High Quality Surround Audio & Video In One Box
Sugg Retail: $1800CAD, $1799USD
A trend I’ve noticed in recent years is the increasing immensity of home theatre receivers - it reminds me of the old days of quadraphonic sound, when the monsters from such brands as Rotel and Sansui, to name just two, were so bulky and heavy you could hardly carry them around! Some of the current Pioneer and Onkyo models, among other brands, today appear to be approaching that same kind of size and weight.
Here, NAD, in its new VISO series, has taken a somewhat reductionist approach, in the FIVE combining a full-featured DVD player and a full 5-channel receiver, eschewing all the gratuitous extra channels and fancy (and largely silly) Dolby-this and THX-that formats which clutter most receivers and confuse many consumers. Though it does offer Dolby Pro logic IIx and DTS Neo:6 Music modes, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS movie play, it offers just its own EARS DSP matrix format in addition. Here’s what EARS (Enhanced Ambience Recovery System) is all about:
“In sharp contrast to many ‘ambience synthesis’ modes, EARS exploits the the VISO FIVE’s substantial DSP power to rout the ambient content that is ‘encrypted’ in virtually all natural-acoustic recordings to the appropriate main, center and surround speakers, without resorting to artificially generated reflections or regeneration. EARS’ natural ambience yields a subtle but exceptionally effective surround mode that that naturally enhances the spatial presentation in a fashion suitable for serious music listening.”
And I’ll quote further from the VISO FIVE manual on its interior technology: “On the digital side, the VISO FIVE combines extraordinarily high-speed DSP processing employing one of the most advanced high-speed DSP ‘engines’ available, with fully 24-bit, 192 kHz sampling-capable D/A converters for all channels. A single high precision master clock synchronizes all digital circuits to eliminate the timing errors (jitter) that otherwise compromise sonics.”
Greater sophistication from this compact box is ensured by the RS-232 interface and “NAD’s proprietary Windows compatible software. We are also certified partners with AMX and Crestron and fully support these external devices.” Using these facilities, you can control the FIVE from remote locations through a PC. In terms of inputs, the FIVE offers 6-channel analog audio, cable/sat and VCR (S-video, composite, RCA audio), with HDMI, composite, S-video, 6-channel audio and post-preamp subwoofer outputs. There are single optical digital inputs and outputs, and a coaxial RCA input jack. There is a data port that accommodates an accessory ipod dock, the IPD 1. There’s also an XM Radio input port for North American owners, this replaced by a DAB radio input for Europe. An RS-232 multipin jack deals with external computer control. A coaxial screw-on connector is provided for FM antenna, while spring-loaded jacks connect an AM aerial. A rear-panel AC outlet is also provided. Speaker outputs are excellent gold-plated types, with red and black-coded tighteners, one set only for each of the 5 channels. And if there aren’t enough inputs on the back panel, additional facilities are offered on the front panel under a pull-off plastic cover. Here we find S-video and composite inputs, and stereo audio, along with a headphone jack. This is a true convenience feature, especially for those with camcorders.
I began my listening to the VISO FIVE with FM music in the EARS mode, and noted its quite even and natural distribution of energy around the listener, without sounding like one was being attacked on all sides. I found the effect quite pleasant, especially with classical music. The overall sound of the receiver’s audio section is very easy and non-fatiguing, with a sense of more power than the rated 45 watts per channel.
The Dolby Headphone surround option was auditioned using my recently reconditioned Grado SR-125. This feature automatically takes over the front panel Surround Mode button, but does not seem to be accessible from the remote. I suppose that makes some sense, because if you can plug the headphone in, you can also press the button. I liked the spatiality of Mode 2, though I can’t say exactly why; it’s probably a tossup with different phones and heads, not to mention music.
Hooking its component video outputs to our pre-HDMI Pioneer Elite PRO-710HD monitor, I used the Digital Video Essentials DVD to evaluate picture quality, and was very impressed. In terms of greyscale, it was right on, with excellent blacks, and even gradations from blackest to charcoal and lighter shades on our ISF-calibrated screen. Colour values were also very accurate, with pure reds without over-saturation, and other colours very vivid and clean. Screen geometry was also right on, though this is generally more a function of the display than the DVD player. Resolution was also very high, close to the DVD format limits, with just a little motion blur on the Snell & Wilcox bouncing ball test sequence, but visible lines down to the smallest 480i size shown on our 1080i 64″ screen. Motion effects on video demo sequences were well controlled, and, though not in the class of Blu-ray, excellent for DVD.
The only major omission in the feature set of this receiver seems to be the lack of an HDMI input, though it’s less needed with the integral DVD player. But if you wanted to add a Blu-ray player eventually, this absence might be of concern. Other than that, the NAD VISO FIVE serves very nicely as the heart of a very high resolution DVD home theatre system. The FIVE will provide higher resolution, certainly 1080i, through its component video inputs, for example, from such sources as satellite or off-air HDTV, as well as from Blu-ray players. In sum, NAD’s VISO FIVE is very attractively styled, compact and complete, and offers superb video and audio performance at an entry-level high end price point.
Related Reviews:A Tale of Two Headphones from Canada by NAD VISO & Paradigm!
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