The Sharp SD-NX10 minisystem is a versatile unit with innovative high-tech flourishes
that may just make the product and its performance definitive in its category. As a
standalone stereo system, the SD-NX10 includes features that are unusual in todays
marketplace. To the consumer with an ear for good sound reproduction through cutting-edge
engineering, the Sharp is a great alternative to the stacks of black boxes offered by most
retailers. Add ergonomics and functionality based on consumer needs and desires,
rather than bells and whistles, and you have something unique.
The SD-NX10 consists of two chassis and a pair of speakers.
The main unit is a clean aluminum-clad box wider than it is deep. On the top third of its
front panel is a large fluorescent display that offers a choice of seven colors. I chose
dark blue because it was easy on the eyes and a nice break visually from everything else
in my room. Information can be displayed in several different text-based modes, which
allows the owner to configure the unit in a manner suited to the way the product will be
used. Want track time? No problem. Want a peak-level meter to see how much juice
youre using? I'll pass, but it's there if you want it. Sharp obviously wants to make
the SD-NX10 work for you.
Groupings of silver-colored buttons appear on the top of
the unit, which control all pertinent functions. Although small, they are clearly labeled.
However, they are slightly hard to read from a sitting position across the room due to
their upward orientation. Fortunately, these functions are replicated on the well-designed
remote control, which will seem intuitive within about an hour.
The second box, about half the width of the first but
almost as heavy, houses the unit's amplifier, which we will examine shortly because it is way
special. Completing the system is a pair of trapezoidal two-way speakers large enough
to be taken seriously, but still small enough to be placed on a desk or bookcase. Each
speaker sports two 4" mid-woofers and a 1" soft-dome tweeter. The speakers are
finished in silver to match the main stereo unit, though without the brushed aluminum,
they do not look quite as top-shelf. Wiring and interconnects are included in the package
and appear to be a cut above the basic cords supplied with many systems. For example, the
RCA connectors are metal throughout and link the power amp to the control unit with a
The Sharp SD-NX10 is a workhorse, but you wouldnt
know it from looking at it. The unit looks super clean. Its only when you
press the Open button that the true slickness of design makes itself known. The entire top
face slides back to reveal a CD slot and a mini-disc player, which can record up to 320
minutes of music. There's also an AM/FM tuner capable of storing 40 presets, if you are
lucky enough to need that many. The CD is slot-fed, not unlike most mobile units.
Now, heres where it gets interesting. The amplifier
module uses Sharps 1-Bit technology, which converts analog signals into a digital
signal stream generated by a seventh-order Delta-Sigma modulation A/D converter. This
serves two purposes, Sharp claims. First, by processing the audio signals in the digital
domain, Sharp "eliminates the sound deterioration that plagues analog
amplifiers...thanks to [the SD-NX10's] ultra-high-speed sampling of 2.8MHz, which is
64-times faster than the sampling rate of a CD." Additionally, Sharp claims that
digital processing of the audio signal "takes background noise out to frequencies
that surpass the range of the human ear." The amp is rated at 25Wpc (into 6 ohms).
Now, Im not going to presume to know exactly what all
this means in terms of sound quality -- digital amplification is cutting-edge technology,
and I had no real way to compare the SD-NX10 to a similar, but non-digital, amp. But if
digital amplification is responsible for the sound quality I heard through the
SD-NX10 over the last couple of months, it is a remarkable development.
The Sharp SD-NX10 sounds way smoother than I
expected. Vocals were silky and free of grain. Listening to the opening seconds of Holly
Coles "Everything Ive Got" from the Dont Smoke in Bed CD
[Manhattan 81198] illustrates the Sharps ability to project a voice that has body
and soulful charm. Art Avalos backing percussion has good texture too. The Sharp
system doesn't have the visceral impact you could get with floorstanding speakers, but it
delivers a sense of weight beyond what you might expect from the unit's power rating and
speaker size. The drums do not lag or get boomy, which is a testament to the Sharp
designers' ability to trade off quantity for quality -- always a good thing.
The treble is neither harsh nor spitty, and it lends enough
detail to give cymbals and horns life and vibrancy. This was true for jazz as well as
popular music. Enyas Watermark [Reprise 9 26774], from start to finish,
displayed good soundstaging and clear images, especially considering the nearfield
position of my listening seat. Although close placement does necessitate a fairly small
sweet spot, its truly remarkable that it works at all. Whats apparent is that
the system is not particularly sensitive to placement, which may help it find a home in
unlikely places or cramped quarters.
When I backed up from several feet to around the ten-foot
mark, it became apparent that the Sharp system could fill a fairly large expanse. For a
system that takes up just a little more space than a clock radio, this is good performance
indeed. I say bring on the boomboxes so popular today and see whether they can pull the
same rabbit out of the hat. If I'm right, "Orinoco Flow" just won't have the
same magic as it does with the Sharp SD-NX10.
Given the apparent quality of the Sharp 1-Bit
amplification, I was extremely curious to see if the SD-NX10s limiting factor was
the speakers, and whether the Sharp system could rise to the occasion to drive a bigger
system. I happened to have a pair of Axiom M3Ti bookshelf speakers on hand, so I hooked
'em up. First observation: The Sharp SD-NX10 definitely has enough power make the Axioms
swing. I was shocked to hear how much power was available from the 25Wpc amplifier.
It was a revelation.
The bass instantly had more weight and impact, and the
treble extended farther into the outer reaches, making all the recordings I listened to
sound more detailed and precise. Surprisingly, the imaging and smoothness of the midrange
were not that much different than that I was able to obtain from the Sharp speakers, but
the frequency extremes seemed an order of magnitude better. It wasn't subtle. The bottom
line is this: The Axiom M3Ti did not reveal weaknesses in the Sharp 1-Bit digital
amplifier. It showcased its strengths, making me aware that this high-quality system can
be improved even further. Im now anxious to hear the SD-SG11, a similar system with
even better specs and parts, but without speakers.
The SD-NX10's strong point -- its midrange smoothness --
was ever-present with the Axioms. Listening to Andrea Bocellis Sacred Arias
[Philips 289 462 600-2], I was able to confirm that the Sharp could sustain an incredible
voice over an inspiringly broad range. "Ave Maria" was presented with the
important aspects intact, which elicits an emotional response every time I listen to it.
1-Bit for a few bits
Sharp makes a series of statement-level products based on
their 1-Bit digital technology. What we have here in the SD-NX10 is trickle-down magic in
a system that sings. If you break down the price per component (tuner, amplifier,
preamplifier, mini-disc, CD, and speakers), you have a system priced at less than $300 per
component. Thats prime GoodSound! territory, folks. When you factor in that
this system not only employs a bold new technological twist, but also allows for a future
upgrade, how can you go wrong?
Price of equipment reviewedSharp
SD-NX10 Minisystem - $1499 USD