NAD D 1050 USB Digital to Analog Converter

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
Input: 2x Toslink S/PDIF, 2x Coax S/PDIF, 1x Asynchronous USB 2.0
Output: 1 pair RCA, 1 pair XLR
Dimensions (W x H x D): 58 x 186 x 208mm, 2 5/16 x 7 3/8 x 8 1/4”
Weight: 1kg (2.2lb)
Availability: through Authorized Dealers
Price: $499.00
Website: nadelectronics.com

NAD Digital Classic Series
NAD's new Digital Classic series of components includes the D 3020 Digital DAC/Amplifier ($499), the D 7050 Direct Digital Network Receiver ($999), and the D 1050 DAC that's here for closer scrutiny. The Digital Classics share the same form factor, which was designed by David Farrage, are about the size of a good book, and can sit horizontally or vertically to suit environment and taste. I like the simple and sleek black matte sides with the shiny strip running down the center as well as the touch-sensitive controls coupled with that big, chunky volume knob. Overall a classy look and feel, imo, for such a modestly priced piece of kit.

The D 1050 doubles as a headphone amp and offers a nice assortment of inputs especially considering its price including a pair of optical Toslink and Coax inputs capable of handling 24/96 and 24/192 respectively, and a 24/192-ready asynchronous USB input. The async USB receiver comes courtesy of XMOS which hands off the digital signal to the Sigma/Delta CS4398 DAC from Cirrus Logic followed by a TI LME49860 OP Amp. The CS4398 provides on chip oversampling, an interpolation filter, and is DSD-ready but NAD chose not to implement this option. The AKM4118 receiver handles the S/PDIF input. The D 1050 offers pairs of RCA or XLR outputs and a front-mounted 3.5mm minijack for the 4.7 ohm headphone out. Power is provided by a remote switch mode power supply.

The D 1050's power and source selectors are touch sensitive and sit on its top when the D 1050 is positioned vertically. A white light illuminates both functions as well as the selected input and incoming sample rate of the music being played on the D 1050's shiny face. Since the async USB input is USB Audio Class 2.0 and can handle up to 24/192 data, Windows users need to download and install the NAD-supplied drivers to take full advantage while Mac users are plug and play ready. I mainly played the D 1050 fed from my MacBook Pro via USB and through its XLR outputs with my Pass INT-30A but also took the single-ended side for a spin. And since the D 1050's size and design makes it a perfect fit for desktop use, I also let it handle D/A duties in front of my ADAM A3Xs.

Digital, classic?
I warmed to the NAD D 1050 from the get go and one of the first aspects of its performance to stand out, in a good way mind you, was its bass response which is big, meaty, and fitfully bouncy while retaining a nice sense of tone. Fun being the operative word that also came to mind as in, "Damn, this NAD is fun to listen to!". I really could end this review right here and I'd feel comfortable that I've conveyed a fairly fine portrait of the relevant aspects of the NAD 1050. Fun. But as odd as it may seem, listening to music on a hi-fi isn't just all about fun. Or is it?

The D 1050 throws out a nice sizable and solid sound image, set back between and behind the speakers with nothing poking out to distract from the performance. Upper frequencies are perhaps a tad laid back but I prefer this to sonic knifes any day and the midrange is rich and full. I'd place the overall sonic center of the D 1050 in the lower midrange which some people might call dark which is also fine by me as I find dark to be tonally rich as opposed to the thin white heat of exaggerated upper frequencies. There's also a nice amount of resolution but this is one area where more costly DACs simply outperform the NAD. Compared to the less expensive Audioquest Dragonfly, the D 1050 trades the Dragonfly's resolution and relatively thin sound for a more robust if less detailed sound image.

While these kinds of comparative differences can be difficult to talk (and write) about, they are plainly easy to hear. The NAD's meaty sound is also lenient when it comes to otherwise agressive-sounding recordings so if you like a lot of '80s and later digital recordings, the D 1050 appears to be balanced in your sonic favor. There's also a very nice sense of drive, with bottom-heavy music in particular, so something like Locust's You'll Be Safe Forever is slam-tasticlly appealing and makes it difficult to sit through. But if you've ever seen me dance you'd appreciate my reluctance. Toe-tapping, foot-tapping, booty shaking, earth moving. Take your pick. The NAD is capable of delivering music's sense of drive and then some.

It's rich but is it accurate? If we gauge our audio gear by how much we enjoy listening to it, and I know of no better gauge, then I'd say the NAD measures up very well for my taste. The D 1050 seems to wrap up most of music's important sonic bits and pieces and delivers a goodly percentage of them. If you want to spend more you'll get greater percentages and thusly the ability to get even more involved in the music-making. But how much more do you have to spend to have more fun? That lies in the listening. Having recently reviewed a spate of wondrous sounding and much more costly DACs, I would say that extended and dedicated listening is more rewarding with more resolving and more finely nuanced DACs. The D 1050 is a bit soft and fuzzy in terms of resolution making individual instruments and performers less distinct than other more costly DACs.

The Auralic Vega comes to mind as a rock solid performer in the $3,500 price category but is it really 8 times as good as the NAD? Ha! I don't really think that's a sensible question to ask. Do I enjoy the Vega more than the D 1050? Sure. And if I spend a lot of time just listening, and I do, then that difference is damn well worth it. My enjoyment knows no bounds! But, and this is a big but, I also enjoy the NAD. I find its overall balance to appeal to my musical funny bone. It tickles my fancy. Is it potentially 'colored'? It is colorful. I also played the D 1050 through the Leben CS-300SX (via RCAs) and here the 1050's fatness was nearly too much of a good thing. The Leben, unlike the Pass, has a very rich sound on its own and in this case two riches added up to an overly dark presentation with too much emphasis in the lower midrange. If I was system building, I'd suggest pairing the NAD with more neutral-sounding gear.

Connected to my ADAM A3X's on my desktop proved an interesting proposition. I have been using the Mytek Stereo 192-DSD DAC on my desktop which offers a much more involving and resolute presentation and the comparison, while unfair in terms of price seeing as the Mytek costs $1,695, was nonetheless instructive as it again highlighted the NAD's overall darker and slightly spatially amorphous sound. The front-mounted headphone jack was easily accessible as was its nice, fat volume control making the NAD most suitable for dual desktop use. I did some headphone listening with my trusty Audio Technica ATH-W1000s and the sonic traits I've described so far apply here as well. Think rich, fat, and fun with a nice big bottom.

Classic
I like being surprised and the NAD D 1050 surprised me in so far as how much pure listening enjoyment it offers. With a host of digital inputs including an asynchronous 24/192-capable USB port, a very nice sounding headphone amp, and single-ended and balanced outputs, the D 1050 wraps up a lot of functions into a visually and tactilely appealing package that also happens to be damn fun to listen to.



Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the NAD D 1050 review: AudioQuest Dragonfly, Mytek Stereo 192-DSD DAC, Auralic Vega

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COMMENTS
lithium's picture

Hi Michael,

great review and it seems really interesting for something reasonably priced. The description of having a lot of fun with this DAC is similar to your review of the parasound zdac. So any comparisons from memory that you can think of? Also, there are balanced outputs but is the NAD really a fully balanced design?

Thanks

Michael Lavorgna's picture

It's been a while since I had the zdac here so I really can't offer any direct comparisons. But re-reading my zdac review, I'd say the NAD is more full-bodied and richer as opposed to the zdac's tigher presentation.

Also, there are balanced outputs but is the NAD really a fully balanced design?

Here's a response directly from NAD: "yes it is fully balanced right from the DAC."

awaron's picture

Hi Michael, I've read many of your reviews and have enjoyed them all. I'm looking into purchasing a new DAC and leaning towards the TEAC UD501, M2Tech HiFace or the new DAD D 1050. The new DAC will be paired with the Anthem i225 Integrated amp and Golden Ear Technologies Aon 2s. All of this for my 1100 CDs ripped to FLAC. I'm not sure if I want to go with DSD sound but that was the reason for the UD501 future proofing.

The UD501 and the D1050 receive Audiostreams Greatest Bits and the M2Tech a glowingly review.

Which one?

Thanks

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Price aside, although there is quite a spread between the M2Tech and the Teac, the Teac certainly gives you the most features including DSD/DXD capability and a headphone output. It also happens to be a great sounding DAC. That said, if DSD/DXD is not important to you, I'd say you can't go wrong with the NAD. I haven't heard the M2Tech so I cannot offer an opinion but I would point out that it does not offer a separate headphone output.

Certainly the best way to decide is to hear them for yourself in your system which I realize isn't always possible. But I believe all three of these DACs will be available from online retailers. The NAD may not have shown up yet since it was just released.

awaron's picture

Michael thank you very much for such a fast response. It is very appreciated.

audiostreamuser2013's picture

Are you going to review the D 3020 later?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

....but I'm definitely interested.

Jmilton7043's picture

How soon till we have this as a contest prize? To qoute the sage from the movie RoboCop, "I'd buy that for a dollar!" wink

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I'm not involved in the Sweepstakes so I only know what's next when it shows up on the site. But one of these, or even the D 3020, would be very cool.

awaron's picture

HI Michael one last question. Between the TEAC UD 501 and the NAD D 1050 which one has the best imaging, soundstage and natural non fatiguing sound? Associated equipment Anthem I 225 integrated amp 225 w/c into 8 ohms. Speakers are Aon 2s. All this through my Windows 7 PC.

 

Thank you 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...I'd go with the Teac. While these are both very good sounding DACs, I'd give the Teac the edge in overall performance and I view DXD/DSD playback as nice to have features.

awaron's picture

Thanks once again Michael. I was leaning towards the UD501. I've been looking into it for the last little while but then the D1050 appeared on the horizon. Will stick with my original choice the TEAC UD501.

Keep up the good work.

raybanfan's picture

Based on your photos, it seems you have reviewed the USB capabilities. With toslink or coaxial i believe you get into 192 which is another elevation to what the 1050 is capable of. I have heard the unit via toslink connection which the local distributor claims to be "non production" demo set. Given the price tag it seems like a bargain.  I do agree the highs seem a tad laid back without the risk of sounding bright. Then again i am surprised they went with cirrus logic's implementations. I have own 2 NAD cd players, the NAD 541 with bur brown PCM1702 sounded better than the 565 using wolfson's WM8741. The lower region on the older cd player is more substantial. I quite miss the sound from bur brown. Back to the 1050, it sounded transparent and fast. I just wish the highs can go a little further to complete the spectrum that is not to disregard the overall details that were indeed apparent in the music. I was using my own heaphones and music the whole time. I could hear a clicking sound while changing the volume, i am not sure if that's the nature of the unit. I was assured by the sales people it is. I am holding my thoughts on getting one until i hear the full production unit.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

The Toslink input is limited to 24/96.

raybanfan's picture

And so where do the specs claim toslink is limited to 24/96 ? Well the local dealer rang me when the stock arrived, instead of mp3 I decided to use cds this round. We used the nad c565, via toslink out it sampled at the lowest rate, interestingly this cd player can up sample the rate, the same way my home computer does with toslink. We pushed it to 192 and it works. We sampled down to all possible sampling rates and they all worked. I was sold. Back home playing between the nad usb drivers and toslink off wasapi. I have to say, between the USB implentation at 192 and the toslink at 192. Toslink wins with a better gain and soundstage. D1050 is absolutely a keeper and a bargain for what is truly capable of.   

My d1050 via toslink on 192 at home.

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y36/rayshader/photo28_zps052bc431.jpg

Link to full specs of d1050:

http://nadelectronics.com/products/dac/D-1050-USB-DAC

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...directly from the manufacturer-supplied data sheet. I don't keep them so I can't look back to see if this was my mistake or not but let's assume it was.

Thanks for the correction and for sharing your experience with the D1050.

raybanfan's picture

Just pulling your leg... i enjoy the information and review from the site. I thought i chip in my 2 cents worth. No malicious intent intended from my end and apologies if i may have appeared so. Now if only the volume pot can control the rca out this will be a heck of a digital pre amp. And with this I think I can rest my case with USB input for good. Thanks.And may i add the toslink at 192 really puts the unit way above its given price point. I believe the coax benefit equally

At about $500 for 2 tos + 2 co ax + 1 usb, thats a hundred bucks per input. And the balanced XLR output is indeed great for upgrades too and not forgetting the brilliant headphone section to boot. This unit even at twice its price will still be regarded as a bargain.

mab10104's picture

Hi Michael, Another greater review. I'm looking to build a reasonable desktop system since lately I haven't been able to use my full system in the family room as much as I'd like. I'm very interested in the Halide Dac HD 1.02 and this new NAD 1050 to put between my computer and a pair of Audioengine A5+. The NAD definitely has more features but I was wondering how you would compare they way they sound. I know it's been a while since you reviewed the Halide, do you still remember how that sounded enough to compare the two?

My music is roughly 75% CD rips in lossless format, 20% MP3s (I know, I know), and 5% hi-res of varying sample rates between 88.2 and 192. I'd really appreciate any insight you might have or any other recommendations that you can think of for this setup and usage.

Thank you.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I got a Halide DAC HD back for a refresh just a few weeks ago. And it still sounds wonderful. In a very general sense, I'd say the Halide sounds a bit more refined as compared to the NADs bigger, fatter sound. The NAD also gives you a headphone amp and up to 24/192 playback, where the Halide maxes out at 24/96. I'd say you can't really go wrong with either.

Hope that helps.

tiborm's picture

Hello,

I would like to ask if you can compare this Dac to Meridian Explorer, I want ot buy a new dac for my new headphones Philips Fidelio X1, music i listen to is mostly pop and dance music (but I like Meatloaf or Queen too), so I like a lot of bass and detail and punchy sound. What would you recommend for me? 

Thank You very much

Tibor

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I don't have any experience with your headphones which makes a recommendation difficult but from what I've read, they already deliver the kind of sound you're looking for, "...so I like a lot of bass and detail and punchy sound." That said, my first thought is to go with the NAD since it also delivers a big, punchy sound.

DJDan's picture

Hi Michael,

It should be taken if the collection consists of 44 kHz?

on quality on 44 kHz it is very bad in comparison with 96/192?

 

 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

CD-quality 16/44.1 music sounds great through the D 1050.

DJDan's picture

thank you very much

serpico's picture

Hi Michael,

Thank you for your work.

I'm just buying the NAD that I use now with the HD600 from Senneheiser, but I would want to associate this DAC with speakers on my desktop (with imac 27").

For you, what is the best association with this Nad ? PSB alpha PS1, audioengine A5+ or A2 (these two models are difficult to find in France), Focal CM40s, Adam a3x, ...or others.

 

Thank you for you help.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I'd say that either the ADAM A3X or the Focal CMS 40 would make for a good match and between these two I'd give the edge to the Focals for their fuller-bodied sound.

I hope that helps & thanks for reading.

Cheers.

detien's picture

Hi Michael,

I am thinking of buying this to pair with my NAD 515 cd player/NAD S300 Int. amp which I enjoy very much. The reason I am looking into this is becasue it has balanced output. My question is, if I connect this DAC to the cd player via digital cable and balanced XLR to the amp, would this result in sound improvment? I've read review that playing cd through balanced output sounds better than unbalanced rca? I would love to hear your expert opinion?

Thanks,

Dennis  

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I would say that if you are also interested in adding the ability to play file-based music through the D 1050, from your computer through its USB input for example, this, coupled with using it as a balanced DAC with your CD player, would be a worthwhile investment.

Whether or not adding the D 1050 for its balanced outputs alone would be worth it will depend on your amps balanced inputs as compared to its unbalanced inputs as well as the difference between the internal DAC of your CD player and the D 1050's DAC (they both use a Cirrus Logic 24/192 DAC). In my experience, while there can be a difference between XLR and RCA, it is often not a huge sonic gain one way or another so I'd be tempted to either save my $499 or spend it somewhere else (like on music!).

TWB's picture

Hello M.

Does the volume control of NAD D1050 control the volume levels of XLR output?

..And does volume control affect "musicality" and/or "sound quality"?

 

Thanks!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I should have made that clearer in the review.

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