Hi-Fis are out, docks are in. This may be a sweeping statement, but the addition of yet another high end audio specialist into the sector only adds further proof. For 40 years NAD has been a standout name amongst audiophiles and it has now joined the likes of Bowers & Wilkins, Arcam, Monitor Audio and more by entering the incredibly competitive sector of Apple docks.
Like its peers NAD has stuck to what it knows best, pitching the 'Viso 1' at the premium end of the market. This approach becomes clear before you switch the dock on. Out of the box it delivers a sense of déjà vu, yet somehow has a look all its own. NAD describes the Viso 1 as a 'ring design', referring to the silver band around it which contains the Apple connector. This is clearly inspired by the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, but when combined with its tubular shape creates a dock that is stylish in its own right and delightfully different.
Build quality is similarly impressive, successfully blending the piano black finish of the rear with the matt speaker covering and brushed aluminium ring. NAD takes pleasure in showing how the Viso 1 was put together too with the exposed screw at the top of the ring almost daring us to reach for our screwdrivers. Meanwhile the Apple connector itself has an industrial feel, sliding open to accept the iPhone/iPod before closing back down to hold it securely. This needs to be done as the connector can rotate 90 degrees allowing devices to be used in landscape mode. The genius of the ring design is it allows comfortable use of the device while connected, the sizeable downside is it means an iPad won't fit.
Connectivity continues this theme and smart hit and bizarre miss. A considerable hit is the addition of component video output which allows 480p and 576p iPhone/iPod videos to be sent to an HDTV while the Viso 1 plays the sound track. There is also an optical digital input which accepts up to 24/96k music from external devices like a TV, disc player or media streamer turning it into a sound bar. Meanwhile a microUSB port is used for updating the firmware. Given this goes beyond the usual array of dock connectivity it is all the more surprising NAD has neglected to include an auxiliary 3.5mm jack. This is by far the most common connector on any music device and will leave non-Apple product owners scratching their heads.
NAD does have an alternative: aptX. This is a proprietary audio codec which can be licensed and integrated into Bluetooth to offer significantly improved audio quality. What NAD doesn't advertise is aptX requires support not just in the dock, but the source device as well. Happily over 100 products support aptX natively, including the HTC One X, One S, and One V smartphones, Creative Ziio 7 and Samsung Galaxy 7.0/Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Plus tablets, the Motorola RAZR XT910 and even Mac OS X Snow Leopard and above. There are also numerous dongles available. What doesn't support aptX right now is Apple iOS devices which is significant as NAD has somewhat surprisingly (for a high end dock) omitted AirPlay, though it could add support through a software update at any point.