Compact stereo integrated amplifier with built-in BluOS® streaming, Apple AirPlay® 2, and Bluetooth®. Tested at $2,999
By SoundStageSimplifi published March 15, 2022
Versatile music streamer with a 7" touchscreen that can expand into wireless surround sound or whole-home audio.
The original NAD Masters M10 streaming amplifier, introduced in January 2019, is a compact, versatile unit that can form the heart of a modern high-fidelity system. It has everything you can imagine you’d want in an integrated amplifier: NAD’s BluOS streaming function, a two-channel amplifier, Dirac Live room correction, a DAC, digital and analog inputs, and more. The M10 fits NAD’s “just add speakers” philosophy perfectly. For the M10 V2, NAD has added a remote control, upgraded the color front display, and tweaked the amplifier gain algorithms for better compatibility with a wider range of systems. The most prominent new feature is wireless surround sound. In this review, I’ll go over that feature in detail, and give you my overall impressions of the M10 V2 in action.
The M10 V2 is similar in appearance to the original M10—with dimensions of 8.5″W × 4″H × 10.25″D, the M10 V2 is half the width of most hi-fi components. The front is dominated by a large touchscreen TFT display behind Corning Gorilla Glass—in fact, there are no physical buttons anywhere on the M10 V2. The touchscreen can be configured to show album art when streaming music, and the volume level—displayed as a percentage or by twin analog-style VU meters.
The top of the M10 V2 is also finished in Gorilla Glass, and a small NAD logo lights up in the center when you turn on the unit. Around back, the RCA analog connections comprise two sets of inputs; one set of preamp outputs, useful for connection to a higher-powered amp; and two subwoofer outputs. For digital connections, there are single coax (RCA), optical (TosLink), and HDMI eARC inputs. The M10 V2 also has a gigabit ethernet port, a USB Type-A port for connecting an external drive containing music files, high-quality WBT-type speaker binding posts, a 12V trigger input and output, and a USB service port. For wireless connectivity, the unit has Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth aptX HD. Bluetooth connectivity is two-way, so you can stream music from a mobile device like an iPhone, or listen to the M10 V2 with wireless headphones.
Internally, the M10 V2 features what NAD refers to as a HybridDigital Ncore class-D amplifier, from Netherlands-based Hypex Electronics. The Ncore design can be found in other NAD Masters amplifiers, and improves on traditional class-D amplification in a number of ways, according to NAD. Rather than use a triangle-wave oscillator to generate the pulse-width modulation signal, as with most class-D amps, the Ncore amplifier uses a self-oscillating circuit. Another issue with most class-D designs is that the output filter can interact with the speaker load; the Ncore is load-invariant. These features result in an amp that is closer to the ideal amplifier—in other words, one that doesn’t have a negative impact on the sound. It is rated at 100Wpc into an 8-ohm or 4-ohm load, with short-term power ratings of 160Wpc into 8 ohms or 300Wpc into 4 ohms.
The 32-bit ESS Sabre 9028 DAC has a maximum resolution of 24-bit/192kHz for PCM, and accepts DSD bitrates up to DSD1024. The M10 V2 can stream DSD music files, but only from the BluOS apps for PC and Mac. If DSD playback is enabled in settings, the BluOS app will automatically convert your local or network-stored .dsf files to FLAC format for streaming. This won’t work via the Android or iPhone apps.
The key feature of the M10 V2 is its BluOS streaming capability. Developed by Lenbrook Industries, NAD’s parent company, BluOS is a custom operating system for streaming digital music, whether locally stored (e.g., on a network-attached drive) or from the cloud. It is both a hardware and software solution, and runs on an Arm NXP 1GHz processor in the M10 V2. According to NAD, you can use up to 20 different music services with BluOS, including lossless services from Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Idagio, Qobuz, and Tidal. With Tidal, BluOS supports the Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) format for end-to-end (studio to speaker) hi-rez streaming. The M10 V2 has a built-in MQA decoder and renderer, and you can see the MQA logo in the BluOS app and on the M10 V2’s front display when streaming MQA tracks. Like all BluOS components, the M10 V2 supports Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Tidal Connect.
Another important feature that’s common to both the original M10 and the M10 V2 is Dirac Live room correction. I will delve into Dirac Live and BluOS in more detail in the setup section of this review.
NAD did not provide a remote with the original M10. The M10 V2 includes a remote; it’s nicely finished in brushed aluminum, with controls to turn the unit on, adjust the volume, and navigate tracks, as well as a three-step dimmer for the front display. The remote also has a numerical keypad for instant access to playlists and internet radio stations that have been preset in the BluOS Controller app.
The most significant changes in the new M10 V2 are the addition of a Dolby Digital decoder and the ability to configure the amp for 4.0-, 4.1-, or 4.2-channel surround sound. This isn’t meant to replace a dedicated surround-sound processor, but it can add surround-sound functionality to an audio system that’s more focused on stereo reproduction. One use that comes to mind is for a compact, living-room audio system with the M10 V2 as the main audio component—adding wireless surround speakers would simply and easily enable surround sound, as opposed to setting up a conventional home-theater system with all those extra speakers and speaker cables running around your room.
The initial setup of the M10 V2 is easy—just power it up and download the BluOS app to your tablet or phone, and the app will guide you through the process. I connected the M10 V2 to the Wi-Fi network in my home and used an older Apple iPad Air 2 tablet as a controller, with no hang-ups or issues. Once the initial setup was complete, I attached a pair of MartinLogan Motion 4i bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer—the Paradigm Servo-15 V2 (discontinued). The 13″-high MartinLogan speakers were dwarfed by the Paradigm, with its 15″ woofer coupled to a 1200W class-D amp; I wouldn’t normally try and match those speakers with that subwoofer, but I wanted to test the new gain algorithms in the M10 V2.
Through the BluOS app, you can set up a pair of speakers and subwoofer as a sub-sat system manually, setting the crossover anywhere between 40Hz and 200Hz. But one of the best features of the M10 V2 is the built-in Dirac Live room correction. There are two ways to use Dirac Live—either with the matching iOS or Android app, or with Dirac’s PC or Mac software program. Included with the M10 V2 are a microphone and USB dongle that can be connected to the unit to measure the frequency and impulse responses of your speakers in your room. NAD supplies limited-bandwidth Dirac Live as standard, which covers the frequencies from 20Hz to 500Hz. This is ideal for correcting the most problematic room acoustic issues, such as bass modes. For $99, you can upgrade Dirac Live for full-frequency correction. I used the full-frequency version.
Like most room-correction systems, Dirac Live generates a series of frequency tones and measures the responses at your listening position with the included microphone. Unlike most room-correction systems, it offers corrections optimized for a single seated listener, or for a group of people. I corrected for a single listener, which required one measurement at my head, with me seated at my listening position, and eight more from the points of a cube around my head.
Once all of the measurements were taken, I had the option to tweak the correction curve to my liking. NAD also provides its own target curves on an included USB drive. NAD recommends using its target curves for the subwoofer or for the satellite speakers, but not for both. Don’t make the mistake I made initially; I used the curves for both, and the result was way too much bass in my room. For the satellites, the NAD correction curve has a slight bump at around 180Hz, and a pronounced rolloff starting at around 9kHz. For the subwoofer, the NAD correction curve puts a lot of gain at 25Hz, sloping down to flat at 200Hz.
For my particular setup, I tried all of the different target curves and I went with the standard Dirac ones, which slope steadily downward from 25Hz to 20kHz. The great thing about the implementation of Dirac Live on the M10 V2 is that you can load up to five correction curves on the system and toggle between them, or turn Dirac off completely.
A good comparison for the Masters M10 V2 is NAD’s own C 700 streaming amplifier ($1599). This is like comparing a Toyota with a Lexus. The appearance, features, and the way you use them are all very similar, and you might wonder why you’d bother paying nearly double the price for the M10 V2. Some of the key differences are in the finish: the 7″ screen, versus the C 700’s 5″ screen; the more luxurious Gorilla Glass top and front; and the M10 V2’s premium speaker binding posts. Inside, the M10 V2 features higher-end Ncore amplification, rather than the UcD amplifier in the C 700, and a higher power rating of 100Wpc versus 80Wpc for the C 700. And, of course, the M10 V2 has the Dirac Live and wireless surround-sound features that the C 700 lacks.
Most of these differences are nice to have, rather than essential. I have no doubt that some of them, such as the upgraded amplifier, can offer slight gains in sound quality. But without question, the biggest potential gain is from the M10 V2’s Dirac Live room correction. As well as optimizing the sound of your speakers in your room, reducing room modes, and dialing in the stereo imaging, it gives you the ability to change the system’s sound by adjusting the frequency response of your speakers with correction curves.
In spite of its diminutive size, the NAD Masters M10 V2 is a powerhouse. It has the versatility to be the central piece of a modern audio system—you can add almost any component you can think of, and even connect it to your TV. You don’t need to use a source component; you can just stream high-resolution audio from local storage or an internet service through BluOS. I found the integration of BluOS to be complete and robust, with no glitches or issues when streaming over Wi-Fi. This is remarkable in my home, where I experience frequent dropouts with other streaming applications. The killer feature of the M10 V2 is Dirac Live room correction, which tightly integrated the bookshelf speakers and subwoofer I used, and was effective in minimizing room modes. NAD’s M10 V2 is highly recommended if you’re looking for a minimalist streaming system with surround-sound capability, and the added benefit of striking good looks.