On Tuesday, Lenbrook invited members of the media to an “intimate album listening party” in Manhattan’s trendy Soho district. Despite the fact that the weather was less than cooperative – with warm, extremely humid temps, and at times torrential rainfall – there was an bar and hors d’oeuvres, which is always a strong draw. Maybe a strong enough draw to entice an editor from New Jersey into Manhattan in the traffic and the rain!
But this listening party turned out to be a bit of a preview opportunity for an interesting and relatively new product – a streaming amplifier. And not just any streaming amplifier, mind you – but a streaming amplifier being launched in the NAD Master series. That got my attention…
See NAD’s interesting new M10 Masters Streaming Amplifier…
For anyone who knows me, I am not a particularly trendy guy. But I have to admit, the facility Lenbrook chose for this event was pretty cool. It provided plenty of space for a party of this size, and included chic furnishings, lots of artwork, and the requisite uniquely hip knick-knacks – such as a cabinet full of antique clocks, updated with digital signage welcoming the press.
We didn’t know it, but this was a bit of foreshadowing of what we were about to learn – that the old can be adapted by technology to the new norms. In this case, we were to see a completely new interpretation of the age old stereo listening system – NAD’s new M10 high resolution streaming amplifier.
The Challenges of Marrying ‘Specialty’ & ‘Digital’
For some time now, Strata-gee has been watching Lenbrook closely. For years they’ve been a leading specialty brand whose emphasis was always on sound quality – but today’s digital world is a bit of a challenge for long time audio specialists like NAD and PSB, Lenbrook’s top brands.
Today’s younger listeners tended to embrace convenience – with easily shared music files, often of compromised sound (hello low-res mp3 files!) – over quality. Where did all the audio enthusiasts go?
Lenbrook Pursues ‘Audiophile 2.0’
Lenbrook has declared war on sonic mediocrity and launched an all out effort to modernize the specialty audio segment by not only upgrading their existing lines to add in more digital convenience and flexibility while maintaining their high standard of audio quality…but they also launched an entirely new brand – Bluesound. Like planting a flag on the moon – Bluesound was a mighty declaration of their intent to change the face of today’s diminished specialty segment.
Lenbrook was on a mission – to define audiophile 2.0. In other words, can products be designed and successfully marketed in a newly identified niche combining the convenience, ease of use, and easy sharing of digital music…with upgraded sound quality and robust construction for long-lived superior performance?
Leading the Charge as Others Join the Fray
I suspect it’s been a bit of a bumpy road for Lenbrook as it always is for the pioneers of a new concept. But one has to look no further than the recent launch of Bowers & Wilkins Formation wireless multiroom music systems to find another major player who has identified the same opportunity.
“The digital revolution changed more than just how the music was recorded – because when we went to the smartphone and the internet…everything changed. Not only did the way music was recorded change, but the way that we consumed it changed.Greg Stidsen, Lenbrook Chief Technology Officer
Speaking with reporters, Lenbrook Chief Technology Officer Greg Stidsen noted that the world began to change with the advent of digital, saying that the iPod got the music from you computer into your pocket – a major hardware change. But the manner in which consumers consumed music changed as well – “where music became more of a background activity and less of sitting down and concentrating…and really, really listening.”
Lenbrook ‘Did Some Soul Searching’
Lenbrook, he says, “did some soul searching” during this transformation. They decided they wanted to approach this changed market, “but address it from an audiophile or audio/musical perspective,” Stidsen said. Adding, “We wanted to make some digital products that really expressed the same values we had when we made traditional hi-fi…and express it in the new world and adopt our brand values – which are really performance first, simplicity (we don’t like to over-complicate things), and we like to sell things at affordable prices.”
For Lenbrook, the lessons they’ve learned throughout this process has informed almost all of their product direction since they embarked on this journey. Says Stidsen, “We’ve embraced digital technology.” And the new M10 BluOS Streaming Amplifier is the latest example of that.
Small Size, Big Sound
While the M10 form factor I observed was relatively small…the quality and volume of the sound was plenty big. The M10 offers 100 watts/channel of power. “And that’s NAD power,” Stidsen said in his presentation to the assembled media in a reference to NAD’s history of conservative power ratings and highly dynamic amplifier designs. The M10 utilizes their HybridDigital amplification topology centered around the HypeX nCore amplification stage.
NAD says the M10’s amp can handle any speaker you’d like to throw at it. The company quotes Dynamic Power – an NAD hallmark – of 160 watts at 8 ohms and 300 watts at 4 ohms.
Hi-Res Streaming – Because Quality Matters
The M10 offers high-res audio via MQA and supports no fewer than 15 streaming music services – including Tidal, which supports MQA high-res streams; Qobux, which also supports high-res streams…and a plethora of others. Almost assuredly, they support your favorite music streaming service.
The Lenbrook CTO notes that everything you need to control can be accessed from the front panel. The M10 also has inputs for just about anything you’d like to connect to it – both via wired connections and by wireless streaming from your smartphone or the internet. Your phone becomes a remote control to operate the unit as well. Everything on the front panel of the unit is also on your phone or tablet…whether iOS or Android.
Integrates into Any Smart Home System
NAD says the M10 is smart, and can be easily integrated into a smart home. It supports Amazon Alexa voice control…and it supports Siri through Apple AirPlay 2 integration. The M10 also supports many of the top control and automation systems such as Crestron, Control4, RTI, URC, Elan, Lutron, and iPort.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the M10 includes Dirac Live Room Correction technology that allows the unit to adjust its sound output to the peculiarities of your specific room. This requires a one-time setup with a calibrated microphone that modifies the output signal to adjust for the unique attributes of frequency peaks and valleys presented by your room acoustics. Dirac is unique as it not only adjusts frequency anomalies, but timing anomalies as well. This results in a more focused and precise soundstage.
BluOS, the company’s proprietary operating system developed for the Bluesound brand, is also included – so your M10 can become fully accessible as part of your whole house wireless music listening system.
- POWER: 100w/ch
- DISTORTION: <0.03%
- SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO: >85dB (A weighted)
- DYNAMIC POWER: 160w (8-ohms), 300w (4-ohms)
- DAMPING FACTOR: >190
- FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz – 20kHz (+/-0.06dB)
- CHANNEL SEPARATION: >75dB (1kHz), >70dB (10kHz)
- SUPPORTED AUDIO FILE FORMATS: MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC, OPUS
- HI-RESOLUTION AUDIO FORMATS: MQA, DAD, FLAC, WAV, AIFF
- SAMPLING RATE: up to 32 bit/192kHz PCM
- BIT DEPTHS: 16-24
- DIMENSIONS: 8 1/2″ x 3 15/16″ x 10 1/4″
- WEIGHT: 11 lbs.
- HybridDigital nCore amplifier topology
- 32-Bit/384kHz ESS Sabre DAC
- 1GHz ARM CORTEX A9 Processor
- Dirac Live Room Correction
- Color TFT display
- Supports Amazon Alexa Voice Control Skills
- AirPlay 2 Integration
- Supports Siri Voice Assistant (via AirPlay 2)
- 2-way Qualcomm aptX HD Bluetooth
- NFC Bluetooth pairing (w/compatible devices)
- BluOS multi-room compatible
- Gigabit Ethernet
- HDMI eARC, USB Typ A Input
- Stereo Line Inputs, Coax/Optical Inputs
- Preamp Output, Subwoofer Output
- IR Input, 12V Trigger Out
Price & Availability
NAD’s M10 Streaming Amplifier is available at authorized NAD dealers now and sells for $2,749 MSRP.
See a slide show with photos from the M10 press event by clicking here…
Learn more about the M10 and other NAD products by visiting: nadelectronics.com.