||20 – 20 kHz +/-0.3 dB; 50 kHz -3 dB
|Native sampling rate
||Up to 192 kHz
||16 – 24
|Supported audio file formats
||LPCM, MP3, AC3, Ogg Vorbis, HE-AAC, MQA & WMA decode capability
|Supported 3rd party service providers
||Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, DLNA, Roon
||ARM® Cortex™ -A53, Quad-Core, 1.5 GHz per core
||Ethernet RJ45 100 Mbps / Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac 2.4 GHz/5 GHz) / DLNA / UPnp
||Analogue, Coaxial, Optical
||USB Type C
PRICE R6 990.00
SUPPLIED BY Cinema Imports (Pty) Ltd t/a AV Imports 082 571-6568
The short of it…
Solid NAD build quality, real-world specifications that actually deliver on the company’s promises, added to audio quality and versatility that will enhance any current hi-fi system that hasn’t experienced the wonders of music streaming.
The long of it…
I’ve had a huge amount of fun since tossing the Editor’s chair out the window and donning the Reviewing cap for a change. All matter of fun with headphones, DACs, loudspeakers, and now, NAD’s newly-released CS1 Endpoint Music Streamer.
So for those who are in the dark (as I was initially) as to why you’d need one of these things, they’re to help those of you who have hi-fi systems that predate the whole move to music streaming. Instead of having to outlay some considerable moolah on updating your hi-fi setup with new components, you simply attach a music streamer to your existing system and Bob’s your aunty: welcome to the wonderful world of music streaming.
Connecting the CS1 is easy personified. NAD ships the unit with a set of international power plug adapters, a stereo RCA patch cord and a USB-A-to-USB-C power cord. For this review I connected the CS1 via optical to the PSB AM5s, which I was reviewing at the time.
There are two options at this point – wired or wireless to get access to the streaming side of things. The easiest is obviously to connect the CS1 to your router via an Ethernet cable if it is close enough and you don’t mind adding another cable to the equation.
Then there’s wireless. For Android users, you’ll need Google Home installed on your phone. Put the CS1 into hotspot mode and within moments you’ll see the NAD appear on the Google Home App, and all you need then is to follow the prompts. NAD provides extremely easy to follow instructions for both Android and iPhone users, so you really can’t go wrong.
Have your Wi-Fi password on hand – although it does offer an automatic connection option, I found this didn’t work in my situation and that doing it manually worked best. This is most likely due to the fact that I have two other routers, each with their own passwords, and the NAD was struggling to work out which one to connect to. In a test at the AV Imports head office, it connected seamlessly to the company’s network, which seems to bear out my suspicions.
Once connected, it plays you a sample tune to let you know that it’s all done, and off you go. Open your chosen music streaming App, that includes ‘Connect’ and start enjoying the music.
Using Bluetooth is always an easy option to use, but you’re never going to get the kind of audio quality that the CS1 can deliver via Chromecast, which can handle up to 24-bit/96 kHz files. And that is never going to sit well with lovers of music.
TIDAL is of course at this point in time your best choice for high quality music files. Also, bear in mind that although the paperwork indicates that the CS1 is MQA-capable, the streamer nevertheless needs the TIDAL Apps’ support to play MQA files in their proper full quality. So if you have MQA files stored privately away from TIDAL, the CS1 won’t be able to decode them.
Spotify has been promising lossless hi-fi since 2021, and apparently it may yet surface in some sort of offering at the end of this year, but who knows? It’ll be a nice addition, though, if it comes off.
That said, as much as MQA’s future seems to be currently up in the air, I have to say that music quality-wise, it’s definitely my choice for high quality music playback. I know there are considerable arguments in the music world as to the pros and cons of the service (and yes, I’ve heard good and bad MQA versions), but overall I think it’s the one to choose.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the CS1 is a streamer. So you need to understand that only streaming services are supported. Your personal music collections stored on your phone are not going to be supported from a playing point of view. There are workarounds from what I understand, one of them being an App called Bubble, but I have no experience of this.
Is the CS1 perfect? No, it has some aspects that some may find issue with, primarily being over the control side of issues. The CS1 is the first product I’ve reviewed in this new range of technology that has no App to ‘control’ it.
It’s admittedly a bit off-putting, seeing as effectively all controls are rendered through independent Apps, and personally I’d liked to have been able to have an App to see what files were being played through the CS1 at what sample rate. Also, an independent volume control? The flipside of course is that how many Apps do you really want on your phone? One for headphones, another for home cinema, for your streamer, for your microwave and dishwasher? It’s going to get tedious in the end.
That said, apart from my personal wish list, the NAD CS1 works perfectly as advertised, and is guaranteed to be a vital upgrade pathway for anyone looking to add the wonders of streaming to their hi-fi system at an affordable price.