NAD Masters Series Brings Luxury

For original hi-fi hipsters, NAD was the go-to brand for affordable performance. Its iconic 3020 integrated amp was a budget Best Buy throughout the eighties and nineties. Today the brand’s Masters Series, distributed via QualiFi, have been conceived to service the luxury end of the market. These separates are not a cheap date.

The NAD Masters Series are exquisitely built, boasting a finish that befits their premium price tag. Interestingly though, beneath the hood this latest quartet to wear the badge are very different from first generation Masters Series products.

The M12 is a stereo DAC preamplifier; think of it as the hub for your hi-resolution audio sources. Proprietary DirectDigital processing promises to make the most of every last bit of incoming sonic detail, and there’s a full roster of traditional digital and analogue inputs, both balanced and line level, including AES/EBU, coaxial and optical digital inputs. If you want to hook up a laptop there’s a 24-bit/192kHz asynchronous USB input, not to mention an MC/MM phono stage for vinyl revivalists.

Reassuringly expensive they may well be, but buyers can take some measure of confidence from the fact that a modular design construction (MDC) offers a level of futureproofing. One upgrade which looks to be an early must-have is a BluOS board which integrates the pre-amp into the Bluesound wireless multiroom ecosystem (the two companies share parentage). When BluOS enabled, the M12 is blessed with Wi-Fi and aptX Bluetooth.

If you (literally) like the sound of the M12, but hanker after multi-channel channel processing, there’s the M17. Cosmetically the same with an identical MDC design, this step-up is aimed at home cinema enthusiasts and dutifully employs all the popular cinema codecs (Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD MA) plus NAD’s own EARS post processing surround option for stereo sources.

ozc8f8Nw31Ci5KWatY25qQxzd8Itd7UMhKG2hE0TfSwRear-side connections on the M17 include balanced audio outputs for all seven channels, plus copious video connectivity, including HDMI, component and legacy formats. Realising that different settings are best when optimised for music and movie sources, there are five independent AV presets to store level and control settings. Room calibration comes courtesy of Audyssey MultEQ.

These preamps partner either the M22 Master Series stereo power amp, or the seven channel M27, as appropriate. Both use hybrid digital amplification technology. The former delivers a formidable 250W per channel, which dynamically, NAD says can stretch to 300W per channel in 8 ohms. Cut from the same cloth, the seven channel M27 is rated to deliver 180W p/c, but also boasts a dynamic peak of 300W. This should allow it to detonate high octane action movies with speed and efficiency, as well as create those all important immersive audio effects.

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