iPod Docks in General – an overview:
IPod docks come in many flavours. They can look ugly, pretty, or even pretty ugly. Most of them sound bad, and some are really downright atrocious yet pricey (especially the ones from a company that sound does not matter). There are exceptions, of course, albeit less than a handful. This flock can actually be considered to be amazing sounding. However, thus far, regardless how pleasing they sound, all of them have been far from accurate. What I mean to say is that although these select few can sound very pleasing to the ears, none of them are nearly accurate enough to be used in studios or any other occasion where accuracy is key. Furthermore, from my personal experience working in recording studios for over a decade, for studio use, a digital input is a must. This is so the sound engineer can listen to his (or her) mix on the dock fed directly from the mixing board to check the sound quality on a secondary or even on tertiary mix for compatibility. The ability to connect the mixing board digital output to a secondary monitoring system saves a lot of time and money. This is because the sound engineer no longer has to waste valuable studio time (starting at around $200 per hour) to convert the sound output to wave file then convert it further to MP3 just to test on a secondary or tertiary system. For a single album, the time wasted to do multiple passes to convert the raw file to two-channel wave file then turn it into MP3 can easily cost four hours (translation: a minimum of $800 in studio time)
Enter NAD Viso 1 wireless digital music system. The first iPod dock I’m aware of that’s not only a docking station but also a studio monitoring unit with optical digital input equipped with built-in 35-bit / 844 kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter that accepts up to 24-bit / 96 kHz linear PCM signal, perfect not only for audiophiles but for audio professionals alike.
Being an iPod dock, this unit bears “Made for iPod” certification which means full compatibility with specified iPods of the past present and future thanks to the USB port for software / firmware upgrades; an essential feature in this ever-changing iPod world.
Furthermore, music from iPod is transferred in digital domain bypassing all analogue circuitry and use the 35 bit/844 kHz internal DAC instead, or if wireless is more your cup-of-tea, the Viso 1 also employs Bluetooth aptX wireless high fidelity receiver which works with any Bluetooth device. This integrated Bluetooth aptX wireless high fidelity reception (a much improved protocol over Bluetooth’s A2DP protocol) allows any Bluetooth enabled device (including the “old” A2DP Bluetooth protocol) to seamlessly integrate with the NAD VISO 1. This allows wireless integration of the iTouch, iPhone and iPad, as well as Android and Windows-based smartphones and tablets (even the often left-out BlackBerry!). Literally any handheld device can stream music to NAD VISO 1 for great convenience.
The output stage of the Viso 1 is quite impressive too. The speakers are of Paul Barton’s (the “P” and “B” of PSB, my studio speakers of choice since 1994) design with 2x 2.75” full range drivers with black anodized aluminum dome equipped with focused neodymium magnet system and one dual-coil with symmetrical magnetic drive 5.75” subwoofer driven in bi-amplification mode with 2x 15W plus another 50W for the subwoofer alone with only 0.005% THD. Not only the specifications are fit for audiophile, it goes a big step further which caters to studio professionals such as mixing engineers. The 33 Hz – 28 kHz claimed frequency response is no means feat for something as tiny as 19” wide and about 10” tall.
The measured real-life frequency response is no slouch at all. Running a frequency sweep measured using a Real Time Analyzer with microphone located from about six feet away (regular listening distance in a mixing room) shows a very flat frequency response going all the way down to 35 Hz with only +/- 2 dB variance. The Viso 1’s real-life frequency response is virtually ruler flat. The flattest yet coming out of all iPod docks I’ve ever tested regardless of price.
The use of NAD Direct Digital amplifier derived from NAD’s $6,000 Master Series M2 Direct Digital Amplifier eliminates all analogue circuitry which in return resulting in a measurably very accurate sound reproduction possible while offering very high efficiency and low power consumption.
What do I think about the Viso 1? Other than the fact that its USB input can only be used for firmware upgrade, the Viso 1 is impressive. Not in the regular “I think it sounds amazing” type of thing, but in the sense that it’s transparent. You put good sounding recording in, you get that back in return. You put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out with zero colouration.
I’m sorry, Greg Stidsen (Director of Technology and Product Planning of NAD), I have to disagree with your statement of “The best sounding smart music system in the world” for the NAD Viso 1. There is no accounting for taste, but accuracy? I give it 10/10 mark for accuracy, and since The NAD Viso1 being the most psychoacoustically accurate iPod dock I’ve ever reviewed to date, I’m willing to say that mastering studios around the world should be using the NAD Viso1 instead the airship-looking dock as the compatibility-mastering unit.
Very impressive indeed.