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    PurpleWarrior

    Review | NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier

    Typically, you might see more of an introduction here, but these days everyone is just so darn busy being busy. Instant gratification is the only solution. I wish there was an app that would read my mind. Me wantee... now! I hear you. Let’s get to it... 

     

    The NAD - M10 ($2749) streaming amplifier is not your typical audiophile component — mostly because it’s not audiophile. At least, not in the sense that an experienced listener would consider it to be audiophile. Nor do I believe it’s intended to be. But, if audio quality takes a backseat — what, pray tell, is the M10’s raison d'etre?  

     

    M10-VU.jpg

     

    After all, the music streaming device category is highly competitive in price, quality and variety. There is also no shortage of excellent options in integrated amps. Add the plethora of mix and match possibilities among the many online direct sellers and you could certainly come up with a better system than the M10 in all ways... except one. Ease. The M10 is primarily designed to be easy on the eyes and easy to use. This is likely how it first gained entry into NAD’s top of the line Masters Series. Engineers were then tasked with wringing out as much sound quality as they could given mandates of aesthetics, simple operation and a sub $3000 retail price. If you require technical specs, then this novice friendly gadget likely isn’t for you. But, if you insist, let me save you a trip to Google (link) Yay for less work! 

     

    What results is an uncomplicated, straightforward device on all levels, including sonically. Today’s consumer overwhelmingly values convenience over arguably more practical considerations. In this way, the M10 and its contemporaries are superior to better sounding separates systems because they require significantly less effort. Fewer devices to research. Fewer devices to connect. With the M10, just attach speakers and plug into the wall. Simple. 

     

    And yet, in an age when people would rather populate the planet with empty plastic coffee pods than count scoops of better tasting coffee, it’s not surprising that devices like the M10 are still not convenient and simple enough for most. For those individuals, smart speakers are the clear winner. Not even separate speakers to deal with — just a USB cable. 

     

    spacer.pngAs for that modern day circus oddity, the music aficionado interested in moving up to a quality home listening experience, I would happily point her in the direction of the M10. That is, if she can find appropriate speaker space in her (likely) overpriced, cramped, shared apartment and be able to spare $2749 plus the cost of good speakers. For those few hardy souls left, the M10 makes an ideal entry point since it’s also probably going to be an end point. A discerning music lover might look no further — just dance to the music like Sly Stone. That would be the case for all but the most demanding, gear obsessed lunatic... which, let’s face it, is pretty much everyone reading here. No offense!
     

     

    I won’t bother to describe the setup process because there’s nothing to say. It’s that basic. If setting up the M10 is a challenge, then please exchange it for a smart speaker or three. You’ll be much happier. Sincerely.

     

    There are vocal advocates of spending the majority of your audio budget on speakers. Given that speakers are the only required items which are not included, the M10 provides an interesting test. In my setup, M10 + speakers (DeVore Gibbon 3XL + REL T7 subwoofer), the speakers represent  two-thirds of the total system cost. 

     

    I am unable to comment on the room correction feature. I received an error message referring me back to the developer when trying to download DIRAC software to my MacBook, which made it a non starter. There were also issues with the standby button on the back. For some reason, I had difficulty waking up the unit after engaging the button. However, the M10 appears to have a built-in function that puts the unit to sleep after a period of being idle, so that worked for me.  

     

    The only variable I explored was in choosing a power cord. Using the stock power cord allowed the M10 to demonstrate its basic nature. With the Synergistic Research - UEF Blue, the sound was similar to the stock cable, but more refined all around. The SR cable remained deployed for the duration. 

     

    spacer.pngI did no other experimentation. The M10 is not that kind of device. Outside of being part of a BluOS multi-room music system, it seems NAD did not intend it to be integrated with other components downstream nor a home theater. It’s all-in-one, just-add-speakers, plug-n-play, in-a-box. Please alert Guinness about the most triple stacked modifiers in-a-row. Help, I can’t stop!!

     

    The M10’s most obvious modern convenience feature is the nice, big touchscreen display it sports upfront. It shows the album cover, artist, track and volume. Basic controls and menu are also accessible. These days I find a good display to be just about mandatory. I enjoy looking over and seeing at a glance what’s playing and appreciating the cover art. 

     

    After the initial setup, no guide or manual is necessary. The BluOS app worked seamlessly. The M10 updates BluOS automatically. Easy peasy. Again, it’s beside the point here, but if you need to know more about BluOS, I refer you to Mr. Connaker’s master’s thesis (link).

     

    The M10 is steadfastly consistent and presents music with great verve. Nothing I listened to sounded unpleasant or particularly poor. It extracts the most important qualities within each track and provides a well balanced and musically nourishing meal. Whatever may be left out doesn’t significantly impair your ability to enjoy the music. That is, until you start listening more critically and attentively and notice what you’re missing.   

     

    If all songs get similar treatment from the M10, then perhaps it’s not uncovering enough detail to expose the differences between them? My feeling is that while not ruthlessly revealing, the M10 is still discriminating. It’s able to recognize that not all tracks are created equal, so it draws better sound from better quality tracks, just as it should. At one point I noticed I was easily able to determine which version of The Cars eponymous album I preferred. RIP Ric Ocasek

     

     

    NAD-M10-Rear-Black-on-Black.jpg

     

     

    It’s also reasonable to wonder if this one-size-fits-all sound signature might indicate that the M10 paints everything with the same brush. I found the answer is both yes and no. While the M10 does allow for nuance and feel, at the same time, it seems hampered by a limited palette of colors and textures.

     

    In the very early going, I felt I had a good handle on the M10’s sound. Half-jokingly, I told myself I wouldn’t need to listen any more in order to write about it. To my surprise, that ultimately proved true. When it came down to focusing on individual tracks, my notes were essentially the same on everything I tried. The M10 delivers about 88% of what I like to hear in every aspect on the audiophile checklist. But, it’s missing the last ten percent or so that brings music to life — the difference between simple fun and captivating. 

     

    M10-Front-Square-with-Tone-Controls-Screen.jpgSoundstage is the one attribute that didn’t rate quite as well as the others. I don’t normally listen for it consciously. But, when I did, it was kept noticeably confined between the speakers. Various songs had a smidge more height or depth, but I couldn’t get the sound field to budge on the horizontal plane. It makes the overall presentation feel a bit false and constricted. If soundstage is your thing, you might check elsewhere. Or, perhaps match the M10 with speakers that project the type of soundstage you prefer. Since I’m normally impressed by the DeVores’ sense of scale, I would have to identify the M10 as the soundstage bandit in my case.

     

    The amp may very well be the weak link. The M10’s strengths and shortcomings are reminiscent of the Mytek - Brooklyn AMP (link). Both amps happen to be Class D. In a review of the M10 found elsewhere online, the writer went to great lengths to defend Class D amplification in both the M10 and in general. But then, he ended up trying solid state and tube amps with the M10 anyway. He noted definite improvements with both amps and even went so far as to suggest using a different amp would represent a worthy upgrade. My listening suggested that’s a distinct possibility. However, adding an external amp negates the all-in-one simplicity that makes the M10 what it is. 

     

    Is the speaker dominant system building strategy optimal here? Would more and more expensive speakers be performing up to their capabilities when connected to the NAD? I only listened to the M10 with the DeVores, so I can’t answer definitively. However, based on what I heard, the speakers easily outpaced the M10. I would regularly find myself thinking the DeVores are capable of more than what was being asked of them by the NAD. On the flip side, I wouldn’t see the point of adding something like cheap computer speakers to such a fine sounding component. 

     

    I can’t honestly apply the review cliche “I could happily live with it.” The sound quality is just too compromised for these ears. And, like many people here at A/S, I don’t mind a bit of work in research, setup and operation in order to reap sonic benefits. Hence, the trade off of fidelity for convenience doesn’t work for me. If sound is your top priority, you can find better alternatives. 

     

    The M10 is like a Mercedes A-Class. It’s a classy looking ride — easy driving and comfortable. It performs capably in all areas and has a decent set of features. At the same time, it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. When you focus on the driving experience itself, if you crave the effortless feel of an Enzo Ferrari, the A-Class will never satisfy your hunger. Ease and convenience become irrelevant compared to actual driving performance.

     

    On the other hand, I think it would be fun for a budding audiophile to spend an afternoon shopping around for her ideal speakers to mate with the M10. Simply bring the unit to the store(s) with you and you can try any speakers in stock with your actual system. Given the plethora of outstanding speakers at budget prices, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a pair you vibe with and at a sensible price. 

     

    1920x1080_M10_Header.jpgThe combination of looks, convenience and sound fidelity the M10 brings to the table is what makes it stand out. Finding a better alternative would require more work from start to finish — from purchasing decisions, to set up, to usage. And who has time for that? Actually, we all have time thanks to innumerable lifestyle efficiencies and time savers wrought by digital technology. Nevertheless, connecting a series of cords and wires is anathema for some people. For these folks — and even those for whom sound quality is appreciated, but not the be-all and end-all —  improvement in audio is not as welcome as ease of setup and user experience. Indeed, there’s something to be said about the difference between enjoying music within minutes of opening the box versus a person who has to spend hours being frustrated just to get the latest firmware to work. It’s also true that overall dependability can be preferable to a chain of fussy electronics. To the music lover with the proper resources, who’d appreciate good sound, but doesn’t want to think too hard or work too hard on her musical pleasure, the M10 is here for you. 

     

     

     

    Product Information:

     

     

     

    Readers with experience using the M10 are encouraged to leave a star rating and quick review on our Polestar platform:

     

     

     

     

    About PurpleWarrior

     

    Unknown-1.thumb.jpeg.fb8effa6b19b4c4f3fd8ce82ff5fb97b.jpgHome: City of Angels
    Turn-ons: generosity, the ocean, new speaker smell
    Turn-offs: mean people, Republicans, Democrats
    Talents: piano, trombone, drums, nunchucks, bow hunting, computer hacking
    Favorite TV show: it's one that I've written for, but I can't say which as it's iconic and fraught with more NDAs than Harry and Meghan's nanny contract
    Best Concert: Ol' Dirty Bastard, Woodstock (tie)
    Sports Played: basketball, golf, Muay Thai, CrossFit
    People I Admire: my family, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor
    Ambitions: house the homeless, free the innocent 
    Pets: uno doggo 
    Guilty Pleasures: PS4, making fun of people who do goat yoga
    Foods I Crave: Shake Shack, Bob's Doughnuts, my grandmother's fried chicken
    Good First Date Idea: "When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV." 

     



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    I like your review, and want to make fun of people that do Goat Yoga as well, now that I know that's a thing.

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    Thanks for spending time with the M10 @PurpleWarrior. While your take is certainly different than most HiFi writers, it's nice to hear from someone with a different point of view who doesn't just drool over products automatically. 

     

    I heard the M10 at RMAF and was impressed at what I heard in a crowded, noisy, trade show demo. Its feature set looked really nice and is, as you say, a great match for many people. 

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    Tech specs I can get from the manufacturer or manual. By the end of a review, I need to feel that I know how the device sounds. You nailed that part in this review. I have a clear impression of the sound of the M10. Nice work!

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    Thanks for the frank write up.  I'm disappointed that NAD appears to have compromised on the sound.  I'd call several of their sub $1,000 amps terrific audiophile gear for those on a budget.  I started with a C326BEE that I still enjoy at our lake house--it sounds way better than the mass market offerings in that price range

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    Thanks for the comments @audiobomber, et al.I love hearing what you guys think!

     

    @AudioDoctor
    It’s difficult to do goat yoga now that you have to stay six feet from the goat.
     

    @The Computer Audiophile
    The verve and presence I enjoyed from the M10 would be make it a stand out in a hectic environment like RMAF. I didn’t hear the M10 there, but I imagine it sounded quite good. The refinement that I missed in home listening sessions would be hard for me to detect under show conditions. So, maybe we heard some of the same things.

     

    @PeterG
    Yes, compared to NAD’s other products, it appears that sound was not the primary goal of the M10. But, I wouldn’t necessarily say NAD compromised on sound per say; it just wasn’t the absolute top priority. Moreover, for around $2700, I have no doubt you could get worse SQ, and without the curb appeal and seamless operation.

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    I got off my lazy butt and opened my password manager to get my bad memory logged on— just to tell you how much I enjoyed your review.

     

    Even more so than the excellent review, I absolutely loved the “About Purple Warrior Section”

     

    Thanks

     

    keep up the great work.

     

    Stay safe

     

    Stay healthy

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    My son-in-law likes the M10's gestault. In his review of the M10, John Darko spoke glowingly of the difference that the Dirac room correction software made in the M10's SQ.

     

    I'd love to see the M10 compared to Arcam's new SA-30 all-in-one. The Arcam lacks the M10's big display but may exceed it in SQ. The Arcam is in the same price range as the M10, also has Dirac, and, it too is fully MQA capable with network streamer capability. 

     

    We are living in Audio's second 'golden age' and happily, one that exceeds the first in nearly every category.

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    You could hear a difference in power cable but didn’t do much to get Dirac room correction to work which would have immense sonic benefits? Ncore amps measure close to perfect. Candidly, this is a bit hard to take seriously - it’s as if audiophile in your definition is made up of stuff that’s complex, distorted, large and hot.

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    Before I started reading the review, I cringed a bit at the thought of learning of a yet another “highly recommended” verdict. Very happy to see it was not that! Congratulations!
     

    Your review made me think of the Yamaha R-N803 as a mass market competitor to the NAD M10. Did you have the chance to listen to the R-N803? It’s not as good looking as the M10, but it can be linked to a TV, a subwoofer, or power two sets of speakers. At $1000, it’s a great deal cheaper, too. 
     

    You had the guts to take on NAD and say that heir product is not truly “audiophile”, 
    I’d love to learn what you think of mass products aimed at the low end of the audiophile range. 

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    @apple2k

    Instead of reviewing the M10 as a model, I review the unit that’s given to me by the manufacturer. I believe that gives a clearer picture of the product as a whole, including its reliability. If a unit I’m given hasn’t been tested thoroughly or is perhaps prone to being faulty (i.e. the standby button), that’s on the manufacturer. If I can’t install DIRAC, then it’s a useless feature to me and for others in my situation, regardless of its potential. That’s part of my review.

     

    Having said that, I would’ve been quite interested in hearing what DIRAC could do. But, I was only given sixty days with the M10. That period included Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go through tech support on installation, then set up, then another series of listening sessions. These are the conditions handed to me by the manufacturer, so I am reporting the best I can under the circumstances.

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    @blaven

    Thank you for the kind words! Enjoy that sweet system of yours while ur hunkering down in safety.

     

    @g_iordache
    Thanks, brother! I appreciate your comments. I don’t think I’m throwing shade though. In fact, I think NAD would agree with me — in spirit if not the exact word choices. At its price, given the costs associated with the impressive design, touchscreen interface and outstanding remote app, I think it’s inevitable ultimate SQ would take a hit. It was a specific choice NAD made.

     

    I haven’t heard the R-N803, but I’ve always enjoyed the “natural” Yamaha sound. Based on previous experience with Yammy, I imagine the R-N803 would offer a more laid back, smoother sound. The M10 is quite lively. Also, I should let you know that the M10 offers similar features to what you described.

     

    I am not an industry insider, but it seems clear these all-in-one devices are trending now. @Geoffrey mentions Arcam’s entry. PS Audio and others will be releasing their own versions. I bet many of them will rival or perhaps exceed the M10 in sound. But, I doubt any of them will elicit comments and interest from guests like the M10 on full display. And I don’t think many owners will grow tired of looking at it and using it either. To me, that’s the point of the M10. 

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    @PurpleWarrior

     

    Thank you for the review. Your methodology and prose are very enjoyable. When I wrote my review of the Naim Unity Atom, I did not find the SQ entirely up to what I am accustomed to. Yet it provides a similar satisfying feature set and physical presence. The other part of the equation that I find rather interesting is the software side of these systems. How the user interacts with the system can be problematic or can be enjoyable.

     

    There are some undertones here that we can watch. To me, there is a trend in some systems designs to build systems that are more forward, sharp, or harsh. One example for me is the difference between the Diamond 2 and Diamond 3 versions of the high-end B&W speakers. I find the D3 models to be harder to enjoy. I have very little exposure to the newer models past that, but what I have heard is progress in the wrong direction for me.

     

    This trend reminds me of TVs on display at the local Best Buy, where all the screens are on SHOUT mode. Or some of the smartphones where the color saturation defaults to OMG!

     

     

    Bob

    PS Thumbs up to Side One of Led Zeppelin IV

     

     

     

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    Photos are too dark.  Didn't Wagner or JW Goethe complain about needing more light (right before he passed)?

     

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    Cheers @bobfa I appreciate your kind words and astute observations. As far as I know, the Unity Atom is the closest competitor to the M10. I think you’re exactly right in your comparisons.

     

    I have no experience with the D2 or D3, but you might be on to something as far as the trend toward a “modern” sound in speakers. I take modern to mean a pristine, transparent quality which I imagine stems from the current “golden age” of digital sources. Taken too far, I can see how the result could become dry and harsh in a effort to sound cleaner. That über clarity can become too sharp. It wouldn’t surprise me if B&W fell into this digital sound trap due to current ownerships background in Silicon Valley.

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    I looked into this product but ultimately decided to keep my existing integrated and upgrade my microRendu to a Signature Rendu SE.  While thinking about it, I asked the following question of a NAD dealer:

     

     
    04/28/19
    Q: This product invites lots of questions but the downloadable manual answers few. So, I am asking you. (1) The specs say this has DSD support but there is no indication of whether it plays natively or by DoP. There also is no indication whether DSD is limited to 1x or whether DSD128 and DSD256 also are playable, either in native resolution or with downsampling and whether this downsamples 24/352 PCM or just goes silent with it. How does this process such files? (2) It appears there is no handheld remote. Is this the case? If so, is Alexa the only means of selecting inputs or can the mobile apps do that, too? This device doesn't appear in the Logitech Harmony compatability database; is there no IR control capability at all? (3) I don't use a streaming service as my primary source. Instead, I stream from a NAS to DLNA players. Does this have DLNA capability?

    04/29/19
    A: Hi Mike: We reached out to NAD's CTO, Greg Stidsen to get a deeper dive into your queries. He replied: "DSD support is limited. It requires reformatting as DOP and this is a tool that is only available in the desktop app. It converts all resolutions to 24/192 and saves them as a new file on your NAS." "You can access all inputs from the various app formats we support (iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, Control4, RTI, Crestron, etc.)" "There is an IR learning function so you can use any codes you want. It is very easy to set up (same as Bluesound)." "We do not support UPnP (too many limitations) but use SMBA to access all your NAS music files. Once sharing is configured all files can be accessed from any devices storing music files. We also support folders if you want to separate different types of libraries." Hope this helps,

    I have a relatively large number of sacd’s that I now store as DSD files and I wanted to continue to be able to use my DLNA software, so these limitations were too much for me to take in a device in this price range.

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