iPod docks are an odd beast. Intensely compromised by size, price and “convenience,” they often barely succeed in the simple goal of adding music to a space. Regularly, designers limited by financial or other constraints, produce flaccid boxes of wretched noise.
Inside NAD’S VISO 1 are two 2.75-inch full range drivers, with aluminum dome/cones and a single 5.75-inch woofer.Within this desolate realm of over-marketed commodities, there are a handful of products that rise above. Far above, in fact, offering surprisingly good sound out of a small package. So what if, then, a dock emerged from an audiophile’s dream triumvirate of a storied electronics company, a highly respected speaker company and a legendary speaker designer? Could such a golden child offer something in the space that even the best of the others have not? We shall see.
The VISO 1 by NAD draws from the speaker design knowledge of PSB speakers and its founder, Paul Barton. Inside are two 2.75-inch full range drivers, with aluminum dome/cones and a single 5.75-inch woofer. Some serious engineering went into these, and they are not the typical under-built chaff you’d find in most iPod docks. The full-range drivers, for example, are cones, but with a dome center. NAD claims that this “provides enough cone area to extend response down to 180 Hz, yet the dome allows excellent high-frequency dispersion and extension to 28 kHz.” Each is powered by neodymium magnets. The woofer, with a sizeable 1.25-inch voice coil, has a claimed -6 dB point at 33 Hz. This is lower than many subwoofers.
NAD’s expertise is here as well. The all-digital design (from iPod to drivers) uses the same technology in NAD’s high-end M2 amp. Each of the three drivers has its own amp, 50 watts for the woofer, and 15 watts each for the two full-range drivers. Of course, this is all just what NAD claims. The proof is in the woofin’.
My first track was Alison Krauss and Union Station’s “Let Me Touch You for a While” from their New Favorite album. My initial impression was: What magic is this? The bass was impressively deep, but not only that, had a fullness and timber that many subwoofers don’t have. Instead of amorphous low sounds, I could identify the instruments making the notes. For such a small box (and with such a small driver inside) this is impressive. The acoustic and pedal steel guitars were detailed and well balanced, with no forward edge or brittleness oft found in this category. Perhaps overall it wasn’t quite as open as I’ve heard…from traditional speakers. That’s the comparison, “real” speakers. While I’m (un)fairly comparing the VISO 1 to larger speakers, it doesn’t have much in the way of stereo separation. Then again, what do you expect from something the size of a pillow?
NAD’S VISO 1, which is available in black or white, has a well-balanced and accurate sound with deep, controlled bass that puts “regular” speakers to shame.Changing genres a lot, my next selection was “Midnight City” from M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming album. The myriad electronic layers can compress to mush on many small systems. Not so here, as the VISO 1 reproduced strong bass, great definition, and no harshness in the treble. However, I couldn’t get this track, or any track, particularly loud. It seems the VISO 1 is made for sound quality instead of sound quantity. In most rooms it will be fine, but it won’t shake your walls.
Last up was Julia Nunes “Stay Awake” from her excellent Settle Down album. The eclectic mix of instruments, from the deep cello, bass drum, and her dark alto, to the energetic and delicate ukulele, all blended perfectly and sounded fantastic on the VISO 1.
Though the VISO 1’s most obvious use is as a tabletop dock, it’s inherent sound quality opens up other uses. One possibility is as a soundbar for a TV. Connect via optical cable and never force your TV’s speakers awfulness on your ears again. A wall mount is also available, complete with a little shelf to pair the VISO 1 with an Apple TV. Now you have full access to your iTunes library, through the NAD’s excellent speakers, anywhere you want. A component output on the back of the VISO 1 can even send SD videos from your iPod back to a TV.
The VISO 1 is a testament to what is possible when there’s a desire to create a great sounding product, and it’s backed up by quality materials and know-how. The VISO 1 has a well-balanced and accurate sound with deep, controlled bass that puts “regular” speakers to shame. Seriously, surprisingly, awesome.
Superlative sound quality that belies its size and category
• MS RP: $600
• Frequency Response: 33 Hz to 28 kHz (-6 db, claimed), 50 Hz to 20 K (±1 dB, claimed)
• iPod/touch/iPhone compatible, plus Bluetooth and Optical
• Digital audio transmission from iPod/iPhone to DAC
• Direct Digital DAC/ Amplifier – 35 bit/844 kHz, 0.005 percent THD (claimed)
• 80 watts (sub) + 15 watts (left/right each)
• 2.75-inch full range aluminum dome/cone drivers (2), 5.75-in subwoofer