Let's face it, NAD isn't known for producing the most stylish kit around. The words life-style and the company's functional yet capable image have never mixed comfortably. Yet, here is the Viso Five, a home cinema all-in one that manages to look both stylish and suitably NAD-like.
Look beyond NAD's new found design skills - the square, top panel air vents look particularly classy - and you'll find a product of considerable quality. The unit is solidly constructed, and everything from the front panel controls to the chunky remote handset has the feel of something designed to last years.
As is usual with a NAD product the feature list isn't a highlight. The company has never tried to grab the headlines with cutting edge features. Instead, what we have is a sensibly thought out product that covers all the basics. You get DVD and CD replay, five channels of amplification and a tuner section that comes as standard with FM and MW.
Do you DAB?
Want DAB, too? NAD makes an outboard module that connects to the main unit via a dedicated lead and performs well. The company also makes a £70 ipod dock where the Viso's remote can operate your Apple through its remote.
Getting started is easy, as you'd hope for in a unit of this type. It's a shame there's no auto set-up function for the speakers, but the manual route is simple enough.
Once up and running the Viso is an impressive device. With DVD, picture quality is good. By the standard of all-in-ones the picture has a pleasing amount of clarity, and has decent contrast. Picture noise is kept in check and there is a good amount of detail in the darker scenes of Cloverfield. The handheld camera style of this film shows the Viso Five is just fine at motion handling, failing to lose composure even when provoked. You can add rich yet not overblown colours to the list of plus points, too.
Surround sound from the Viso is as bold as you like. It's got punch, authority and never lacks for drama. The claimed power output may be just 45 watts per channel, but each of those watts works mighty hard. Watch - if you really have to - Aliens Vs Predator, and the Viso brings it all to life, or death depending on your species. Pleasingly, this NAD hasn't forgotten about subtlety. For a product of this type the Viso Five has a great deal of finesse and delivers a pleasing amount of insight into the (admittedly rare) quieter scenes of this film.
Something of a superstar
The good news continues with a fine music performance. CDs such as Mahler's 10th or Jill Scott's latest set are replayed with a great deal of passion and no small amount of detail. Even timing, something that most AV kit screws-up monumentally, is delivered with a fair of skill.
Factor decent refinement and a well-judged tonal balance into the mix and the Viso Five emerges as something of a superstar. Sure, the radio performance on both FM and MW is decent rather than great - it could do with slightly greater insight - and the unit doesn't respond to commands particularly quickly. But, in most respects this NAD is a stand out product.
If you really don't want to go the separates route, there is little at this money that does home cinema better than this NAD. Even though it cost just half the money of the award-winning Arcam the Viso Five is good enough to be considered a serious alternative. It really is that good.