When you first see NAD’s VISO 1 ($600), you might be inclined to dismiss it as “yet another iPod speaker.” This would be understandable, since the VISO 1 does indeed provide a readily visible and very nicely executed iPod dock. But the fact is that the VISO 1 is, by design, much more than a garden-variety iPod speaker: in fact, it just might be the most capable and best-sounding one-box audio system ever devised. In this review, we’ll look more deeply at the VISO 1 to understand exactly what it is and can do.
For starters, the VISO 1 is a sleek, medium-large, single-box audio system that provides three audio inputs: an iPod dock (positioned front and center), an aptX Bluetooth interface (which gives “hi-fi” grade wireless connectivity for a wide range of Apple and Android smartphones, tablets, etc.), and a 96/24-capable optical S/PDIF input (which means the VISO 1 can connect to flat panel TVs or to Apple TV interfaces). So, take it as a given that the VISO 1 is pretty versatile, thanks especially to the aptX Bluetooth interface.
But it’s only when you look inside the VISO 1 that you begin to realize how special the product is. First, it helps to know that while branded as an NAD product, the VISO 1 represents a collaborative design effort between NAD and its sister company PSB Speakers. Trust us on this one: Speaker guru Paul Barton’s design thumbprints can be seen and heard all over the VISO 1. In fact, the ever-humble Mr. Barton told me with a shy grin that, “believe it or not, we’ve got the VISO 1 to a point where it delivers flat frequency response from 50Hz on up to 20kHz, ± 1 dB” (which would be an impressive feat for any loudspeaker, let alone a compact one-box system).
What NAD brings to the party is the overall concept for the VISO 1, plus audio electronics know-how and plenty of it. Accordingly, the VISO 1 uses the same sophisticated, proprietary class D amplifier module found in NAD’s $6000 flagship Masters Series M2 Direct Digital Amplifier (though the big amp uses several modules, where the VISO 1 uses just one). NAD’s class D amplifier module is a multichannel device used to provide separate amplification channels for the VISO’s two full-range drive units and woofer driver. But the class D amp module also serves to provide digital crossover functions and to apply driver-specific, DSP-driven, EQ curves to further smooth and fine tune frequency response curves. While the VISO 1 may look simple from the outside, the fact is that it is extremely sophisticated on the inside, which helps explain why NAD confidently describes this product as “the best sounding smart music system in the world. Period.”
VISO 1 Speaker System
• Two x 2.75-inch full-range drivers with aluminum dome/cone diaphragms and what NAD describes as a “dual magnetic drive” system. NAD doesn’t say whether the dome is partially decoupled from the cone or not, but this may be, since an NAD white paper on the VISO 1 refers to the dome as allowing “excellent high frequency dispersion and extension to 28kHz.
• One x 5.75 mid/bass driver (which NAD terms a “Subwoofer”) with “symmetrical magnetic drive.”
• Claimed frequency response is 33Hz – 28kHz (-6dB) Anechoic, 50Hz – 20kHz (± 1dB) Anechoic—where both figures represent performance benchmarks for a one-box music system of this type (actually, the figures would represent excellent performance for almost any type of speaker system, regardless of size or price).
VISO 1 Amplification System
• Powered by proprietary NAD Direct Digital DAC/Amplifier module.
• Amplifier module uses class D technology and provides 35-bit resolution with a switching frequency of 844kHz, with 0.005% THD.
• The amplifier module provides:
o Two x 15 Wpc amplifiers, one to power each of the 2.75-inch full-range drivers, as above.
o One x 80-watt amplifier that powers the 5.75-inch woofer, as above.
• The amplifier module also serves as a vehicle to implement the following features/functions:
o Steep, phase correct digital crossovers between the “Subwoofer” and full-range drivers.
o DSP-controlled EQ curves for fine-tuning driver response curves.
o User-selectable Near Field listening mode (a custom EQ curve that deliberately re-shapes the system’s frequency response for Near Field or very small room listening applications).
o Digital soft clipping, which progressively “throttles” system output to prevent overdriving the system amplifiers or speaker drive units.
o A “bit-perfect digital volume control” that, please note, “does not truncate audible bits, thus maintaining full resolution of the musical signal.”