We recently reviewed the £89 WiiM Mini streamer. It sounds great through it’s optical output and the app is really good. Upgrade the power supply (from £50) and you have a streamer capable of holding its own in systems up to around £2k. That’s impressive. My regular drive – a Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra – sounds even better, as it should for £630. The WiiM isn’t embarassed by the comparison though. Were I a beginner I’d opt for the WiiM. More to spend on the speakers.
Splitting the WiiM and Pro-ject on price is the newly announced NAD CS1 Endpoint Network Streamer. Available in March 2023, it’s priced at US$349 / £299 / €399 and its specs look interesting.
Not least because there’s no companion app. Instead the user deploys their favourite music service on a phone / tablet / computer. To facilitate this the CS1 provides both Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect. Likewise Airplay 2 and Google Chromecast. DLNA (currently being certified) will allow you to play files on your computer / network via any DLNA-enabled app (bring your own). And for higher-end users the CS1 will work with Roon (it’s being certified as Roon Ready). If that’s not enough then the NAD’s Bluetooth capability can mop up (version not specified).
Where the NAD appears to differ from the WiiM is in its Digital to Analogue conversion. The WiiM is openly focused on its optical output. In contrast NAD makes much of the CS1’s analogue output courtesy of its Texas Instruments DAC.
“ The CS1 features an advanced differential digital section based on Texas Instruments’ PCM5141 DAC, a design known for its wide dynamic range, low noise floor, and immunity to clock jitter”.
The DAC endows the CS1 with 24bit/192kHz hi-res capability where it’s supported (Chromecast only manages 24bit/96kHz for example). In truth both levels of hi-res are absolutely fine at this price level (and way above). Of interest to Tidal users will be the CS1’s ability to handle full MQA.
On connectivity, the NAD has both dual-band WiFi and wired Ethernet networking. RCA sockets are provided for analogue output, optical and coax sockets for digital output. Power is via USB-C, meaning better quality 5V power supplies are on the menu. And a 12V trigger is provided so another device can switch the CS1 on.
Come judgement day, sound quality will be key. The NAD CS1 doesn’t have the swanky app of the WiiM. And whilst the CS1 does have wired networking and a coax digital output, the £150 WiiM Pro (review soon) provides both those and more. Hence the focus on the CS1’s sound quality. The press release implies a good analogue output. Only a direct comparison with the WiiM Mini will tell whether that bears out in practise. Which will also tell us how the Wiim and NAD digital outputs compare.
A comparison we’re keen to make, hence requesting a review unit from NAD. So far so good; keep your fingers crossed.
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