Review: NAD Master Series M12 Preamp, M22 Stereo Amplifier
NAD started back in 1972 with the intention of creating products that had an emphasis on sound quality, first and foremost. They were trying to distance themselves from the exaggerated marketing hype that was prevalent in the day and focus on the things that really mattered. In 1978 they released the now iconic NAD 3020 integrated amplifier. This product was a game changer for NAD with its outstanding value and sound quality. It sold almost half a million units in just 3 years. By 1998, the NAD 3020 had become the best known and best-selling audio amplifier in history. My brother still owns one, and it’s still working well and sounding fantastic.
Fast forward to today and NAD have built many, many amplifiers and have accumulated much knowledge and experience in building good sounding, high value amps. So when they release a “Master” series of products it’s worth paying attention.
Just a year ago StereoNET attended an exclusive launch and preview of the Master series in Melbourne, and we were fortunate enough to have some one-on-one time to chat with Greg Stidsen, Director of Technology & Product Planning for Lenbrook International, the parent company overseeing brands including Bluesound, PSB Speakers and of course, NAD.
Right away, we expressed our interest to review the NAD Master series in closer detail. While it did take twelve months to get them in our hands, it's been well worth the wait.
The subject of this review is the M12 Digital Preamp DAC (RRP $6,999) and the matching M22 Stereo Power Amplifier (RRP $5,499). They sit at the top of the tree for ‘stereo’ units. NAD also makes a couple of AV surround sound processors and a couple of seven channel power amplifiers in the Master range, for those who need full integration with the visual arts. But here we are sticking with a pair of stereo sound devices. I have to say that usually I don’t like to review two components at a time, but in this case it makes sense, as that is the way that most people will use it and the fact that they are more or less a matched pair.
NAD is actually an acronym for “New Acoustic Dimension”, just in case you were wondering. They have produced a couple of extremely well made enclosures to house all the electronics in. As you can see from the photos, they are very smart looking and are sure to look good in anyone’s listening room. The M12 has a central 11cm color touch display panel that controls and displays the settings. It is dimmable, but not able to be turned off. There is a hidden flush mount on/off switch at the top centre edge of the front panel and the small NAD logo is backlit from amber (Standby) to a bright white (On), which is very nice to use and highlights that this is certainly not entry level from NAD. Otherwise the only other control is the large rotating volume control. It is very smooth to use and is well weighted. The volume is controlled in 0.5db increments, which is available with slow turns of the dial, otherwise with fast turns it seems to know that you want to get somewhere quickly and it cooperates very well. The M22 power amplifier has the same standby/on feature as the M12 and is the only control on the front facia.
The remote control that is included with the M12 is a work of art and is a pleasure to use. It is a full size remote, not out of place in a good TV/AV system. It’s unusual to find this type of controller with a preamp/DAC, but I believe that it seems perfectly in tune with the overall place in the market that NAD is promoting these Master series products. It is a learning remote, so it can be used to control your entire AV system. In use, I really liked that it sensed that you are using the remote in a darkened room and the backlight is automatically enabled.
The M12 has been created to become the hub of your entertainment system, with a myriad of connection possibilities thanks to its Modular Design Construction (MDC). The idea is to essentially future proof the device by allowing modular upgrades in the future should the need arise. There are 3 spare slots available for additional modules.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early 80’s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now manages a boutique audio manufacturer.
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