This week we reviewed the NAD M33, the new WiFi/Bluetooth DAC amplifier from the manufacturer’s Masters range that is sold for €5,490 euros. Equipped with a large color touchscreen on the front, it also comes with an elegant remote control and features wired and WiFi connectivity, a bidirectional Bluetooth controller, as well as multiple analog and digital audio inputs.
The very powerful NAD M33 incorporates HybridDigital Purifi Eigentakt amplification that delivers 2 x 200 watts into 8 ohms and 2 x 380 watts into 4 ohms. Consequently, it can easily power the vast majority of compact speakers and floorstanding speakers with an impedance between 4 and 8 ohms.
The NAD M33 streaming amplifier allows you to listen to music shared over the local network and the main online music services, as well as movies and TV series soundtracks on a UHD 4K television via its HDMI eARC connector. Its BluOS interface allows it to be added to a BlueSound multi-room audio system so you can stream music wirelessly throughout your home.
NAD M33: the brand
NAD (New Acoustic Dimension) was created in 1972 from a meeting of minds between Marty Borish and Bjorn Erik Edvardsen, who both wanted to provide simpler and cheaper equipment for hi-fi enthusiasts at the time. Their motto was to focus on the basics: musical pleasure obtained through the most natural sound restitution possible. This approach is based on three major concepts that the brand still adheres to today: performance, value and simplicity.
Each NAD product is therefore designed and manufactured to offer the best performance possible and to reproduce the original sound in a detailed and convincing way. NAD relies primarily on the ingenuity of its collaborators and not on marketing and design for the production of its electronics, which offer excellent value for money.
Lastly, NAD electronics feature the simplest design possible in order to ensure that the source signal is transferred to the listener’s ears without any distortion.
Today, NAD’s catalog includes many great sounding electronics such as DAC amplifiers, stereo hi-fi amplifiers, A/V preamplifiers, power amplifiers, A/V receivers and WiFi/Bluetooth amplifiers. The brand also offers CD players, audio network players, turntables, phono preamplifiers and radio tuners.
NAD M33: packaging & accessories
When unboxing the NAD M33 amplifier, we immediately realized that we were looking at an exceptional piece of equipment. Once the cardboard overpack (simply marked “NAD Masters”) was opened, we discovered a black cardboard box sealed with transparent plastic film on which “M33” was printed in large type. Inside, the NAD M33 was wrapped in a black fabric cover and securely held in place with large pieces of polystyrene that were covered with cardboard sporting a geometric pattern. This protective packaging is both effective and elegant.
In addition to the amplifier, the box holds two smaller boxes containing the amp’s accessories:
- Two power cables: one Europe standard and one British standard
- A calibration microphone with a USB to mini-jack adapter to connect it to the amplifier
- Two WiFi and Bluetooth antennas
- Batteries for the remote control (4 x AA)
- A cardboard-backed envelope containing a microfiber cloth to clean the amplifier’s screen
- A setup guide
- The remote control (backlighting and motion detection) inside a fabric pouch
- Four black magnetic feet with a concave surface to accommodate the amplifier’s decoupling spikes
- A 16GB USB flash drive containing several PDF brochures as well as presentation videos for the amp and wallpapers.
NAD M33: presentation
NAD M33: Design
The NAD M33 streaming amplifier has the same design as its predecessor, the NAD M32, with an aluminum chassis and a slightly protruding black front panel featuring a large touchscreen, the volume knob and the on/off touch interface at the top. The large screen lets you control the NAD M33’s main functions via a rather intuitive menu. It also displays the album artwork of the track being played in streaming mode via BluOS. With other sources, it displays the selected input and the volume level before switching to VU meter mode after a few seconds (either analog or digital mode).
To the left of the screen is the NAD logo, which lights up in white when the receiver is turned on and turns red when it is in standby mode. The brightness of the logo can be adjusted in the menu, or can even be deactivated.
The upper part of the NAD M33 amplifier features several air vents with grilles that let you see the components inside the chassis. There is also a long ventilation slit on each side of the amplifier which allows cool air to flow inside, while warm air is expelled from the top by natural convection.
The NAD M33 amplifier sits on four solid aluminum feet with conical bases that act as decoupling spikes. The manufacturer also includes four magnetic pads with a concave surface to accommodate these spikes.
NAD M33: amplification
The NAD M33 features HybridDigital Purifi Eigentakt amplification that is characterized by exceptional efficiency as well as a high level of RMS power. This stereo amplifier delivers 200 watts into 8 ohms for each channel across the entire frequency range and almost twice as much into 4 ohms with 2 x 380 watts.
The amp’s extremely high damping factor allows it to perfectly control the speakers’ drivers, even those with a large diameter. The resulting sound is detailed, transparent and very lively.
NAD M33: connectors
The NAD M33 stereo amplifier’s connectors include two Line inputs (RCA and balanced XLR), a phono input compatible with MM and MC cartridges, two coaxial digital audio inputs, two optical digital audio inputs (Toslink), a digital AES/EBU audio input, a USB port and an HDMI eARC connector so that you can connect the amplifier to a television. In the latter case, care must be taken to correctly configure that TV’s audio output so that it delivers the audio stream in PCM because the NAD M33’s DAC isn’t compatible with the Dolby Digital Plus audio format used by streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, for example. The USB port used for microphone calibration can also be used to play digital audio files stored on a USB flash drive (or a hard drive with an external power supply).
This WiFi/Bluetooth amplifier also features two Subwoofer outputs to connect two amplified subwoofers. A preamplified output is also available if you wish to add a power amplifier to increase the number of speakers. Two MDC slots are available to add optional circuit boards to upgrade the device. Finally, the NAD M33’s screw-type speaker terminals are compatible with banana plugs and also feature a notch for fork plugs.
NAD M33: Dirac Live calibration
The NAD M33 amp is compatible with Dirac Live Room Correction and acoustic calibration technology. Once the Dirac Live application has been installed on a smartphone, you can optimize the sound reproduction according to the acoustic characteristics of the room, regardless of the speakers used with the amplifier.
NAD M33: 32-bit DAC
The NAD M33 WiFi/Bluetooth amplifier uses an ESS Sabre 32-bit/394 kHz DAC to decode digital audio files in MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC and OPUS formats. MQA FLAC, WAV and AIFF high resolution audio formats are also supported. These files can be played via the local network (NAS, computer connected to the same network as the NAD M33) if they’re shared, but also via an external device connected to one of the digital inputs. As with the NAD M10, we were disappointed by the lack of a type-B USB port to use the NAD M33 as a USB DAC directly with a computer…
NAD M33: BluOS
The NAD M33 is compatible with the BluOS software interface shared by BlueSound devices. The free BluOS mobile application for Android and iOS allows you to control the amplifier remotely (source, volume, streaming services) and manage multi-room audio functions when you have multiple NAD or BlueSound multi-room devices.
It goes without saying that the amplifier’s settings and functions are accessible from the NAD M33’s touchscreen interface: source selection with the possibility of renaming each one, screen brightness adjustment, the information displayed during playback, the volume display mode (total or by percent), automatic standby, tone and balance control, cutoff frequency adjustment when using a subwoofer, turntable cartridge type…
The NAD M33 amplifier is also AirPlay 2 compatible, which means that it can be added to a multi-room sound system using this protocol (iMac, iPhone, iPad).
Several online music services are supported via the BluOS app (Amazon Music, Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer, Qobuz and HDTracks) as well as several internet radios (TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, Calm Radio and Radio Paradise).
NAD M33: remote control
The NAD M33 comes with an imposing remote control with a metal chassis. It is equipped with a brightness sensor and a motion detector that makes the keys glow blue when picked up in the dark. Very convenient!
As well as turning the amplifier on and off and controlling the volume, the remote control lets you select the source using the central up and down keys. The central left and right keys let you skip tracks (BluOS source only). Curiously, the left key is used to go to the next track and the right one to the previous track… Rather counter-intuitive, but you get used to it.
The other buttons don’t work with the NAD M33, except for the play and pause buttons right at the bottom. However, the remote control allows you to control other NAD electronics and even devices from other brands via the learning function (television, CD player, Blu-ray player, set top box…).
Perhaps the manufacturer could have supplied a second, simpler and less cumbersome remote control for those who don’t need a universal model.
NAD M33: key specifications
- HybridDigital Purifi Eigentakt amplification
- 32-bit/384kHz ESS Sabre DAC
- ARM CORTEX A9 processor (1 GHz)
- Dirac Live Room Correction acoustic calibration and correction technology
- 7” TFT color touchscreen
- Compatible with Amazon Alexa voice control (after installing the corresponding Skill)
- Compatible with Google Assistant voice control
- AirPlay 2 (after update)
- BluOS multi-room compatible
- Rated output power (20Hz – 20kHz): >200 W into 8 ohms >380 W into 4 ohms
- Rated output power Bridge mode (20Hz – 20kHz): >700 W into 8 ohms
- Signal-to-Noise ratio: >98 dB (A-weighted, ref. 1 W out in 8 ohms), >120 dB (A-weighted, ref. 200 W out in 8 ohms)
- Damping factor: >800 (ref. 8 ohms, 20Hz to 6.5kHz)
- Frequency response: ±0.2dB (20Hz -20kHz), -3 dB at 60kHz
- Output impedance: 2.2 ohms
- Output power: >100 mW/32 ohms
- Supported audio formats: MP3, AAC, AMM, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC, OPUS
- Supported high resolution audio formats: FLAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF
- Sampling rate: up to 192kHz
Bit depths: 16 to 24
NB: all the digital audio inputs are compatible with 24-bit/192kHz
- Network connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 / WiFi 5
- Supported network file share protocol: SMB
- USB: 1 x type-A port to connect a USB flash drive (FAT32 or NTFS formatted) and other supported devices
- aptX HD 5.0 Bluetooth
- Bidirectional Bluetooth (receiver and headphone modes)
- 1 x HDMI eARC connector
- 1 x Type-A USB input
- 1 x AES/EBU XLR input
- 2 x optical digital audio inputs
- 2 x coaxial digital audio inputs
- 1 x MM/MC Phono input
- 1 x RCA Line input
- 1 x balanced XLR input
- 1 x pre amplified stereo output (RCA)
- 2 x subwoofer outputs with separate cutoff frequency setting
- 1 x headphone output on the front panel (6.35mm jack)
- 2 x MDC board slots
- 1 x 12V Trigger input
- 1 x 12V Trigger output
- 1 x RS232 port
- 1 x Ethernet (RJ45) network port
- Standby mode: < 0.5W
- Idle power: <40W
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 435 x 133 x 396mm
- Net weight: 9.7kg
- Shipping weight: 18.4kg
NAD M33: listening conditions
For our review, we connected the NAD M33 amplifier to a pair of B&W 705 S2 Signature compact speakers with QED XT40i speaker wire mounted with banana plugs. The speakers were placed on NorStone Stylum 3 Noir Satin stands.
We were able to listen to CD and Hi-Res quality music on Qobuz and from a collection of digital music shared over the local network on the NAD amplifier thanks to the BluOS app. We also listened to several audio CDs on the Pioneer UDP-LX500 Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray player that was connected to the NAD M33 using a pair of NorStone Jura RCA cables.
NAD M33: BluOS app
Once the NAD M33 amplifier was unboxed, we connected it to the local network in WiFi via the BluOS app, which quickly detected the amplifier. This app is essential for setting up the NAD M33, making adjustments and accessing online music services and web radios. Consequently, we were able to connect to our Deezer and Qobuz accounts to enjoy our different playlists.
NAD M33: listening impressions
Neutrality and total control of energy are the keywords here. Although it has a colossal power reserve, the NAD M33 exaggerated. On the contrary, it respected the music it played and was consistent with the intention of the artist. So much so that it can be a little unsettling at first if you are used to more “colorful” electronics.
The sound was very realistic and detailed with the B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers. The Continuum membrane cone driver was a treat, providing textured and rich vocals and instruments. The lows were energetic, deep and nuanced. The highs produced by the carbon dome Nautilus tweeter were incredibly transparent and added nice clarity to the sound.
The NAD M33 amplifier is soft, energetic and precise, allowing the music to take center stage.
“Bittersweet” – Lianne La Havas (Lianne La Havas – Qobuz 24/44.1)
The bass and kick drum opened the track in perfect synchronization: the NAD amplifier was vibrant and displayed authority while respecting the “roughness” of the recording. The delicate hits on the cymbals subtly underlined the rhythm and the finger snaps were realistic. Everything was in place before the English singer’s soft and sensual voice unfolded.
“Rap God” – Eminen (The Marshall Mathers LP2 – audio CD – 16/44.1)
The intro’s clear piano and mixed vocals gave way to a deep and intense bassline before a sonic explosion and the rapper’s incredible flow took over. The NAD handled everything that was thrown at it: the piano sounded just right, the lows were moving, and Eminem’s irregular and ultra-fast flow was perfectly smooth.
“Internal War” – Antonio Sánchez (Birdman OST – audio CD – 16/44.1)
The intensity of the track rose in crescendo with increasingly palpable energy, like an approaching storm, before the crash of the cymbals. The low sounds rolled and rumbled like thunder, while the highest notes were clear and fast. This recording, which was done in close proximity to the artist, allowed the NAD M33 to display its finesse and analytic qualities. There was no background noise to be heard. The music, nothing but the music.
“The Girl from Ipanema” – Stan Getz (Getz/Gilberto – FLAC 24/192)
The double bass had a nice presence, the cymbals were transparent, and the voice of the singer, who seemed to be standing right in front of us, was realistically rendered. Astrud Gilberto’s aerial presence to the left of the soundstage. The saxophonist’s performance was both smooth and refined. The sound was fluid and soft.
NAD M33: compared to…
We appreciated the NAD M10’s connectivity, large touchscreen, the possibilities offered by BluOS and its ability to reproduce music with a mixture of energy, texture and nuance. We rediscovered these qualities with the NAD M33 that seemed to be both more detailed and smooth, but still proved it could be energetic when needed.
Offering a subtle balance between neutrality and warmth, capable of extracting many details from recordings and of positioning the instruments and the artists very precisely, the Naim Uniti Nova had made a strong impression on us when we tested it. That said, the NAD M33 was just as good and delivers the music to the listener in an effortless and relaxed manner that invites you to listen to hours of music.
Although their design is very different, these electronics share a respectful approach to reproducing music. The Rega amplifier may be a little rounder, but the HybridDigital Purifi Eigentakt amplification of the NAD M33, neutral though it may be, impresses with its subtle blend of energy and softness. The NAD M33 naturally has the upper hand when it comes to connectivity, which provides multiple possibilities: bidirectional Bluetooth with aptX HD, AirPlay 2, network playback, control and BluOS streaming app, support for Hi-Res and MQA audio files.
The NAD M33 streaming amplifier impressed us with its premium look, large touchscreen, BluOS steaming features and unmistakable musicality. Able to efficiently structure and fill the soundstage, the amplifier gives substance to the music with great realism, and without any exaggeration. Like the NAD M10, the NAD M33 provides a neutral sound that both emphasizes the music and respects the artist’s intentions as much as possible. This Bluetooth/WiFi amp has many qualities, notably its great control of rhythm, its ability to create texture, the way it structures the different frequency ranges and its sense of nuance. Capable of producing tremendous energy, its HybridDigital Purifi Eigentakt amplification will be able to power the most demanding speakers without faltering.
The B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker and NAD M33 pairing is perfect, bringing impressive realism to music, with the only limitation being the elegant, compact speaker’s bass extension. This NAD M33 amplifier can therefore be used with a pair of compact speakers with or without a subwoofer, but also with floorstanding speakers that deliver generous lows, including models equipped with large-diameter drivers.
What we liked
- The high and perfectly controlled amplification
- The neutral and soft sound
- The responsive color touchscreen
- The exhaustive and intuitive BluOS app
What we would have liked
- A USB DAC mode
- A simpler remote control
- DSD compatibility