Multi-iPod shuffle function; Bluetooth (great for iPad); price; solid build; easy operation
No Wi-Fi; tweaking needed for Mac media streaming via LAN
The Pioneer XW-NAC3 has a lot going for it, but the one thing that immediately hits you is its double dock.
“What on earth do you need that for?” you might ask, as I did.
Well, those docks, and one big button on top of the unit, make up one of the most innovative features we’ve seen on a speaker system for quite a while.
What happens when you have two people in the same room with differing tastes in music? Or who both have new albums you want to listen to? You put both iPods or iPhones in the dock, hit the SHUFFLE2 button, and the NAC3 shuffles music from both – cross-fading in and out as it does so.
Clever! (And having two docks is handy for charging, too.)
But this Pioneer’s abilities don’t stop there. The NAC3 can also play back music via Bluetooth and connect to your local area network (LAN) via Ethernet to stream the music stored on your Mac or play internet radio.
Pairing your iPhone, iPad or Mac with the NAC3 via Bluetooth takes a matter of a minute the first time, and mere seconds thereafter. Audio quality via Bluetooth is excellent, and just as good as when the iPod or iPhone is hard-wired into the dock.
I’m a big fan of Bluetooth streaming, as it means I can keep my iPhone next to me and use it instead of the remote control to easily control the music that’s playing. The only downside is that the battery isn’t charging as it would in the dock – just the opposite, in fact, as Bluetooth is power-hungry.
Hooking the NAC3 up so it can stream internet radio is as easy as the Tivoli was difficult (see opposite page), but hard-wiring is a bit old-fashioned and means the Pioneer has to be within a cable’s length of your router. It’s a real shame that it’s not Wi-Fi enabled.
Getting the NAC3 to connect to your Mac once it’s on the network is a bit more tricky, as you first need to install UPnP server software such as elgato’s 49.95 Euro (about $72) EyeConnect (www.elgato.com). Once done, though, it works a treat. (Pioneer – how about some documentation on Mac connections!)
Pioneer’s AV background shows in the controls for the NAC3. The company spent years making ultra-complex receivers easy to use, and it’s done the same here. The NAC3 has more tweakability than most iPod docks, but the remote-driven interface is very easy to get your head around.
The unit is great-looking and well-built in high-grade plastic. It delivers the solid, melodic and pleasing sound you’d expect from Pioneer. At this price the sound isn’t as good as, say, the Geneva Model S, but the NAC3 far outstrips it in features.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
The NAC3 is a good-looking, solidly built iOS speaker system. It has a way to connect to your iPad, iPhone, iPod and Mac – and even your USB sticks – and makes them all sound very good. Highly recommended, particularly at $699. It would get a five-mouse rating if it had built-in Wi-Fi and was easier to stream from a Mac via a LAN.
This review originally appeared in the October issue of Australian Macworld magazine.