Ronstadt's "What's New," an outstanding recording with great detail and dynamic range. The PP-3 sounded excellent with my Denon DL-103 high output moving coil cartridge. It produced precise center channel imaging and all the delicate details I'm used to hearing in this recording.

Another favorite is "One Night in Paris" recorded by 10cc, a 1970's band. This recording has extraordinary detail and good separation and the NAD PP-3 sounded great!

Compared to LP to digital turntables, a distinct advantage of the NAD phono preamp is the ability to use your own turntable and cartridge.

In addition to converting analog recordings to digital, it's also a good way to upgrade the phono preamp in your existing components.

Specifications

  • Input sensitivity MM 0.35mV, MC 5mV
  • Signal/Noise ratio (A-weighted w/ cartridge) MM 78dB A wtd., MC 76 dB A wtd.
  • RIAA response accuracy: MM, MC +/- 0.3 dB 50Hz-20k
  • Dimensions (W×H×D) 5.3" x 1.38" x 2.75”