SUPPLY AND DEMAND NAD modular design construction technology keeps pace with industry innovation R

apid technological advancement promotes “premature obsolescence”

of otherwise perfectly good hardware. In the digital age this has become even more pronounced despite the promise of the ‘software upgrade’ that can add new features and functionality to existing hardware. Often, new software includes security code that must be embedded in hardware and thus cannot be easily upgraded. At other times, more memory or processing power is required. If 80% of a product is still relevant and

operating perfectly, then it makes perfect sense to replace only the 20% that has become obsolete. This is what Modular Design Construction (MDC) is all about. Make it easy and cost effective for the owner to upgrade just the Processor, or just the DAC, or just the HDMI circuits while keeping the case, the display, the preamp, and the Power Amp that are still fully capable and operating perfectly. This MDC upgrade path, the ability to remove one circuit and replace it with another, seems like an obvious solution. So why aren’t all brands promoting the concept? The NAD brand was formed in 1972

largely in response to rapid change in the Audio Industry. A key element in the company’s philosophy was the idea of being able to upgrade whatever you bought as your taste and budget allowed. This respected the investment the customer had already made by making the incremental upgrade more affordable. This became known as the ‘Building Block’ concept. Unlike the competitive brands that had low quality products at low prices and high quality


products at high prices, NAD would only make high quality products, just with less amplifier power at the lower price points. When you were ready, you could buy just the power amp section of the expensive amplifier and connect it up to your budget amplifier. Viola! Now you had the expensive amplifier. As we entered the 21st century and

audio and video had moved from analogue to digital, we faced a slightly different version of the same problem. As new technologies come on line, the old technology becomes rapidly obsolete, and with digital there is often no backward compatibility. One of the strengths of digital is that

you can make an infinite number of copies of content without degradation, which unfortunately led to widespread Pirating of copyrighted material. As a result, digital content owners mandated encryption, known as Digital Rights Management in an attempt to stop the thievery. This, combined with the many compression codecs required for transmission over limited bandwidth, created a nightmare for hardware manufacturers. Nearly as soon as a new product was introduced, it became obsolete.

EXECUTION DETERMINES SUCCESS This ability to upgrade in the future, for a product made in the past, requires some creative thinking about what the future may hold. What circuits should be upgradable? How can it be made easy and convenient to swap out circuits? What is the cost of making easy access and upgradability part of the design?

Figure 1:

Can the new upgrade circuit be inexpensive enough that customers will want to upgrade rather than replace the whole unit? There is also a customer trust

component to MDC that must be satisfied. If you purchase a product based on the promise of future upgradability, the brand must fulfill the promise and offer the upgrade in a manner that is both timely and cost effective.

THE COST OF OBSOLESCENCE There is the obvious cost to the owner when his state-of-the-art $3,000 AV Receiver is only worth $300 just a year later because it can’t play the latest and greatest digital format. But there are also environmental costs to discarding perfectly good electronics just because it doesn’t play the latest codec. There are also hidden costs when manufacturers have very short product cycles, because there are huge one-time costs to bringing a new model to market related to compliance, safety, tooling, and development that get amortised into the price a customer pays. MDC allows the customer to easily

upgrade for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new unit. MDC promotes environmental

stewardship by giving an extended service life to products that are not easily recycled. MDC allows the manufacturer to bring

new features to market more quickly while keeping costs down. / ELECTRONICS

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