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NAD Viso HP50 review: Accurate, detailed sound makes this headphone an audiophile favorite

The well-designed and comfortable NAD Viso HP50 ($300) is all about clean, natural sound, making it an audiophile-grade headphone that won't break the bank.

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David Carnoy
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Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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NAD's Viso HP50 over-ear headphone was introduced in 2013 and has since become an audiophile favorite because it produces very accurate sound, is nicely designed, and won't bankrupt you at $300 (£229, AU$350).

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8.2

NAD Viso HP50

The Good

The NAD Viso HP50 offers impressively accurate, clean sound and is well designed and comfortable to wear. It folds flat for storage in a nice carrying case (which is included) and comes with both a straight cable and one that integrates an Apple friendly remote/microphone.

The Bad

Somewhat expensive; some remote features may not work with Android devices.

The Bottom Line

The NAD isn't head and shoulders above the competition in its price class, but it does sound really good and should be given careful consideration if you're looking for an audiophile-grade headphone that won't break the bank.

The headphone comes in three colors -- black, red and the white you see here. It's well constructed yet fairly lightweight for a full-size headphone, weighing it at 8.0 ounces or 226 grams. As far as extras go, it comes with two 4.2-foot (1.3m) detachable cables, one of which has an integrated Apple-friendly three-button remote and microphone (what that means is not all the remote's features will necessarily work with Android and Windows phones but the microphone will).

The NAD Viso HP50 comes in black, red and the white you see here. Sarah Tew/CNET

This is one of those headphones that can be used at home or on the go, and while it isn't compact, it does fold flat and comes with a nice carrying case, plus a separate little accessories bucket case that holds the cables and airplane adapter. That accessories case stows inside the carrying case.

As we said, the headphone is attractively designed, but how much you like its looks is a matter of taste, of course, and not everybody is going to like the squarish shape of its earcups.

It is a comfortable headphone. The earcups are plushly padded with memory foam and they do a good job sealing out ambient noise (to be clear, this headphone doesn't offer active noise cancellation like the Bose QuietComfort 25 does).

What you get in the box. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

The Viso HP50, which sports 40mm drivers, plays it straight down the middle -- it's not bright or bassy -- and it should appeal to audiophiles seeking an accurate sound balance.

Electronica master Aphex Twin's "Syro" album is loaded with extremely deep beats and crafty synth textures, and the Viso HP50 didn't gloss over any of the details. We were also impressed that it sounds as airy and spacious as it does for an closed-back headphone.

We moved on to purely acoustic music with cellist Yo-Yo Ma's gorgeously recorded, bluegrass-infused "The Goat Rodeo Sessions," and again the Viso HP50 could do no wrong. The natural warmth of the instruments and the players' highly dynamic performances were beautifully presented.

The headphones fold flat and come with a nice carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

To put the Viso HP50's strengths in perspective, we compared it with Bowers & Wilkins' P7 headphone ($400). It quickly became apparent that the P7 has a softer, more laid-back sound. When we listened to "The Rat Cage" from the Beastie Boys' "The Mix Up" album, the Viso HP50 opened up "spaces" between the instruments and the little squeaky keyboard accents that come from off in the distance over the Viso HP50 were buried in the background over the P7, so we barely noticed them.

We felt we had to play the P7 louder to hear detail that was obvious over the Viso HP50 at a quieter volume. Then again, the P7's significantly more potent bass and warmer tone may be enough to woo some buyers away from the Viso HP50 (we slightly preferred the Viso HP50's sound, but that doesn't mean you will).

The Sennheiser Momentum (second generation) is another headphone that sounds fuller and richer than the Viso HP50. However, the Viso HP50 resolves detail better. For instance, with well-recorded drums and percussion, the Viso HP50 reproduces dynamic contrasts and shadings more clearly than the Momentum.

It's also worth mentioning that overly compressed rock didn't faze the Viso HP50. Tom Petty's recent "Hypnotic Eye," which can sound irritatingly harsh on some headphones, like the Grado SR325e , sounded fine. Fall Out Boy's "Immortals" is another track that has a tendency to sound rough on a lot of headphones, and the HP50 also handled that one well.

So yeah, while the Viso HP50 may have been designed with audiophiles in mind, it's also versatile and a good choice for someone who doesn't favor one music genre over another.

Conclusion

You'll find plenty of headphones in the $250-$350 range that offer excellent sound and build quality. The NAD isn't head and shoulders above the competition in its price class, but it does sound really good and should be given careful consideration if you're looking for an audiophile-grade headphone that won't cost a fortune.

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8.2

NAD Viso HP50

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 8