At a time when micro-apartments are popping up in major cities around the world, it should come as no surprise that an enterprising audio company would begin making micro-sized high-performance audio components. Olasonic, whose first product was a very nice and quite compact egg-shaped powered desktop speaker, has a new line of gear that is designed to fit nicely into even the smallest miniaturized urban environment. The NanoCompo line of components includes the Nano-D1 digital preamp and DAC, Nano-CD1 CD transport, and Nano-UA1 integrated amplifier with USB DAC. This review will concentrate on the integrated amplifier. All three components in Olasonic's NanoCompo line are priced the same: each is $799.
The Nano-UA1 is less than 6 inches long, 6 inches wide, and only 1.5 inches tall, and it weighs slightly less than two pounds. Although it is bigger than a CD jewel case, placing a jewel case next to it makes one realize just how petite this entire package is. While it's small, the Nano-UA1 is packed with features. Multiple inputs include a USB connection, one digital Toslink, one digital RCA S/PDIF connection, and finally one 3.5mm analog stereo input. Although it does not support DSD or DXD, the Nano-UA1 does support up to 24/192 via its Toslink and S/PDIF digital inputs. Unfortunately its USB is limited to 24/96 because it uses the USB 1.0 rather than 2.0 spec. Output options include one pair of miniature five-way binding posts for a pair of speakers (although miniature in size, these connectors can take anything, including full-sized spade lugs), a headphone output on the front panel, and a single pair of RCA single-ended variable level outputs. The chassis of the Nano-UA1, like the other components in the Nano line, currently comes in one color: white.
While the Nano-UA1 doesn't exactly have a powerhouse power amplifier -- it only puts out 13 watts of "dynamic power" into eight ohms and 26 watts "dynamic power" into four ohms -- it should have enough juice to power an efficient pair of small speakers to adequate levels for a small room or desktop system. Olasonic calls their amp section a "super charged drive system" which, according to the company, is "similar to the drive system in a hybrid car: the SCDS stores USB power during periods of low signal output in order to deliver greater peak power output. The result is a high speaker-driving capability with low power consumption." The digital heart of the Nano-UA1 is a Burr-Brown PCM 1792 chip coupled with a Burr-Brown SCR-4392 sample-rate converter chip. Re-clocking is done via a temperature-compensated crystal oscillator commonly called a TXCO. The Nano-UA1's power amplifier section uses a Texas Instruments TPA3118 Class D that uses a 1.2MHz power supply switching frequency, while a Burr-Brown OPA2132 dual op amp chip drives the headphone amplifier.
The Nano-UA1's front-panel controls consist of an on/off button on the extreme left side, with a four-position input selector button to its right. Centered on the front panel is a mini-stereo headphone connector, and on the right side of the front panel is a volume knob. The Nano-UA1 comes with a credit-card-sized remote control that duplicates all the available functions of the front panel. It can also be used to control the Olasonic Nano-CD1 transport.
Setting up the Olasonic Nano-UA1 was very straightforward: Just hook up your input sources, connect a pair of speakers, and you're off to the races. Since the Nano-UA1 is a USB 1.0-compliant device, it doesn't require special drivers, even with a Windows PC - plug and play, and you're good for anything up to 24/96. I used three different pairs of speakers with the Nano-UA1, including the ATC SCM7 rev3, Silverline Minuet Supreme, and Audience Clair Audient 1+1. With most commercial recordings, the Nano-UA1 had sufficient power to drive the Audience Clair Audient 1+1 with no problems, but the ATC SCM7s proved to be a different story. The Nano-AU1's volume control was at 12 o'clock (starting at eight o'clock) before I heard much more than a whisper from the ATCs. The Silverline speakers produced a very similar volume level. So, if playing loud is important, look for something with a sensitivity of at least 90 dB at one meter if you require anything approaching earthshaking levels.
Speaking of earthshaking, if you want to use a subwoofer with the Nano-UA1, you're going to have to use one that has its own built-in crossover or has provisions for a speaker-level input -- since the Nano-UA1 lacks a dedicated subwoofer output. On some DAC/PREs, you can gain a subwoofer output by using the headphone connection on the front panel, but most (including the Nano-UA1) mute their speaker-level outputs when a headphone is plugged into the headphone jack, so that isn't an option.
During day-to-day use, I found the Nano-UA1's remote to be especially useful. It includes a volume control that employs a mechanical stepper motor to adjust the level. During critical listening sessions, I didn't need to be within arm's reach of the Nano-UA1 to adjust its volume levels.
Click on over to Page 2 for Sonic Impressions, High Points and Low Points, Competition and Comparison and the Conclusion . . .