Recently I was invited to a press event co-sponsored by legendary consumer electronics innovator NAD and the streaming music service called Tidal. My initial reason for going was because they were going to be playing the new Prince Originals album on a fancy new hi-fi system. I thought it would be good to hear some of the latest gear from this classic consumer electronics company, of which I've been a fan for some time. The first "new" amplifier I bought as an adult was an NAD 3020 (and I kinda wish I still had it because it was a workhorse!).
As it turned out I got to hear a bunch of different things as well as some of the new Prince Originals album.
The new NAD amplifier is a 21st-century product optimized for delivering streaming media in a quite high fidelity manner manner. From their product sheet we learn: "The NAD Masters M10 represents a new kind of High End Audio system that is luxurious and smart, but very discreet. It can perform the same function that required a rack full of components just a few short years ago and in many ways is superior. The elegant form factor takes up very little space and can even be hidden away. But the beautiful design and colorful display will encourage you to place the M10 front and center!"
From their press release "The M10, a BluOS™ enabled amplifier that can serve as the heart of a quality whole-home system. In its simplest form, the M10 ($2499 U.S. MSRP) is an ultra-high-performance streaming amplifier with great audiophile sound. Or it can be combined with other players in a BluOS ecosystem of wirelessly networked music players throughout the home for a whole-home audio system."
While this article is decidedly NOT a critical review of any sort, on the surface at this event (in a somewhat optimized pristine modern home listening environment) the M10 sounded real good especially as it was being played through super spiffy Danish-made Dali speakers that cost about $8000 for the pair!
They were very impressive speakers that delivered a warmer listening experience when playing digital media (which can skew towards the bright side of the listening spectrum, if you will) that was quite appealing to my ear. A CD quality stream demo of a classical work -- Dance of the Tumblers by The Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Eiji Oue, streaming up on Tidal, click here -- sounded real nice on these speakers.
The portions of the Tidal-streaming Prince Originals album that I heard there sounded pretty good fidelity-wise. I've subsequently listened to the Tidal MQA stream at home through a Mytek Brooklyn DAC and am really enjoying it (click here to jump to it if you have a subscription). It is a pretty consistent listen for an album that is essentially a batch of polished demos from different periods of his career. Prince Originals is a cool collection and it's streaming up on Tidal in 96 kHz, 24-bit MQA fidelity. Given the multitude of sessions, the album sounds remarkably consistent from track to track. This plays like a "real" Prince album from the '80s, not a batch of lesser outtakes.
The stand-out for me is hearing Prince's version of the song that became a hit for Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing Compares To You." I think Prince's version is far superior to Sinead's interpretation. I feel similarly about "Manic Monday" which is transformed from the fluffy sweetness of The Bangles over-80s-produced version to a kind of timeless pop-rocker; I'll be honest, I never became a fan of The Bangles particularly because of that song and their subsequent big hit "Walk Like An Egyptian" so hearing Prince's version is a revelation.
Prince Originals sounds so good I am curious how it will sound on a vinyl LP. If I can find it reasonably priced I may well spring for a copy to add to my collection.
Going back to that NAD amplifier / streaming system, the question of course arises: is the M10 it something you need at this price point? That answer comes down to your priorities so you'll need to do your research to determine if its right for you (remember this is not a review here!). The M10 certainly is a nice looking device that would probably blend well with most any 21st century modern decor. I would expect that the so-called WAF ("Wife Acceptance Factor") would be very high for a product like this!
That said, if you like streaming but don't want a computer, a DAC, cables and other components cluttering up your chic modern living space, the M10 may well be your new jam box.
Worth checking out...