NAD D7050 Mini Review

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craig in SD

NAD D7050 Mini Review
« on: 20 Sep 2013, 04:16 am »
No time tonight to write a thorough review.  But I've been living with a new D7050 from NAD for around 3 weeks now and let me just say OMG.  If you've been on the fence about this new direct digital amplifier, get off the fence and put one in front of your speakers!  Think 390DD sound (see the reviews here and elsewhere) at 40% of the price!  Plenty of power for my 89 dB sensitivity Monitor Audio Silver 5i's and rather amazing sound quality.  Imaging, freq. response, dynamics, detail are all superb.  The background is zero--pure darkness.  Pause the source, turn the volume all the way up and put your ear 1" from your speaker cones and you will here nothing.  It's done great with just about every recording I've thrown at it from my Squeezebox Touch, even 128 kB rips of CDs I never really thought were stellar recordings to begin with (listening to "The Joshua Tree" right now with a grin).  And the great recordings, well they have an "in the audience" quality.  Acoustic guitar, piano, female vocals are all outstanding.

There are certainly those who will think this amplifier is not for them.  It accepts only digital sources, so if you haven't cut the analog cord yet this won't do (or maybe it's time to cut the cord!)  If your speakers are very inefficient, the power output might seem too low for you.  I would suggest you give it a chance, though.  In my rig I can turn the volume to uncomfortable levels and not discern any distortion or clipping.

I've been comparing it to a Wadia 151 PowerDAC mini, with the thought that I would keep the one I liked best.  The Wadia has seen very favorable reviews.  But in my setup, it is no contest.  The D7050 has a much deeper and involving soundstage, and better dynamics.

I will let it be known that I've never had the means to spend a lot of dough on this hobby, so I haven't sat and compared lots of different gear, but I do enjoy shopping, and listening with a discerning ear.  I tend to be value oriented with my audio purchases and the D7050 was outside my price range until I came into some good fortune at work and decided I wanted to make this my splurge.  Wow, am I glad I did.  That said, I don't have the experience to compare the D7050 to a lot of other gear out there.  I would love to hear what more experienced critics have to say on this product.  At $1k for a component that replaces DAC and amplifier, it seems like a great value.  The feature set is forward thinking (DLNA, Bluetooth, and Airplay, for example) and given the superb sound quality it is perhaps a truly stellar value.  I certainly have some minor criticisms, but I will not color the first post in the thread with them because I want the takeaway to be a big thumbs up.

JLM

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #1 on: 20 Sep 2013, 11:46 am »
Thanks for getting back with us.   :thumb:

Alwayswantmore

Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #2 on: 20 Sep 2013, 02:01 pm »
Thanks for the feedback. I'm interested, so please keep us up to date on your impressions. BTW: I just returned a Wadia PowerDAC. I thought it was nice to operate and good sound for the money, but no match for true audiophile gear (price factored in, I expected this to be the case). So compares to the Wadia are of keen interest to me. Thanks! Kent

bummrush

Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #3 on: 20 Sep 2013, 03:20 pm »
 As long as you still like it long term,and if it sounds better then ice based amps it might be a winner.

jinxeddeep

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #4 on: 19 Nov 2013, 03:33 am »
thanks for the review, i've been considering getting one of these myself....just waiting for a good deal somewhere...its selling at mrp everywhere at the moment...missed the one or two demo units that were marked down by 10-15 % at spearitsound and crutchfield...

dehory

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #5 on: 6 Dec 2013, 08:04 am »
For the last couple of weeks, I've been driving a pair of Zu Omens with a D7050. The source music is a mix of FLACs and 320 and V0 MP3s through Airplay (Vox and iTunes).

First of all, for convenience and streaming connectivity in my Apple-dominated household, the amp is next to faultless. Setup was marginally less intuitive than my kitchen speakers (the terrific Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200) and the iPhone app isn't terribly useful if you don't run PSB speakers, but I've only experienced one or two sound dropouts so far (attributable, I believe, to router issues that have been ironed out). The energy-saving mode seems to work flawlessly. The alternative setup I was looking at was something like: Airport Express/TV > Schiit Bifrost > Decware Mini Torii (for probably twice the outlay of the D7050). I really like the elegance, simplicity, and always-on ease of the one-box source/amp solution I ended up picking. No interconnects, a single power outlet, and one pair of speaker cables.

Soundwise, any comparison with my last system (Naim Nait 5i/CD5i/Spendor S5e) is highly unscientific - not least because every variable has changed: source, amp, speakers, listening environment - but I am very pleased with the results after some tweaks to speaker placement/spike height. Electronic music (always a weakness of my old setup) is engaging and satisfying. Burial's "Loner" is grippingly propulsive, while the low end has a pleasing but unexaggerated weight. Refinement and detail aren't especially remarkable, but a jagged pop song like Haim's "Falling", which can be a strident mess on some setups, has a nicely coherent presentation.

On occasions, I'm hearing a certain flatness/hollowness to the sound that's probably related more to my living/listening room's two gigantic windows and paucity of upholstery/drapes/carpeting/wall treatments than to the system's limitations. Duke Ellington's "Diminuendo In Blue And Crescendo In Blue" (Live at Newport 1956) lacks the delightful pace and dynamism that it had on my old Naim/Spendor setup. On the other hand, the Bill Evans Trio's Sunday at The Village Vanguard sounds fantastic – lusher, warmer and more involving than I've ever heard it.

Overall, I'd say the new system is a step up soundwise to my old one at a lower price point (comparing RRP for new equipment). Dynamism might be lacking slightly on some tracks, but that's more than compensated by improved soundstage/imaging, transparency, bass extension, and a generally more enjoyable/engaging listen across a broader range of genres. (Again, this is a totally anecdotal comparison between totally different setups across different listening environments.) The setup is more forgiving, too, of thinner-sounding MP3s. It will be interesting to see how much of a difference there'll be with an upcoming upgrade to Mk. I-B drivers on the Omens.

As an aside, one definite downside to having a combination of no physical volume control with such sensitive speakers is that switching between different sources (e.g. from iTunes to system audio) often results in a startling blast of deafening, but quite unstrained and undistorted, music before I can readjust the volume. An optional volume limiter built into the D7050 firmware would be helpful.

It seems like opinions are still being formed about the D7050, and as professional reviews start to emerge and more people try it out in their systems, it'll be intriguing to hear about experiences with other speakers.

UPDATE on 2/12/14

I upgraded to Omen Mk. I-B drivers about a fortnight ago. They're still breaking in, but prove to be a stark enough improvement that the increasingly impressive amp evidently wasn't a bottleneck in performance. I'm hearing the biggest difference in the mid-lows and lows. Bass extension doesn't exactly go deeper, but is richer and fuller – that occasional brittleness (still present after adding furniture and window treatments to the room) I'd previously mentioned is gone. Playing a FLAC of Terekke's dubby YYYYYYYYYY reveals an increased warmth, depth and resonance that's apparent even to my non-audiophile significant other. Separation and detail on ornately layered music like Darkside's "Golden Arrow" is noticeably improved. I expect high end clarity to become more refined as everything continues to break in. I can't talk too much about amp/speaker synergy since I haven't compared the Omens with other speakers using the same amp, but I'm highly satisfied with the NAD D 7050/Zu Omen Mk. I-B combination. (For anyone on the fence about Zu Omen Dirty Weekends vs Mk. I-B's, I'd definitely opt for the latter if buying new or used – but wouldn't consider it worth a $500 upgrade if you've already got a pair of DWs that you're happy with.)

Ultimately, the most significant net difference between my new NAD 7050-based setup and my old one isn't necessarily one of sound quality, but ease of use. Call me lazy, but I'm finding that I listen to a lot more music now that I don't have to plug in any cables or press any buttons to start playing something. I have no idea how successful the 7050 will be, but it bodes well for NAD that they're one of the first major hifi brands (Linn and Naim also come to mind) with the vision to put aside convention and take a serious, ambitious stab at designing a 2-channel amp with the needs of modern consumers in mind. Computer-based high quality wireless audio playback - whether through Airplay, Sonos, Chromecast, or an upstart brand like Beep - is the future of hifi. And while a digital-direct amp won't be everyone's cup of tea (and I was also considering a Decware or Sophia Electric-driven system), it reflects a distinct logic and thoughtfulness of design more and more people move towards exclusively listening to digital files.
« Last Edit: 27 Feb 2014, 09:00 pm by dehory »

dwk

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #6 on: 20 Feb 2014, 05:21 pm »
Not sure whether anyone is paying attention to this anymore, but just in case.

I see that the D 7050 can be configured to use the pre-out jacks for a sub by using an internal crossover. Two questions about this that I havent' been able to find an answer to in case anyone knows an answer
- does using this config also high-pass the main speaker outputs?
- is the bass output stereo, or is it downmixed to mono?

This is obviously trying to evaluate whether it would be possible to bi-amp a pair of monitors with some bass bins without using any additional external crossovers.  A mono output wouldn't be the end of the world, but with the ability to set the xover freq as high as 200 Hz you'd think it would be stereo since that's well up into the localizable range.

dehory

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #7 on: 25 Feb 2014, 07:55 pm »
Not sure whether anyone is paying attention to this anymore, but just in case.

I see that the D 7050 can be configured to use the pre-out jacks for a sub by using an internal crossover. Two questions about this that I havent' been able to find an answer to in case anyone knows an answer
- does using this config also high-pass the main speaker outputs?
- is the bass output stereo, or is it downmixed to mono?

This is obviously trying to evaluate whether it would be possible to bi-amp a pair of monitors with some bass bins without using any additional external crossovers.  A mono output wouldn't be the end of the world, but with the ability to set the xover freq as high as 200 Hz you'd think it would be stereo since that's well up into the localizable range.

When I switch the sub crossover from full range to 200hz on the iPhone control app, the D 7050 does indeed high-pass the main speaker outputs. Switching to the 40hz crossover setting correspondingly increases the bass in the main speakers.

I can't help with the stereo/mono output question since I don't have a set of monitors or another amp/pair of speakers. My hunch is that the pre-out runs in stereo even when the crossover is switched away from full range.

dwk

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #8 on: 1 Mar 2014, 04:09 pm »
Thanks for performing that test.  It partially confirms my expectations.

I'm definitely going to keep the 7050 on the list, but I'm still sorting through my system plans and am not really ready to move on anything just yet.

les anderson

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #9 on: 13 Mar 2015, 02:03 am »
I have picked this unit up for my office (which is my primary system these days) and am happy with it overall.

The volume and input selection knobs suck, they wiggle by design, track poorly and just generally feel cheap. If they were upgraded, I believe that the entire device would have a much more upmarket feel which would distance itself further from the 3020.

Spotify connect is great- really the reason I bought it. I have a laptop plugged in via USB to play with hi-res material but 90% of my listening is choosing a playlist on my tablet or phone and then directing it at the 7050 via Connect. It works great, and the NAD remote will even FF, RW, P, PP from its remote handset. Alternatively, when in the Spotify app on your tab/phone you can control the volume on the 7050 itself. Neat and nice.

I have a Anthony Gallo Strada and a TR-1 sub that I have always run in parallel off of my amplifiers binding posts. However, with the NAD having a build in digital XO I am now running the sub RCA and am very pleased with the results. It is also fun to use the android app to experiment with XO settings.

The sound is great. Stage is wide and deep, the amp is transparent, gutsy and really well balanced. It does nothing "wrong" at all- in fact I think its performance across the spectrum is extremely impressive. It is honeymoon stage, but the convenience that Spotify connect provides is really a killer and somewhat unique feature. This plus a fantastic top to bottom sonic performance make it a real winner.

This is the first NAD product I have ever had and I like it.




 

Aaronelvis

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Re: NAD D7050 Mini Review
« Reply #10 on: 2 Nov 2016, 09:33 am »
I picked up a d 7050 three weeks ago on sale. Before I bought it my main concern was recouping my money if I didn't like it. That's not a worry now as it sounds great.
In my system, this "50w into 4ohms" amp is tonally close to my missed but had-to-go Audiolab 8200 monoblocks. At least that's how it seems due to the low end extension the d 7050 gets out of my Quad 12L2s - at low/medium volumes which is where I listen.
The Nad is also reminsiscent of the 8200s in terms of clarity - I'm less confident here in the comparison but I would be curious to hear both in a blind test. The realism of the d 7050 is astonishing.
For comparion purposes, the best sound I got from the Quad 12L2s previously was with the Audiolab monoblocks and a Wadia 121. That combo was forgiving but revealing.
Subbing in the d 7050 sounds like a match for that combo straight off.
At the moment (all works are in progress) I have the d 7050 crossover at 70hz sending to a Velodyne 800 minivee sub turned down very low. To my surprise, this has resulted in a reduction of sub bass that has smoothed out the sound in-room without reducing bass impact. YMMV but I think this is due to the simplified chain reducing the impact of phase issues. I had previously got similar tone by using the Velodyne crossed over back to a power amp - similar tone but not as good in overall sound clarity or soundstage.
Anyone else out there a latecomer to the possibilities of discounted direct digital? I think NAD (this is my first NAD component, BTW) has slipped under the radar with this one. It's really good on sound quality alone, not withstanding the wireless connectivity.