NAD D 1050 review

A brilliant box of tricks that holds plenty of appeal for those in the hunt for a desirable desktop DAC Tested at £400

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A brilliant box of tricks that holds plenty of appeal for those in the hunt for a desirable desktop DAC


  • +

    Novel design

  • +

    Doubles as a headphone amp

  • +

    Good connectivity

  • +

    Entertaining, full-bodied sound

  • +

    Good timing


  • -

    Bass can sound a tad tubby

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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.

NAD D 1050

NAD D 1050

Build quality

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.

NAD D 1050

NAD D 1050

Sound quality

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.

NAD D 1050

NAD D 1050

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.

MORE: Best DACs 2013

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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