NAD VISO 1 iPod Speaker/Sound Bar Manufacturer's Comments and Questions for InnerFidelity Readers

Editor's Note - After publishing Steve Guttenberg's recent review of the VISO 1 I got an email from Mark Stone, Lenbrook America's Marketing Manager, expressing his concern that Steve didn't quite "get" the product. Oddly enough, Steve had called me prior to the review saying he wasn't completely comfortable doing the review. I must say, I wasn't very comfortable doing the review of the Arcam rCube, a similar sort of product. InnerFidelity is all about audio products that don't go in the listening or home theater room, so the VISO 1 is exactly the type of product that needs reviewing in these pages.

I think I'm a little confused, and could use the input of InnerFidelity readers, but first, let's hear what NAD has to say.

Manufacturers Comments on the NAD VISO 1
NAD would like to thank Inner Fidelity and Steve Guttenberg for the very thorough and positive review of our NAD VISO 1 Wireless Digital Music System. I know that is a mouthful, but the VISO 1 is really a new category of product. It is the first time that a high end speaker company and a high end amplifier company have integrated their design and engineering teams to create an all-in-one product that meets some very lofty performance goals. It uses our latest and best high end audio technology but puts it in a form that is WAY friendlier than even a modest component system. And true, you lose some flexibility in this comparison, but you gain simplicity, space, and yes, performance.

By integrating speaker and amplifier design from the start we were able to optimize ALL parameters of the design. This means that for a given size and budget, we were able to get more of everything: higher maximum SPL, lower distortion, deeper bass response and smoother response both on and off axis. And I mean a lot more. Of course Steve honed in on the one inherent weakness of any all-in-one design; stereo imaging. But a lot of audiophiles (myself included) bought “The Beatles in Mono” and raved about the sound quality – and for a good reason. Good mono sounds better than bad stereo. The sound from a VISO 1 may not be wide, but it is big and deep!

We don’t expect audiophiles to downsize to a VISO 1, but they may have an office, exercise room, vacation home, or some other space where accurate and lifelike sound from a compact system would be perfect. And I bet they have lots of spouses, relatives, friends and neighbors who would NEVER EVER in a million years own a component hi-fi system because it is too complex, too confusing and too big to manage (but they love music!). And what about all those sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, Millennials and Digital Natives who have all their music on a smart phone and want to multi-task and listen to music? We believe that some percentage of these kids will become audiophiles, and just like 30 years ago, their first real hi-fi product will be a NAD.

Greg Stidsen
Director, Technology and Product Planning
NAD Electronics

Editor's Note: I don't think I've developed a well structured set of values for this type of gear and would love a little feedback. For instance: when is a clock radio cool, and worthy of review in an audio enthusiast publication? Apart from the home theater and listening room, what kind of audio gadgets do you have around the house, how do you control them? Steve Guttenberg wrote recently that listening to 5.1 surround for movies on two channel systems is perfectly legit, could a similar argument for essentially mono audio be made for casual listening at home? Are the kinds of products needed by audiophiles around the home different for folks who are not audiophiles but who value quality when they get to experience it? Greg Stidson claims the VISO 1 is "a new category of product," is it really? I could make the argument that, other than some cool features and good sound, it's just a fancy boombox. On the other hand, once you add the wireless connectivity, the user experience does change significantly --- I know that controlling my Slim devices from my iPad has made my old Squeezeboxes infinitely more useful. At some point advancing feature sets do dramatically change the product.

I think we're going to be seeing a lot more products like the VISO 1. For example, I found the new line of AirPlay enabled Philips Fidelio products quite cool when I saw them at CES. The problem is Im not sure if "quite cool" actually translates into something worth the money. I've heard the Zeppelin is B&W's most profitable product; just like with headphones, we're likely to see a product pile-on in speaker-based personal audio products.

So help me, dear reader, what's valuable with these products? How should their worth be evaluated on InnerFidelity?

I'll close with this NAD video on the VISO 1 as it further tries to explain how this product is different from other things out there.

COMMENTS
jherbert's picture

No WiFi? No way to integrate into my networked home by DLNA? Nada Airplay? Come on. My Squeezebox Boom does better than this. Cannot say anything about the sound, but connectivity sucks on this one.

I use several Squeezeboxes controlled by the families i-Devices running the ipeng app. And I believe the future looks more like that than a standalone device with integrated ipod dock and a bluetooth transceiver.

Innovation in the field comes from companies outside of consumer electronics.

mward's picture

I'm interested in reading reviews of speaker docks and other "boombox-style" speakers if there's something particularly new and interesting about them or if they present a particularly good value. If I had a room that prohibited a traditional stereo setup, I could be in the market for one such an item. As it is, I have people ask me for recommendations for this style of speaker, and since I can't always steer them to "roll their own" with a small integrated amp (lots of cool stuff in that space right now) and some passive speakers, or some active monitor-style speakers, it's good to know what's good in this category.

With respect to this particular product, the combined design prowess of NAD and PSB is potentially very interesting. But it's not entirely clear from the review what's new and different here. Steve mentions the lineage of NAD's M2, but Steve's description doesn't explain whether it's different from existing products that take digital signals from an iPod and process them via an internal DAC. If there's no difference, the Viso is not very interesting. But if the Viso 1 really does use the cool digital domain amplification of the M2, that's interesting. Likewise for the speaker design—all that's there is info on driver size, but nothing about how (or whether) PSB did anything unique or interesting here.

Interesting is one element; there's also the question of value. It was also difficult to get a bead on how good of a value this is compared to other docks. Steve drew some comparisons to the B&W Zeppelin, but comparisons with more details and more models, preferrably side-by-side, would be great.

On the other hand, clearly this is not a "new kind of product". It's a speaker dock—even calling it a "sound bar" is giving it credit it doesn't deserve. But I think there's plenty of room on this site for covering just about anything that makes for a good listening experience but isn't quite a traditional stereo component—cool little amps, DACs, and sources, speaker docks and portable speakers, headphones and headphone accessories, etc. all make sense if they're a good value or have some novelty. But be sure to tell us exactly what makes it worthy of being on this site.

P.S. For the Viso 1, at this price, I'd hope to see AirPlay compatibility... At this level, Bluetooth just doesn't cut it.

jhonmarvi6's picture

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firebook23's picture

I would definitely say that there is room on this site for this type of product review. You just have to figure out a standard. I would suggest as others have as well, to compare the units to others in the same space. Also why not do a few measurements.

I do find this type of product very useful as I only have one Hi-Fi and many other places in my house where I want to listen to my tunes. I can take it to my office, the kitchen and the garage when I am working on my car. Also I can take it on holiday (I rent a condo in HH -SC).

As steve rightly said in his review you can get a better sound out of a set of good speakers and amp, You could even get them from NAD and PSB under the cost of this unit. But I don't think that's the point of these products.

I would also agree that I would like to see at least DLNA on this type of product. But as for airplay ill just add an airport express for the same functionality. People forget that apple charges manufactures their left nut to add airplay to their units. By the time distributor and dealers add there % that airplay device in the unit costs way more then a airport express. Bluetooth on this type of product does make some sense if you ever want to take it outside your home network. and besides anyone who has set up a Zeppelin on airplay can tell you that it is not worth the hassle (it took me 2 hrs! and I am no slouch in the tech department)

So to some up. Yes continue with these types of product, most have a use for them and the rest know somebody that does not want a hi-fi but wants good quality semi-portable sound.

Keep up the good work

Pablo's picture

This type of product doesn't interest me and I don't think it interest most of this community. The only application I see in it's just to carry on vacation to use on a hotel or something but honestly I would prefer just an ipod/headphone solution

Like you said for that price we can get better sound with standard monitors and for those looking for an ipodspeaker like that one, certainly aren't looking for something as expensive and there are already several products like that in the market.

I would like to see desktop speakers here though.
I might be wrong though and Nad might be into something, we will see.

flatmap's picture

As mentioned, there are settings such as exercise rooms, dance rehearsals, choir practice, summer cabins, and such where this could be used.

The key for me is that it shows strong utility to its function and has excellent sound quality within its parameters.

And mono is great, so long as the sound is superior.

Greg_Stidsen's picture

Thanks to everyone for their comments and opinions. Several points are made that reflect exactly the same decisions we at NAD had to make when designing and developing the NAD VISO 1. As you know, there are many different wireless technologies available, and each one has its pluses and minuses. We chose aptX Bluetooth for the NAD VISO 1 because we thought it was the best fit for this application. Bluetooth has evolved quickly since its introduction, going from mono to stereo, adding the AAC codec and now to aptX which is a true high fidelity lossless codec. Not only has the sound quality of Bluetooth markedly improved, but the reliability and ease of pairing have advanced dramatically, too. Bluetooth is also nearly universal, so whether you have an iPhone, an Android, a Blackberry or even a laptop or tablet, they all have Bluetooth and more and more feature aptX. The ability to walk up to the NAD VISO 1 and be paired and playing music wirelessly from your smart phone in less than a minute is a really cool feature.

Some of you have questioned our claim that this is a category buster. While your skepticism is well respected, that might change when you actually hear the NAD VISO 1 with a well recorded WAV file playing from your iPod! Sure, it is a box with speakers and an amplifier, so in that sense it is like a lot of other products. But this is a custom developed amplifier using Masters Series technology, with custom developed speaker drivers acoustically engineered by Paul Barton in the same lab with the same measurement tools and musical knowledge he applies to all his PSB Speakers. But beyond that, he was able to fine tune this design with the DSP power of the NAD Direct Digital amplifier to get a result that he could never achieve just using passive crossovers. The performance is way beyond what we thought was possible in many areas: frequency extension, smoothness and flatness of response, distortion, noise, digital linearity and dynamic range, damping factor, maximum SPL are all class leading and beyond the ability of quite a few high end separates. If you are interested in the full development story find it here:

http://nadelectronics.com/download.php?111117082411-NAD_VISO1_White-Pape...|White Paper- NAD VISO 1 Wireless Digital Music System

-Greg Stidsen, NAD

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I really appreciate you putting you viewpoint out there.

I haven't had a chance to respond to the comments here, yet, but I look forward to it.

Thanks for putting your thoughts into the mix.

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The Monkey's picture
Tyll, I think you raise good questions. I also think there's real value in reviewing these types of products. If these products are well executed, they have the potential to bring a high quality, musically satisfying experience to lots of people for relatively low costs. Audiophiles lament (in error) the popularity of the iPod and headphone listening and these types of one-speaker setups. We should embrace them. Heavy hitters like NAD and B&W have seen the light. By focusing on bringing such products to the "masses" (and understanding certain design compromises must be made), I think we are encouraging the development of new audio enthusiasts and the opening up of the hobby. And that's a good thing. And if the product sucks, well it's important to state that, too. Also, I happen to love NAD gear and it's good to see that their participation in this article/thread.
firebook23's picture

The Monkey,

I totally agree with your comments! Audiophiles are constantly lamenting the ipod and what it stands for. We always complain about how we are an endangered species and that our favorite Hifi shops are closing.

Why not embrace this type of product. Because it and others like it show just how good music can sound. After buying a VISO 1 I am sure some of the non-audiophiles will be convinced to get into the hobby and upgrade to a more "Steve Guttenberg" approved system.

Audiophiles should be Screaming from the rooftops about these types of products. Not comparing them to their crusty $$$$$ tube amplifiers and Turntables. That is a sure way to make the audiophile an extinct species. This is not a product for current audiophiles but it is a gateway drug that will hook some people on this wonderful hobby. Invest in the future of the hobby and recommend one today!

firebook23's picture

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