In the Box
The NAD Viso HP50 over ear headphones arrived and they certainly looked the part in their fancy packaging. Inside the box you get the headphones themselves (these were black but you can get white or red gloss too), a couple of cables (one with inline controls and one without), a minijack to ¼ inch jack converter, an adapter for use on planes, a neoprene bag for the headphones, a bag for connectors and cables, a karabiner (to attach said bags to your belt I assume) and the headphones themselves.
The HP50s are an over-head design with a rectangular closed cup design. The headband is of padded leather and so are the ear cushions. When not in use the headphones fold flat – the cups rotate 90 degrees to allow this which makes them fairly bulky to transport.
Plugging them in easy enough and here’s a nifty little feature – the minijack terminated cable will fit into the bottom either the left or the right cup so there’s no faffing with tangles when you’re out an about. The included flat cables are short in length (1m) indicating that the “out the box” market for these headphones is those using portable devices or using them on the desktop. I’m sure in time there’ll be companies making aftermarket cables specifically for these. Not being of the i pod generation I used the normal cable without in-line controls/mic for the duration of the review.
I used the great little Modi USB DAC and Magni headphone amp from Schiit Audio using the laptop and Foobar for desktop duties and the Studio media player from HiSound when out and about. Tunes were all FLAC.
The phones sit nicely on the ear and are comfortable to wear over extended listening periods and the headband is adjustable so those with overgrown bonces (like me) needn’t worry – though the headband only actually touches the head at the very top which is a bit weird and has the effect of making you look like a Cyberman from Dr Who.
Immediately the first thing you notice is how light the headphones are and the amount of ambient sound the HP50s actually block out – I’m more used to in ear headphones for out and about but using the HP50s meant I didn’t need to turn up the volume to drown out external irritations – a good thing. Being a closed design they’re ideal to use on public transport without incurring the wrath of your fellow passengers – another good thing.
The HP50s from NAD use 40mm drivers which deliver a nice and pretty much balanced reproduction of the music.
With bass notes it was immediately apparent that you were hearing actual bass notes rather than monotone bass “noise” you can often find – it was really striking on electric bass guitar (Bowie’s “Changes”) or synthesized bass (Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Spinning Round”). Bass is not overblown in anyway and it doesn’t dominate and being a bit of a bass head that likes to be able to hear the actual bassline’s notes I found the HP50s particularly attractive in this area.
The overall “soundstage” wasn’t as out of your head as with the open design Grado325is I use most of the time, but you still get a nicely “open” sound with the HP50s… but then I wouldn’t take the Grado’s on the train for fear of upsetting everyone within a ten metre radius anyway!
Stephen McQuarry Trio’s “A View from My Heart” is a nice and laidback bit of instrumental jazz and the NADs managed to convey enough of the performance space and ambience to make it a very pleasant listen indeed. Piano sounded like piano, ‘hats and snares were snappy and the double bass was a delight – deep enough and with proper notes!
In the top end the HP50s manage to convey enough to make the music “believable” but they don’t have the “sparkle” that I like in the Grados – that said some people don’t like the Grado’s top end finding it a little too much!
Vocals and guitar on Troy Bunnell’s “One Good Reason” sounded natural and with good definition/tone. Switching to the heavy electronic sounds of VCMGs “Zaat” saw the NADs belting out the tunes that really got your head nodding to the beat!
Zaat was a tad on the loud side and I found myself reaching to my left to turn the volume down and I noticed it had never gone beyond 9 o’clock on the Magni’s volume knob – 11 was far too loud!! On the portable Studio I noticed I was listening with the volume quite a good deal lower than I ordinarily would suggesting these are pretty sensitive beasties.
The HP50s from NAD are a very capable all-round performer that manage to give the listener an excellent sense of the recording, with tremendous bass and mid performance.
They play all the music I fed them with very well indeed and I really don’t have a great deal to say in the negative about them in their sonic attributes other than an ever so slightly smoothed very top-end.
The HP50s are equally at home on the desktop as on the train/bus/plane and I wouldn’t hesitate in buying a suitable extension cable and using them in the home set up.
Author – Stuart
We thought it would be interesting to give the HP50s to our fifteen year old son as he’s a constant music consumer, primarily on his iPod and using good quality IEMs.
After trying the NAD VISO HP50’s for the first time I could never go back to my cheaper pair of headphones.
NAD has gone to great lengths to provide a premium feel experience right from the packaging to the headphones themselves.
When opening the HP50’s I could tell that they were a very high quality product. I could feel the luxurious materials used on the headphones and the included carrying case.
The Viso HP50’s don’t only offer a first class feel but also a first class sound with NAD’s new “ room-feel” technology, which gives the illusion of listening to speakers in a large room. The sound is very inviting, although the lower end is slightly lacking.
These headphones work very well with live classical, and folk music but don’t offer the same punch when it comes to more base heavy genres like hip-hop and dubstep.
Compared to other headphones nearer to the 300 dollar price point like Beats by Dre Solos, the NAD’s provide a more rounded sound and not just overloaded bass.
The noise dampening worked especially well, absorbing outgoing and incoming sounds meaning that I could hear my music and the people around me couldn’t.
They were very easy to use and I loved the in-line controls for apple products.
Thanks to their light weight they are easy to carry and don’t put any strain on your ears after long periods of use.
I think that the NAD Viso HP50’s are marketed to the iPod user rather than the Hi-fi user although they did sound equally as good on a home system as on my iPod.
Author – Harry