Exclusive: The NAD Masterstroke
StereoNET was fortunate enough to attend an exclusive preview and demonstration of the new Masters range from award-winning NAD, a company enjoying much success for more than 40 years.
Greg Stidsen, Director of Technology & Product Planning for Lenbrook International, the parent company overseeing brands including Bluesound, PSB Speakers and of course, NAD, was on hand to explain the new range and technology.
We often write about brands whose history spans multiple decades; the pioneers of the 'Hi-Fi' world. We also write about those brands that are evolving, embracing new technologies, the changing lifestyles and the demographic. For a company that enjoys holding the title of best-selling amplifier of all time, the NAD 3020, it's clear talking with Stidsen that they're not about to rest on their laurels. Quite the opposite in fact, and being responsible for all the technology and future products for the company, he should know.
'Masters', the flagship offering from NAD, is their words, a “statement of the art”. For them, it's a cult. Stidsen is passionate about the brand and throughout our conversations reminds us that despite the changing definition and goal-posts of hi-fi, it's always been about the music, or more so, the engagement of the listener. He offered the analogy that if Hi-Fi was an exotic six-figure vehicle such as a Lamborghini or Ferrari, then NAD Masters is a Tesla; high-tech, modern and refined, in touch with the future yet not forgetting the vehicle must still transport us from point A to B.
And while NAD are not in possession of a crystal ball (to the best of our knowledge), how does one foresee emerging technology and remain relevant to their next generation of customers? NAD's 'Modular Design Construction' or MDC, pertinent to the Masters range allows the use of 'plug-in' modules, equipping their products with new methods of connectivity and functionality, as the technology is realised.
In 2014, the Masters range has undergone only its first revision since inception in 2004. While Apple wants us to update our phone annually, NAD believe good products should last much, much longer.
The Masters range available from October 2014 includes four products aimed at both audio and video enthusiasts alike.
M12 Direct Digital Preamplifier DAC
The M12 flagship preamplifier doubles as a digital hub, and with added MDC modules really can serve as the heart of your music system. By removing buttons from the front panel and instead opting for a 4” capacitive touchscreen display, NAD engineers are able to add new buttons to the screen through firmware updates and MDC modules as required in the future.
M12 features a 24bit/192kHz DAC, 35-bit 844kHz signal processing and and 108Mhz clock. We're also told that a number of break-throughs were made when developing the DAC that result in jitter-free performance.
Inputs include: 2 x optical digital audio, 2 x coaxial digital audio, 1 x AES/EBU digital audio, 1 x asynchronous USB-B PC input, 2 x USB-A inputs (for hard drive or USB stick). 1pr x XLR balanced input, 1pr x RCA unbalanced input, 1pr x MM/MC phono input.
Outputs include: 1 x optical digital audio, 1 x coaxial digital audio, 1pr x XLR balanced, 1pr x RCA unbalanced, 1pr x RCA subwoofer output.
To take advantage of high-resolution audio streaming however, you will need to fork out for the optional BluOS MDC Module ($799 RRP). This module will allow the streaming of just about any type of file, stored anywhere on the network via WiFi, Ethernet or Bluetooth aptX. It will also allow the streaming of music services including Rdio, Tunein Radio and Spotify Connect. The intuitive BluOS app is available for Android and iOS in both native resolutions for tablets and smartphones.
There is also an optional HDM-1 HDMI MDC Module ($349 RRP), allowing 3 x HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI video pass-through. 3D video, 1080p/60 video resolution, 24/192 audio resolution is supported, stereo only, no surround decoding.
The M12 Direct Digital Preamplifier DAC is available from October 2014 at $5,800 RRP.
M22 Stereo Power Amplifier
The M22 is a stereo amplifier utilising the latest digital amplifier technology. NAD have licensed nCore technology from Hypex, which our DIY type readers may be familiar with. NAD stamped their authority in the hi-fi amplifier world in years passed, and were not about to lower their standards with the range of Masters. The M22 boasts distortion levels below measurement, ultra-high damping factor, exceptional stability down to 2 ohm impedance, extremely low-phase shift, harmonic and intermodulation distortion independent of load, high current capability, and low output impedance uniformly at all audible frequencies.
A new addition to the Masters range, M22 features balanced XLR inputs in addition to RCA unbalanced inputs.
NAD conservatively rates the M22 continuous power output at 250w x 2 (8ohm and 4ohm), with dynamic power output of 355w (8 ohms), 640w (4 ohms), 620w (2 ohms).
The M22 Stereo Power Amplifier is available from October 2014 at $4,700 RRP.
M17 AV Surround Sound Preamp Processor
Not to overlook the strong home cinema enthusiast, NAD deliver with a “no-compromise preamp designed for the best possible surround sound experience”. Catering for Dolby, TrueHD, DTS MasterAudio and NAD's innovative EARS (stereo-to-surround), most popular formats are covered. At time of writing, Dolby's 'Atmos' is intentionally omitted due to a lack of available content and concerns NAD holds for compatibility across the industry as content does become available.
The M17 offers fully balanced audio outputs with separate linear supply for all seven channels. M17 offers a completely flexible setup and ease-of-use with customizable presets. As with the M12, the M17 also features MDC to keep it from premature obsolescence and includes six HDMI Inputs and dual HDMI Outputs with CEC for the primary monitor.
What is impressive, is Australian NAD distributor Qualifi is offering a complimentary upgrade to NAD’s next generation MDC Video Module when it becomes available, featuring a mature implementation of HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.
The M17 AV Surround Sound Preamp Processor is available from October 2014 at $9,000 RRP.
M27 Seven Channel Power Amplifier
Just like the M22 stereo amplifier, the M27 is a true seven channel amplifier for home cinema or multi-channel applications also featuring licensed nCore technology from Hypex. The M27 delivers 7 x 180 watts with all channels driven and dynamic power in excess of 300 watts.
The M27 can accept both balanced and unbalanced inputs, and features high-quality binding posts for speaker connection. Compact and energy-efficient, the entire Masters range offers big performance in a small footprint.
The M27 Seven Channel Power Amplifier is available from October 2014 at $7,000 RRP.
There is no doubt NAD is forward thinking company. “We have been anticipating the changeover from physical media to music streamed from the cloud or stored on solid memory for several years now and have been stealthily perfecting a completely new technology platform that we believe is a game changer.” Stidsen told StereoNET.
“These new products have been carefully crafted to embrace the convenience of streaming music and combine it with a level of musical performance never before possible”, he continued.
NAD is currently sold in over 80 countries and is enjoying a great response to their future direction and the Masters range. NAD were one of those pioneering brands we referred to earlier, and we get the feeling we'll be talking more about their products for years to come.
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