Upcoming Review by Steve Graham
And now, for something completely different – The NAD 50.2 Digital Music Player
In a complete about-face from the LP groove I’ve been in lately, a NAD 50.2 Digital Music Player has taken up residence in my system. Before you analogists start sending off nastygrams to my long-suffering editor, please note that no records or turntables were damaged, abused or displaced during this process.
My ancient, but well-loved, Cambridge 840C CD player has been getting creakier by the day. When a disc is loaded there is often the unnatural sound of a straining motor once the drawer has closed. It’s as if the drawer motor doesn’t “know” the drawer is closed. Opening and closing the drawer a couple of more times usually rectifies this but the writing is on the wall, as they say, and I fear the long-serving Cambridge will soon expire. It’s well over ten years old, which is pretty good for a piece of mass market consumer electronics. But the 840C won’t be heading for the scrap heap quite yet. It has digital inputs, so until I decide on a new DAC to go with the NAD, the Cambridge will still be used in the service of music. Actually, when I eventually put it out to pasture I’ll probably remove the electronic “guts” but keep the chassis for a DIY project. There might even be a decent transformer or two in there that could live another day.
Might the DAC in the Cambridge be limiting the performance of the 50.2? Likely, but not a lot I think. The 840C’s digital inputs will accept data streams up 24/192. Also, its balanced analogue outputs play very well with the balanced-based ARC gear in the rest of my system. Besides, in the interests of “domestic harmony”, I want to spread the expenditure of a new digital front end over a few credit card billing cycles.
Why the NAD 50.2? It had been under consideration, but I read reviews too and the one in Stereophile definitely piqued my interest. What might I be able to add that the estimable John Atkinson might have overlooked? I’m much less computer-fluent than most people, so if something can be misinterpreted, gotten back to front or just generally screwed up, I’m the guy. So, while Mr. Atkinson has all of our backs technically, I’m going to approach this from the point of view of a computer network novice. Hopefully any insight I’ll acquire will be of use to others too.
One of the features that attracted me to the 50.2 is the built-in disc drive. CD’s can be ripped directly to its memory. This is much simpler than a multistep process of ripping to a computer then transferring the files to a player’s memory. The 50.2 also streams music from the paid streaming services, from radio stations that have a web presence, and those web only “stations”.
The 50.2 will also, if I understand it correctly, perform the first “unfolding” operation of MQA streams (or optionally, pass them through to an MQA capable DAC for full decoding). I’ll tempt fate by weighing in on the whole MQA “thing” as well.
One last note.. kudos to Jon at NAD Customer Service. His help has been invaluable. This is not to say that the 50.2 has been problematic. The issues I’ve experienced have been almost entirely of my own making, with a little “help” from one of our nation’s major telecom providers. You know, the one with four letters in its name, which is appropriate in this instance.