NAD Masters Series M22 power amplifier Page 2

I then turned to 2L's high-resolution recording of "Come Away, Death," from Gerald Finzi's song cycle on Shakespearian texts, Let Us Garlands Bring, to hear the voice of mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland, the piano of Sergei Osadchuk, and their acoustic and musical relationships (free 24-bit/192kHz PCM download from SACD/CD, 2L 2L-064-SACD). Through the NAD M22, Kielland's voice was pure and cleanly delineated, with a notable presence in the room. Osadchuk's piano stood apart from Kielland, a bit farther from me, but with requisite body and detail. Together, they sounded as if recorded in a fairly large space with a moderate amount of reverberation that never blurred the music—a little more present than through some other amplifiers.

Satisfying as this was, just two performers recorded with a moderate amount of ambience was not going to reveal much about soundstage size, width, or depth. For that, one turns to larger ensembles with lots of voices, such as the aforementioned Mahler symphony. Even listening to only the two-channel DSD tracks of the Resurrection, I could easily discern the locations of solo singers, instruments, and chorus, beginning at the plane described by the speakers' front baffles and receding in ranks from there. Admittedly, the distance from that plane to the back of the stage didn't seem as deep as I've experienced with this recording and other amps—but then again, I can't measure those depths, or compare my perception of them to the live event. Nonetheless, I could clearly visualize all the movement and other shenanigans artfully devised by Gregorio Paniagua for his and Atrium Musica de Madrid's La Folia de la Spagna (SACD, Harmonia Mundi HMC 801050) as they popped up or scurried around the soundstage.

Spectral balance via the M22 was natural, characterized by a notably full but taut and extended bass with plenty of slam, a balanced midrange with distinct presence, and transparent, detailed treble with nary a glint of sharpness. Consequently, pop and rock recordings had impact and snap. Dire Straits' eponymous first album (SACD/CD, Universal Japan UIGY-9634) sounded fresh, with impulsive bass beats and an almost in-your-face presence that, despite its studio genesis, gripped as if it were live. Despite this 1978 recording's greater presence and clarity through the M22, tape hiss was smooth and unobtrusive.

More modern stereo recordings, such as Sara K.'s Hell or High Water (SACD/CD, Stockfisch SFR 357.4039.2), lacked for nothing other than, perhaps, the deeper stage audible from this disc's multichannel tracks. That was not at all surprising—and when I later listened to those multichannel tracks with my three front speakers, powered by both M22 review samples, even that minor issue evaporated.

I also took an M22 up to Connecticut, where, in my weekend system, it drove a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers with equally satisfying results. Again the soundstage was spacious and detailed, if a bit less deep than I prefer. Reinstalling the Bryston 9BSST2 power amp resident there restored that depth. On the other hand, the M22 didn't quibble with the Silver 8s, as had the identically priced Benchmark Media Systems AHB2 that I reviewed in November 2015, and there were no shifts in spectral balance. In fact, the M22 offered a sound that was barely more muscular than but otherwise identical to that of the M27.

Bridging
Back in Manhattan, after listening with satisfaction to the M22 driving the stereo pair of B&W 800 Diamonds, I decided to act on an evil thought from a while back. I asked NAD's Greg Stidsen, "Is it possible to bridge the M22 and make it into a hugely powerful but reasonably priced compact monoblock?" His reply: "Because the M22 uses a fully balanced architecture, all you need are a pair of XLR Y-cords . . . the right channel positive becomes the mono + speaker connection and the left channel positive becomes the – speaker connection." Sure enough, packed with the second M22 were a pair of just such Y-cords and a note: "You now have a fully balanced dual-mono system with 600W per channel (into 8 ohms) continuous power and about 1,000W IHF dynamic power. Make sure your speakers are up to the task!"

The B&W 800 Diamonds' recommended amplifier power is 50–1000W into 8 ohms on unclipped program; they were up to it, but my ears were not. With the single M22, I had no problem playing the 800 Diamonds as loudly as I could enjoy. In the brief moments I could tolerate a bit more, I detected a glazing-over of the choral voices in the Finale of Mahler's Resurrection. Was it just my ears overloading? No, because with the bridged M22 minimonsters, the chorus sounded pristine—until my ears and my neighbors cried for mercy. That tells me that I could live happily with a single M22; others, with more maniacal demands, might see a great opportunity for a bridged pair.

Comparisons
Direct stereo comparisons of the M22 with the other amps revealed two issues in the NAD's sound: The soundstage was slightly shallower and it seemed a bit closer to the listening position. I heard little to distinguish the M22 from Parasound's Halo A 31 except that the NAD lacked a tiny bit of warmth and soundstage depth. Those same differences were greater with McIntosh Laboratory's MC-303, but even so, saying which was more accurate will entirely depend on the choice and placement of speakers and the room's acoustic, and even more on your taste in sound. The Benchmark AHB2 set itself apart from the other three amps with its copious soundstage depth and a slightly more distant presentation, but while I felt an abiding sense of its accuracy and neutrality, it failed to be as lively or exciting as the NAD.

Conclusions
Overall, NAD's Masters Series M22 power amplifier acquitted itself with distinction. Despite its small size, it has all the wallop necessary for staggering volume levels, and, if necessary, can be bridged to meet even more outsize demands. At $3000, the M22 is more than fair value in view of its compact size, excellent build quality, a tolerance for driving difficult loads, and, most of all, its transparent sound. It is an outstanding amplifier in every way, and I could happily live with it.

COMPANY INFO
NAD Electronics International
633 Granite Court
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3K1
Canada
(905) 831-6555
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COMMENTS
CharlieG's picture

...and I sent it back for a replacement. Maybe my finger didn't have the magic touch on that standby button either! But here's another easy fix: if your front end has a 12v trigger output, connecting it to the trigger input on the back of the M22 will also disable that pesky switch, and allow you to toggle the amp between on/standby by simply turning the front end on/off. Convenient!

Kal Rubinson's picture

That's an excellent idea.

My son-in-law is doing exactly that with his M27. Unfortunately, I cannot.

pablolie's picture

I agree on the touch button on the M22. Terrible idea. The delay means one pushes it repeatedly, and both the user and (seemingly) the M22 end up confused. I did connect the 12V but now in the end I have just left it in auto-standby mode. The M22 is very reliable in detecting music streams and it turns itself back on (with a 3 sec delay or so after it clicks), and why not save some power when (honestly) I can't tell a difference in sound between cold and "warm" state (you truly have to crank up the volume to feel something resembling truly warm temp).

Anyhow it is a phenomenal amp.

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