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NAD CS1 Network Streamer Review

Rate this streamer/DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 73 46.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 75 47.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 7 4.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 3 1.9%

  • Total voters
    158

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the NAD CS1 Network Streamer and DAC. It was kindly drop shipped to me by a member and costs US $349.
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon RCA Network Review.jpg

The CS1 comes in a compact plastic part befitting its cost and brand. Upon power up, you see a red light blinking until it downloads its firmware. Process could not be more painless and only lasted a few minutes. There are no controls or apps. Streaming only operates in "push" mode meaning you use your favorite app and point it at CS1 for its output.
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon RCA back panel Wifi Coax Network Review.jpg


Back side shows support for stereo analog and coax/Toslink S/PDIF digital outputs. Trigger support is a nice touch. A high quality usb-c cable connects to the included power supply.

I used my Roon player to stream content to it over Ethernet. It worked flawlessly.

The included DAC is TI 5141 with the following specifications:
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon specs.png


So best case we are missing 16 bit performance with SINAD of 92 dB.

If you are new to these measurements, please set aside some time to watch my video on DAC measurements.

NAD CS1 Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard while sampling analog RCA output:
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon RCA Measurements.png

:( We see quite high level of distortion. Lowering the digital input by a few notches did not improve things at all. We are 11 dB short of the internal DAC chip specification. Fortunately switching to digital output remedies that with bit perfect output:
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon Coax SPDIF Measurements.png


This is a dithered (noise added) signal so we are seeing the best case 140 dB SINAD. You are limited by the performance of the external DAC.

FYI when I was tested the digital output, I was not getting a signal unless I told ROON to keep output at 100%. In other words, there is no digital volume control which is fine but I didn't expect the output to shut down.

Jitter test shows a few inconsequential components although much may be hidden by high noise floor:
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon RCA Jitter Measurements.png


Switching again to Coax digital and sampling the spectrum of timing variation (jitter), we see low correlated jitter (spikes that match the others in the graph):
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon SPDIF Jitter Measurements.png


The noise floor though rises a bit towards high frequencies indicating random high frequency jitter. I don't expect any of this to deter any half decent DAC and should assure high level of compatibility as well.

I can't run my interactive/sweep tests so let's finish with the last static test, Multitone:
NAD CS1 Streamer Ethernet Wifi Roon RCA Multitone Measurements.png


We see that the news gets even worse past the 1 kHz tone uses in the dashboard.

Conclusions
You all probably know my preference for push streaming as implemented in CS1. There is no app to download or learn. No reliance on the unit keeping up with updates and such (as long as the push protocols don't change). Support is provided for key services including Tidal and Spotify. In my case, for LAN streaming, we get ROON and DLNA. Over the air update was painless and reliable. As well, digital output is bit perfect allowing you to use DAC of your choice to get full streaming functionality.

The down side is the poor performance of the internal DAC. I know it is a checklist item but NAD, let's get the same performance as the DAC chip is spec'ed at. Why do we need to give up so much performance to distortion? A bit of attention to measurements would have found the cause and resolved it.

Without the internal DAC being worth much, you have to decide if $349 is worth it for a digital only solution.

Personally I am not going to recommend the NAD CS1 due to poor internal DAC. If I did otherwise, there would be no reason for them to fix this in future products!

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Rja4000

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Thanks for the review.

It's strange to see NAD departing from their BlueOS platform. (Which I like a lot, having several Bluesound and NAD devices connected)

I'm a bit confused with the measurements.
Jitter is on coax output, I read, so digital output, I suppose.

But Multitone is using the DAC, correct ?
 
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onlyoneme

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Looks like worse WiiM Pro but more expensive and with Roon support out of the box. I'm glad you also provide jitter analysis in digital domain, but why artifacts visible on the sine graph?
 

onlyoneme

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Thanks for the review.

It's strange to see NAD departing from their BlueOS platform. (Which I like a lot, having several Bluesound and NAD devices connected)

I'm a bit confused with the measurements.
Jitter is on coax output, I read.

But Multitone is using the DAC, correct ?
If that's with the digital output (I read 'RCA out' but which one ?), that's seriously broken.
???
Two jitter graphs, built-in DAC and separate for pure digital output. Multitone for built-in DAC.
 
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amirm

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But Multitone is using the DAC, correct ?
Correct. I didn't post the digital out since it would be bit perfect just like the dashboard 1 kHz is.
 
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amirm

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Looks like worse WiiM Pro but more expensive and with Roon support out of the box. I'm glad you also provide jitter analysis in digital domain, but why artifacts visible on the sine graph?
Sorry I don't understand your question. Which sine graph?
 

Rja4000

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Two jitter graphs, built-in DAC and separate for pure digital output. Multitone for built-in DAC.
Is that with built in DAC or
from the device's digital output (red),
compared with the Topping's own digital output (blue) ?

I guess both jitter plots are in full digital domain.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Is that with built in DAC or from the device's digital output (red), compared with the Topping's own digital output (blue) ?
That one is all digital path.
 

onlyoneme

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Sorry I don't understand your question. Which sine graph?
I've meant the one for digital output. If I remember correctly your previous graphs for fully transparent devices had no such artifacts visible.
 

morillon

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it's a little a carbon copy of the wiim pro indeed ... see less convincing in audio ..
without entries..
and more expensive..

but with roon (which concerns whatever one says not so many people)..
but what is the android or iphone application for those who don't use roon?

at first glance seems really very disappointing from an old and major player in the audio world..
(same option of dac, bdg, cheap, all in one supplied turnkey by texas etc...the rest of the linkplay? ;-) )
 
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morillon

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I've meant the one for digital output. If I remember correctly your previous graphs for fully transparent devices had no such artifacts visible.
a jitter more important of mini ( many jitter less with pro)?
in same conditions? toslink..or coax?
(nice the presentation of effective jitter ,excluding entry treatment ,effective of digital sources via the ap555...like SMSL SD-9 )
 

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Chester

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@amirm are you able to test what it does to a DSD file when streamed from Roon please? Would be interested to know if it leaves it as is or converts. Thanks.
 

morillon

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the hardward really does not seem better than a wiim pro .. and more expensive...

remains the interest or not, the functionalities, the support of the various services etc. of the nad application..
????
and not necessarily roon..
 
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amirm

amirm

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I've meant the one for digital output. If I remember correctly your previous graphs for fully transparent devices had no such artifacts visible.
Not for digital output. We are talking 20 to 25 picoseconds here worth of jitter. This is extremely low and has no impact on transparency.
 
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amirm

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@amirm are you able to test what it does to a DSD file when streamed from Roon please? Would be interested to know if it leaves it as is or converts. Thanks.
I don't have any reliable DSD test signals to measure with. I also can't capture them digitally.
 
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amirm

amirm

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but what is the android or iphone application for those who don't use roon?
There is no app. Device advertises itself as available for connection to Roon, Spotify/Tidal Connect, Airplay, etc. You just use those native apps to connect to it. If your original App doesn't support these protocols, then you can't use this box.
 

Rja4000

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There is no app. Device advertises itself as available for connection to Roon, Spotify/Tidal Connect, Airplay, etc. You just use those native apps to connect to it. If your original App doesn't support these protocols, then you can't use this box.
I guess you may still stream to it from your smartphone with Bluetooth ?
A bit overkill, though.
Especially if you think you need to plug a DAC behind it.
 
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amirm

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I guess you my still stream to it from your smartphone with Bluetooth ?
Yes, that is another protocol it supports. Depending on the codec in use though, you may take significant hit in quality.
 
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