NAD has unveiled its latest flagship streaming DAC/preamplifier ahead of its High End Munich show debut later this week. The Masters M66 is, in the Canadian company’s words, a “no-compromise component” that combines ESS Technology’s flagship DAC chip, the BluOS multi-room streaming platform and Dirac room correction processing in one versatile box, and is the natural partner for the company’s M23 power amplifier. Priced at £4499 / $5499, it’s not miles away from the Naim NSC 222 streaming preamplifier that was announced earlier this year.
For the uninitiated, BluOS and the companion BluOS Controller app make for one of the most comprehensive streaming platforms on the market, offering access to streaming services (hi-res and MQA support included), internet radio, and local and network-attached music (up to 24-bit/192kHz). As well as being able to play ball with other BluOS components in a multi-room environment, the M66 is also compatible with smart control systems such as Control4, Crestron, ELAN, RTI and URC.
Dirac Live Room Correction, meanwhile, allows M66 owners to calibrate the preamplifier’s performance according to their room size and characteristics, via the supplied microphone and (free) Dirac Live app. And that isn’t the only Dirac software onboard either. Bass reproduction has seemingly been a focal point, with the M66 offering four balanced XLR and four unbalanced RCA subwoofer outputs (supposedly a first for a two-channel preamp) in addition to Dirac Live Bass Control, which allows for independent calibration of multiple connected subwoofers.
That subwoofer configuration isn’t the M66’s only ‘first’: NAD’s selectable Dynamic Digital Headroom (DDH) circuitry makes its debut here, designed to eliminate the digital inter-sample peak clipping distortion that is inherently caused in digital-to-analogue conversion of high-frequency sounds. NAD says the benefits of this technology are particularly obvious in the reproduction of percussion instruments: ‘cymbals are less splashy and more realistic; rim shots are less strident and more impactful.’
As well as integrating network streaming, it won’t surprise you to read that the Masters M66 also boasts Bluetooth (aptX HD, LDAC, AAC) and physical connections. And a good selection of the latter, too. There are two coaxial and two optical inputs, an AES/EBU balanced digital input, two pairs of RCA analogue inputs, and one pair of XLR balanced inputs, not to mention HDMI eARC and MM/MC phono connections for accommodating a TV and turntable respectively. Outputs also cover both RCA and XLR, and include a headphone jack that has been engineered to drive even high-impedance studio headphones.
Typically for NAD’s high-end kit, the Masters M66 makes room on its rear panel for two expansion slots that offer an element of futureproofing, allowing owners to purchase and connect additional features that may appear down the line.
While this is very much a digital product, NAD has included a selectable analogue mode that can bypass all digital processing, and separate signal paths and power supplies for digital and analogue signals have been implemented so as to reduce digital interference on analogue signals when that mode is activated.
NAD’s Masters M66 certainly sounds like a reference source component fit for 2023, but does it sound like one? We hope so – and can’t wait to find out.
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