From the point of view of “integration,” that is, functional equipment, the Pioneer NC-50DAB seems almost self-sufficient – it is a kind of orchestra device. So far, even on the distant horizon, no format, function or interface is visible, the need for which may arise and which this model suddenly does not have. Moreover, its possibilities extend both into the past and into the future.
The developers of the Pioneer NC-50DAB model abandoned the USB DAC function and limited themselves to two digital inputs, coaxial and optical. You can connect a TV via optics – then the signal from all sources with an HDMI output, for example, a game console or Blu-ray player, will be redirected to the receiver. There is no need to connect to the computer with a cord, since music files can be read from external USB drives – there is one connector for each on the front and rear panels. Moreover, the second is also intended for recharging portable devices or HDDs that do not have a separate power supply. The number of external analog sources was also limited to two, one of them being a vinyl turntable. The second one will most likely remain free. You can, of course, connect a cassette deck to it (this is a new rising trend), but you won’t be able to record onto it, since the Pioneer NC-50DAB does not have a line output. It can be considered a disadvantage, but only with a very big stretch.
But there is somewhere to connect an active subwoofer – it will certainly come in handy if bookshelf speakers or small floor standing speakers are used. There is also a headphone output on the front panel – a little later we will find out what it is good for. The manufacturer does not disclose information about the internal structure and the components used. Only known. that the amplifier is made according to the proprietary Direct Energy HD topology and operates in class D, and also that the DAC is built on an 8-channel ES9016 chip – the chip is by no means cheap, but Pioneer actively uses it in its equipment, in particular, in receivers and, most likely, purchases in huge quantities at the lowest price.
The built-in Wi-Fi adapter operates in two bands, 2.4 and 5 GHz, this is very important, since in apartment buildings stable reception in the first of them is almost impossible. About Bluetooth it is known that it is version 4.1, supports A2DP/AVRCP profiles and SBC/AAC codecs. The company documentation does not say a word about the now fashionable aptX. Does that mean it’s not supported? Is not a fact. After Qualcomm acquired the rights to the codec, many manufacturers “forget” to mention it. That is, it is implemented in hardware and works, but the documentation is silent about it. You can guess why. In any case, what is important to us is not the letters in the documentation, but the real quality of the work, and we will definitely appreciate it.
The remote control is discreet, but quite convenient. Most likely, it will not be useful, since a mobile application for iOS/Android is much more suitable for implementing network functions. The built-in 3.5″ color screen greatly enlivens the appearance of the device, but is only readable at arm’s length. The only thing you will need is a standard remote control and a display on the front panel for the initial settings. In particular, to connect to a network via Wi-Fi – if you use wired Ethernet with an active DHCP server on the local network, no additional manipulations are required: plug the network cable into the connector, and you’re done. And also to set up the on-air tuner. Check for new firmware and update if available. And also select the characteristic of the digital filter – this setting is usually characteristic of advanced DACs.
Three positions are offered: Slow (a characteristic with a smooth decay), Sharp (probably referring to a filter with a high slope, this position is selected by default) and Short (according to the description, a higher slew rate of the signal and a more forward sound stage). The most comfortable and soft sound is achieved in the first position, in the second the sound is brighter, the third is something in between the first and second in sound. Filters cannot be switched from the mobile application. Changing the brightness of the built-in screen (and turning it off completely) is also only possible using the remote control. Everything else can be done from your smartphone or tablet, including selecting the active interface, measuring volume, adjusting the treble and bass, and switching the P.BASS bass enhancement system. By the way, it is especially useful when listening at low volumes.
The built-in memory of the receiver is used exclusively for the needs of the system, so you will have to store music on someone else’s, that is, external – USB flash drives and HDDs, smartphones, network storage drives (NAS) and computers on the local network. In the latter case, you can use Windows Media Player as a server, but I would advise installing a free Bubble UPnP server or any other.
We begin our practical acquaintance with the device with the Bluetooth interface – this is the simplest and does not require additional equipment like a Wi-Fi router – you only need a smartphone or tablet. The pairing process starts automatically after selecting “bluetooth” as the active input – you need to start searching for Bluetooth devices in the settings and confirm the connection. The whole process goes quickly and without any difficulties. The sound is smooth, clear and pleasant – there is no “roughness” or stiffness in the flow of music that is characteristic of this wireless interface or highly compressed mp3 files. Only there is a certain limitation in the upper part of the range, as if the signal is passing through a low-pass filter with a high cutoff somewhere in the region of 15 kHz. But this becomes noticeable only after switching to another connection method.
We install the Pioneer Remote App mobile application on our smartphone – among other things, it allows you to control a whole “bouquet” of Pioneer network systems if you have them located in different rooms. I will note in passing that the NC-50DAB supports the latest proprietary wireless technology, FireConnect, but in order to use it, you must have devices compatible with it, for example, active acoustics.
Characteristics of Pioneer NC-50DAB
Supported formats for CD drive CD-DA, CD-R/RW, MP3/WMA files recorded on CD
Amplifier output power 2 x 50 W (4 Ohm, 1 kHz, THD: 10%)
DAC ESS Sabre32 Ultra ES9016
Digital filtering SHARP (high roll-off), SLOW (smooth fall-off), SHORT (high slew rate, fast impulse response) Frequency response
10 Hz – 60 kHz (± 3 dB, 8 ohms)
Signal-to-noise ratio 100 dB ( line input), 85 dB (MM phono input)
Harmonic distortion 0.02% (1 kHz, half power, 4 ohms)
Input voltage/impedance 200 mV / 47 kohms (RCA line input), 2.5 mV / 47 kohms (MM phono stage input)
Supported formats for playback via local network (LAN connection) and USB for external drives MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV (up to 24 bit/192 kHz), AIFF (up to 24 bit/192 kHz), FLAC (up to 24 bit/192 kHz), Apple Lossless (up to 24 bit/192 kHz), DSD up to 11.2 MHz
Wi-Fi 802.11.a/b/g/n (2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth version 4.1 , profiles A2DP 1.2, AVRCP 1.3, HOGP-Host (Client), HOGP-HID Device (Server), HID Service (HIDS), codecs: SBC, AAC; range: 10 m
Supported web services Spotify, Deezer, TIDAL, TuneIn
MQA codec support yes
Apple AirPlay support yes
Chromecast support yes
Multiroom platform support FlareConnect and DTS Play-Fi for wireless streaming yes
Bass boost function P.BASS
FM tuner yes
DAB/DAB+ tuner yes
Control via Pioneer Remote App supported for iOS and Android devices
Inputs 2 x USB ports (type A, front and rear panels, PCM up to 24 bit/192 kHz, DSD up to 11.2 MHz), coaxial (PCM up to 24 bit/192 kHz), optical (PCM up to 24 bit/192 kHz), Network port (LAN), linear RCA, MM phono input
6.3 mm headphone outputs, Pre Out for subwoofer (one RCA connector)
Other connections 2 jacks for Wi-Fi antennas, jack for FM/DAB tuner antenna, ground terminal Speaker
output 2 pairs of gold-plated screw terminals
Power supply transformer with W-shaped core
LCD display, 3.5-inch , color
Remote control RC-946S
Power consumption 50 W, standby: 0.3 W
Dimensions (WxHxD) 435x103x333 mm
Weight 6.4 kg