Preface: After celebrating forty years in the Hi-Fi biz, NAD have a long history of producing audio-visual products that are at the forefront of what we would call ‘modern tonality’. Satisfying a broad range of clientele, until now NAD have perhaps left a deeply personal and important category of products almost unchartered; ‘humble’ headphones.
With modern consumers seeming to sit in a modern headphone ‘viva la revolution’, this range of products can make or break a company with a reputation to uphold. Taken seriously, all of the engineers at NAD will be well aware of this cold hard resonating fact, and I strongly believe that it is now time to put them out of any potential misery by declaring our love for their brand new headphones; the VISO HP50’s. They are absolutely brilliant.
For the purposes of this review we will use lossless tracks loaded into SonicStudio’s Amarra, transported via AudioQuest Forrest FireWire through into a Prism Sound Orpheus, out via a QED J2P and finally arriving in a Chord Electronics Toucan. We have also cross-examined our findings for portable use with an iPhone 5S with the standard music player against the SoundForge Equaliser App.
Above: We Love The HP50's
Unboxing and Extras: As you gawp over the luscious black packaging, the viewing window would have taunted you into submission, at which point you would be careful in opening your package. As packages go, the Viso HP50 bundle is a fairly comprehensive game show conveyor belt sort of deal, and it includes the following items; a very high quality carry case with attachable caribena for attachment to clothing or bags, a 3.5mm to dual-mono flight adapter, a 3.5mm to ¼” adapter, an oval clam like case, a standard flat profile cable, a flat-line cable with in-control for iDevices, and of course the headphones themselves.
Build Quality and Features: Beginning with something unusual, the HP50’s actually have an either/or audio input via two 3.5mm jack inputs with one on the left, and one on the right. For the user this allows them to teather another set of headphones into the mix for when enjoying music with friends. I can’t actually see this of being of much serious use in the real world at the current price that the HP50’s are marketed at, and it is one of the only things to make us umm and err. This feature is, however, saved by the cold hard fact that it actually works without sucking all the life out of the HP50’s and does not loose all the original volume. We believe that we can detect a very very slight deterioration in the bass replication, and this is to be expected due to the nature of design. For this we cannot fault NAD for being so forward thinking here; the feature works far better than we expected.
As an overview for the headphones, they are quite bulky in design but feel very nice to wear and you can feel the quality of them through their sturdiness. The only grievance is with the easily scratched black gloss plastic of the driver housing, yet NAD have thought about this by engineering it so that the cups can tilt to be flat on a tabletop. Apart from this the leather on the ear cups is a nice touch that plays well against the aluminium fixtures, although the headband is synthetic. All of this adds up to a pair of over ear headphones that are so comfortable when worn that you might as well take a sit down in your favourite armchair, pour yourselves a fine single malt, and make an evening of it because you could be there for a while. Maybe, for some small head users the HP50’s can look alien in design when worn thanks to a large form factor, but this all depends on personal preference or if you want to pick holes.
Generally everything that presents itself within the package is of such a high quality that we have seen no issues at all. As a fact, the flat-line cables that come with the HP50’s are anti-tangle by nature, and they do the job. What is striking is that NAD have not used a plastic in-line control, instead they have laughed at the competition and their accident prone nature, and instead made this critical component with a metal backing. Take it from us; it has a much nicer form than some of the other competition.
Sound Quality: At their price tag, we believe that these dynamic headphones have arguably one of the most outstanding sonic signatures to have ever hit the current market. As I write this passage I am listening to a lovely recording of Adagio In G Minor by the London Philharmonic Orchestra that features a classic pipe organ, and a full orchestra. Classical music such as this sounds so breathtaking and effortless that I find it so joyful to put these on and relax. Of course this says nothing about the sound, but when you forget that a pair of headphones are even there that is when you can appreciate real music as it is.
I strongly suspect that the boasted ‘Room Feel’ technology that NAD have reported to have been developed in one of the quietest rooms on earth, is much responsible for offering a sound that is perfectly open; like being in a room with excellent acoustic treatment and a substantial hi-fi system that is playing back a recording in a concert hall. With a ‘refined’ taste in music the HP50’s offer an experience that is hard to be matched by anything else at the retail price. It is my experience with this product over a number of weeks that has made me feel strangely passionate about how this product really presents music in the most deeply emotive of ways. By all means, at the other end of the spectrum, you can purchase ‘true’ audiophile headphones that are also absolutely brilliant, but the HP50’s feel on a different page in terms of spatial awareness. I would like to make it well aware that with the HP50’s you will not experience an overly thrown (or wide) stereo width that sounds artificial.
With thanks to a sonic signature that appears as warming, yet flat, the HP50’s work well with any genre that you can throw at them. However, when listening to spacious classical recordings they charmingly come to life.
Returning to a general overview, the bass does go low yet is not boomy or pretentious as it is more like silk; a property that shows itself right across the frequency spectrum. This is a flattering quality, especially to the apparent presence of buttery treble frequencies that are free of all harsh overtones. Likewise, the mids are there and they sound sonically in the right place. On the whole the HP50’s are very adaptable, and do respond well to the fast transients seen with electronic music genres.
Conclusion: Other than that the NAD HP50’s have superb sonic capabilities, are presented in a comfortable manner, that there overall package is comprehensive, and that the build quality is great, there is nothing else to say here. The Pro Audio Web Blog predictably awards the NAD HP50’s with a full five out of five rating.