NAD's New M12 and M22 Master Series Stereo Components

Bluesound Wi-Fi Audio and Class D Amplification Highlight New Models


NAD is known mostly for simple, affordable audiophile gear such as the legendary 3020 integrated amp. However, the latest components in the company's high-end Masters Series are about as advanced as anything on the market. And while they're less expensive than some of today's top two-channel gear, they're also much more high-end than the gear NAD is best known for.

Besides the two-channel components, NAD also launched the M17 surround-sound preamp/processor and M27 seven-channel amp, but surround sound is Home Theater Expert Robert Silva's beat.

M12 Direct Digital Preamplifier DAC

First up in the new line is the M12 Direct Digital Preamplifier DAC. Lots of high-end companies now make a combination preamp and digital-to-analog converter, so the M12 might seem a little unspecial at first glance. But rest assured, it's very special.

The built-in USB DAC accepts digital signals with resolution up to 24-bit/192-kilohertz. Nothing really special about that these days. But it also features NAD's Modular Design Construction, which allows the use of optional plug-in modules to upgrade the M12's capabilities.

The BluOS module gives the M12 the same basic functionality as a Sonos Wi-Fi multiroom system, and then some. It lets the M12 work just like the components offered by NAD sister company Bluesound, which I reviewed in depth a few months ago. Thus, you can use the BluOS module to stream music files from a networked computer or hard drive, and you can also use it to stream Internet music services such as TuneIn Radio.

Like the Bluesound stuff -- and unlike everything else I've tried -- the BluOS module will let you stream high-res audio files, downloaded from sites such as

Oh, and it has Bluetooth, too! Of course, Bluetooth does reduce audio quality, but still, there's no quicker and more convenient way to connect a smartphone or tablet to your audio system.

The M12 also works with legacy analog and digital sources. A front display screen lets you access the advanced capabilities of the unit.

M22 Hybrid Digital Power Amplifier

NAD dabbled in Class D amplification with its update of the 3020--the D3020--but with the M22, the company's getting much more serious about Class D. Class D amplifiers are much more efficient and cooler-running than conventional Class AB amps of equivalent power. For an in-depth discussion of Class D, check out my glossary definition.

Even though the M22 looks hardly bigger than a typical Blu-ray player, it's rated at 250 watts per channel of stereo power. The amp uses Hypex nCore Class D modules, which are touted as having "distortion below measurement," an "ultra-high damping factor" and "unconditional stability with any speaker." Do these claims bear out? I don't know, but if my experience with the D3020 and the Bluesound components is any indicator, NAD knows how to do a decent job with Class D.

While the press release doesn't go into depth, I gather from what was said about the M27 seven-channel amp that the M22 uses a fully balanced topology and has both RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced inputs.

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