The Story Behind the Development of NAD’s First Headphone

NAD VISO HP50 Headphones from NAD Electronics on Vimeo.

The story begins in Ottawa Canada where much of NAD’s research and development takes place at the Canadian National Research Council. In the 1970’s the NRC sponsored what turned out to be a ground breaking research project on the physiology of hearing. Led by Dr. Edgar Shaw, this research developed new, far more accurate measurement techniques that have since been adopted by scientists around the world. Interestingly, NAD used exactly the same testing mannequin (named KEMAR) that Dr. Shaw used in his experiments. One of the key findings of this research was the effect of the outer ear, or pinnae, on the frequency response measured at the ear drum. Headphones that do not take this effect into consideration will sound colored and unrealistic.

While using the most accurate measurement equipment and techniques is critical to getting a good result, it is also important to understand the difference between music listening on loudspeakers and music listening on headphones. Speakers are stereo, and play into the acoustic space of a room, whereas headphone listening is a binaural experience with one ear completely isolated from the other. Not only does this change the spatial perception of music, it also changes the frequency response. In fact, most of our spatial cues are related to changes in both frequency response and level. If something is behind you, in addition to being slightly quieter it also has a predictably different frequency response than if it were in front of you.

Despite the fact that headphone listening has become so popular, most recordings are still recorded in stereo for playback on loudspeakers. Because of the work NAD has done in the science of acoustics over the years, Paul Barton was able to combine his knowledge of recorded music, loudspeakers and room acoustics, with the measurement techniques developed by Dr. Shaw to create an entirely new approach to headphone design.

By taking this approach, NAD developed a unique feature we call “Room Feel”. Room Feel makes music sound more natural by taking into account the effects of the room on music playback. Almost all recorded music is monitored using direct radiating loudspeakers to determine the acoustic balance for the final mix. The transfer function NAD developed for the HP50 headphone has taken into account the ‘room gain’ that occurs when playing direct radiator loudspeakers in a room. The result is a much richer and more natural listening experience.

With a personal product like headphones comfort and style are just as important as sound. The HP50 is an over-the-ear design that features a multi-axis mounting of the ear pads that automatically adjusts to the precise contours of the wearers head for unsurpassed comfort. Soft ear pads and light weight make the HP50’s seem to ‘disappear’ when worn. Only the rich detailed sound remains.

The elegant form was designed by David Farrage of the award winning design firm DF-ID in New York. Combining durable materials with tactile textures and refined colors, these folding headphones make a strong design statement. Unlike many over-the-ear designs, the HP50 does not look like a piece of laboratory apparatus stuck on the wearer’s head. They have the same high level of fit and finish you’d expect in any premium luxury accessory.

Every detail of the HP50 has been painstakingly considered, from the flexibility of the detachable cord, to the design of the carrying case and accessories. Combined with the exceptional comfort, style and performance these fine details lead to pride of ownership and exceptional value for money.

Go to the NAD VISO headphone product page.

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