NAD M10 Streaming Amplifier Brings The Best Of Digital With A Sound That’s Utterly Sublime

The way we listen to music has changed over the past few years. Nowadays, more of us are living in smaller homes and many of us move around more frequently for work than perhaps previous generations might have done. The golden age of audiophiles settling down to listening to music in a spacious music room, in front of a massive stack of hi-fi gear, complete with large speakers, are on the wane. Audio systems are shrinking because we have less space and much of the music we listen to is no longer stored on physical media. All these changes are driving a new breed of compact audio systems for enjoying digital music.

The NAD Masters M10 is a stylish little streaming amplifier that shares a common heritage with the Bluesound range of audio gear, and uses the same BluOS software. Unlike some small audio systems, the NAD M10 doesn’t include a CD player or even a radio tuner. This is a digital player that’s equipped with a high-quality ESS Sabre 9028 DAC (digital-to-analog converter) at its heart. The M10can handle almost any form of digital music, whether it’s from music files stored on a network or one of the many music streaming services that have appeared in recent years.

Getting the M10 connected to a home network is really easy and there’s a choice of using Gigabit Ethernet or Wi-Fi with 2.4 and 5GHz bands. The M10 can also accept Bluetooth streaming and offers support for both aptX HD and AAC audio codecs. NAD also promises that the M10 will support Apple’s AirPlay 2, via a firmware update, towards the end of summer 2019. Unfortunately, there’s no support planned for Google Chromecast, so that might be an issue for some Android smartphone users.

The NAD M10 is incredibly compact with a footprint of just 10 x 22 x 26cm. It’s no bigger than the average biscuit tin and its top is covered with Gorilla Glass, sporting an illuminated NAD logo that glows white when it’s working, and red when the unit is in sleep mode. As mentioned, there’s no power switch provided and I found that a bit off to begin with. To turn the M10 off you simply press ‘Stop’ on the Bluesound music player. Without a sound signal, the M10 will slip into standby mode after 15 minutes and then consumes a mere 0.5W of power, although it can be woken simply by pressing play again. Call me old fashioned, but I still like to see a proper power switch so that I know it’s actually off. I guess there’s always the wall switch.

The front of the NAD M10 consists of a large color TFT touch-screen that can display album covers and radio station logos beautifully. All the M10’s settings, controls, and menus can also be accessed via the touch-screen, including tone controls and customizing the screen’s display mode. I particularly liked how the screen can display a pair of analog power meters. The brightness of the display can be easily adjusted or it’s possible to turn it off altogether, a nice touch for those of us who enjoy listening to music in the dark.

Unlike many conventional streaming amplifiers, the NAD M10 doesn’t have any physical controls for adjusting the volume level. The volume can be controlled via a regular remote, the Bluesound app, or by using the virtual volume knob on the M10’s display. Interestingly, there isn’t a remote provided in the box, although the M10 can be made to work with almost any remote.

It’s always been my view that a remote is an ambassador for the audio system it’s used on. It’s the part of the system that gets used and handled the most. For instance, Naim has recognized the importance of a good remote and supplies one with its Uniti Atom streaming amplifier, which is probably the M10’s closest competitor. The Uniti Atom is supplied with a beautiful remote that feels superb in the hand and even has a backlight that illuminates the moment your hand goes near it. The NAD M10 can work with almost any infrared remote control by using the Bluesound app to program the M10 to accept the signals from a remote.

The M10’s delivers an impressive 100w per channel and is a Class D HybridDigital nCore design. This premium, streaming amplifier is totally digital, which means it’s more energy efficient than a traditional Class AB design. It’s fair to say that digital amplifiers have something of a mixed reputation, mainly due to there being some truly dreadful digital amplifiers on the market. However, in this instance, the M10 design team has shown just how good digital amplifiers can sound and the M10 serves up music superbly with tight control of the music.

The M10’s functions can all be controlled using the Bluesound app, which is available for iOS and Android flavors. The app can be used to select music, make playlists or for accessing settings. The app provides access to an incredible array of music streaming services including Amazon, Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, TuneIn and Deezer. There are plenty of others available and Bluesound probably offers access to more streaming services than any other system I’ve reviewed.

As well as the music streaming services, the M10 can handle most digital file formats whether they are stored on a NAS or a USB drive. There’s even support for MQA, the Master Quality Authenticated files that promise Hi-Res music with a manageable file size. The Bluesound app is incredibly efficient at searching out music because it indexes the storage devices and can access large libraries without being slowed down. The M10 uses the SMB protocol instead of DLNA from a UPnP server.

Digital files and streamed music are M10’s raison d’être, but NAD hasn’t overlooked the necessity for connections to other devices. At the rear of the M10 is a range of connections for analog, digital and networking devices. Starting from left there are a couple of 3.5mm sockets, one for inputting infrared signals and another for outputting a 12v trigger signal which can be used to turn on a power amp. Next, are two pairs of stereo RCA phono inputs for analog devices like turntables or cassette decks. There isn’t a phono stage provided, so anyone wanting to use a vinyl turntable would need to invest in a dedicated phono preamp. Alongside the analog inputs are a couple of subwoofer phono outputs, and their crossover point can be customized using the Bluesound app.

When it comes to connecting devices like CD players or digital tuners, the M10 provides both an optical and a coax digital input. For relaying TV sound there’s an HDMI input with support for eARC so a TV’s remote control can adjust the M10’s volume when it’s being used to play TV audio. Finally, there’s a Gigabit Ethernet port and a USB A socket for attaching storage devices like hard drives or thumb drives.

Also at the rear of the M10 are two pairs of high-quality speaker binding posts. The connections are excellent and they can accept either banana plugs or bare wires for speakers with impedances as low as 4Ω. The M10 can cope with voltages ranging from 100 to 240v, so it will work almost anywhere in the world.

Alongside the lack of a traditional power switch and remote control, NAD also chose not to include a headphone socket. There’s nowhere to plug a pair of wired headphones in for private listening. However, there is a two-way Bluetooth connection that can receive streamed audio from a smartphone as well as being able to transmit music to a pair of wireless headphones using aptX HD or AAC audio codecs.

If it sounds as though I’m being a bit critical it’s because I think the M10 is such a good system with an incredibly pure sound, and I think it deserves a few tweaks to make it the best system in its class. A power switch, headphone socket, and a decent remote would make the NAD M10 damn near perfect.

The M10’s sound is truly stunning, with musical pauses that are eerily silent and transients that are dramatic and full of attack and brio. The M10 takes charge of the music and presents it with such superb clarity, producing a bass that is never thick or overpowering to the midrange. The upper frequencies reveal every detail of the recording but without a hint of harshness or strain. The M10’s sound grew on me the longer I listened to it, and that was before I set about customizing its sound for my listening room using a microphone and Dirac Live support built into the M10.

The M10’s accessory box includes a wired USB microphone that works in conjunction with the downloadable Dirac Live LE app. Dirac Live is sound shaping technology that can measure a room’s acoustics and then shapes the M10’s sound to suit the room. The Dirac Live LE app can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet and then the user plugs in the microphone into the USB port at the rear of the M10. Then the listener sits in a favorite listening chair or usual listening position and then follows instructions on the smartphone screen to start sampling the M10’s output from a variety of positions around the user’s head. The M10 then plays a sweeping range of tones from very low frequencies to the highest of bat-squeaks. The software then calibrates the M10’s sound for the room, and the M10 can store up to four separate Dirac profiles. In practice, there might be one setting for when the curtains are open and another for when they are closed.

Objects like soft furnishings can have a major effect on the acoustics of any room, so Dirac helps to mitigate those effects and it can make a big difference. Setting up the profiles and sampling the tones using the Dirac app isn’t difficult, but it does take a bit of time. If you have small children or pets, get them out of the room before starting the calibration, as the tones will affect some more than others.

I must say that when I started my review, I felt the M10 didn’t sound all that loud for an amplifier that is rated at 100W per channel. I’m used to a slightly higher volume level from amplifiers with that level of power output. However, I discovered that the M10 is loud – it can be very loud – but it doesn’t really get into its stride until the volume level goes beyond 60% of its maximum. Beyond 60% the M10 produces a very loud volume level, very quickly. Make no mistake, there’s power aplenty in the M10 and it can rock with an earth-moving bass but without ever losing control of the music. There’s even up to 160W of short-term peak power available for transients when required.

Verdict: There’s no doubt that the NAD Masters M10 is a fabulous piece of kit that slots elegantly into the Bluesound range and provides the highest quality amplification with the ability to stream almost any digital music source you can think of. The lack of a CD player or radio tuner may be an issue for some people, but this is a unit aimed at audiophiles who have embraced digital but still want the flexibility of connecting analog or external digital sources. The M10 produces a beautifully open sound that’s easy and relaxed, but never sacrifices detail or excitement in the music. The lack of a traditional power switch, headphone socket and remote are minor irritations, but there’s so much that’s right about the NAD M10, it seems churlish to criticize. If living space is at a premium and you want the best sound quality in the snuggest of dimensions, the M10 is well worth an audition.

Pricing: $2,499 / £2,195

More info: Features: *These features will be implemented via future software upgrades. Specifications:

  • HybridDigital nCore Amplifier
  • Continuous Power: 100W into 8/4 Ohms
  • Dynamic Power: 160W into 8 Ohms 300W into 4 Ohms
  • 32-BIT/384kHz ESS Sabre DAC
  • 1GHz ARM CORTEX A9 Processor
  • Dirac Live Room Correction*
  • Color TFT display
  • Supports Amazon Alexa Voice Control Skills
  • AirPlay 2 Integration*
  • Supports Siri Voice Assistant via AirPlay 2
  • Two-way Qualcomm aptX HD Bluetooth
  • NFC Bluetooth pairing for compatible smart devices
  • BluOS multi-room compatible
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI eARC, USB Type A Input
  • Stereo Line Inputs, Coax/Optical Inputs
  • Preamp Output, Subwoofer Output
  • IR Input, 12V Trigger Out
  • Apps for iOS, Android, Mac OS, Windows, Crestron, Control4, RTI, URC, Elan, Lutron, iPort
  • Streaming services supported via app include Amazon, Spotify,
    Tidal, TuneIn, Napster, Deezer, Qobuz and others

DAC Section

  • Continuous output power into 8 ohms and 4 ohms: >100W (ref. 20 Hz-20 kHz at rated THD, both channels driven)
  • THD (20 Hz – 20 kHz): <0.03 % (250 mW to 100 W, 8 ohms and 4 ohms)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >85 dB (A-weighted, 500 mV input, ref. 1 W out in 8 ohms)
  • Clipping power >130 W (at 1 kHz 8 ohms 0.1 % THD) >230 W (at 1 kHz 4 ohms 0.1 % THD)
  • IHF dynamic power: 8 ohms: 160 W or 4 ohms: 300 W
  • Damping factor: >190 (ref. 8 ohms, 20Hz to 6.5kHz)
  • Frequency response: ±0.6 dB (20 Hz – 20 kHz)
  • Tone controls Treble: ±6.0 dB at 20 kHz and Bass: ±6.0dB at 60 Hz
  • Channel separation: >75 dB (1 kHz) >70 dB (10 kHz)
  • Input sensitivity (for 100W in 8 ohms): Line In: 1.0 V, Digital In: -6.2 %FS
  • Standby power: 0.5W

BLUOS Section

  • Supported audio file formats: MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC, OPUS
  • Hi-Resolution audio formats: MQA, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, Supports converted DSD playback via the BluOS desktop app (only)
  • Sampling rate: up to 32 bit/192 kHz PCM
  • Bit depths: 16 – 24

Dimension and Weight

  • Supported operating systems play music from network shares on the following desktop operating systems: Microsoft Windows XP, 2000, Vista, 7, 8 to current Windows Operating Systems and Mac OS X versions
  • Mobile BluOS free Android and iOS App
  • Supported cloud services*: Amazon Alexa, Amazon Music, Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer, Qobuz, HDTracks, HighResAudio, Murfie, JUKE, Napster, Slacker Radio, KKBox, Bugs
  • Free internet radio*: TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, Calm Radio, Radio Paradise
  • Bluetooth quality: Bluetooth aptX HD and AAC built-in
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Two-Way (Receive and Headphone modes)
  • Network connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, Wi-Fi 5
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D) 215 x 100 x 260 mm 8 1/2 x 3 15/16 x 10 1/4 inches
  • Shipping weight: 5 kg (11 lbs)

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