Ever since Bjorn Erik Edvardsen designed the original NAD 3020 - perhaps the worlds most famous budget amplifier - NAD has been synonymous with high sound quality at sensible prices. But they have not built headphones for a long time, which is a bit strange because headphones is an area that is growing steadily while the rest of the industry goes backward at the moment.
Indeed, I had a couple of cheap lightweight headphones from NAD back in the days when the Walkman was the must-have player. They were much better than Sony's own, but broke down after a while.
There is little danger that the NAD Viso HP50 will break though. They have perhaps not the same refined design as the Sennheiser Momentum, and does not convey the same sense of luxury as the B&W P7, but they do feel solid. With quality plastic, light metal and steel bracket.
In terms of price, they cost as much as the Momentum and are cheaper than the P7. Sound quality is in the same class, though they do not sound the same. There is a special reason for that.
NAD is owned by Canadian Lenbrook Group, who also own the speaker brand PSB. The man behind PSB, Paul Barton, who aside from building some of the best speakers available in terms of sound per dollar, also has designed headphones. The passive M4U1 and the active M4U2 with noise reduction are some of the best in their respective classes, so there is every reason to have some expectations of NAD Viso HP50 too.
The goal of NAD headphones has been to convey the same feeling as when listening to speakers. Facing the speakers is the most optimal and has the most linear frequency response in most cases. As soon as you turn your head the frequency balance change. The same thing happens with live music, though not as pronounced.
This theory laid the foundation for a project that was started in the 80´s by Sean Olive, director of acoustic research for Harman, and later involved Floyd Toole and Paul Barton in a project for Canada's National Research Council.
The goal was to try to recreate the same experience in a pair of headphones, where both the subjective and objective was considered. At the IFA trade show in September last year Paul Barton told us that the technology was called Room Feel.
Viso HP50 is designed with this Room Feel-principle, but the headphones do not change character when turning your head. Instead, they try to create a sense of space with the help of a carefully calculated response curve that is tailored to a subjective view of what is considered a balanced sound.
What is interesting is that others have tried to do the same, to recreate the feeling of listening to speakers instead of headphones. But in HP50 it actually works better. So NAD has done something right.
The ear cups sits comfortably on the head without squeezing too tight. The insulation is good, although it will not be as quiet as a couple of Focal headphones. HP50 can not be folded, but does not take up much space. It includes two flat cables, one with a remote control for iPhone and one without.
The headphones are sensitive enough to be able to play with just an iPhone as the audio source, even if the sound quality is elevated further with a proper headphone amplifier.
Some people might initially perceive them as a bit boring, but the truth is that they are better balanced and has much better cohesion of the frequency response, from bass to treble. There is a small but flattering and not at all pushy lift in the upper bass range. The benefits of this outweigh the disadvantages. It gives the bass some warmth, but without making it too fluffy and affecting voices too. Which sounds more natural than many other headphones.
There is a small lift in the treble too. It is so well controlled that it is not very noticable or in any way intrusive. But HP50 is not completely neutral, and it's just as well. NAD headphones is much more fun to listen to.
The sound character is warm, cozy and the sound is open, though not as transparent and refined as in B&W P7. The bass really feels in the skull, but without dominating the sound. Cymbals, brass instruments and voices can sound a tad intrusive when listening loud on many headphones, but not here. The soundstage is slightly more distant, it really feels as if you are listening to a mix between headphones and speakers, and reminds me a little of the outstanding AKG K1000. And that's a compliment of enormous dimensions.
The distinctively rich timbre and the balanced and dynamic sound stage makes NAD Viso HP50 one of our favorites in this price range. At last, Sennheiser has a worthy rival to the Momentum . And that says a lot!
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Audiophile-grade for Over 40 Years
NAD VISO is the culmination of more than 40 years of dedicated audio innovation. Designed and driven by audiophiles, the NAD VISO HP50 Over-Ear Headphones are made specifically for digital natives who understand the difference that clean, crisp sound makes to music lovers. Because we don't care about your lifestyle. We care about your ears.
Created to translate the warm, open sound of live performance directly into your private headphone experience. Countless hours were spent in one of North America's most sophisticated audio labs in the research and development of RoomFeel™ technology, discovering a way to add back to the recording without altering the audio signal. The result is true headphone innovation that lets you sense the music around you, feel every beat, and hear a more open soundstage.
Take full control of your music with a simple touch of the 3-button multi-click remote. Compatible with all devices' headphone output, iTunes music and full-featured call functionality is also right at your fingertips; play/pause, skip track, previous track, fast-forward, pause, skip, make and answer calls. It also includes a high quality inline mic for crystal-clear voice-calling and device control with Siri-compatible devices.
Fine-tuned with precision inside one of the quietest places on earth, with an expert team of sound scientists, the HP50s deliver the most advanced headphone technology for today's detailed recordings. Acoustically optimised ear cups and specially-developed 40mm drivers keep the music sounding as accurate, clear, and natural as inside the recording booth.
The HP 50 doesn't just lead the way in performance. A combination of extremely lightweight materials like smooth brushed metals, polished finishes, and lush leather fabrics, make for a perfect balance of extreme comfort and durability. The pivoting, ultra-soft ear cups are specially designed to naturally reduce distractions and increase clarity, leaving you with peaceful listening and all-day comfort.
Available finishes: Black, White, and Red Gloss finishes.
Frequency response (20Hz – 20kHz)
± 3dB, -3dB at 15Hz
Total harmonic distortion
≤ 1% Impedance, passive 32 ohms
Dynamic driver Transducer, size 40 mm
Packed with your VISO HP50 you will find:
• Apple compatible tangle-free ribbon cable
• Additional standard ribbon cable
• Carrying case
• Mini-accessory travel pouch
• 3.5 to ¼ inch headphone adaptor
• Airline adaptor