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NAD Masters Series M22 – Hypex nCore for the rest of us

  • Greg Stidsen is the director of technology and product planning for NAD. That’s ‘New Acoustic Dimension’ for those able to recall the 1970s. Back then the company was headquartered in the UK. Nowadays NAD sits with PSB loudspeakers and BlueSound streamers under the Lenbrook Group umbrella in Canada.

    Stidsen’s role at NAD is to see over the brow of the hill, to plan and implement forthcoming products and to help NAD’s customer base connect with new technologies and ideas. He’s been in Australia this week to launch the new Masters Series that comprises four new models. Home theatre products are beyond the scope of DAR but there’s a pair of two-channel boxes that aren’t.

    I first caught sight of the M12 Direct Digital pre-amplifier and M22 Hybrid Digital Power amplifier in Munich earlier this year. Seeing one sat atop the other this week in Sydney demanded some instant mental re-calibration: the M12 pre-amp is larger than its M22 power-amp sibling. Detailing what goes on inside each might explain why.


    The M22 is not your Dad’s big hunk of Class A/B aluminium. It’s the first implementation of Bruno Putzeys’ self-oscillating, clock-free Hypex nCore modules from a mainstream manufacturer, allowing for low power consumption even when continuously outputting 250 wpc into 8 or 4 Ohms.

    On nCore Stidsen says, “We have our own nCore module developed in close co-operation with Hypex.  It is based on the 400 not the 1200, but this is not a qualitative difference it only affects power output.  We can do this because we will build and sell a lot of units.  The 1200 was developed primarily for the pro market where huge power is required.”

    “In the Hypex 400 module continuous power is 200W @8 and 400W @4.  In our implementation it is 250W @ 8/4 controlled by Erik Edvardsen’s precision clipper circuit.  The benefit of this approach is the ability to offer much more short term or dynamic power where we have 350W @8 and 600W @4.  This makes the power in actual use seem greater than the spec – in typical NAD tradition!”

    NAD promise load invariance too. That means we’ll see the same frequency response no matter the impedance load provided by the connected speaker. All protection circuitry can be found in the switch mode power supply and a DC blocker has been integrated into the feedback circuit.

    The press release claims: “Distortion below measurement, ultra-high damping factor, and unconditional stability with any speaker. Wide open-loop bandwidth, extremely low-phase shift, almost non-existent noise, harmonic and intermodulation distortion independent of load (load invariant), high current capability, low output impedance (high damping factor) uniformly at all audible frequencies.”

    The M22 sells for US$3000 Stateside or AU$4700 down under.


    Fronting the M22 is the M12, a ‘direct digital’ pre-amplifier. First developed for the M2 amplifier and later seen in the C390DD integrated, lossless digital attenuation is handled by Z-Tec semi-conductors.

    Also making the jump from C390DD to M12 is NAD’s future-proofing “Modular Design Construcion” (MDC). That means optional boards are available for MM/MC phono stage, HDMI (for Blu-Ray audio) and BluOS network streaming. The latter enables streaming from local server or cloud service over Ethernet of WiFi as well as aptX Bluetooth streaming. It’s also a requirement for controlling the M12 via tablet or smartphone. Otherwise you’ll be using the M12’s TFT touch screen for streaming digital audio from a host PC. The USB here is asynchronous and supports PCM up to 24bit/192kHz but no DSD as yet.

    The M12 comes with an RRP of US$3500 in the USA or AU$5800 in Australia. The BluOS MDC Module sells for US$500 or AU$799.

    Further information: NAD | Qualifi

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    1. That’s scary. Acoustic Imagery, Merrill Audio and Mola-Mola all want ca. $/€10K for a pair of NCore monos. Now NAD does it in stereo for $3K. Plebs could now tri-amp with the same tech and money which gets high-enders just one amp per channel.

      • Yup – NAD are doing it different by demanding less cash over the table; it’s *accessible*. I’m keen to hear the power amp for sure.

        • Are you sure these are the same NCore amps though? Merrill, Mola-Mola, etc., are using the NC1200 modules. From the specs on this NAD it sounds like they are using the cheaper NC400 modules.

    2. Good piece of hifi sleuthing, John. I just copied it for our news page -:)

      That’s interesting also because the NC400 module was initially available only to DIY if I remember correctly. Rolling their own opens up a market sector the NC1200 guys can’t reach due to the apparently far higher cost of those modules. Plus NAD obviously have operational and distribution scale most high-end firms can’t match. It’s a good day then for those with ambition but lesser means!

    3. NAD guys should get a peoples’ medal for their continuing efforts to develop up-to-the-minute hi-end technology and market it for very reasonable prices.

      I have been using their equipment for about 17 years and it never let me down (with the exception of a system-wide learning remote control, which I had to send back to them – twice).

      Currently, I own the C390DD amp and I love it – since the moment I took it out of the box. NAD rules… 🙂

    4. NAD definitely are on about an ambitious game today. I just requested the M12/M22 combo for review and Greg said yes so I’ll find out more about this nCore à la NAD recipe.

    5. I think it was just a matter of time until Hypex decided to sell their 2nd tier NC400 (customized?) to OEMs.
      UcD seems to be loosing preference against Pascal’s UMAC and Abletec AMS Class D solutions, and Hypex has taken notice.

        • No prob. Now it would be nice to know how its sound signature and output power compares to the nad m2.

          I feel like nad gives very limited info when releasing their products. Comparisons would be nice.

    6. I have the NAD M2 and i absolutely love it. Having it all in one box and keeping the signal in digital domain until it exits the amplifier is working great for me sonically and saves me the extra space and money separates need.

      I am looking forward to read the review about the M12/M22.

    7. Why we in Australia get shafted on price is beyond me. Oh that’s right we are 7 million miles from nowhere and we have nothing to trade but dirt.

    8. Hi John
      It was a shame we missed you at RMAF where we were demonstrating out ATSAH NC Monos with our new JAY-SHO Balanced passive pre amp.
      We also had a flyer announcing that we will be introducing a stereo amp next year based on NC 500 OEM amp Modules from Hypex. It is a one box model exactly the size of one Atsah Mono but with one SMPS powering 2 NC500s. Target price is $2995 retail. There will also be a matching pre amp at the same price later in the year. Still milled from solid aluminium but powder coated finish instead of anodised. for further announcements.

      Best Regards

      John Young
      Acousticimagery Ltd

    9. Sorry for the lag. $3500 USD w/ 10% sales tax $3850 USD is $4400 AUD a long road to $5800AUD. That is a helluva lot of shipping cost differential.
      Audio Advisor USA has the unit for $2999USD. If like Bel Canto or Wyred 4 Sound these units are auto voltage then it’s a no brainer to buy from some place else. Or did I miss something?
      Kudos to NAD for its design. I am very intrigued.

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