In an admirable attempt to create more than just another iPod dock, Pioneer offers us this: the NAV1. Not only does it handle your iPod and iPhone (without having to put it in Airplane mode), it also plays CDs and DVDs, and connects to your TV via HDMI. There’s even an FM radio on board. All that and a decent set of speakers aim to justify the chunky price.
As mentioned, the NAV1 intends to take care of all your AV requirements in a device only slightly larger than the average handbag. It comes in black or white, and the white is ideal for the kitchen or kids playroom.
Essentially this is a ‘second point of entertainment’ device. Grab a smallish TV or even PC monitor and set them up together. Quick and easy!
The NAV1 does need a screen nearby as it has a very limited LED display of its own. To fiddle with many of the more advanced features – such as ripping CDs directly to a USB stick – you’ll need to use the included remote and the onscreen display.
The actual device itself has only limited controls, there’s no way to skip CD tracks without the remote, for instance. This obviously isn’t a problem if you’re using an iPod or iPhone as the source, since all your controls are on Apple’s device.
Two 10 watt speakers and two passive radiators provide excellent audio quality for a device this size.
Audio quality from CD, DVD or source compressed at high quality (such as MP3 at 320kbps or higher or Apple Lossless) is simply excellent. The midrange isn’t spectacular, as you’d expect from smaller full-range speakers, but the treble is crisp and the bass punchy.
However, the NAV1 doesn’t seem to like heavily compressed audio very much. Tracks at even 192kbps – which sound great through your favourite earbuds – are exposed as the lossy content they are. Heavily compressed midrange in particular can sound very fuzzy, though this depends on the genre.
Generally, simpler music such as jazz does better than heavily layered electronic pieces or classical music that uses a full orchestra. The NAV1 just can’t separate the detail… especially if your MP3 compressor has already junked half that detail!
There are a few oddities in the design of the NAV1. You can’t output iPhone or iPod video via HDMI, though this is more the fault of Apple’s output than Pioneer’s ability to encode it for HDMI. So while video from Apple sources needs to be exported over bad ole composite to a screen, DVDs will be upscaled to 1080p via the HDMI connection.
Also, by positioning the slot-loading DVD on the top of the NAV1, it becomes impossible to place the device under a TV, or even on the average shelf. This is strictly a tabletop device. Thank goodness it looks so good.
The NAV1 is an excellent iPod dock, a very good compact CD player, and a slightly fiddly DVD player. In the right situation, it will provide you with a secondary entertainment zone – and if you’re really pushed for space, it could handle all your playback needs at a pinch.
Really though, the NAV1 works best as a kitchen, study or playroom player. It doesn’t take up much space and it can push a decent wall of sound. We’d love it even more if it was $100 cheaper.