An external Digital-to-Analog converter with Burr-Brown chips, wireless connectivity, support for high resolution files and, above all, a more than reasonable price. This should be interesting, right?
In addition to the more expensive D / A converters – D 1050, Masters M51 and the latest C 510 – NAD hasn´t forgotten to also offer a more affordable option to these devices. However, the approach is somewhat different from the competition as even the previous version, the DAC 1, offered wireless signal transmission, although the supported resolution was limited to 48 kHz and 16 bit. But as times changes and technology advances, the new DAC 2 accepts 96 kHz / 24 bit signals.
In The Footsteps of Its Forebear
With a width of 5.3 and a height of only 1.38 inches, the NAD DAC 2 is very compact and is actually smaller than it looks in the pictures. The packaging is simple, but good, and the small D / A converter comes in a box printed in color.
In addition to the converter you get an external power supply and adapters for use in different countries (US / EU / UK / AU), the wireless transmitter, a short USB-A / mini cable and a RCA cable of cheaper quality - in short, everything required to set up and use the DAC 2 immediately after unpacking it. An instruction manual is not included, but as the DAC 2 is extremely easy to install and use it´s not really an issue, and guidelines for connecting it can be found on the back of the box.
It´s probably hard to come up with a particularly attractive design on a device of this size, and it seems that NAD didn´t make any effort on improving the aesthetics. The previous and new model are practically identical in appearance, the only visual difference is the model name. DAC 2 is built in the form of a cuboid, without any embellishment and is finished in a standard dark gray and the boxy appearance is softened by the rounded edges. In addition to the NAD logo and the model name on the front panel is a LED that show different colors depending the current status of the device.
There´s a lot more going on at the back, and in addition to the power connector it includes RCA analog and coaxial digital outputs, and a switch to change the frequency (channel) at which the wireless signal is transmitted. The interior of the small DAC is fully filled with a printed circuit board, and the wireless signal receiver is mounted on the base and with additional shielding. For the digital-to-analog conversion a popular and very capable Cirrus Logic CS4398 chip is used, which supports 192 kHz / 24-bit and DSD, but the wireless transmission limits the DAC 2 to a resolution of up to 96 kilohertz. The digital output is handled by a Burr-Brown DIT4096, which functions as a S / PDIF transmitter, and the amplifiers in the analog part are the Texas Instruments N5532 and LM393.
The second part of this combination is the wireless transmitter, which is in its second generation in this set up, with a discreetly integrated pedestal. The design is mirroring the main unit with its graphite gray color, rounded edges and LED on the front panel. Due to the small size, the back is only large enough to accommodate a Mini-USB port to connect to your computer and a switch to change the frequency of the wireless transmission.
In terms of technical solutions, the biggest improvement over the previous generation is represented by the support for signals with a resolution of up to 96 kHz and 24 bits. In addition, NAD emphasizes the application of Burr-Brown op-amps and conversion circuits, but we never managed to find the exact model number of the converter - it is only stated that it is 192 kHz / 24 Bit. The wireless transmission takes place at frequencies of 2.4, 5.2 and 5.8 gigahertz, and you can access the three channels by using the manual switch.
Look Ma, No Wires!
Given that this is a device with wireless transmission of signals, DAC 2 is one of the simplest to set up and one of the easiest to use of all the wireless gadgets we´ve had the opportunity to test. All you really need to do is to connect the transmitter with a USB cable to your computer and connect the receiver/DAC to your audio system using either the analog or digital output (or both). And connect the power adapter, of course.
As long as you select the same channel on both devices, the transmitter and DAC will automatically detected each other and set up a wireless connection and the LEDs confirm this by changing color from red to blue. After that you just need to select the NAD as the default audio output on the computer or media player and start enjoying the music.
Sound Quality & Listening Experience
In terms of sound quality we never noticed any negative effects of the wireless transmission and playback quality is stable and consistent. One thing we noticed during the test was how 'analog' the NAD sounded, which is a nice departure compared to some manufacturers of digital devices. The character is far from sharp and sterile, but this also means that a certain amount of detail is sacrificed, probably deliberately, in favor of a more organic and fluid approach. DAC 2 plays music in a relaxed and unforced manner and the tonal character is soft and pleasant enough for very long listening session without causing any signs of listening fatigue whatsoever.
The dynamics are very good, and the energy and atmosphere of a live musical piece is faithfully recreated. The soundstage is not particularly big, but the instruments are very precisely positioned, and NAD gives the impression of having an accurate tonal reproduction. On the other hand, the sound always retains a touch of refinement and restraint, and may not be the right choice for audiophiles who prefer a more direct, aggressive and raw sound character. This is also a disadvantage when playing 96 kHz / 24 bit files, as the occasional lack of detail and resolution makes high resolution recordings sound a bit less amazing.
As with most devices from NAD, especially in the affordable price range, the strength of the DAC 2 is the beautiful midrange. It is rich, subtle and full of life, and can have an almost hypnotic effect on the audience. We have several times during our test found ourselves in pure enjoyment of the music and almost completely forgot to listen critically, which has to be one of the most positive and best compliments an audio device can get.
The upper and lower frequencies have, most of the time, the same characteristics as the midrange, which means velvet tones and subtle details. Because of this, the highest tones may occasionally lack that last ounce of directness and detail, while the bass could do with a bit more verve and alertness. However, keep in mind that this is a D / A converter that cost no more than a modest 249 dollars, and that price includes a wireless signal transmission. Therefore, all of these weaknesses should be taken with a large grain of salt. In the given price range it will be hard to find a DAC with better sound quality and ease-of-use, and even if you find one we doubt it will be wireless.
Ask, and Ye Shall Receive
Speaking of wireless, it should be noted that NAD declares a maximum range of 40 meters (~130 feet) without obstacles, which in practice should be enough coverage for an average living space - we have checked the connection from another room, through one wall, and it was no problem. Also, the presence of other wireless devices did not cause any interference or break-up, and DAC 2 worked perfectly stable throughout the whole test without the need for changing the frequency of the transmission. In terms of functionality, the one weakness we can think of is the lack of inputs for more than one digital device. DAC 2 is simply designed for playback from a computer, but this function is performed without error and with a great deal of ease and comfort.
If you want wireless transmission of signals from your computer to your audio system, and you do not have the will, the time nor the knowledge to mess with streamers, routers, passwords and issues that even the simplest network periodically have, pay attention to the DAC 2. NAD has made a wireless D / A converter that is more than easy to use and provides very good sound at an affordable price, and DAC 2 may well be the perfect solution.
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- Wirelessly Stream music from your own collection and Internet music services with 24-bit/96kHz studio quality, with no Wi-Fi network needed!
- 2 x RCA Jacks Analog output
- High-Performance Burr Brown 24/192 DAC chip
- USB 2.0 Input
- Coaxial Digital Outputs
Signal to Noise
Analogue Output Level
DIMENSION AND WEIGHT
Unit Dimensions (W x H x D) Gross
2 x RCA Jacks
1 x Coaxial RC Jack
0.05% (ref 0dBFS)
500mV ± 50mV
20Hz to 48kHz ±0.5dB
40m (line of sight)
135 x 35 x 70mm 5.3 x 1.38 x 2.75” **
73 x 35 x 15mm 2.8 x 0.6 x 1.4 “ **
** Non-metric measurements are approximate. NAD Electronics will not assume any liability for errors being made by retailers, custom installers, cabinet makers, or other end users based on information contained in this document.