NAD has today announced a new entry-level streaming DAC. The CS1 is both a network streamer (with dual-band wifi and Ethernet inputs) and a Bluetooth 5.0 DAC. The internal D/A converter is built around an “advanced differential digital” Implementation of a Texas Instruments PCM5141 chip and outputs via a pair of analogue RCA sockets — full MQA decoding and rendering are part of that deal.
Those already in possession of an external DAC – either fully outboard or located inside an integrated amplifier, home theater receiver or a pair of powered loudspeakers – can make use of the CS1’s coaxial and TOSLINK outputs where PCM up to 24bit/192kHz is supported.
That the CS1 is powered by 5V arriving at its rear-panel USB-C and thus provides some flexibility for those who like to roll their own (linear) power supplies. If that’s you, know that any potential audible lift might be scuppered by the presence/quality of switching regulators inside the unit.
However, the real story here should not sail us by: the absence of an accompanying smartphone app. The CS1’s network streaming support is entirely driven by third-party streaming solutions: Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Roon and GoogleCast (which will likely handle the CS1’s network onboarding and configuration)
With no accompanying streaming/configuration app to develop or maintain, NAD can pass on any cost savings to the consumer. Perhaps this is one reason why the CS1 is priced at US$349, £299 or €399. And according to NAD’s press release, support for DLNA/UPnP streaming is expected to be in place by the time the CS1 goes on sale in March 2023 — but BYO UPNP app.
Further information: NAD
Just a reminder: GoogleCast supports PCM up to 24bit/96KHz but does not offer gapless playback. Apple Airplay 2 does gapless, tops out at 48kHz but, like Bluetooth, all streams will travel via the smartphone (or laptop) on their way to the CS1.