NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier Review
By Chris Heinonen on
My favorite product at CES 2019 was the NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier. Since the show also featured crazy products like rollable OLED and 200” MicroLED screens this might come as a surprise, but the NAD fits into a category that I feel is primed for innovation. Too often people that want to listen to movies and TV but also listen to music have been stuck buying multichannel receivers for stereo use because the want streaming features and digital inputs. At the same time, stereo receivers have remained stuck in the past, without the digital or HDMI inputs you need to listen to movies and lacking common receiver features like room correction. The NAD M10 is a high-end stereo receiver that breaks away from the big box design of most components and includes all the current digital features you want.
NAD M10 Design and Features
The NAD M10 is a compact little beast, taking up less area than a standard sheet of paper and coming in at under 4” in height. The use of Hypex nCore Class D amplifier modules, which NAD uses in other Masters Series components, allows for the compact size while still delivering a continuous 100 watts per channel into 4-ohm or 8-ohm loads. The front panel design is clean and sleek, featuring a full color, touch-screen display that shows album art and more. Gone are the days of big knobs and clunky buttons of past receiver designs.
The rear panel shows that the NAD M10 is prepared for the future and not stuck in the past. There are a pair of analog inputs and a stereo pre out, in case you need a larger amplifier or a second zone, but also dual subwoofer outputs, an HDMI input for ARC (no video switching), Optical and Coaxial inputs, along with Ethernet and WiFi. The internet connectivity allows the M10 to use NADs BluOS giving you access to Spotify Connect, Tidal, Amazon, Deezer, Qobuz, HDTrack, TuneIn, and more. Support for Apple AirPlay2 is coming in the future, letting you send audio directly from your phone no matter what the source.
Finished in a glossy piano black, the NAD M10 looks superb, and when turned off you likely won’t even notice it is there. Unlike stereo receivers it doesn’t draw attention to itself by looking like a giant box. For most people, I imagine the NAD M10 will wind up in a living room under a TV, or possibly a bedroom or office. For my use, I used it in my office with a number of turntables and speaker pairs, along with TVs that I was testing to see how the HDMI audio input worked.
NAD M10 Performance
The first thing I did with the NAD M10 was fire up Roon, which instantly recognized it and allowed me to stream audio from Tidal, Qobuz, or my music library directly to it. This was the first component I’ve had that could play MQA titles from Tidal, so I began by listening to some of my favorites from The War on Drugs and The Smiths. Playing through a pair of Paradigm Premiere bookshelf speakers the NAD M10 had no trouble resolving an incredible amount of detail. Not only was the soundstage huge, but all those little details I was missing from the lossy Spotify version were coming across in the MQA version. I can’t say how the MQA version would compare to a high-resolution lossless download since I don’t have one, but this was the best I had heard these albums sound. What the M10 did so well here was making it both incredibly easy to listen to this music and offering no compromises in sound quality.
One feature of the M10 that I haven’t touched on yet is the Dirac room correction. For most of its existence, room correction software was been relegated to the home theater community, where the need for cleaning up bass response was paramount. It would help in cleaning up the bass response in those rooms, especially when using larger subwoofers, but at the cost of reduced clarity and transparency of sources. They would become a bit diffuse in their imaging in exchange for improving the lower octaves. Dirac Live on the NAD M10 only covers the frequencies below 500Hz, but you can purchase a full-range license for $100 if you desire.
For most people, working from 500Hz and below is ideal. It will clear up the room modes that cause peaks and dips in the bass, without impacting the clarity of sound. You probably bought speakers because of their specific sound, and the last thing you want is a room correction system to try to change that sound quality for you. Running Dirac Live takes a bit of time as you measure 9 positions but then you can easily save them and switch between. You have the choice of measuring for a single spot or a wider listening area, letting you have different presets for when you’re listening to music or when the family is watching a movie together.
Once completed, Dirac Live made a larger impact that I expected it to. Toggling it on and off as I listened to a variety of music the difference was easy to pick out. The bass response in the SVS Prime Pinnacle towers that I was reviewing was slightly reduced but it now offered more definition and no extra boominess. Beyond that, the stereo imaging was highly improved, with a more precise location of instruments and a cleaner, more detailed sound. Even if everything above 500Hz was being left alone, by having the timing between the corrected and uncorrected frequencies being improved everything sounded better. Unlike the less advanced room correction systems in receivers (ARC and Dirac room correction in receivers still sounds great), Dirac improved the sound quality without introducing compromises.
Using HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) with the NAD works but required a bit more tweaking to get it right. The specifications say that it supports eARC but I had no TVs around that offer support for the latest ARC format. Using TVs with standard ARC I had to set their audio output to be PCM instead of Bitstream for the sound to work. This step might not be required with eARC, and hopefully, I’ll have a chance to test this before my time with the NAD M10 ends. Once this was set up correctly, the TV had no trouble controlling the NAD M10 and routing the audio through it. Compared to the sound in my Sony OLED, which offers some of the best sounds of any current TV, the NAD M10 was of course far superior. There was a much wider stereo image, better bass response, and more immersive viewing experience. Because it uses HDMI CEC you don’t need to learn to use a second remote to control it, the TV remote handles it all.
Going back to music, using the NAD M10 for listening while I work couldn’t be easier. So often I find myself just listening to my cheap computer speakers during the day because they are so easy to control. I do all my listening using Spotify or Roon, and both of these can send the music to the M10 just as easily as they can to my computer. You don’t have to change how you listen to music or get up to make any adjustments, it just works transparently and sounds fantastic doing so.
NAD M10 Improvements
As much as I love the NAD M10 there are a few things to improve upon. The BluOS app isn’t as intuitive as I would like and trying to figure out how to do something like a firmware update wasn’t apparent. It also would sometimes not initially detect the M10 and I’d have to close and relaunch the app.
Sometimes when my kids would play music around the house using Google Assistant and Spotify Connect the M10 would kick on but not play the song. I could see what they are listening to on the front panel, but thankfully it wouldn’t play. I don’t know what interaction was causing this but the M10 seemed eager to turn on when possible.
I can see where some people won’t like the lack of a physical volume knob. The Naim Uniti Atom that we reviewed previously is very similar to the NAD M10 but had a very nicely designed volume knob on the top of the unit. Obviously, NAD can’t just copy the Naim design, and the touch screen works fine, but some people will miss that physical connection.
NAD M10 Conclusions
The NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier is what I see as the future for high-end music listening. The days where people have a separate music system and video system are going away, and most people don’t want an audio system to dominate a room. With the NAD M10, you can have a system that sounds truly spectacular for music and movies without taking over the space. My ideal living room system would consist of a high-end TV like a 65” or 77” OLED, a truly fantastic pair of speakers like the GoldenEar Triton One.R or KEF R11, and the NAD M10 to tie it together. That gives you a system that looks as good as anything, sounds amazing without the need for extra subwoofers or giant audio components, and is as easy to stream to as any Bluetooth speaker or soundbar.
I’m happy to see NAD embracing this future where you can have high-end performance without having to keep a stack of components in a room and can tie audio and video together. With superb sound, a wealth of features, and cutting edge design, the NAD M10 is a fantastic device and it lives up to all the expectations I had for it after seeing it at CES 2019. Truly a component I can easily recommend.
A compact, versatile streaming amplifier that sounds amazing, has top-notch room correction, and almost any feature that you could want.
Some people will miss the lack of a phono input, and you can't do surround sound.
If you're after a compact stereo amplifier that supports all major streaming services, has top-of-the-line room correction, and even interfaces with a TV, the NAD M10 is your ticket. It looks and sounds superb and fits into a niche that sorely needs it.