As with most areas of technology, audio continues to see genuine innovation, and the products on the market exhibit real-world improvement as a result.
Yet in spite of all the promises, there still remains no substitute — in terms of outright acoustic performance — for a whacking great stereo system. Or, at least, that was what I thought before trying the NAD VISO 1 AP…
But before we get to the sound, let’s tease you a bit with some design.
The VISO 1 is not what I would describe as traditionally beautiful. In fact I can’t make up my mind as to whether I’m attracted or not — I like the fact that everything is curved, but equally, it has a touch of spaceship about it. Ugly? Definitely not. Pretty? It’s unusual enough to divide opinion.
However, the fat-Zeppelin shape is quite popular among speaker designers nowadays (good for sound?), and NAD have gone along with it here, with the only exception being the large protruding front handle-cum-control panel. In practical terms, it’s not the kind of shape that’s designed to be crammed into a student bedsit, although at 26cm x 48cm x 30cm, the VISO is compact enough to warrant its place in any audiophile’s one-bed residence.
The materials used on the exterior are nice rather than plush, with a pleasant soft mesh covering the speakers, a frosted kind of polished metal for the handle and smooth, light-grey plastic everywhere else. Critically, though, they look the part.
The design also works well in practice. That front loop is equipped with capacitive controls, so there’s no plasticky clicking involved with things like volume adjustment, although due to the offset positioning of the loop, it makes for somewhat unbalanced carrying — and carrying is eminently possible, given that the VISO weighs in at 6kg.
At the back, all the ports are arranged in a neat little vertical row along the metal loop’s tail end, and a bracket for optional wall mounting can also be found here.
The part of the VISO you’ll be seeing the most of, the remote control, is also nicely constructed — again, it doesn’t have the wow of an Apple remote, but it does feel somewhat premium.
Connectivity and Setup
NAD doesn’t actually make that many speakers. In fact, their speciality is music vaults, designed to hold and stream music for major sound setups.
As such, it’s not surprising that they’ve included a plentiful supply of connectivity in the VISO 1 AP. Alongside the usual Bluetooth and line-in, the VISO has Wi-Fi (the AP stands for AirPlay), an optical input socket for connecting to DVRs, Blu-ray players and the like, and a USB port that will charge any suitable device plugged into it.
But, to be honest, these are all irrelevant in comparison with how the VISO sounds. I mean, I try to avoid fanboyism at all costs…but seriously…
It’s impossible, really, to dissect the VISO’s sound into definable highs, mids and lows, because the sound it kicks out — even from low quality streams — has the broad, rich body of a live gig. This illusion is further enforced by a heavyweight bass that you can feel, as well as hear, even at fairly low volumes. It makes a thumping track like Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer a thrilling, physical experience.
But the NAD has a deft touch, too. This is opitimised when listening to classic jazz — you can hear every finger-plucked bass string and every brushstroke on drum skin.
This is made all the more amazing when you consider the VISO 1 AP’s configuration. Somehow, a couple of 7cm drivers and a 15cm sub-woofer are kicking out sound that skilfully impersonates the punch and ambience of the original, recorded performance. It’s loud too — this thing can pump out a house-shaking volume, with a combined audio output of 80w.
If you’ve only ever tried smallish, cheapish speakers, it’s very difficult to describe the VISO 1 to you in words. It’s a bit like trying to describe the feel of a live gig to someone who has only ever experienced MP3s. Or, to put it another way, even the stalwarts of your music collection suddenly sound fresh and new.
But just to reassure you that I haven’t gone overly gooey-eyed, I’ll point out the VISO 1 AP’s downsides. Firstly, it’s quite expensive, even though NAD reduced the price last year to £399. It will also not be to everyone’s taste style-wise, and it has an annoying habit of constantly blinking its blue indicator light the whole time it’s connected via Bluetooth.
To return to what really matters, though: have you heard this thing yet?