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Over-Ear item created by nightmancometh, Dec 2, 2013
Pros - Sound Quality. Very pretty, comes in nice box with accessories.
Cons - Comfort.
It's been over a year since I last wrote a review here on Head-Fi. This is because few headphones that i've owned since then have impressed me lol. I had my eyes on the NAD HP50's for a couple of years now and finally decided to purchase a pair this november (2016). I was aware that NAD made higher-end audio equipment and it's safe to say that the HP50's reflect this. I always use the excellent Oehlbach XXL DAC ULTRA headphone amp to test new headphones with and that is what I used for the HP50's. I gotta say they are terrific value for money!... clean, crisp highs, smooth mids and very accurate bass. Maybe too accurate bass!..upon my first listen I thought - "where is the bass"...but after a while I realised that it was recording-dependant. Which I like...but if you are a basshead then you will probably hate these headphones. If I where to compare them to another headphone in the same price category i'd say they where quite similar to B&O H6's. They have a similar sound signature except the H6's have a bit more bass. The HP50's are better value and they sound better, overall IMO. The only negative thing about the HP50's is the comfort. The earpads are too small! and I don't have large ears...I'm not the only one who has comfort issues with these headphones, many people do. However, It's the only negative thing. The HP50's are exceptional headphones. 9/10 for me!
Pros - Wonderful mids, decent bass and non-fatiguing highs. Sound output from these is hard to fault.
Cons - Awkward looks, small opening in the pads, cheap looking plastic cups, noise from adjustment mechanism
The NAD VISO HP50 could have been a truly outstanding headphone. They produced a set with great sound, with a marvelous midrange, bass when it is called for in the music and highs that do not sound shrill, glaring or in any way harsh to the ear. And for a closed back headphone, it has decent sound stage, though I don't think the "Room Sound" technology is superior to that of open back headphones I've tried in the same price range, or even some open backed headphones that are much less expensive.
If anyone has seen the review from the Wirecutter that said these headphones couldn't reproduce sound under 90hz, I can tell you that is a load of horse****. Going to the online tone generator, I was able to hear tones from 90hz on down to 20hz, though with the 20hz tone, you feel it as much as hear it with these headphones.
No, the problems with the VISO HP50 is its physical design, and choice of materials. The plastic cups look and feel cheap, and their glossy surface does nothing to dispel this impression. The hinge on the cups has horizontal slop that I'm afraid will only get worse with use. Though the headband adjustment stays in place where you put it, it also has slight popping or creaking noises that transmit directly into the cup and will annoy you if you move around very much.
And now on to the pads. There is no space within the pads for average to larger than average sized ears, so these headphones are more like an on-ear design for me. The material used in the pads is soft and makes a good seal, there is very good isolation with these headphones, but the pads squash down with use and you'll be pressed against the material covering the driver in no time, since there isn't much space in there.
I left the worst part for the end, the look of the headphone. While its on a stand, its tolerable. While being worn, it looks ridiculous. Truly, you look like you've attached a handle to the top of your head.
I have a difficult time recommending these to anyone, just because of the deficiencies in the build, but I have no issues with their sound, and use them when I want a more discerning presentation than my other sets.
Pros - Lightweight, balanced and neutral sound, reasonable isolation, does everything well
Cons - Headband not comfortable for everyone, plasticky build, lightly veiled sound
I've tested these HP50s through both an Audioquest Dragonfly Red and an Aune X1S. Both are more than powerful enough for all of the cans I own, the others being the Sennheiser HD595, Bose QC25, and Philips Fidelio X2.
Tl;dr: The HP50s rate second-best in that collection, but are the pair I choose for work and commuting, because they're closed and lightweight.
In comparison to the HD595s, the HP50 is reasonably similar in regards to the quantity and quality of the trebles and mids. However, HP50s have decent bass, whereas the HD595s are lacking in both the quantity and impact of that bass. I've read that many people think that the HP50s have a reasonable soundstage, but I could argue that only in the context of other closed headphones. The open HD595s have a larger soundstage. The HP50s are superior for detail retrieval, but it's not as big a difference as you might think.
Compared to the Bose QC25s, the HP50s possess more detail all around and suffer less sound leakage. (Of course, the QC25s isolate you more from the outside world, but the HP50s are reasonable given they don't have any active noise cancelling.) The QC25s have one strength--they handle sibilance better than most headphones. While the bass is a little greater on the QC25s, it doesn't kick as sharply, nor does it possess as much resolution. The QC25s are a little dull in their presentation overall in comparison--ever so slightly muffled and veiled. The QC25s are about US$300 now. What you get for that is about the equivalent of a $150 headphone (for sonic quality) with $150 of fancy noise cancelling added in. One other strength of the QC25s is that they are fantastically comfortable.
The Fidelio X2s best the HP50s in every way with regards to sound quality, with their downside being that they're very, very open and leak sound everywhere and don't isolate at all. Basically, if I could use my Fidelio X2s while commuting and in the office at work, I would choose them over the HP50s without a question. The X2s are more detailed, have a wider and deeper soundstage, separate instruments more/ are less congested, and sound more forward. I love the sound from the X2s. They make even bad music sound good, whereas the HP50s don't give me the same level of pleasure from a song. The X2s are slightly darker in presentation overall--the HP50s are certainly the more neutral sound.
The HP50s do have some other characteristics worth discussing. The sound--particularly the treble and the high mids--is just slightly veiled, but it's hard to describe this. I've heard it described that it's like you're listening through some cotton balls. But that doesn't quite capture it. The funny thing about this veiled sound is that it's different to the muffled veil of the QC25s or other cheaper-sounding headphones. It does give you the *slightest* sense of what NAD is marketing as RoomFeel technology, which is to say that these headphones give you a *little* hint of sounding more like listening to speakers than some headphones. But what others hear as 'RoomFeel', I initially heard as something like a recession of instruments in the soundstage. I notice it most with vocals. Again, I need to emphasise that this veil is not killing details in the sound, so it's not muffled in the traditional sense.
You could argue this as a strength or weakness depending on your preferences. I know that Tyll from Inner Fidelity loved these headphones, and that Zeos from Z Reviews was bothered by that aspect of the sound. Regardless, the effect of this is that the HP50s just present in a very fatigue-free way compared to most headphones. For work, where I want my concentration to be elsewhere and don't want background music fatiguing me, they are a perfect match. However, as mentioned, I just don't get quite the same listening pleasure or excitement from my music that the X2s give. However, the HP50s still rate as the best closed-back headphones I've owned, and you can wear them for hours without listening fatigue.
If I had to summarise, it's that the funny thing about the HP50s is that they don't do anything wrong, but they don't do anything that excites you either. Okay, they're more exciting than the QC25s and I can't be bothered with the HD595s any more because of the lack of bass. But that impression of not being exciting would seem to match Marco Arment's thoughts on this headphone as well as Zeo's group review of closed headphones that includes the HP50s.
In terms of comfort and build, the HP50s are reasonably comfortable. The cups fit my average-sized ears, but might not fit larger ears. The centre of the headband can push down on the top of my skull in an uncomfortable way unless I take care to position them right when putting them on. The build is very, very plasticky. That doesn't mean they're not durable or poorly built, but they don't feel expensive in the hand, nor do they instil confidence the way that the metal construction of the X2s does. And while the HP50s look okay from the side, the squarish headband is odd.
They also come with a decent soft case, two cables, a 1/4" jack adaptor, a plane adaptor, and a nice little container to fit these odds and ends.
Quality Assurance could be an issue. Mine came with one cup that doesn't rotate in as it should, and the cable with the mic has just awful volume buttons that don't seem to click properly and don't work with Android phones. (Okay, NAD admits upfront that the cable is only Apple-compatible, but it's an oversight nevertheless.) I've also read other accounts of issues with the cables. However, as the cables are standard 3.5mm and replaceable, this isn't a deal-breaker.
Despite these issues, I don't know of any other portable, closed headphones for USD$220 that could compete with the HP50s, particularly with regards to sound quality. (Marco Arment thinks the second-gen B&O H6s are better, but those are significantly more money.) And if I'd never owned the X2s, I would have been perfectly happy with the HP50s. They are good headphones that do nothing wrong, and I think that if you want a closed set of headphones for work and commuting, it really is hard to do better for this price.
Based on sound quality when keeping the price in mind, then they score a 4.5 / 5 from me. But the issues with comfort and quality and design dip the final score from me to 4 / 5. And if NAD ever offers a HP60 or HP70 with a less-plasticky construction, I would certainly be interested and curious.
Pros - Sound quality
Cons - Comfort
These headphones sound extremely well for the price range, but they might get uncomfortable over time depending on your head/ears. When I use them I feel the pressure coming from the top of the of the pads, and on the bottom they are not properly sealed. My ears also stick out a little bit, so over time I can get an aching pain in my ears because of the headphones pressing on top of them.
Pros - tonal balance, forgiving,
Cons - more bloat than I expected, sounds closed-in, midbass boost, delicate finish, neither small nor big
I recently tested one on a Chord Hugo and was underwhelmed because I ended up preferring the Amperior next to it with pop music. The Amperior is overall a little worse but it's not night and day. I suspect the HD25ALU might beat it ...
It's quite good but it doesn't have the freedom from bloat some other closed headphones have (like my old hd250's). The bass boost bleeds into the midrange a little. But it doesn't have any treble boost either
I guess it's tuned for portable use but it's not going to replace a home headphone like a HD600 without a pretty big sound quality penalty. It's also quite "clampy" on my big head. And to tell you the truth, the HD25 derivatives are better suited for portable use, I trust those to last - I don't think the HP50 will take the same kind of abuse as a HD25 without breaking.
A good headphone, solid 4 out of 5 stars. Just not a world beater.
Pros - Versatile, multirole, excellent scalability, warm and smooth sound while still maintaining good dynamics, comfortable,
Cons - Looks good anywhere: on the desk, on the headphone stand, lying around the office, next to your badass dac/amp, on Instagram, except on your head.
I've always dreamed of a simple life, where one headphone, one amp, one DAC, one cable, will suffice. Alas, it's never meant to be. You see, in the Air Force, they have what is known as Multirole Fighter, much like the F-35 Lightning and its variants. Oh, I'm sure the top brass would love to have it simple as well by creating these multirole fighters. They dreamed of a day where there will be only one type of fighter for all kind of missions: dogfighting, striking, bombing, ground supporting, long range interdicting, intercepting, AWACS killer, and it's not just the Americans: Russians have Su-35 and Mig-35, The Swedes have the Gripen, the French have the Rafales. the Chinese have the J-10B and the J-16. However, the problem with designing these type of aircraft is you might end up with a good plane instead of a very good plane for the missions it is intended to do. Take the F-35 for example, I've heard that it is plagued with inefficiencies and compromises. For example, the Marine version have a lift jet for VSTOL operation at Forward Airbases, but the Air Force version ended up with a huge gaping gap where the lift jet would be in the Marine version (AF version don't need the lift jets, they can take off from proper runways in proper airbases), due to the common airframe they must share. When you pit it against other airplanes, the combination of stealth, electronics, and radar systems will score it multiple victories in real battle, although a Sukhoi Su-35 will outmanouvre it in a dogfight, and it is nothing compared to the payload a B-52 can carry in a bombing run. According to the planners, this is what F-35 supposed to do despite the aforementioned problems. This is why we won't be seeing the Air Force retiring the A-10, EF-18, B-52, and F-22 anytime soon despite the multiple capability of the F-35. Same thing also happened with headphones, many headphone manufacturers fall into trap of trying to be everything for everybody and ended up pleasing no one.
I am pleased to say that the NAD Viso HP50 is a rare breed of multirole products that is good in all aspects, while being excellent in some. It's excellent plugged into my Burson HA-160D and my Objective2. It is good plugged into my portable gears, and even straight out of my iPhone 5S, which means you can use it for both portable and un-portable applications with great results. Other reviewers more experienced than I have stated what this headphone sounds like: It has a full bodied mids, slightly boosted bass, and an inoffensive treble. I'd say it follows similar signature as many other newer European offerings from Philips Fidelio ranges, Momentums, B&O H series, B&W P series, and Focal Spirit series, but with even more careful tuning and refinement. This kind of signature suits multiple genre of music, apparently. I think Paul Barton did superbly in the tuning and the refining of this headphone. If you can only have one headphone, this is what you should get. This, IMHO, is the F-35 of the headphone world
Pros - Incredibly well balanced, textured sound, great price.
Cons - Looks a little goofy on the head, earpads are a bit stuffy, cable a little thin.
This is my video review of the NAD VISO HP50 with some short notes to follow. Please note that I received this headphone as a loaner unit from NAD!
The VISO HP50 is a well built headphone that is a surprisingly mature design for a first effort from NAD. Since the design is so simple and the materials used are good quality, it feels like a well built premium product. I am not a big fan of the black glossy plastic because it gets fingerprint smudges very easily, and I am not so sure about look of the lettering and branding on the headphone. This is just aesthetic preference though.
On the head the VISO HP50 feels very stable and quite comfortable. Clamping force is a little above average and combined with the slightly small / shallow earpads this means they can feel a bit stuffy on the ears. Noise isolation is very good though. For a portable headphone, the HP50 looks very large and unwieldy on the head, especially because of the unusual headband design. Wearing it on the street did get me a few looks.
The flat cables on the VISO HP50 are a little on the thinner side. On the plug end of the headphone the strain relief does not seem particularly well reinforced. I would have liked to see a better quality cable.
The VISO HP50 is an extremely well balanced and tuned headphone. While it's always a cliche to say this, the VISO HP50 has a signature where nothing is particularly prominent in the mix. The bass is well extended but not particularly emphasised, while the treble is smooth but textured and detailed. There is some gentle emphasis on the upper midrange / lower treble that gives everything a slightly dry, crunchy and textured sound, but not so much that it sounds nasal or has a blare to the sound. The headphone also sounds very fast, delicate and sprightly.
My one criticism of the sound is that it lacks a little in terms of treble extension, and as a result the soundstage can sound a little more intimate or closed in than I would personally prefer.
This headphone is a terrific all rounder, but some might find the signature a bit boring for more aggressive genres of music because of the relative lack of bass or treble emphasis. I think the Audio Technica M50X is surprisingly comparable if you wanted a punchier, less natural signature.
A fantastically balanced all rounder that I would be happy to recommend to anyone provided they were okay with looking a bit goofy on the street.
Pros - "Room Feel" is for real. They come across as rather airy for a closed can. An enveloping sound that is very pleasurable.
Cons - Not really a con but these are not for those who prefer heaphones that are artificially "bright". Somewhat funky design.
Don't know what to say that has not already been said. They sound amazing. I'm now a believer in "Room Feel". Hard to explain. It's not like your actually sitting in a room with high end speakers but at the same time the "sound" is very similar to sitting in a room with high end speakers. No harsh treble.....but the highs are still there like they would be if you where sitting in a quality listening room. It's just a very "comfortable" sound........something you could listen to all day without ever feeling fatigued by it.
The usual adjectives - warm, neutral (without lacking anything). Solid bass, mids, highs. They come across as rather airy for a closed can....sort of an enveloping sound that is very pleasurable. Comfort has been just fine so far. If you put them on "snug" then the top band will probably bother you. But these are very light for their size and you can wear them "loose" where the top is just barely touching your head. The fit over your ears keep them in place (although it's not tight).
If you like "bright" headphones then these will not be for you. Sibilance will never be an issue with these. It will be interesting to see how I feel about my Beyerdynamic DT 990's after listening to these for a while. They make the 990's sound quite bright.
Build quality seems good but not outstanding. These are really not about the look.....they are all about the sound.
Pros - Great mids, crisp highs, deep lows, very comfortable, well built
Cons - short cable, after 2 or 3 hours
When I first fired these babies off (the song was Bohemian Rhapsody) I couldn't believe it. These cans provide such a clean and open sound its like the artist is in the room with you. The amount of musical easter eggs you will pick up is insane, you can hear the drummer's metronome on Revolution by The Beatles. The highs are nice and crisp, the mids are great, and the lows are nice and clean with a little punch. While the earcups are made with a nice soft memory foam, they will make your ears a little bit uncomfortable after a long time of listening, i'm sure they will be more comfortable after I get used to them, but its still irritating. Both of the cables they provide you with are very short, they are approximately 4 feet long, so you might want to consider buying a longer cable. The ambidextrous cable jacks in the headphones are nice and allow you to daisy chain other headphones off of the left over jack. The build quality is very god as well, the ear pads are covered in a soft leather or pleather (I can't tell) the cans are made of a very nice plastic, and the headband is covered in leather, with a metal band inside. I don't imagine these things are going to break on me any time soon. I tried these next to the sennheiser momentums and the momentums don't even compare to the sound or comfort of the NADs. If you are in the market for a pair of amazing 300$ headphones, don't hesitate on buying these, you won't regret it.
Pros - Incredible Sound - BANG FOR BUCK - Comfortable - Well built - Looks very nice - Wealthy amount of accessories that is included
Cons - It may make you realize that you have spent too much on your more expensive headphones.
I have heard a wide array of headphones and IEM's. I find this to be a very fun hobby to fuel my love my music. Generally, there is the mindset that the more you spend, the better it is. Well, that is true to an extent. The reason I'm saying this is because I honestly think the HP50 is one of the best headphones that my ears have had the pleasure of listening to. I've heard the Sennheiser HD 800, HD 650, JH13 Pro, Westone ES5 and a few other top tier headphones or IEM's and though they all sounded draw droppingly amazing; they don't incorporate all of the traits and characteristics that the HP50 possesses.
The Sennheiser HD 800 and HD 650 are both power hungry beasts that require a beefy amplifier. Also, they're not ideal for portable use because of their open back nature and required power output. The JH13 Pro and Westone ES5 are both highly portable and block out a ton of noise but their sound is not as coherent and spacious as the HP50 which is also a portable headphone. The HP50 to my ears are just as strikingly clear and accurate as the top headphones that I have heard. Unless you need a super expansive soundstage, then there isn't much more those headphones have to offer other than costing more money to maintain.
Comfort wise, these are great. Zero comfort issues for me. My ears are small anyways and actually found them able to fit inside the Sennheiser Momentum without any comfort issues. The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 with stock pads however was highly uncomfortable for me until I threw on the XL pads. The HP50 is a very light headphone with a premium finish and look. I am very happy with the physical construction of this headphone.
To dive further into the sound characteristics of the HP50 I'll start it off with the bass. When I first heard these headphones coming from the Momentum and M-100, my expectations were severely skewed. I thought the HP50 were bass light. However as I continued to listen and analyze how the sound proportion in relation to the surrounding instruments of any bass instrument was conveyed through the HP50, I began to realize the HP50 was just accurately presenting the bass. There was no added boom or rumble that would please the general and naive population. The HP50's bass extends deep and it's incredibly controlled and textured.
Midrange is the most important frequency in my opinion and if that isn't rendered well I don't want anything to do with the headphone. Here, the HP 50's offers this in spades giving a well-proportioned, exceptionally balanced and crystal clear presentation. Also, it takes it further because of its spatial presentation being so expansive, the vocalists sound as if they are actually in front of you, personally singing to you. It's a sort of like euphoric 3D experience that you have to hear in order to understand. The RoomFeel tech is no gimmick.
I hate treble that is too prominent resulting in a harsh experience or treble that has packed its bags and left on a vacation resulting in a dull and boring experience. Transitioning its excellent performance from the bass and mids, the HP50 continues to deliver grade A performance in this frequency. The treble is well articulate with a hint of roll off to give a natural presentation and reduce listening fatigue. This is the treble that I personally lust for. It's there and present when needed and doesn't induce vocal sibilance or harsh transients. I can't fault anything here, honestly.
Soundstage and detail is what transforms the experience into almost being there. If the headphone doesn't render those two attributes well; it just sounds like a pair of headphones. The HP50 handles them excellently. The soundstage size as well as the instrument separation of the HP50 is not something that is normally associated with a closed back headphone. It really sounds like a open back headphone with a presentation that is completely out of my head and very coherent; sort of 3D like. Detail rendition is also exceptional capturing the subtle textures and cues to really make the instruments and musical environment sound as if it is actually in front of you.
For $300, these headphones are a steal.