NAD Masters Series M10 Streaming Amplifier

Just Add Speakers

Equipment report
Categories:
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Music servers and computer audio
NAD Masters Series M10 Streaming Amplifier

Completed in 2018, the Statue of Unity, in the Gujarat region of India, is the largest statue in the world. It stands 597 feet tall, almost four times taller than the Statue of Liberty. If the Statue of Unity had shoes on its feet (which it does not), I would imagine the shoehorn it would use to slip said foot into said shoe would be about the same size as the shoehorn that the engineers at NAD used to cram the volume of functionality, refinement, and performance into the M10, an all-in-one component that measures 8.5" x 4" x 10.25". And since I’ve gone this far, it is also fascinating to note that although the Statue of Liberty is ranked the 49th tallest statue in the world, it is in fact, the largest statue in the world to wear shoes, or sandals in Lady Liberty’s case.

The $2749 M10 came from the minds of NAD’s Masters Series engineers when challenged to reimagine their Bluesound PowerNode—a wireless amplified multi-room streaming music system. Through their distribution partners came requests from customers who wanted a PowerNode with more refinement, more power, a better DAC, more connectivity, a better display, and no plastic—more of a premium product. NAD’s response was to refashion the PowerNode into a compact Masters Series component to satisfy their customers’ needs for simplicity, premium performance, and elegance. Although functionally similar to the Bluesound PowerNode, it shares more technology with the NAD Masters Series M32, M12, and M22 components. It is an all-in-one unit and houses everything needed to make speakers speak; just add transducers and cables and you’ve got yourself a super-spouse-friendly audio system.

So, What’s in The Box?
Fabricated with an extruded aluminum chassis with Gorilla Glass on the top and front panel, this half-rack component is simple in design yet finished with luxury in mind. The front is a large touchscreen covering all but a thin bezel, and the top houses a beautiful lighted logo that indicates power status. This is the all-in-one that Jean-Luc Picard would unquestionably have in his ready room on a table just below his fish tank, sitting beside a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea. There is a small standby button on the back left, along with a set of high-quality speaker binding posts and an assortment of RCA inputs and outputs, digital inputs, an HDMI input, a USB data slot used for the room-correction microphone, an Ethernet port, and an IEC for power. This is a unit that can live in plain view in any home without complaints or threats of violence from your significant other.

The touchscreen displays cover art and song title, while also indicating digital sources or displaying a digital VU meter when other inputs are engaged. The screen also allows for track selection, volume control, all setting adjustments, and menu control. It is intuitive and large enough for middle-aged eyes to see and read without seeking out your most powerful pair of reading glasses. Software is of the Linux-based BluOS variety, running on an NXP 1GHz ARM processor. BluOS excels at integrating audiophile-grade hardware with both local and Cloud-based storage and services. Controlled from the app (available on all popular portable platforms including Windows and MacOs), BluOS allows you to control any BluOS or Roon-enabled device to create a multi-room music experience that is simple and intuitive. BluOS is compatible with Roon, Airplay2, Amazon, Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and about 15 other services, although it doesn’t support Chromecast. And its Roon integration is seamless and reliable.

NAD chose the ESS Sabre DAC chip utilizing 32-bit Hyperstream DAC architecture and the Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. NAD also implements an ESS 9028 programmable output filter, which allows for MQA compatibility and fine-tuning. The system is 24/192 PCM-compatible and supports FLAC, WAV, MP3, AAC, and the other usual compressed audio suspects. Bluetooth aptX HD is standard and can be used to listen from Bluetooth-enabled headphones and speakers. There is, however, no physical headphone jack, so Bluetooth is your only option for a personal listening session.

The M10 supports multiple analog and digital inputs. For TV viewers, the HDMI input supports the Audio Return Channel (ARC), allowing TV integration for both sound and control. A future software update may provide compatibility with eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) that will seamlessly transfer hi-res audio without need for a separate cable. Each of the inputs can be custom-labeled and/or disabled to simplify everyday use. In addition, all local sources into the M10 are available across the entire BluOS network. The M10 is equipped with a preamp output and a user-defined mono or stereo subwoofer output with crossover point adjustment within the software. This was enormously useful as many of the speakers one would be inclined to use with the M10 benefit from implementing a subwoofer or two, which I did on several occasions to wonderful effect.

The amplifier module is a Hypex nCore Class D design. As audiophiles, we collectively need to stop tightening our sphincters when we read or hear Class D; in 2019 Class D simply isn’t what is was when Class D subwoofer and car amplifiers came out over a decade ago. Companies like Rowland, Mola Mola, MBL, and Merrill Audio have taught us that Class D can be class-leading. NAD utilizes a self-oscillating clock design implementing multiple nested feedback loops, resulting in nearly immeasurable noise and distortion and avoiding the crossover notch found in many Class AB amplifiers. And the Hypex nCore design is “load invariant,” including the output filter in the feedback loop, thus keeping the frequency response flat from top to bottom. All this Class D technology gives the user 100Wpc into 8 ohms with up to 300Wpc into 4 ohms on a dynamic basis. My volume control lived between 50 and 75 on sensitive speakers and 75 to 93 on less sensitive ones. 

I feel like the old Ginsu knife commercial right now—“But wait! There’s more!” 

Along with the myriad features just described, NAD used its giant shoehorn to implement a rather sophisticated, robust, and effective room-correction system, Dirac Live LE. The general gist is that you hold the supplied USB-connected microphone in several different positions near the listening seat for the system to measure the response of your speakers in your room at your speaker and listener positions. It then sends those measurements off to the Cloud and loads the time- and frequency-corrected filters directly into the M10. The Dirac system that comes with the M10 corrects frequency response peaks and dips up to 500Hz, but more sophisticated “upgrades” are available for purchase for very complex rooms, or if you utilize multiple subwoofers. The Dirac correction is applied to both digital and analog inputs. This is all controlled from a free app that found the M10 instantly when I started the software. My first effort with room correction was less than seamless, but after that it worked without issue, which makes me think it was user error. I suggest you invest in a pair of earplugs while the process is underway, and set aside some time. The results are more than worth the effort and make what is already a very good performer a great performer—and a killer deal for the price of admission. Dirac correction adds tighter bass control with more heft and impact while avoiding bloat, and gives the midrange more flesh and richness while avoiding warm coloration. It also tames any high-frequency peaks or beaming that an overly reflective room can create.

Featured Articles

Lists