Faced with dwindling demand for high-end audio equipment and speakers, hi-fi vendors are choosing to sell sound bars and headphones to the iPhone-toting crowd.
While it was previously unheard of for audiophile brands NAD and PSB to sell mass market headphones, these household hi-fi names can no longer pitch exclusively to ageing audiophiles who might replace their expensive gear only once every five years.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, NAD showed off its Viso HP50 headphones, a pair of cans that professes to improve stereo imaging, thanks to NAD's so-called RoomFeel technology.
As a long-time NAD fan - I own an NAD 3155 stereo amplifier and an NAD 2166 power amplifier, among others - I was looking forward to hearing NAD's first pair of headphones aimed at smartphone- toting nomads.
The Viso HP50 draws on the merits of the PSB M4U 2 which has received rave reviews from music lovers for its impeccable audio reproduction. NAD and PSB are sister brands owned by Canada-based Lenbrook Group.
While the Viso HP50 is not a twin of PSB's M4U2, it shares a similar design language. For one thing, it has an audio connector at the bottom of each earcup that you can use to plug the headphones into your music player.
The earcups are connected by a manganese steel headband enclosed in leatherette, which feels comfortable when perched on your head. You can extend each earcup by about 2cm, though a longer distance would cater to a wider variety of head sizes.
Each earcup contains a 40mm driver, which is packed between a noise-isolation plate and a filter. This design works well, as the earcups successfully blocked out ambient noise and chatter.
As expected, the HP50 shines in what matters. In Kenny G's Every Time I Close My Eyes, vocals stood out from the soundstage filled by backup vocalists and musical instruments, including a piano and saxophone. The position of each instrument was also clearly audible.
The HP50's bass tones are strong enough for you to hear each stroke of the drum, but the reproduction is not overpowering - good news for folks like me who do not fancy heart-thumping speakers or headphones.