NAD Viso HP50: The Unique Headphone

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Disclaimer: I got in touch with the local NAD branch and they pretty much immediately agreed to send us the HP50 for review. The loaner headphone will return to them after the review.

 

The Background

The HP50 of course isn’t a new headphone but for some reason we never got to featuring it on Headfonia. As everyone is constantly raving about this NAD headphone, we had to check it out for ourselves. A review that’s long overdue.

The 32Ohm HP50 is a closed full size over ear headphone. The removable leather pads are really soft and seal extremely well, they hardly let any sound in (or out). Readers with bigger ears (you know who you are) should note however that your ears will be touching the pads at all times. The ear cups on the HP50 swivel so the headphone can lie flat and it makes them a little easier to transport. Personally I find them a bit big to carry around all the time and I do consider them more as a “home” kind of headphone.

NAD states they don’t care about lifestyle but they care about your ears. I believe them as I don’t like the design of the HP50 at all. And I’m being nice here. The leather headband, while being very comfortable looks weird and the design of the comfy ear cups that house the 40mm drivers, well what can I say, you like it or you don’t. What I do like about the design is that you can either connect the cable on both sides of the headphone, something we’ve seen before with other recently reviewed closed back headphones. The HP50 comes with 2 flat cables, one of which has the iDevice remote.

A lot of lightweight materials were used making this headphone, and while I’m obviously not a fan of its looks, I have to admit it is a lightweight headphone with superb comfort. In that regard the design is extremely good. It comes in white, red and black. We received the white version but I think the red one is the nicest looking. Build quality is good but because of the choice of lightweight materials and the plastic cups it doesn’t look as good as the P7 or H6. But of course that’s personal.

Sound & Technology

Of course looks aren’t the most important thing when selecting a headphone and so I was hoping the sound part would blow me away. And blow me away it did when I first put on the (already burned in) HP50. I did not expect this sound signature! Most of the time when everyone likes a headphone (let’s take the Sennheiser Momentum as example) you have big bass, warm sound and thick mids with somewhat rolled off treble. I expected the HP50 to be exactly like that but oh was I wrong.

The designer of the headphone, Paul Barton from PSB Speakers, is known for his speaker development but has already developed the M4U headphones as well. He’s very much respected for what he does and I have to say I respect him for what he did with this NAD headphone.

Secretly I had hoped to not like the NAD Viso HP50 like everyone else does but I’m afraid I would be lying if I said it sucked. It absolutely rocks! “Why is it so great then?”, you ask. Well here it goes.

Sound on Page 2!

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Lieven is living in Europe and is a full time Headfonia writer and the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650. Taking pictures is a real challenge but seeing happy readers in the end is what it's all about for him.

  • George Lai

    Uncomfortable headband that’s all I have to say. Oh, and small earpads too.

    • Eli Segal

      Can you say what headphones you do find comfortable? thanks

      • George Lai

        Sure. HD600-800, LCD, HE-400/500, D2000-7000, Mad/Alpha Dogs, K550 as examples.

        • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

          Magnum.

          • George Lai

            Indeed. Love their ice cream too.

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        Sennheiser HD600/650/700/800. HE-560. Alpha/Mad dog. DT990, etc etc

        • Eli Segal

          Any portables?

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            CIEMs. T51P was remarkably comfy, but overall I’m not a fan of portable

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              It’s harder to get good sound in the smaller headphones.

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            The B&O H6 is very portable and very comfy. The Beyerdynamic DTX501p is a minor step down in sound quality, but cheap at $100 and very comfortable. The new Harman Soho is comfortable, but isn’t secure enough for vigorous activity. The Thinksound ON1 sounds as good as the ATH ESW9/a, but is more comfy and has excellent detachable cables.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I didn’t find the headband uncomfortable. The pads are on the smaller side though

  • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

    It confirms what I surmised about the treble.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I don’t think that was a secret ;)

  • SunnyD

    I love these headphones too. I find the headband really comfortable and its my top closed headphone for the moment.

    Lieven, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with this website. However, I do enjoy your articles and your descriptions.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      I appreciate that they list the negatives along with the positives. But what makes the site good is they don’t just review every dubious design that comes along – they choose components that their followers will mostly like.

      • SunnyD

        Well, Lieven and Nate definitely do that consistently. Huge fan of you too Dale… love your comments on this site and innerfidelity.

        I enjoyed Lieven’s reflection on how ugly he considers the HP50. I don’t feel the same way but I’m certain that many people would. The world of portable closed headphones seems to focus on form versus function. I get the sense that NAD thought they had the right balance but missed. Fortunately, the functionality of the headphone is terrific.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Well if you like its looks or not is personal taste. I’m pretty sure a lot of people love the looks. I like how the H6 looks but a lot of people hate it. I wouldn’t base my buying decision on looks though

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            We just need more money.

  • Marc

    Finally!! I wasn’t expecting this headphone to hit Headfonia any time soon. I wonder what’s next. To be honest, I rather dislike the aesthetics of the headphone but if it’s comfortable and sounds real good even at that price, I guess it’s good enough.

    Lieven, may I ask for a comparison between the Fidelio L2 and the NAD Viso HP50? They’re both at the same price range and both at the upper leagues of portable/home hybrids headphones. Which would your rank to have higher technicalities and at the end of day, which headphone would you prefer and why?

    Well written review as always. Also, it’s a shame. This was meant to be a comment posted 7 hours ago but apparently didn’t save.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Let me get back to you on this

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      The L2 will still win on technicalities and has the better driver. Bass has less body but treble is better (L2)

      Both are great headphones but the L2 is the better one on technicalities and pure audio quality.

      Why not have both? ;)

  • Anthony Kimball

    If you like these, I’d be very curious of your impressions/comparisson of the other Paul Barton headphone, PSB M4U1…I’d love to audition them both!

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I’d like to hear it too :)

  • Sudip Gadwal

    i love the way your pictures on the website show up even bad looking gear in to great looking ones…keep it up..grt work..

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Thank you!

  • Sudip Gadwal

    i did not think it was a bad looking headphone after a first glance at the pictures..it was only when i went through the review did i discover that you actually don’t like the design aesthetics …lol..

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      I really liked the look, red color and all. But those swivel arms remind me of the cheap and awful tubes that the Martin-Logan Mikros 90 uses to connect the headband to the earcups. But maybe the HP50 implementation is high quality.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      It’s personal, you love it or hate it.

  • JRK

    Does this mean we’ll see something about the Focal Spirit Por/Classic on here sometime?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Who knows :)

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      The Focal Spirit Pro is built like a tank. Unfortunately, it feels like a tank on my head.

  • Wiwandra

    How does it performs sound wise compared to Philips fidelio L2?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I’ll get back to this later today

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      The L2 will still win on technicalities and has the better driver. Bass has less body but treble is better (L2)

      Both are great headphones but the L2 is the better one on technicalities and pure audio quality

      • willy vlyminck

        You even said it is close to the HD700, but what when the L2 was produced in Belgium and came at the same pricetag of the HD700? For this reason the pricetag is irrevelant because it depends a lot of the production location, and is not a sign for better quality as such. The German brands produce only their most expensive models exclusively at home, so does AKG in Austria with the 812. Below a certain pricetag all other models are enginered and produced in China. Philips can´t produce in belgium at selling price of 279 and 299 Euro for the x1/ x2, but I am sure they are equal in quality if not better.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

          I can partly agree to that :)

      • willy vlyminck

        Important is there is bass when demanded, when for example listening to Magma, Primus and other bass loaded prog, which has nothing to do with the kind of bass needed or demanded for current mainstream styles of music. I did order the L2, so i am curious how the bass will sound with before mentioned music but also with reggae from Linton Kwesi Johnson.

    • Wiwandra

      wow that means L2 is actually fantastic, i was a bit hesitate to buy is because of the hype and the fact that i haven’t got a chance to try it. I might consider selling my sony ma900 and buy L2. Btw have you got a chance to try and compare both of them (ma900 and L2)? Just for my final consideration, thnx

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        I have not

      • Marc

        Check the L2 review’s comment section!! I remember seeing Mike posting his comparison between the Sony MA900 and the Fidelio L2

  • Kristian Lindecrantz

    Great review, as always! I too have this headphone and i agree with pretty much all you say! This headphone however has me some what confused, it sounded way better then i expected… So now, naturaly, im looking for something better but with similar caracteristics. How does this headphone compare to any of the “dogs” or the Fostex TH600? As Im contemplating these right now… Your input would be highly appriciated

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Well the Dogs of course are planars. personally I would put them Alpha>Mad>HP50. I would forget about the TH600 if you can all the others for a lot less.

      thanks for the compliment!

  • Nickjan Glas

    nice to read a comparison with the H6 again (since it is the only one I own at the moment) For me the subtle bass compared to the details I perceive made me go for the H6 and listening to more and more orchestral music I find it getting better and better. In the future I ll pbly compare more, and now I ll be curious about this one. so great review again.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Thanks man!

  • Pedro Oliveira

    How does the hp50 compares with the denon d600?
    Wich is the better all rounder in your opinion? Specially for rock, pop and edm…

    The nad viso hp60 can now be bought in europe for about 190 euros and the denon ah d600 for 130….

    Cheers

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Are you looking for specific information to make a headphone purchase, or is this a research project of some kind? What are your requirements for your purchase?

      • Pedro Oliveira

        I just want to make the right choice dale. Unfortunately for me its not that easy to make returns and in my country all the heahpones i mentioned and that i am curious about are impossible to try unless i buy them.
        Research project? No. I just want to make sure i dont sink my money in something that will not satisfy me and also this information will be usefull not for me but also for people who have the same doubts as me.
        Its impossible not to get curious about headphones that used to cost 300 or 400 euros and now cost 150 or 130. On one hand you think, ooooh what a bargain but on the other hand you get suspicious and start wondering if they are that good….
        When you cant try something without buying it your only chance is to rely on the information that amazing people like you and L provide us…. I know that what you guys like is different from what i or other person likes, but its always nice to have a reference point…

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          The many comparisons you ask for will likely lead you the wrong way, because comparing a to b, where a is better than b, then comparing b to c where b is better than c, so you see that a is far better than c, yes? But c may be better than a, which happens often, for complex reasons. If you’re buying only one headphone and you want *good* advice, you need to research by reading reviews, then state your requirements in detail, then more research, then start narrowing down to your final choices. I read all of your questions, and the comparisons are all over, not getting focused on your requirements.

          • Pedro Oliveira

            You are right Dale… i am a bit all over the place thats true and i am sorry for that…. i am a bit confused as you can tell….. XD

            Lets try too make this simpler then….

            P7’s are out of the way…. i bet they sound amazing but they are too expensive….
            The nad’s, they seem great but it seems they also have small and not very deep pads so if i had problems with those i will surelly have problems with the nads, also tha nads must be a bit more flat than the momentums and as i said i like the momentums signatur and sound quality….
            The amperiors lets forget them…. i am certainly i love how the sound and i want a bit more bass for my hd25’s and the amperiors would probably give me a bit more (and i may even ending up getting them) but for now it would be money wasted on a almost identical pair to the hd25’s….

            so basically there are three options,

            recaping the requirements, i listen mostly to indie, pop rock and edm, i love the sound of the hd25’s and the momentums and i want the same quality and a similar sound signature to the momentums but with a REAL over ear design and spacious sound since my v6’s and hd25’s are all but spacious sounding….

            The contenders…..

            Although a bit expenve the b&o H6 in blue can be had for 225 euros on amazon uk.

            The dt770 80 or 32 ohm, the 80 ohm for 120, the 32 ohm for 150 (lost the le deal)

            and last but not least the denon ah d600 (my main fear about the denon is that they are too colored since as i said the i like the momentum and the mdr 1r was too muffled and colored for me…. also one of my fears is because many say they have a loose fit and i had seal and fit issues with the akg k550) at 135 euros….

            Better now? :)

            Hope you guys can help…. Cheers…. :)

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              Instead of saying “real over ear” just say “fully around ear”, and that way people won’t be telling you to buy a headphone that doesn’t fit.

              BTW, I just got the new Soundmagic HP-150, and it’s really, really good. Full bass, full treble, clear and clean.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      To me the HP50 is the better headphone

  • sasa208

    Again, great review. I tried and like this headphone very much.
    In your review of the Mr. speakers Alpha Dog there was a hint in the comments that the
    HP50 might be a good contender for the AD. Since you have tested them both, which on do you favour? Also considering the price.. Looks go to the AD for sure!
    Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I prefer the AD with the MD pads. Price wise nothing can beat the HP50

      • sasa208

        Thanks! Looks like I’ll be getting the HP50’s then. Last one on my ‘to consider’ list is the DT770 Pro AE. They are hard to find and I probably won’t have the chance to test them. Would you prefer the HP50 or the 770 Pro AE ?

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Completely different sound. Depends what you want

          • sasa208

            I liked the slightly warm sound of the HP50. After a while listening I noticed it integrated the mids and highs very nicely, but it took me some time to realize this. From what I have read the DT 770 AE is more analytical, more clear overal. This atracks me because I like an overal neutral and balanced sound. (but slightly warm like the HP50 is very nice) Buying the 770 AE blindly is a bit tricky perhaps since they sound very diffently like you say.

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              I looked over a long list I’m familiar with, to see if there’s a more ‘analytical’ sounding headphone with a wide response in the same price range as the DT770 Pro-32, and all I could find is the Soundmagic HP100. It also is very different from the DT770-32, but could be worth investigating for a more neutral sound (with strong low bass but no upper bass emphasis).

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              The HP50 is not warm, at all. They are completely different headphones

  • Marc Axelrod

    Hp 50 bass extension is terrific, and I really like the case that comes with it. But the plastic creaky construction and awful looks leave much to be desired in a lifestyle headphone.

    I also felt the mids were unnaturally airy and spacy.

    The treble was a little splashy, which I particularly noticed with cymbals. I did a head-to-head shootout with the Sennheiser Moment,um over ear, and I felt that the Sennheiser Momentum sounded better on almost every song. On occasion, the bass sounded overly warm and thick on the Momentum, and on those songs, I sometimes preferred the HP 50. But overwhelmingly, the Momentum sounded richer and more natural.

    I also feel that among closed sealed headphones, the Brainwavz HM5 has a much much wider soundstage.

    But I appreciate your review, and I realize that most professional reviewers agree.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Thanks for the comments. These are things that might not seem important to some users, but it’s good to know – to listen for when I get a chance at the HP50.

    • FingerPrince

      Plastic, creaky construction? Thats a deal breaker for me. For 299€ the build quality must be flawless.

      • Marc Axelrod

        The HP 50 sounds decent, but they are vastly overrated by some online audio hobbyists. The Momentum over ear and the AKG 545 are much better buys in the lifestyle headphone category under $300

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          The Momentum is highly overrated and the HP50 is the better technical one by far.

          • Marc Axelrod

            I have heard a number of people say the HP 50 is the better technical headphone. but I have not heard that many people say the Momentum is highly overrated. The Momentum’s weaknesses and strengths are well- documented.

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              Even on my site. But in the end, the Momentum compared to the H6, or HP50 or P7 can’t keep up

              • Marc Axelrod

                I admit that I am a Sennheiser fanboy. To my ears, the HD239 and the HD 600 share the same neutral punchy sound signature. The HD 202, the HD 439, the Momentum over ear, and the HD 650 have the rich thick warm sound, and the HD 598 and the HD 700 have the treble tilted warm sound.

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          Problem is, so many people thought the Momentum “over” ear was around ear. Big mistake!

          • Marc Axelrod

            I just appreciate the way it sounds., rich, warm, fairly well balanced, like a baby HD 650.

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              I had the original HD650, which had a normal treble. But the Momentum sound was dulled on the high end, which I suppose was a deliberate move away from high fidelity.

              • Marc Axelrod

                I guess everyone’s ears are different. I felt the upper frequencies of the Sennheiser momentum were fine, until I started listening to the old HD 560 ovation, with its otherworldly shimmering Treble. That classic headphone makes 90 percent of the headphones on the market today sound dull. It is all depending on what you are comparing it to I guess…

                • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                  The problem with the momentum for me are the lack of good treble and the overpowering loose bass. The 650 doesnt have that to this degree. HD650 is a King!

                  • Marc Axelrod

                    The Momentum is warm with a slight boost to the lower frequencies. But there is adequate control down low most of the time. It is definitely not A V shaped head phone or a u-shaped phone,it is pretty Well balanced. Try it with the Audiophile cable rather than the one with the microphone.

                    there is no life style headphone that would sound as high fidelity and refined as an open back HD 600 or 650 or DT 880.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      H6 and p7 both do ;)

                    • Marc Axelrod

                      I like those headphones a lot. The H6 was on sale in blue for $199 last month, I almost pulled the trigger. A great choice for portable devices. Wish it was a tad punchier, but still great.

                      And P7 is a lot of fun. But for home use, I definitely prefer the HD 600. I don’t think there’s anything under $500 somebody could give me in exchange for my 600s.

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      I had the 600 and it was my reference at one time, but now I see it as more treble-balanced and I think that makes it suitable mostly for jazz, folk, classical, than for the wider range of genres. I would prefer to use the AKG K712 (with a little bass boost) or the MrSpeakers Mad Dog, which for me have a warmer tone that works fine for the aforementioned genres, but especially for rock, EDM, metal, and others. I see the warmer sound as a long-term trend for audiophile headphone listening, given the typical recordings we mostly listen to today.

                    • Marc Axelrod

                      What do you mean by treble balanced? Do you mean treble tilted? That would characterize my description of HD 598, but I see 600 as more neutral.

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      The HD600 is voiced much like the HD800, with less detail and less soundstage of course. These were touted (and measured by Sennheiser) as very neutral, but down the road they’re seen as more treble-centric than neutral, even if the difference is considered small, like 3 to 5 db.

                    • Marc Axelrod

                      I didn’t know that. I still like the 600 a lot. I like my classic AKG K240 a lot, and if I could find an AKG that has the same signature but a more clear mid range, that would be awesome.

                      The 712 is probably more than what I would want to spend right now, but may be a 701….

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      The 712 is one headphone that sounds great right out of the box, but compared to the Momentum, it’s tilted the other way, with good treble extension (not bright though), and a fairly lean bass. It’s selling on several sites for around $350 – the original Momentum price, and given the amazing comfort and all, a pretty good deal.

                    • Marc Axelrod

                      I’ll keep it on my radar.Off topic question.how do I get the annoying High pitch beeeeeeeeeeep sound to stop emanating from my Schiit Vali? I hear it coming through my 600 and my 650

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      Wow, that’s interesting. Right off, sounds like one of the components is failing. Can you open it and wiggle the components and tubes? Make sure all connections are secure first.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      I agree/ HD600/650/ kings!

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  I don’t see ears as different for hi-fi purposes. If we’re sitting together at a concert, we hear the same thing, and if we play the recording at home and it sounds the same as live, that’s high fidelity and has nothing to do with different ears. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I can compare 50 or so headphones within one db or less at a range of frequencies, to determine how they balance sound from bass to treble. That said though, once you get past the freq. response or however you want to experience it (dark, light, in between), then you find a bunch of other aspects that complicate matters (amps etc.), so at that point any particular description of the sound is just a generality.

                • Batman

                  Tyll over at InnerFidelity does and awesome writeup on old vs new Senn’s and some the different trends that headphones went through over the years. Check it out.

                  • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                    Decent electrostatic headphones such as the Koss ESP9 and Stax SRX MK3 were available back as far as the 1970’s – I had both of those and a few others. My impression of a real breakthrough in dynamic headphones was the Senn HD580, with a rave review by Stereophile, sometime in the mid-1990’s. Before that most dynamics were either too thin and shrill, or too dull. The HD580 gave a real concert-hall sound, albeit slightly distant. Senn pretty much fixed that distant perspective with the HD600. The next great breakthrough I thought was the HD800 in 2009, and as far as I know, it still reigns supreme in resolution of fine harmonic detail.

  • Patrick

    What are your thoughts of grado sr80i and sr325/i in comparison to those two?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Well it is grado. Have you ever listened to the grados?

  • willy vlyminck

    The enginering was done by Paul barton of the Canadian PSB loudspeaker brand. NAD fans might be this headphone and that is all that matters, being a brandname fan can be dangerous for your mental health not to mention your wallet :-)

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

      Isn’t that always the case with Brand name fans. Same goes for apple and the iPhone

      • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

        Just don’t put that new iPhone in a pocket, where it can get bent.

        • John123John

          LOL

      • willy vlyminck

        I always had different Android devices, but after the hearing the iPhone 5s with my Grado GR10, I was hooked, but I wouldn´t call myself a brand fan, with the exeption maybe of Philips, because as a Belgian, I am proud of the Belgian enginering that define the Fidelio products. Back in 1992 I had one of the first activ speakers, with a dac/pre-amp and cd player. Philips were always pioneers, only the press by than didn´t really like this 900 serie set. They were more into Mark Levinson, Accuphase, and Krell, Philips was not exotic enough but the 900 serie was really great and i owned the set for 15 year,

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

          I like hearing these stories. We Belgians made some good stuff back in the days