Some ideas are vanishingly simple, this NAD CS1 Network Streamer is one of them. It is a network streamer, some might call it a transport with digital output. It offers a streaming platform for most of the leading 3rd Party audio providers, like Spotify and Tidal via Apple and Google casting platforms.
The NAD CS1 Network Streamer comes from NAD. NAD is a Lenbrook Group company, Canada based, making it a stablemate of Bluesound and PSB speakers
The NAD CS1 just needs to connect to power and a network. An Ethernet slot at the back is easiest or there is WiFi. The USB-C power lead required is included. Output can be digital via a Coax (or optical) lead to a DAC. There is an analogue out, using the internal Texas Instruments PCM5141 DAC to an RCA output. That’s it.
The idea behind this CS1 is that it can be easily integrated with an existing legacy system without streaming technology. Or it could be used with an existing AV receiver. The CS1 supports Google Chromecast (24-bit/96kHz), Apple AirPlay2, Spotify and Tidal Connect as well as Roon, Bluetooth 5.0 and it has DNLA support.
As a transport (digital out) it supports MQA pass-through, the native sampling rate is 192kHz. With analogue output, the CS1 offers a full MQA unpack.
There is no screen, no remote, no amplification and no BluOS, see below. No problem.
The unit itself has a square footprint similar in size to a CD case, though of course, that is rectangular. It has a firm soft touch feel, and the chassis is plastic, but there is no hint of cheapness here, we’ve not got the price yet though.
In the box there is a multi-country power plug, a USB-C charger and a set of rudimentary RCA cables, you’ll need to find your own cables if you want to connect to a DAC.
The dimensions (W x H x D) are 140 x 140 x 55 mm (5½ x 5½ x 2 1/16 inches), and the CS1 weighs in at just 1.5kg (3.3 lbs), It is available in black or black, or black.
The UK retail price is an astonishing £299.
Output from the DAC is going to the Moor Amps Angel Preamplifier that in turn is feeding the Moor Amps Angel 6, driving the Serhan Swift Mu2 MkII loudspeakers with Black Rhodium Charleston cables. The Serhan Swift Mu2 MkII loudspeakers, a highlight of Bristol 2023, have taken over from the Titan 505s in a lot of the listening.
I have swapped in, occasionally, the Hugo2 to good effect and a Questyle CMA 400i DAC as well.
Setup was pretty easy, in my case using Google Home on the Pixel via the Quick Setup QR Code Guide. I was up and running in less than 5 minutes.
I’m Android based so I’ve not run any Apple Airplay-type stuff and I do not subscribe to Roon, I do know how good it is but it is prohibitively expensive these times for this reviewer. I’ve been using mainly Tidal Connect, which is excellent and mConnect for sharing and streaming from my Naim UnitiServe (the old one).
General Audio Performance
Overall, the audio performance seems pretty clean. I have no issues with trebly sibilance, or any annoyances thus far, the midrange and vocal are delicious in my reference pieces. The bass performance is as I would hope for through this DAC pre and power arrangement that I am now very happy with. I did have to switch back to the Titan 505s to check in with this bass aspect, for consistency.
Bluetooth setup is as easy as it gets with NFC (Near Field Communication). All you have to do is place your iOS or Android device on the top of CS1 and a Bluetooth prompt will come up. There is a sample rate quality drop but otherwise, it is all good. For example, with the Qobuz App from the Pixel mobile phone, Chromecast is the easiest way of connecting to the CS1. The 96kHz limit is displayed on the DAC but with the same track on Bluetooth from the same Qobuz App, the sample rate falls.
File network server access has been delightfully easy, I’ve been using my Naim UnitiServe with mConnect to brilliant, stable, and faultless effect.
Indeed, I’ve reverted to mConnect for most of the streaming, and MQA pass-through and my Qobuz sample rate ladder all come through with flying colours.
Tidal Connect, just works, what else is to say? Since the CS1, as a transport, is just passing through the file data, all seems to be well, I’m not hearing any undue timing issues.
What about the analogue output from CS1? Sticking with the Titan 505s the performance is adequate, though I feel and hear a noticeable dip in vibrancy and energy from the system. I wouldn’t criticise the CS1 for this output, the DAC performance with the iFi will inevitably be an improvement on the CS1, as it costs nearly ten times more than the CS1! I’d hope to hear something at least!
An absolutely brilliant product that I prefer as a digital transport. It is not an Auralic type performance, but it is so simple, and the price is so crazy you’d have to think about it if you had a pair of active/powered speakers or an older legacy system. I’m reminded of the M1 Air which was similarly stunning.
Thinking back to the excellent DAC performance in the vibrant Rega ELEX, this could be a complementary streaming source for that DAC platform.
Many of the modern NAD amps have DAC and streaming capability anyway but maybe this CS1 would partner well with the new D3020 v2, retailing at just £400, I had the original incarnation of the 3020 amplifiers in the mid-’80s.
The only thing I was expecting when I excitedly read the review sample was coming was BluOS capability with NAD being in the same stable but that is not the case. I guess if you added BluOS, this becomes a Bluesound Node effectively at a different price point.
This is a fabulous product that works faultlessly and consistently and it performs best, in my view, as a digital transport
This is a fabulous product that works faultlessly and consistently and it performs best, in my view, as a digital transport but also offers a solid analogue output. As long as you know what you’re buying, this is a great platform for streaming HiRes files to your existing system without buying multiple boxes. It is also pretty good-looking, or it could be hidden away with its small footprint if that is necessary. Highly Recommended doesn’t quite seem to do it justice, maybe we should add a very to this one!
Full details are on the company’s site.