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?
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.
As 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.
I 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
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.
Soundstage 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.
The 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.
- NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier ($2,749)
- NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier Product Page
- NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier Quick Setup (4.6 MB PDF)
- NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier Owner's Manual (2 MB PDF)
- NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier Data Sheet (1.2 MB ZIP)
- Where To Buy
Readers with experience using the M10 are encouraged to leave a star rating and quick review on our Polestar platform:
Home: 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."