Media Servers

NAD VISO 1 AP AirPlay Music System

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The NAD VISO 1 AP AirPlay Music System In Use

Since this essentially a portable component, I wanted to listen to it in a variety of environments. Not only did I spend some time in my acoustically treated theater, I also used it in a large living room/kitchen space, and my small office.

Right off the bat I noticed that placement, especially in relation to nearby objects, does make an audible difference. You'll want as much space around the VISO as possible because anything reflective (like the side of bookcase for instance) that is in its front hemisphere will affect the sound. I first set it up on a table in the corner of my office. This made it sound a little boxed in until I pulled it out to the table's edge. If you can put the VISO two to three feet out from the corner, you'll be fine.

Once I had it free to do its thing, I was rewarded with a nice open and airy sound; and it can play plenty loud. My office is pretty small at nine by eleven feet and the VISO didn't break a sweat. Even in this restrictive space, it displayed tremendous dynamic range with classical music. I listened to an old but wonderful recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring that pounded away with its primitive driving rhythms and huge moments of brass and percussion. The opening bassoon solo had a singing quality that I particularly enjoyed. My compliments to Sherman Walt, one of the greatest bassoonists of the twentieth century, and an instructor of mine during my college days.

I followed that with another legend, Jascha Heifetz and his awe-inspiring performance of Brahms' Violin Concerto. This recording, especially the sublime second movement, never fails to bring a tear to my eye. It was in this recording that I noticed a little directionality to the VISO's high register. The violin sound seemed a little less sparkly until I got my ears closer to the unit's centerline. Like any audiophile-quality speaker, the tweeters sound best when they're at ear-level. No matter what the height though, the airiness was always there. Bear in mind, I listened at fairly high volume levels.

Moving to my dedicated listening space, I had a very different experience. With the VISO on a small stand front and center, the soundstage became much larger. While you won't mistake it for a pair of full range towers placed eight feet apart, it certainly sounds much wider than its physical presence would suggest. Since it was completely free of obstruction, the tweeters became much more forgiving of the listener's position. Aside from a tiny bit lobing to the sides, I noticed very little change in sound as I walked around the room.

Another thing that becomes apparent in a well-treating space is the difference in quality between various recordings. If you use the VISO in a room like this, you will notice whether your music is compressed or not. The majority of my iTunes library is in Apple Lossless format but a few rips snuck through at 256 kbps. I could tell which ones they were instantly. They sounded muddy and poorly detailed, especially as the music became more complex. Since most users will stream music from their iPods with the VISO, I highly recommend using a lossless format for best results. This is not meant to be a negative comment at all. On the contrary; it cements the VISO's status as an audiophile-grade component.

I listened to a few tracks of Foo Fighters In Your Honor and quickly realized this was one of my compressed tracks. In fact, I immediately returned to my computer to re-rip the CD! It just didn't sound good past mid-volume. I knew right then that the VISO was a sonically-neutral product, just as any serious component should be. Things improved greatly when I pulled up my Van Halen remaster. Now we're talkin'! Eddie sounded fantastic as he soared and shredded his way through some of the best Eighties hard rock ever written. The detail was fabulous and that nice airy sound was back. Hearing individual pick attacks and ALL of the reverb in the vocals made the recording sound more like a live arena concert than a studio album.

I finished up with Mahler's Symphony No. 5 from the San Francisco Symphony's Grammy-winning SACD of 2006. I never tire of this amazing performance recorded live over multiple concerts. Here the VISO impressed me with good bass extension and a very wide soundstage. The timpani solo midway through the first movement was especially tasty as I could hear every pitch clear as day. Many lesser sound systems can't resolve that low-end detail at all.

Believe it or not, my favorite listening experience was in the kitchen! My main living area and kitchen are open to each other so the overall space is quite large. The VISO really hit its stride here. Even at moderate volume levels, I could hear tremendous transparency in everything I played from rock and metal, to classical symphonies and chamber music. I expect most people will use the VISO in this way and it's obvious the designers thought so too. It really is the best way to enjoy it.