NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amp Review

They might not call it an all-in-one but NAD has built an outstanding example of one.

by Ed Selley
SRP: £2,199.00

What is the NAD M10?

The NAD M10 is - officially anyway - a ‘BluOS streaming amplifier’ which should mean it proves admirably hard to make comparison tables against as there are no other such devices on the market. If you look at the M10 for longer than a femtosecond though, it is obvious that this is an all-in-one system. In terms of the market, it is a rather important one too.

Since late 2017, when the Uniti Atom appeared, Naim has been in fairly solid control of this part of the market - and with good reason. The Uniti family is an object lesson in taking skills you have honed over time and combining them in such a way as to create pretty much faultless systems. They do everything you might reasonably expect an all-in-one to do and they do it with a cohesiveness and general user friendliness that is key to ensuring you want to use them. I dislike sweeping statements like “they made everything up to that point obsolete” but… they kinda did.

This makes the M10 significant because it is the first all-in-one I’ve looked at whose development has happened since the Unitis appeared, giving NAD the chance to at least give a cursory look in their direction to see what they are up to. The result is a device that promises Uniti rivalling functionality (and more) underpinned by an operating system that should be up to the job of tying it all together. That’s the theory anyway - does this slick little box deliver on the promise?

Specification and Design

NAD M10
The M10 is a combination of two main components that NAD has considerable experience with and that they have developed into very capable product categories in their own right. The first is BluOS. As I have noted a few times, it is hard to pin down exactly when BluOS went from being a solid but unremarkable streaming platform to something that is genuinely one of the best manufacturer specific interfaces around but over the last few years, it has done just that.

Key to its success is that it doesn’t rely on a server to render content, instead doing so itself, leading to a stability that many other systems cannot easily rival. It then combines this with excellent and wide ranging streaming service support and self-explanatory multiroom functionality. Throw in stability on both the iOS and Android versions and you have a bit of a winner. No less importantly, it ensures that the M10 is part of a wider family of devices that all run off it. You can have an M10 in the lounge and a Pulse Flex in the bedroom (or even a T777v3 in a dedicated home cinema) and they’ll all play nicely together. You can point to a lack of dedicated DSD support but I still don’t think this matters hugely and you do get MQA handling to help TIDAL along.
NAD M10
This is combined with another area of NAD expertise that has been longer in the making than BluOS. The M10 uses the company’s HybridDigital amplification system for power. There will still be people who simply cannot reconcile Class D being ‘Hi-Fi’ but the progression that NAD has made in this area is considerable and I have enjoyed a goodly number of their designs with HybridDigital over the years. It is also hard to argue with the ‘power to weight’ that it offers. The M10 is smaller than a Uniti Atom but with 100 watts into 8 and 4 ohms, it offers more power than a Uniti Nova. I will be the first to admit that there is more to an amplifier than outright power figures but it’s a good start.

NAD has then ensured that the additional functionality needed to ensure true user friendliness is also good to go. The M10 has two RCA analogue connections (and an RCA analogue preout, together with a pair of sub outputs that offer adjustable crossover settings) together with a coaxial, optical and HDMI ARC connections. AirPlay2 is present along with aptX HD Bluetooth. This Bluetooth setup is two way as well so although there is no headphone socket on the M10, it can still be used with Bluetooth headphones. Chromecast is about the only notable absentee from what is otherwise a very comprehensive specification.
Then, to round things off, NAD takes the M10 into a completely different area. Like a number of other NAD products, it is equipped with Dirac to allow it to better dial in to most room spaces. As standard, the M10 comes with Dirac Live, allowing for adjustment of the bass frequencies (which are, let’s face it, usually the problem area). You can also update to Dirac Full Frequency should you wish. This fitment, at a stroke, gives the M10 functionality that is absent almost everywhere else. If you are planning on using it in a 2.1 context, the combination of crossover adjustment and bass management puts the M10 in a class of its own.

Now we get to the bit where I usually say “all this is great but it still looks like a NAD.” Except that, as you can see, that isn’t the case. The M10 is neither part of NAD’s main range of devices nor is it exactly part of the Masters aesthetic either (although the packaging refers to it as a Masters device). Developed in cooperation with an external design agency called DF-ID, the M10 is a truly exceptional piece of industrial design. The front is dominated by a full width display. This is touch sensitive and pressing it will bring up all the controls for adjustment. Importantly, this touch screen is sensitive and responsive in a way that some older examples I’ve tested over the years just weren’t.
NAD M10
NAD M10

It means that NAD has squared a very specific circle of modern audio design. The M10 is completely free of fuss or adornment but still has a point of physical control. I think that Naim’s inclusion of their excellent two way remote gives them an upper hand in day to day user friendliness but the M10 is very close behind. It also has some lovely details like the illuminated logo on the top and the way that the rounded edges extend down to a short foot underneath the display. If you switch to an input that isn’t BluOS related, it brings up a pair of VU meters which doesn’t do anything for performance but looks brilliant.

It is also very well made. The chassis is metal and feels solid and immaculately assembled. The speaker terminals and connections all have a heftiness and general robustness that is wholly encouraging. It isn’t cheap but the NAD feels effortlessly special and it is a delight to use. It’s also an interesting value calculation too. At £2,199, the NAD could have some interesting speakers added and still come in below the cost of a Uniti Star or the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo. NAD has clearly done their homework on this one.
NAD M10
The M10 is a truly exceptional piece of industrial design

How was the M10 Tested?

The NAD was connected to an IsoTek Evo3 Aquarius Mains conditioner and was wired to my home network for stability. It took a feed from a Melco N1A NAS drive with and without a Lenovo T560 acting as a Roon Core. An LG 55B7 OLED was connected by HDMI and optical and a Michell Gyrodec running via an AVID Pellar phono stage was also used. Speakers used have been the Amphion Helium 510 and Bowers & Wilkins 805D3. Material used has included FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, TIDAL and Qobuz, broadcast and on demand TV and some vinyl.

Sound Quality

NAD M10
Given how much of a departure the M10 is from NAD’s usual design philosophy, I was half prepared for it to be a different sonic proposition too. In reality, the M10 sounds like an NAD product but crucially, it sounds like a continuing evolution of the brand’s house sound. What do I mean by this? Even before NAD starting investing heavily in their Class D engineering, their products were unflappable. It was almost impossible to provoke them into harshness or over forwardness and they went for a presentation that didn’t blow you away in the first five minutes but had you largely won over after fifty.

The M10 doesn’t mess with these admirable basics. With both the Amphion and the Bowers and Wilkins, it has a top end that is effortlessly controlled but in a manner that doesn’t leave you feeling like any punches have been pulled. Radiohead’s Burn the Witch is still a potent and entirely invigorating piece of music. Where the recording can sometimes come across as a little dense and congested, the M10 takes it in its stride and strikes a fine balance. This combines with an excellent level of space to the presentation. This is undoubtedly helped by the speakers on hand for testing also being very capable in this regard too but it would take a very unusual speaker indeed to make the M10 sound constrained.

The first sign that the M10 is building on the NAD virtues rather than simply embodying them is with the tonality. NAD has never been poor here but listening to the M10 with standard stiff tests like Regina Spektor’s Consequence of Sounds and it manages to feel completely and consistently accurate without losing some of the sweetness of NAD products of old. This goes hand in hand with the reality that the M10 doesn’t ‘sound like’ a class D product. It honestly feels like a slightly softer and sweeter Uniti Star - and I believe those differences are the result of its overall design rather than the topology of the amplifier in use.
NAD M10
The other area where things have moved on is the sense of propulsive force that the M10 brings to music. In recent years, while I’ve enjoyed many of the company’s offerings I have often found them to be fractionally sedate. The M10 is able to deliver the same effortless, head nodding drive that I associate with the Unitis and it does this while being a little more forgiving at the same time. It’s not completely perfect in this regard - you can play Deezer and Spotify on it and it will let you know that the material is compressed - but it deals with less than stellar recordings very convincingly.

If you want to get a handle on this in one simple song, listening to Aurora’s mighty Animal on her Different Kind of Human - Step 2 album on TIDAL does a good job. With the M10 doing a native MQA unpack of the file, it’s a fast and wonderfully vivid experience. It might well be very convenient but the NAD is unquestionably Hi-Fi and top flight Hi-Fi at that.

There is a slight irony that under test conditions, the Dirac fitment doesn’t deliver a knockout blow in performance terms. The reasons for this are simple enough. I have speakers placed correctly in a room where listening to them is the primary focus. The potential that the M10 has to ‘straighten out’ a more compromised installation is beyond anything that the competition can muster. What I find reassuring is that NAD clearly doesn’t believe you will have to use Dirac to make the M10 work - it very clearly sounds outstanding without it.

And the good news is that all of the additional bells and whistles serve to add to the experience rather than detract from it. The M10 is no less capable with broadcast TV than it is with music and if you decide to connect a turntable to it, the result will largely sound like your turntable does. AirPlay works seamlessly, as does Bluetooth. I have to admit to finding the Bluetooth headphone system to be extremely effective too. Using a pair of Audio Technica M50xBT headphones, the performance is excellent and utterly stable in use.
NAD M10
Given how much of a departure the M10 is from NAD’s usual design philosophy, I was half prepared for it to be a different sonic proposition too. In reality, the M10 sounds like an NAD product but crucially, it sounds like a continuing evolution of the brand’s house sound.

Verdict

10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Sounds brilliant with a variety of speakers
  • Superb industrial design and interface
  • Great feature set

Cons

  • No physical remote
  • No DSD

NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amp Review

There is no sense in being coy summing up the M10. NAD’s all-in-one doesn’t so much arrive to the market as explode onto it. It takes everything that the company has been quietly working on and wraps it in some of the nicest industrial design I’ve seen in years. The result is one of the most consistently outstanding performers I have tested in a very long time.

It also disrupts the already shaken-up take on the value of components and systems too. By tiny margins (and it has to be said, a dose of personal preference too), I prefer the Naim Uniti Star - it is still a fractionally better product but that’s not without cost implications. The NAD runs it awfully close and costs over £1,000 less. Once again, it’s almost impossible to consider a rival system of separate components that can do what this one does. The M10 is a truly outstanding engineering achievement and it has to be considered the current Best in Class.

Best In Class

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

10

Ease of use

10

Features

10

Audio quality

.
9

Value for money

10

Overall

10
10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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