Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

It sounded simple enough. Our esteemed editor-in-chief, Jeff Fritz, asked me to contact NAD to request a review sample of their C 588 turntable ($899 USD). I did, and almost immediately, NAD rep Peter Hoagland told me he would arrange for NAD’s parent company, Lenbrook Industries, to ship me a C 588 from their HQ in Pickering, Ontario. A few days later the C 588 arrived.

202008 nad c588 case open

Description

To look at, the NAD C 588 is a beaut of a turntable. In the NAD tradition, it’s simple in appearance, sleek, and mostly black. The only bits of flash are the tonearm’s chromed finger lift and the green, translucent rim of the 0.4”-thick glass platter.

It’s also something of a brute, tipping the scales at around 20 pounds. The solidity of the plinth seems to account for most of that weight, even though it’s not too big: 17.1”W x 4.9”H x 13.4”D. On your stand, the C 588 should be steady as a rock.

Along with the dustcover, plinth, and switch-mode power supply, the shipping carton contains these accessories: a sturdy pair of phono interconnects with built-in ground wire; a tonearm counterweight; a basic stylus-pressure gauge similar to that supplied by Thorens with their TD 206 turntable; a spindle adapter for 7” singles; 1.5mm and 2.0mm Allen keys for tonearm adjustments; a plastic tool to facilitate switching the drive belt between 33⅓ and 45rpm; a paper tool for aligning a new cartridge, should you wish to replace the Ortofon 2M Red; a black felt record mat; four small metal discs (see below); and a pair of white cotton gloves to keep from marring the glass platter with fingerprints. Each of these is packaged nicely and easy to find. Also included is a single-page, pictographic Quick Start guide that I found not overly informative -- for example, it says nothing about the installation and adjustment of the counterweight, for which you need to download the C 588’s owner’s manual from NAD’s website. But the manual itself is comprehensive; with it, you’ll no doubt quickly have it up and running.

NAD

The straight tonearm has an offset headshell to take care of the tracking angle. The arm itself is a tube of carbon fiber -- it’s very light, and liable to escape your grasp if you’re not careful. It bounces easily out of its armrest, and if the cueing lever isn’t raised, could damage the stylus and any record on the platter. Still, the C 588’s arm is versatile -- you can adjust the vertical tracking force (VTF) and antiskating force, as well as the cartridge’s azimuth (to ensure that its stylus is perfectly perpendicular to the record surface) and its vertical tracking angle (VTA) -- generally, the VTA is correct when the bottom surface of the cartridge is parallel with the record surface. You need worry about azimuth and VTA only if you use a different cartridge and/or a thicker record mat.

Setup

If the level surface you want to place the C 588 on is wood, better to first find those four little metal discs and place them where the turntable’s feet will meet the supporting surface. I didn’t, and ended up scratching my hi-fi cabinet -- those feet end in sharp points. They’re great for giving the turntable a sure footing, not great for surfaces of finished wood.

The next steps are to install the metal subplatter and drive belt. The smaller belt pulley is for 33⅓rpm, the larger for 45rpm. Put on those white cotton gloves, then lower the platter atop the subplatter, and the record mat on the platter. The manual warns that if the pulley rubs against the platter, you can adjust the pulley’s height by loosening a setscrew, repositioning the pulley shaft, and retightening the setscrew.

Next: adjust VTF. NAD suggests setting up the stylus-pressure gauge, then moving the tonearm counterweight until it balances in the middle of the distance between 15 and 20mN on the cartridge-alignment tool. That should correspond to about 1.8gm. When the VTF has been set, use the larger Allen wrench to tighten the counterweight’s setscrew. That done, make certain the stylus still tracks at 1.8gm -- the counterweight can move slightly during tightening. The counterweight has a rubber gasket that prevents it from slipping. The good news is that, once the counterweight has been set properly, it shouldn’t move. The bad news is that it’s not easy to accurately set the counterweight to the proper VTF. This step took at least half the total setup time. If you buy from a bricks-and-mortar store, ask if they’ll set the counterweight for you.

NAD

Adjust the antiskating control on the outside of the arm’s gimbal mounting to a setting -- this control is marked in grams -- that corresponds to the VTF.

Connect the far-better-than-the-norm phono cables to the turntable and your phono stage, preamplifier, integrated amplifier, or receiver. (I wish I could use these with my Dual turntable, but its phono cable is hard-wired.)

The heavy-duty dustcover fits over two posts that rise at the back of the plinth’s top deck. Slip the holes in the cover over these and you’re set. NAD doesn’t say whether it’s better to play records with the dustcover raised or lowered.

Finally, connect the wall-wart power supply to the jack on the turntable’s small rear panel and then to AC power. This supply comes with interchangeable plugs that should satisfy your needs no matter where in the world you are. It automatically adjusts to whatever AC voltage it’s fed.

Operation

The C 588 is a turntable designed for purists: Its operation is entirely manual, and couldn’t be much simpler. The power switch is hidden under the plinth’s left front corner. Switch it on, and the platter begins to spin at the speed determined by the pulley the drive belt is looped around: 33⅓ or 45rpm.

Though it’s not as easy as using the 33⅓/Off/45 platter-speed controls found on many turntables, changing the C 588’s speed is a breeze once you’re used to the drill. Don the gloves, remove the record mat and platter, and shift the drive belt from one pulley to the other. To do this, NAD includes a plastic tool that looks like a miniature pizza paddle: Hold it by the big, paddle end, and use the little end to hook the cable and move it from pulley to pulley. Very simple, and rather neat. It worked well for me. Then replace platter and mat.

NAD

To play an LP, position the headshell over the record’s lead-in groove, and use the damped cueing lever to lower the stylus to the disc. At the end of the side, use the cueing lever to lift the arm off the record, then swing the arm back to its rest. Turn off the platter. Done.

The C 588 does not include a phono preamp stage to bring its output up to line level. Keep that in mind if your electronics date from the 1990s or early ’00s, when most lacked a Phono input. If that describes yours, you’ll need to buy a phono stage to insert between the C 588 and your electronics.

Ortofon 2M Red cartridge

Ortofon -- they say their name “is derived from the Greek orto = correct, and fon = sound” -- has been in business since 1918 and has produced phono cartridges since 1948, when they invented the moving-coil cartridge. They now claim to be the world’s biggest maker of cartridges, with annual unit sales in excess of 500,000. The 2M Red is the entry-level model of the 2M line, which forms the bulk of Ortofon’s moving-magnet production. It’s generally well thought of by users and reviewers alike.

My past experience with the 2M Red was with a Fluance turntable I had for review (superseded by my review of the Fluance RT85/Ortofon 2M Blue). At the time, I thought the 2M Red sounded quite decent, if a bit undisciplined. The 2M Blue produced a better sound.

Ortofon

In the NAD C 588, the 2M Red told a whole ’nother story. Yes, I’m sure a 2M Blue, at more than twice the 2M Red’s price when bought separately, would sound fabulous in the C 588 -- but I’m not sure it’s needed.

Listening

After breaking in the Ortofon 2M Red’s stylus and cantilever by playing a half-dozen album sides, I was in a rockin’ party mood. I began with “September,” from The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol.1 (LP, ARC/Columbia PC 35647). The recording lacks the bass prominence this music really deserves, but the C 588 and Ortofon 2M Red dug out what was there with outstanding rhythm and pace. The attacks and releases of transients -- and there are a lot of them, from drums, trumpet blasts, etc. -- were well-nigh perfect: incredibly crisp. Voices and instruments were well distributed across the soundstage, especially the trumpets.

I slowed things down a bit for a more masterfully produced cut: “You’re No Good,” from Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel (LP, Capitol ST-11138). Ronstadt’s voice stood out nicely from her backing band, and Andrew Gold’s guitar solo cut like a knife. The strings at the end, which begin softly and gradually build in volume, stood the hairs on the back of my neck on end, as happens with few turntable-cartridge combos. And Ronstadt’s voice, which through some record players can shatter glass, was nicely controlled yet urgent throughout.

NAD

Played through the right system, “Money for Nothing,” from Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms (two 45rpm LPs, Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 2-441) can be another hair curler. In this track’s intro, a drummer with the world’s longest arms is apparently playing a 16-foot-wide drum kit, and wow -- did it sound great through the C 588: sharp responses, with lots of bass and drum power. And at the end, Sting’s “I want my . . . MTV” wafted ethereally from my speakers in a way I hadn’t heard before. All in all, an outstanding job of reproduction.

Two other cuts involving lots of different instruments are “Lucretia MacEvil” and “Lucretia’s Reprise,” from Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 3 (LP, Columbia KC 30090). Singer David Clayton Thomas’s screamed snippets came through powerfully. By this album, BS&T were a tight instrumental combo and that was clearly audible with the C 588 due to its perfectly reproduced soundstage. “Lucretia’s Reprise” is based on a fairly simple, four-bar, blues-based motif, punctuated by trumpet blasts that, if you don’t watch your volume, can break your lease. Those trumpets were incredibly tight, the C 588 reproducing them with absolutely no slop. It was a delight to hear.

Steve Winwood, one of the original blue-eyed soul brothers, has a mournful voice and a talent on keyboards that few can equal. The title track of his Roll With It (LP, Virgin 7 90946-1) is a soulful, get-down’n’dirty dance tune that is power from start to finish. It doesn’t hurt that he’s backed by the Memphis Horns, who played on all the major Stax/Volt recordings of the 1960s and early ’70s. Winwood’s organ, bass, and drum lines -- all played on a synthesizer -- just cook. The C 588 transmitted all this energy through my amplifiers and out my speakers with such drive that I had to get up and dance -- not a pretty sight. Turns out the C 588 was something of a party animal. I liked it.

Thinking I should offer something for readers who might not be in a party mood, I put on “Four Brothers,” from Manhattan Transfer’s Live (LP, Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs MFSL 1-022). I was slightly surprised at the general lack of bass, but, as you’ll read below, that’s this remastering’s fault, not the turntable’s. In this cut each of the four ManTran singers re-creates, with his or her voice, the line of one of the four saxophone soloists who played this Jimmy Giuffre composition in the 1947 recording by Woody Herman’s Second Herd. They sing in vocalese style, in which words (in this case by Jon Hendricks) and voice mimic the sound of the sax. This song rushes along, and it’s not always easy to make out each word. Not a problem with the C 588 and 2M Red -- each word was distinctly comprehensible. These four voices singing as one is a nice thing to hear, and the close precision of their ensemble work in this cut isn’t always audible when I play it on other turntables.

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Finally, I played “Take Five,” from the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out (LP, Columbia FC 8192). What first struck me was how completely the percussiveness of Brubeck’s piano was reproduced. The second thing was how Paul Desmond’s alto sax was at once brightly textured and smooth as silk. The transients of Joe Morello’s snare drum and cymbals were dead on, the cymbals’ overtones shimmering as they decayed. Sure, “Take Five” is a catchy tune (even if, being in 5/4, it’s hard to dance to), but for me, other aspects of this recording’s appeal are its masterful production and engineering. The combo of NAD C 588 and Ortofon 2M Red brought to the fore everything wonderful in this meeting of great music and high-quality recording.

Comparison

I returned to Manhattan Transfer’s cover of “Four Brothers” to compare the sound of the NAD C 588 and Ortofon 2M Red with that of my Dual CS-5000 turntable and Sumiko Oyster Moonstone cartridge. The NAD reproduced this cut just as it had earlier -- not much bass, distinct words, great reproduction of the vocal ensemble. I was ready right then to declare the C 588 the winner . . .

. . . but of course I had to complete the comparison. The Dual-Sumiko combo acquitted itself very nicely, if with a somewhat different sound. The bass was ever-so-slightly more prominent, but still not in the “power” setting. The Sumiko Oyster Moonstone has a slightly mellower sound than the Ortofon 2M Red, which made the words just as slightly less distinct.

As is often the case in audio comparisons, I liked both of these turntables, each for different reasons. The NAD C 588 delivered more snap, crackle, and pop; the Dual CS-5000 was a bit more sedate and mellow. It all depends on how you like your music to sound.

Conclusion

The NAD C 588 and Ortofon 2M Red MM cartridge make a fine-performing package. The turntable’s speed was dead on. It offered quiet backgrounds, and decent isolation from bumps and such. And with the caveats mentioned above, it’s relatively easy to set up.

NAD

But the proof was in the sound: lively and tight, with excellent pace and rhythm. And the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge mated with the NAD’s tonearm superbly. This purist’s turntable has none of the niceties found on many other models in its price range. It compares well with the Audio-Technica AT-LP7 turntable with VM520EB MM cartridge, which I reviewed in March 2020, but its sound is a bit more lively.

The NAD C 588 is the near-perfect turntable for those of a purist turn of mind -- those who don’t want a lot of flash and dash, but just a solid, well-designed, well-built way to play recordings of music.

. . . Thom Moon
thom@soundstagenetwork.com

NAD C 588 Turntable with Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge
Price: $899 USD.
Warranty: One year, limited.

Associated Equipment

  • Phono stage -- Simaudio Moon 110LP v2
  • Preamplifier -- Linn Majik-1P
  • Power amplifier -- NAD C 275BEE
  • Speakers -- Acoustic Energy Radiance 3, Advent ASW-1200 powered subwoofer
  • Phono cables -- Dual (captive with CS-5000 turntable), NAD (stock with C 588 turntable)
  • Interconnects -- Straight Wire
  • Speaker cables -- Acoustic Research (14-gauge), terminated with Dayton Audio banana plugs

NAD Electronics International
633 Granite Court
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3K1
Canada
Phone: (905) 831-6555
Fax: (905) 837-6357

Website: www.nadelectronics.com