If the NAD D 1050 looks a little familiar, it’s possibly because you’ve already seen our review of its big brother, the NAD D 3020.
The 3020 is a stereo amplifier of many talents and features, while the D 1050 is a more simple DAC and headphone amp.
Stood upright, the NAD certainly offers a different perspective on DAC design, with the volume control for the headphone amp protruding not so subtly from the front of the unit.
There are touch-sensitive power and input selector buttons on the top, which add a touch of flair compared to, say, the ordinary-looking Parasound Zdac.
You’re supplied with a handful of small sticky pads to give the NAD a stable footing – and we’d recommend using them to stop it wobbling. You could always lay the DAC down on its side, but then the illuminated input and sample-rate indicators read the wrong way.
The D 1050 has a generous collection of connections, including twin pairs of coaxial and optical inputs, an asynchronous USB socket, balanced XLR outputs and standard phono sockets. Sample rate support is up to 24-bit/96kHz via the optical sockets and up to 24-bit/192kHz through the coax and USB.
It only takes the first few seconds of Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind to showcase the NAD’s sound, which includes fantastic focus, positioning and organization. Bass notes sound solid and beefy – the 1050 certainly isn’t shy when it comes to dishing out low frequencies.
The Meridian Director and Arcam irDAC are a touch more precise – but only a touch, mind. More importantly, the NAD is very easy to listen to, more so than the Director. It captures enough detail and enough of the essence of a track to make that all-important connection with the listener.
Playing a CD-quality rip of Up Is Down from the Pirates Of The Caribbean soundtrack, the NAD sounds suitably stirring with the wind and string sections, and adds a splash of crisp, precise percussion to balance the presentation nicely.
That listenable nature continues through the headphone stage, which remains faithful to the sound from the analogue output.
Play a bare-bones track such as Paloma Faith’s Just Be and the D 1050 keeps a firm grip on her powerful vocal and mixes it well with the melodic piano in the background – yet it never sounds restrained.
The NAD sounds great and when you add the amount of features and execution of the product, the case for five stars becomes water-tight.
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