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Review: NAD M10 amplifier – it shouldn't be more

4.4 - 5 vote[s]

The M10 from NAD appears to be a typical hi-fi product – or a device that is primarily aimed at music lovers who want to listen in higher quality. But NAD went smart. The M10 really wants to excel in all areas and also has features that also make it interesting for those looking for better TV sound. Not in surround, because the M10 can't handle that, but stereo at a high level. The link to the TV is quickly made through which the HDMI ARC port. You don't see that often with a hi-fi product.

The small size of the M10 is an additional asset. It makes this NAD very suitable for use with your television. You could even place it completely out of sight in a piece of furniture, although the finish is of such a high level that you don't want to. If you do it anyway, that is no problem in terms of operation. The M10 is fully controllable via the BluOS app and fully integrates with various smart home platforms, including Crestron and Control 4.

The presence of Dirac is a huge plus. In our opinion, this is the best room correction solution. So you can only have two channels, but you can ensure that these are perfectly adjusted to each other and for the space. You also notice this when watching movies. There are connections for two subwoofers, so you can provide the necessary spectacle.

Introduction NAD M10

The 2,999 euro NAD M10 is a very special all-rounder that we think is good from NAD. Not because the device is full of functions – also, of course – but because the combination of everything is so well put together. The M10 is very compact, but it is certainly not a cheap music system. With a price tag of around 3,000 euros, the M10 is clearly in the premium segment. You notice that in the finish, but also in the sound that the 100 Watt nCore amplifier continuously delivers. There are many streaming options, with the excellent Bluesound as the main banner. Anyway, there will soon be AirPlay 2 and you also have the Bluetooth option with aptX HD support. Despite the small size, space has been found for a number of connections, including an HDMI eARC port. And for advanced music lovers: there is also Dirac on board. NAD has switched to Dirac for its AV receivers, but you can also optimize your room acoustics and speakers with the M10. It's a bit of a chore, but the results are worth it. In short, it seems as if someone at NAD was listening eagerly when they were recently asked in the café: “What do you think the ideal amplifier looks like?”

All glass

We often drag around with heavy hi-fi devices, so it is quite a relief to get a device like the M10 to visit. It is a compact and light thing of approximately 5 kilos. That is again the advantage of an amplifier design such as this. Extreme power supplies and very heavy cooling fins are not required. Nevertheless, the M10 remains a strong example of miniaturization. It is barely 21.5 x 10 x 26 cm in size, and that is really damn compact. At about the same time we had the Marantz Melody X a mini receiver that is still a lot bigger than this NAD.

The M10 is perfectly finished. The housing consists of a combination of glass and fine brushed aluminum, with a tempered glass top. The illuminated NAD logo on the top is a nice detail, although we prefer to switch off the light when we place the M10 on the TV.

The large display on the front and the rounded corners make the NAD strongly reminiscent of the latest batch of smartphones. The fact that Gorilla Glass, the special hard glass type from which many smartphone screens are made, has been chosen for that upper surface further reinforces that impression. It is also no coincidence that the M10 contains the ARM hardware that you find in many mobile devices. For the geeks: the thing runs Linux, although you don't notice it.

Large screen

Almost the entire front is occupied by a large touch screen of approximately 8-inch diagonal. During testing, we quickly switched to the mode where two large VU meters appear, a choice that you can make per input. But you can also choose to have the album cover and information of played music appear. If you put a finger on the screen, you will see large icons of the entrances. Like a smartphone, swipe and tap to do business. Buttons are really not necessary, you can do everything via the display.

In the beginning, you will of course not stay away from it, but we believe that in practice you will still do most through the BluOS app on your tablet. The app also acts as a remote control. With the M10 you don't get remote, but the device can learn IR signals from someone else. NAD is very busy with custom install in North America, so it is not surprising that you can control the amplifier completely via a web interface and via all kinds of smarthome protocols.

Fully equipped

The M10 has two analogue inputs and two digital (one coax, one optical), in addition to the HDMI-ARC connection. So you can connect quite a few sources, perhaps more than you would expect (or would need) with a compact system like this. There is no dedicated phono input.

The HDMI input is a smart addition of NAD; it just makes this device a bit more attractive to place in your living room as the only audio device that fulfills both your music and TV needs. For those who want to make their TV evening really spectacular: you can also connect up to two subwoofers to the M10. Indeed not a bad idea if you would connect two compact bookshelf speakers to the M10 – but frankly the NAD amplifier deserves high-quality speakers. They don't have to be floorstanders, but at least more spicy bookshelf or stand speakers.

Positive is that you have separate settings per entry. For example, you can display those VU meters when playing a CD, but still show the album art with artist information when streaming. You can rename each entry, give another icon or hide it if it is not relevant. The AutoSense option is available with every input, not just ARC. If a CD is set up, the M10 will automatically switch to the correct input.

Streaming hero

In our opinion, external sources (except for the TV) are no less relevant to the people the M10 is aiming for. And when it comes to streaming, everything is there. NAD has fully integrated BluOS, a step ahead compared to older devices that still needed a separate MDC card. BluOS means a lot: support for a lot of streaming services (only Sonos has more, and then it is niche services), playing your own hi-res files and multiroom. So you can easily combine the M10 with all Bluesound devices and speakers, and with certain other devices from NAD and DALI. Nothing relevant is missing in the supported services; Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz can be operated via the BluOS app, while Spotify simply works via its own Spotify app. Recently a series of radio stations was added via Radio Paradise. Not from those streaming stations that stream MP3 in 96 Kbps, but immediately in lossless FLAC. A nice extra for the Bluesound / BluOS enthusiast.

The BluOS app has become a very user-friendly app that allows you to search and find music quickly. The app presents everything clearly on both the smartphone and tablet and on the computer. If you swipe from the left, the screen appears with all possible sources (including the physical inputs on the M10), if you swipe from the right you will see the various BluOS devices in your house and you can pair them. It is simple and elegant. We find the only oddity if we want to add a folder with music on a NAS to the music library. BluNA does not know DLNA shares, you must enter an SMB path. That remains a small but remarkable choice.

The presence of BluOS means that the M10 out of the box is also immediately Roon compatible. Yes, Roon is a niche, but the fans – and we count ourselves – know why. For now, the M10 is not yet officially certified and it does not appear with an appropriate icon in Roon, but everything worked perfectly during our test.

Amplifier

NAD admits that you can consider the M10 as “ functionally similar to a Bluesound Powernode ”. But under the hood it is a completely different device, akin to large Master devices such as the E32-winning M32. The class D amplification section of the M10 is much closer to the M22.2, because it is built around an nCore module from the Dutch Hypex. When it comes to class D, nCore – designed by the Belgian Bruno Putzeys – belongs to the absolute world top, which is why you also find it in a lot of more expensive devices, such as the Marantz PM-10 and Mola Mola amplifiers. NAD also added a circuit that makes the output filter insensitive to the speaker load, thereby preserving the “pure” output of the M10. An advantage of the HybridDigital design is that the impedance of the speaker makes little difference to the power. 100 Watt is available for both 4 and 8 Ohm speakers. The peak power is a bit higher with 4 Ohm speakers: 300 watts, compared to 160 watts. That's pretty “wow” for this little thing, especially since we know that the down-to-earth NAD does not tend to overdo these numbers.

Despite the small size, the M10 has serious credentials, also on the DAC side. NAD opted for the ESS 9028 Pro, a DAC that you often encounter in premium devices. Hi-res is therefore not a problem, just like MQA.

The added value of Dirac is enormous

Room correction is a standard function with AV receivers, but in the more conservative hi-fi world it is still a rare appearance. Although that is gradually changing, because lately we have been getting stereo amplifiers with a form of room correction. Consider for example the Micromega M-One M150 or the Yamaha R-N803D . Room correction may not be a feature that everyone wants or can use, and certainly not when it comes to the more complex Dirac solution. It might be too much work for an average music lover. Nevertheless, we consider the presence of Dirac on the M10 to be an important plus point as it contributes substantially to the experience. We undoubtedly find a function like Dirac potentially to have a greater impact than cable upgrades or power interventions.

The M10 had already been parked with us before we received the beta firmware update with Dirac, a while before the official release . If you want to know more about Dirac, be sure to read the background piece with more information about this software .

Dirac is a solution that intervenes in various areas to eliminate the impact of the room. The room in which you listen to music influences the sound quality. Sometimes on a modest level, but sometimes the impact is very large. A problem such as a room mode (where basses are amplified) often occurs. Dirac is one of the few solutions that also looks at the performance of the drivers in the speakers themselves. The M10 can immediately work with the new Dirac Live 2.x, equipped with a new interface and a modified logarithm that is very interesting for stereo. It is out of the box equipped with the LE version, which is limited to 500 Hz. With this you tackle all the most acoustic problems and creating filters is a bit easier. We use the full version of Dirac simply because we have purchased that license. But in the past we have noticed that we tend to limit Dirac to around 500 Hz, especially with speakers that we already like in the middle and high. So whether you really have to invest around 100 euros in a full Dirac license is therefore the question. Try the LE version first and then think again.

Take your time

The learning curve with Dirac is steeper than with most other systems, partly because you are using a computer and a measuring microphone. to get started. Dirac works best with multiple measurements. At least seven, we think, but you can take up to thirteen measurements at different positions. It is undoubtedly a brand, although with the M10 you have the advantage that the measurements are faster because there are only two speakers. With a receiver with 5.1.4 you will really be in for a long time.

We are completely happy when we notice that the M10 has slots for five Dirac filters. That means that after measuring you can create up to five different filters and switch and compare very quickly. That is very interesting because you can really hear the effect of small adjustments, which makes the search for the best result much easier. If you have the time, we would recommend that you use a slot for a filter that fully follows the proposed Dirac target curve and a slot for a filter that only works up to roughly 500 Hz. Use the other three for filters where you slightly adjust the curve to more or less follow the variation of the measured frequencies from 500-1,000 Hz. The aim is to find a curve that solves problems and still keeps the things you chose for your speakers afloat.

With our Sopra N ° 2s, Dirac immediately provides an audible improvement with his own curve. The speakers from the box are very good, with Dirac there is a bit of extra tightness and a louder, woolly bass is transformed by a layer with much more definition. In the end we opt for a curve that we have adjusted more to follow the measured frequency response of the speakers a little more. This way we get a little more detail and we sacrifice a bit of detail in the layer to give more impact. Software like Dirac does not have to lead to a single sausage, you can use it to personalize very fine details. Simply in moderation, as with everything.

Listening

There is no physical remote in the box, but we quickly find that you can do almost anything via the BluOS app. Also switch between Dirac filters, for example, although you have to descend relatively deep into the app for this. During that experimentation phase, we tended to open the app on our iPad and on our Huawei phone. Then we could choose music on the tablet and adjust the volume, and stay on the phone in the audio settings and adjust things.

We prefer to combine our Sopra N ° 2s with the Devialet Expert 220 Pro which has something unique with its SAM profiles. But if we had to choose between this M10 and the Devialet, it would be damn hard. The Expert Pro is called out-of-the-box more power to keep the Sopras under control, but thanks to Dirac, the end result with the NAD amplifier is really very good. We have rarely heard “Tempelhof” from the All-album by Yann Tiersen (ALAC 44.1 KHz / 24-bit) so beautifully. Deep, intimate, with a realistic piano without a trace of wooliness. The soundstage has also become immense, because that too is a consequence of the Dirac correction.

That spaciousness also attracts us in the world techno of Kawuku Sound, with remarkable, super-detailed percussion from Uganda. They are tracks where many rhythm instruments play together, moving from one channel to the other. The M10 releases all those sounds from the speaker. And if we go for Berlin techno from Modeselektor, such as the pounding 'Wealth' and 'Prügelknabe' on 'Who Else' (ALAC CD quality), it's nice that we can switch to a filter with a few taps that it low back a bit. Not necessary, but it makes it sound a little tighter. “Blue Lines” by Massive Attack: breathtaking – although we may still have to dive into Dirac to tweak the filter a little further, when we hear the high percussion tones that play through the track and may sound slightly natural. That is also somewhere the paradox of the M10: it is a device that, due to its shape and all-round attitude, really fits new music lovers who don't feel like loose parts and hassle. But by putting more effort into it, you lift this amplifier to the highest level.

And in terms of film? HDMI-ARC makes connecting with a television very simple. It is even an eARC implementation, although you do not get any added value from it at the moment. The big advantage of eARC revolves around being able to receive lossless multi-channel sound from your TV, but the M10 can only process PCM.

Conclusion

The NAD M10 is an excellent amplifier that replaces an entire music system – and thereby makes no compromises. Perfect is a fierce word to use, but NAD has created a hi-fi device here that barely makes a mistake and will approach perfection for many people. And that in something of a large handkerchief.

Cons

  • No phono-stage
  • Processed PCM via HDMI only

Plus points

  • High-quality nCore amplifier hatch
  • BluOS, AirPlay 2 built-in
  • Integration options and HDMI eARC
  • Enormous improvement possible through Dirac
  • Very sophisticated design

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Source: kieskeurig.nl

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