NAD rocked the audiophile world in the late 1970s when it introduced its astonishing 3020 integrated amp. That amp eventually became one of the best-selling of all time and established NAD as the brand that prioritized performance over superfluous features and glitzy styling, at affordable prices. That “sound quality first” ethos continued over the decades, and NAD recently scored another direct hit with its Viso HP50 over-the-ear headphones. So, I was eager to check out their new Viso HP30 on-ear model. Looking at the two NADs side by side, the Viso HP30 looks much the same, but it’s considerably smaller than the over-the-ear Viso HP50. These two don’t share any common parts and sound very different—more on that later. My review sample was decked out in a sharp-looking Gloss Black, but the Viso HP30 is also available in Gloss Red and Gloss White. It’s nice that the ear cups are free to conform to any ear and head shape, but the ear pads’ clamping pressure against my ears and noggin was a bit higher than I like. Your results may vary. The upside to the snug fit is that it keeps the headphone in place when you move about. The Viso HP30 comes with two 48-inch-long cables, one with Apple-compatible controls and mic, and a second “straight” cable. You also get a rugged Neoprene travel case. At first, the sound was a little too soft and mellow, but when I chatted with the Viso HP30’s designer, Paul Barton, he told me to make sure the ear pads were centered on my ears. I had them a bit too high, and centering restored some of the missing treble detail. So when you first listen, try shifting the Viso HP30 around a bit on your head, and you’ll quickly find the sweet spot.
While writing this review, I dug deep into the Replacements catalog. Front man Paul Westerberg’s lyrics and gut-wrenching vocals hit me hard, and the band really kicked butt. It’s a shame the Replacements never reached a wider audience, but their music is still out there. Pick up their Pleased to Meet Me album and see if the band strikes a chord with you. The Viso HP30s all but disappeared from my thoughts as I connected with the music, and that’s always a good sign. This headphone sounds best played fairly loud. I next spent a half an hour switching back and forth between the Viso HP30 and the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 on-ear headphones while listening to Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks CD. The bass beats driving the tunes were more viscerally felt over the Viso HP30; this headphone’s bottom end really plumbed the depths. The P5 Series 2’s bass was also richly balanced, but looser, and the sound was less clear overall. Comfort levels were about the same for these two ’phones, so I’d give the win to the Viso HP30. I couldn’t resist comparing the Viso HP30 to the larger NAD Viso HP50 over-the-ear model with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott’s gorgeous new Songs From the Arc of CD. The HP50 is a significantly more transparent and open sounding ’phone; the Viso HP30 is more reserved and polite. This came as no surprise, as most over-the-ear models from the same manufacturer sound better than their on-ears. So there you have it: The NAD Viso HP30 is a perfectly fine headphone, and its punchy bass kicks harder than any audiophileoriented on-ear I’ve heard to date. I wish it sounded more like the Viso HP50, but I’m just nitpicking. The HP30 will definitely get the job done.
The NAD Viso HP30 on-ear headphone’s plush midrange and punchy bass supply a visceral kick beyond the reach of most on-ears.
Credits: Steve Guttenberg
Sound and Vision
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