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This review first appeared in the April 2014 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of NAD
in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or NAD - Ed.

Reviewer: Tobias Zoporowski
Sources: Analogue - Transrotor Insigne w. Rega RB 300 and Goldring 1042 GX, Lehmann Audio Black Cube Statement, Sansui T-80 modified tuner; digital - Lua Appassionato and Yamaha CD-S 1000, modified Advance Acoustic MiP-Station iPod dock, Musical Fidelity vDAC, Naim DAC
Amplification: Symphonic Line RG 9 MKIV, Yamaha A-S 1000
Loudspeakers: Magnat Quantum 905, Klipsch RF-82 II
Cables: Full in-akustik loom with Eagle Cable and WireWorld alternates
Review component retail: €899

I still remember them days when numerous hifi dealers promoted NAD kit as student hifi. This created a certain underdog status. Most their components were cosmetically minimalist and in their strange dark-grey livery also modest on colour. But they clocked in with inner values and stellar price/performance ratios. And a student really could—with a halfway decent part-time job—get into an NAD system. That those routinely embarrassed rather costlier contenders was a fact not lost on the connoisseurs. Fast forward to 2014. It’s been a few years already that in parallel to their still ongoing Classic series NAD have pursued more lifestyle designs in their Viso and Masters ranges with high-quality casings and fat faceplates as though to symbolize the paradigm shift to digital technology and new media. Last year saw the launch of the new D range presently including two amps and a DAC which break with my student days in even more radical ways – and not just visually if also that. The new range topper D 7050 whose dominant volume knob recalls a projector lens in profile is exclusively targeted at digital sources. All analog inputs have vanished. Instead there are two each coaxial and optical S/PDIF, an async USB type B for a computer, a type A for iDevices plus an Ethernet port. The only thing ‘analogue’ aside from the speaker terminals is a subwoofer output on RCA. Special attention went to wireless. This compact amp does it WLAN via UPnP, via Apple’s AirPlay or, utterly simple, via Bluetooth. The latter even supports the sonically superior ‘apt-x’ codec claimed to approach CD quality streaming. Not all transmitting portables are fluent in it yet. Current smart phones from Samsung and HTC do talk apt-x but not the competition from Cupertino.

It’s no mystery just what audience this amp—which can park upright or sideways whilst the display auto adapts—has in mind: those who pursue music at the best quality primarily over the network and various streaming clients whilst hoping to also upgrade flat-panel monitors, TV receivers and sundry set-top boxes. It’s not really about the conservative clientele – unless they wish to get with the program. Which at least technically would be very interesting. NAD’s product manager Sven Pieper talks of "an entirely digital architecture" claiming it was first realized in NAD’s flagship Masters M2 integrated as their direct digital feedback or DDFA concept and has now been transferred virtually intact to the D 7050 albeit downscaled in power.
DDFA processes all digital input signals in the digital domain all the way up to the speaker terminals to suggest advantages over conventional solutions. This gets by without conventional D/A conversion by converting incoming PCM to PWM (pulse-width modulation) to directly switch the output FETs through an RC low-pass filter. For those wanting more tech talk, colleague Jörg Dames’ April 2010 review of the Masters M2 delves more deeply into this still rarely pursued circuit topology which, at least to my knowledge, here makes its first appearance for less than €1’000. [If I’m not mistaken, the $549 NuForce DDA100 does the same – Ed.]

Digital sources are processed up to 24-bit/192kHz. Connected via USB to a computer, OSX goes to work without a driver, Windows needs one as downloaded from NAD’s website. Now ‘el digitalo’ replaces your PC’s internal sound card. This even works off a long leash, i.e. a 5-meter USB cable. The official USB spec limits out at 5 meters but for USB 2.0 which we’re talking about here this can already be too much. With cables of excess lengths some computers can no longer recognize the USB device on the other end. No problem for the NAD if you go wireless via Airplay, Bluetooth or WLAN/UPnP. Of course we admit that the distance between transmitter and receiver shouldn’t be too large either especially if multiple walls and ceilings are involved.

My brows crinkled at the included remote. The small rubbery wand did conform nicely to one’s hand. But being all black, the small symbols were barely legible even in the bright light of day. Huh? One glance at the Classic range shows how NAD have far more ergonomic versions in their portfolio. Wireless integration with the home network was dead simple particularly with an iOS machine (iPod, iPhone, iPad) already on line. You simply connect it—in my case an iPhone—to the type A USB port, press the red WPS button and then answer the prompt ‘connect to network?’ on your smartphone display with ‘yes’.  A tiny blinking triangle in the upper right corner of the NAD’s display confirms com protocol with the WLAN router. Once it stops flashing, the handshake is complete and the D 7050 added to your network. Sounds simple? It is. Non iOS users have it equally easy. They won’t need any cable at all but simply ‘pair’ the NAD with the press of a button to their WLAN router. Now all network-connected devices can see the D 7050. As a final resort the NAD even offers a LAN Ethernet port to go old-fashioned wired.