What is the NAD M10?
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
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 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.
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.
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.
How was the M10 Tested?
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.
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.
- Sounds brilliant with a variety of speakers
- Superb industrial design and interface
- Great feature set
- No physical remote
- No DSD
NAD M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier Review
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.
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