This week we reviewed the NAD M10. This high-end connected amplifier released at the beginning of the year has a price tag of 2990 euros. With a large color touchscreen on the front, it includes WiFi network connectivity and a two-way Bluetooth receiver. It features several analog and digital audio inputs and delivers 2 x 100 Watts of power into 4 Ohms. The NAD M10 therefore allows you to play music shared over the home network and via all the major online music services, as well as movies and TV series on a UHD 4K television via its HDMI ARC input.
The NAD M10 amp can power most compact and floorstanding speakers with an impedance between 4 and 8 Ohms. Its BluOS interface means it can be integrated into a BlueSound multi-room audio system to stream music wirelessly throughout your home.
NAD M10: the brand
NAD (New Acoustic Dimension) was born in 1972 from a meeting of minds between Marty Borish and Bjorn Erik Edvardsen and was fueled by their desire to depart from the complexity and high cost of hi-fi devices of the time. They decided to focus on the basics: musical pleasure obtained through the most natural sound restitution possible. This approach is based on three major concepts: performance, value and simplicity.
Consequently, each NAD product is designed and manufactured with the aim of providing optimal performance and to reproduce the original sound in a realistic, detailed and convincing manner.
Based on the premise that a good design should never compromise the listeners experience, NAD relies mainly on the ingenuity of its designers and engineers and not on marketing or design to develop its products. As a result, NAD products are excellent value for money.
Lastly, the design of NAD electronics is as simple as possible so that the source signal can travel to the listener’s ears without being distorted.
NAD M10: packaging and accessories
Wrapped snugly in its fabric pouch and protected by thick foam packaging, the NAD M10 amp comes with two power cables: one European standard cable and one British standard cable. A calibration microphone is also supplied, along with a USB to mini jack adaptor created specifically to connect the microphone to the amp. There is also a cardboard envelope containing a microfiber cloth which is very useful for wiping fingerprints off the screen. A concise paper manual is included, as well as a 16GB flash drive containing several guides in PDF format.
NAD M10: presentation
NAD M10: design
The NAD M10 connected amplifier is in line with the current trend of compact digital amps boasting an elegant design. The modest dimensions of the chassis (215 x 100 x 260mm) mean it can be placed on even a small hi-fi or TV cabinet. The care brought to the build quality and the matte finish (on the sides) make it a very pleasant object to look at. The illuminated logo on top of the box and the transparent strips on the left and right that reveal the radiator heatsinks are a nice touch that add a little fun to the design. Lastly, the front of the amp is almost completely covered by a large, highly responsive color touchscreen. The screen displays the album artwork and the title of the song being played, and can also be used to control the main functions of the NAD M10.
NAD M10: amplification
The NAD M10 develops 2 x 100 Watts of power across the whole frequency range, into 4 and 8 Ohms. For this purpose, it uses HybridDigital nCore amplification which is characterized by high continuous power as well as excellent efficiency. In practice, it is equipped to power any type of speaker and can handle even large woofers.
NAD M10: connections
The NAD M10 is fitted with two line inputs (stereo RCA), a coaxial digital audio input and an optical digital audio input, a USB Type A port (to connect the calibration microphone and to read audio files stored on a flashdrive), as well as an HDMI input. The latter allows you to retrieve sound from a television whose audio output has been configured to send audio signals in PCM format. The NAD M10’s DAC can’t decode the Dolby Digital Plus codec used for DTTV and services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The NAD M10 connected amplifier also has two subwoofer outputs for amplified subwoofers and features a preamp output which can be used to connect a power amp.
NAD M10: Dirac Live calibration
The NAD M10 amp is compatible with the Dirac Live Room correction and calibration technology. Once the Dirac Live app is installed on a smartphone, the restitution can be optimized according to the room’s acoustic properties, regardless of which speakers are used with the amp.
NAD M10: 32-bit DAC, Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify
Decoding digital audio files is handled by an ESS Sabre 32-bit/384kHz DAC that supports MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC and OPUS formats, as well as the hi-res audio formats MQA, DSD, FLAC, WAV and AIFF stored on a USB stick or shared via the home network. Simply connect the NAD M10 to the home network (with an Ethernet cable or via WiFi) to access music stored and shared (DLNA protocol) on a NAS or computer, as well as many online music services such as Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal, amongst others, but also webradios, in particular via TuneIn. It is unfortunate that there isn’t a USB Type B port to use the NAD M10 as a DAC connected directly to a computer.
NAD M10: two-way Bluetooth
The NAD M100 connected amp features a Bluetooth controller which works as both an emitter and a receiver. Therefore, the NAD M10 can send music wirelessly to Bluetooth headphones so that you can enjoy your playlists at night without disturbing the people around you. It is also possible to wirelessly stream music to the amp from a smartphone, a tablet or a compatible laptop.
Because the aptX codec is supported in both modes, superior sound quality is thus ensured with compatible devices. But in order to enjoy music in high resolution, you will have to opt for USB or network playback. It is probably best to only use Bluetooth occasionally, to allow your guests to share their music without necessarily giving them access to the home network for example.
NAD M10: BluOS
The NAD M10 amp uses the BluOS software interface, which is also used by BlueSound devices. To control the amp remotely, the BluOS mobile app for Android and iOS can be downloaded for free from Google Play and the App Store. This app also handles multi-room audio, if you own several compatible NAD or BlueSound multi-room devices. Note that the NAD M10 amp is also Apple AirPlay 2 compatible, which means it can be added to a multi-room installation that uses this protocol.
NAD M10: test conditions
NAD M10: BluOS app
Once we unboxed the NAD M10 amp, we connected it to the home network with an Ethernet cable hooked up to one of the network inputs of our Netgear Orbi RBK50 pack’s satellite.
Next, we launched the BluOS app on our Android smartphone which was connected to the same network and the app quickly detected the amplifier. This app is necessary to configure the NAD M10, adjust different settings and access online music services and webradios. Consequently, we were able to access our Deezer and Qobuz accounts to listen to our playlists.
Amongst the handy functions offered by the BluOS app, we really appreciated being able to create a shortcut for our favorite radios and playlists. With the shortcut, they can be accessed directly on the NAD M10’s touchscreen, without launching the app on a smartphone.
A few settings are also available via the interface of the NAD M10, such as the auto sleep function, the tone settings and the screen luminosity settings.
For this review, most of our listening sessions were carried out using our reference compact speakers, the Elipson Prestige Facet 8Bs, and the Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP speaker cables mounted with banana plugs. We also paired the amp with the Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3 compact speakers, as well as the Klipsch RP-8000F floorstanding speakers.
Dirac Live LE calibration
Before proceeding with our listening tests, we decided to take advantage of the NAD M10 amp’s compatibility with Dirac technology and carry out an acoustic calibration. Thanks to the included microphone, we were able to benefit from an acoustic correction based on the acoustic characteristics of our room.
In order to carry out a calibration of the NAD M10, we downloaded the Dirac Live application from the Playstore. Once launched, the app detects the amp and connects to it in a matter of seconds. It then guides the user through the acoustic calibration process.
First, you must determine the listening position (an armchair or a sofa) and specify if you wish to have a targeted or a wide listening area. Then, you have to place the microphone at the location shown in the diagram before setting the volume of the amp to a level that allows the calibration to be performed correctly.
The Dirac Live calibration can then start. The app takes into account multiple measurement points (17 in our case!) to establish a three-dimensional map of the listening area which allows it to accurately optimize the sound restitution based on the acoustic properties of the room. For each of the different measurements, the user must position the microphone at the indicated location. The app then emits a series of sound signals that are analyzed to determine the influence of the listening room and correct any negative effects.
Once these measurements are finished, the application displays the frequency response curve for both channels before correction (in red and green) and the corrected curve (in gold). The suggested correction can then be saved so that it is accessible in the BluOS app.
NAD M10: listening impressions
We did most of our review using our reference compact speakers, the Elipson Prestige Facet 8Bs. However, we also carried out a few listening sessions with the Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3 compact speakers and the Klipsch RP-8000F floorstanding speakers. We used the Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP speaker cable mounted with banana plugs.
We used the BluOS app to launch different webradios via TuneIn and listened to Qobuz (Hi-Fi Sublime+ subscription) and Deezer (Family account, streaming in studio quality up to 24 bits/192kHz) online music services. We also tried movie soundtracks with Netflix with our LG OLED TV connected via the HDMI ARC port.
NAD M10 + Elipson Prestige Facet 8B
The Elipson Prestige Facet 8B compact speakers are relatively easy to drive thanks to their high sensitivity rating. Their nominal impedance of 6 Ohms does not cause any problems for the NAD M10, whose power reserve is tailored for much more demanding speakers.
The neutrality of this NAD amp goes well with the fullness of the Elipson speakers, which in this instance is slightly attenuated without the speakers losing any of their character. Therefore, the restitution is both natural and warm. The lows are generous, dense, and very lively. The NAD M10 handles the highly responsive 6 inch drivers of this gorgeous French speaker with confidence. The highs are lofty, transparent, and delicately outlined. The mids are pleasantly textured, and the vocals are beautifully rendered.
The combination proved to be both very smooth and pleasantly dynamic. The attacks are bold, and the lows have a lot of punch if needed, but the NAD M10 also knows how to be subtle and refined. With Tracy Chapman’s The Love That You Had (Qobuz, CD quality, 16 bits/44.1kHz), the lows are nicely extended, the kick drum is vigorous but the drummer’s cymbal work remains delicate and subtle. The bassline extends energetically without being overpowering, cleverly highlighting the guitar and vocals. The soundstage is wide, deep and expertly layered: the instruments and the artist are easily located and seem to be physically present in the room.
NAD M10 + Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3
More compact than the Elipson, The Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3 speaker features a mid-bass driver that is only 5” in diameter. This is reflected in the sound with lows that are dynamic but not as deep or powerful as those provided by the Prestige Facet 8B. That said, the restitution is pleasant, with a good amount of detail, convincing spatialization and a nice presence.
We thoroughly enjoyed listening to Melody Gardot’s Live in Europe on Qobuz, especially the song Baby I’m A Fool (Live in London, 24-bit/44.1kHz). However, the speakers could benefit from being associated with a subwoofer to balance things out, using the NAD M10’s two subwoofer outputs. Note that the BluOS app allows you to indicate the presence of a subwoofer and configure the crossover frequency, from 40Hz to 200Hz.
NAD M10 + Klipsch RP-8000F
With its two 8” woofers, the Klipsch RP-8000F is a perfect match for the NAD M10, which is able to reveal the drivers’ full potential. These speakers boast a high sensitivity rating (98 dB), and are therefore capable of providing high sound volume with a modest amplification, and we were compelled to lower the volume limit on the amp (via the app: Settings / Audio / Volume Limit). This useful function allows you to precisely adjust the lowest volume level to suit the speakers.
The NAD M10 and Klipsch RP-8000F pairing also allowed us to put the Dirac Live calibration to the test to correct the minor acoustic flaws in our listening room. The room creates some reverberation in the lows which can be a problem for this type of floorstanding speaker. Once the calibration was completed, we were able to fully enjoy the qualities of the Klipsch speakers, using our LG OLED TV’s HDMI ARC link to watch shows on Netflix. We made sure to set the television’s digital audio output to PCM, because otherwise the NAD M10 amp wouldn’t be able to emit any sound (no integrated Dolby decoder).
The NAD M10 takes full advantage of the Klipsch speakers’ dynamic qualities. These qualities honor Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for the movie The Highwaymen. Sound effects are also perfectly restituted (thunderstorms and rain, machine gun fire, the roar of car engines…).
There is another ambiance altogether with the Bruce Springsteen On Broadway live concert: we laugh at the stories told by the artist, while enjoying his guitar and piano covers. The proximity to the singer is palpable: it is as if we’re part of the audience at the Walter Kerr Theater…
NAD M10: compared to…
Sonos Amp: in a home theater application, the Sonos Amp takes the lead with better positioning of sound effects and more effective voice centering. Surround sound spatialization is clearly its main strength. That said, the NAD M10 doesn’t lack flair with dynamic soundtracks thanks to its power reserve and expert handling of low frequencies. For music, the NAD M10 overtakes the Sonos: more balanced than the latter, which can be rather “harsh” with certain speakers, the M10 impresses with its natural and dynamic restitution.
Denon DRA-100: although both amps are pretty much the same when it comes to the spatialization and expansion of the soundstage, the Denon DRA-100’s more modest power reserve can be perceived in the restitution. This comparison reveals a slight dynamic compression at high volume and with large speakers for the Denon. Consequently, the NAD remains the frontrunner with its seemingly unlimited energy, allowing it to expertly handle complex compositions at high volume. Nevertheless, the Denon DRA-100 is still a superb connected amplifier and has nothing to be ashamed of in terms of performance, especially considering the NAD amp costs three times as much. It is perfect for an average-sized room, paired with compact or easy to drive floorstanding speakers.
Marantz M-CR612: at almost a quarter of the price of the NAD M10, the Marantz clearly isn’t in the same category. It features virtually the same connectivity as the NAD M10, unfortunately without an ARC HDMI input. However, like the model from NAD, it also ensures audio CD playback and access to many online music services. Even though its restitution isn’t as punchy and dynamic as the M10’s, it remains smooth and very pleasant, with effective spatialization. The limited amplification power of the Marantz makes it suitable for a smaller room, associated with compact speakers rather than floorstanding models.
Midway between standard hi-fi and ultra compact amps, the NAD M10 connected amplifier is instantly appealing with its elegant finish and large touchscreen. When it comes to music, it captivates the listener by creating a very convincing soundstage. Although neutral, this amp is never boring and knows how to get the best out of all of the different sources that can be connected to it. We particularly appreciated its ability to restitute music with both energy and texture, as well as its sense of balance. Its high price tag is completely justified considering the performance of its amplification, which is capable of powering the most demanding speakers.
We were particularly impressed by the association with the Elipson Prestige Facet 8B speakers for musical playback. Pairing the NAD with floorstanding speakers that are generous in the lows, or a pair of more reasonable compact speakers accompanied by a subwoofer, is also recommended to enjoy the dynamic qualities of this amp.
What we liked:
- The perfectly controlled high level of power.
- The neutrality and energy.
- The responsive color touchscreen.
- The exhaustive and intuitive BluOS app.
- The Dirac Live acoustic calibration.
What we would have liked:
- A remote control.
- A USB DAC mode.