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Ultimate AV Masters Review

February 2, 2007

Some excerpts from Ultimate AV review


NAD Masters Series M15 THX Ultra2 AV Surround Sound

Preamplifier M25 THX Ultra2 7-channel Power Amplifier

Thomas J. Norton, February, 2007

NAD has long been a leading player in the audio, and now audio-video, electronics business. Although NAD once took a leap and marketed speakers in some parts of the planet, it's made its name by offering amps, preamps, receivers, CD and DVD players, and surround processors that delivered more performance than the prices and often-plain cosmetics might suggest. Unlike most of its peers, NAD has avoided the temptation to move sharply up market and produce products that only the well healed can afford.

NAD's new Masters Series, which includes several other products in addition to those reviewed here, is a departure for the company in several respects. The line is far more striking in appearance than previous NAD designs, and the looks clearly say "high-end." It's publicized widely as a departure from the past, and is clearly a flagship line.

"I had a hard time pulling myself away from my sessions with these fine products. "

The NAD Masters Series products look, feel, and—yes—perform as though they cost twice as much as they do. The pre-pro even comes with a custom designed remote, in contrast to those adapted, generic units that are now included with much of the competition—even the competition that does cost twice as much.

The Masters' Voice: Music

The overall Masters Series system—the M55 universal disc player, M15 surround preamp, and M25 amp—sounded superb on two-channel music from my favorite CDs. It had a lively immediacy in the midrange that opened up a wealth of detail without going over the edge into aggressiveness, a full-bodied but not muddled midbass, a powerful low end (a powered subwoofer was used in the reference system), and wide-open highs... the overall sound was more incisive, more dynamic, and simply more "there." The soundstage was as wide and deep as the music and recording demanded, and the imaging was rewardingly precise.

The system handled my favorite reference recordings with compelling ease. I've used the now ancient Gordon Lightfoot album, If You Could Read My Mind as a reference for pop male vocals for longer than I can remember. This was the best sounding Reprise album the singer ever released; his later albums were overprocessed and artificial sounding. But while not every cut on this CD is pristine, on the best of them Gordon's voice sounded clear and open over the NADs, with a natural warmth and timbre.

M55 Digital Disc Player, M15 Surround Sound Preamplifier, NAD M25 7-Channel Amplifier

On Leo Kottke's album That's What, Leo's guitar sounded pristinely detailed, with all the delicate fingering as intact as you might expect from a closely mic'd but very clean recording. Kottke's gritty vocals were also rendered with all of their sandpapery textures intact. In a recording offering very different challenges to a system, the wildly varied percussion, vocals, and stunning acoustic ambience in Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth were mesmerizing. The recording was made in a highly reverberant church, a fact clearly evident on playback, particularly on Lisa Gerrard's a cappella solo, "The Wind that Shakes the Barley."

The NAD M55 is one of the few universal disc players that will properly play back HDCD. The depth and naturally mic'd space in Reference Recordings' HDCD release of the Rutter Requiem kept me in glued to my seat.

MOVIES

Whether the program material is HD DVD from the Toshiba HD-A1, Blu-ray from the Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player, or conventional DVDs from the NAD M55 universal player, the NAD Masters system sounds sweet, detailed, and handles extreme dynamics with ease.

The opening title sequence of Serenity on HD DVD (chapter 3) starts off accompanied by some of the most lush string playing this side of a good audiophile recording, and the richness and full-bodied timbre of the NAD M15 and M25 do it full justice.

But I can't deny that I had a great time with the NAD Masters Series M15 and M25. While I could go on and on about their sound quality, let me close this epic-length review by noting that I had a hard time pulling myself away from my sessions with these fine products. I'd be listening to them now if I didn't have to write this report!

Highs (M15 and M25)

    Superb sound
    Outstanding build quality
    Exceptional Value

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