NAD M51: my experience with a detail king!

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by karmanfamily, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. karmanfamily

    karmanfamily AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    895
    Here are my 2 cents about the NAD M51...

    Last week I received my new (used) M51 and connected it to both my setups with several different inputs and file qualities.

    the first setup is my test setup, it has good gear except for the speakers. The used gear is as follows:

    PC with files from MP3 to 24/192 FLAC connected with USB

    Decware CSP2+ tube pre amp

    Bel Canto S300 power amp

    Mission 'something something' cd player connected with digital RCA

    Pioneer SP-BS22 speakers

    PS Audio UPC200 power conditioner

    The cables are generic or basic cables, nothing fancy

    The inputs I used were USB and Digital RCA.

    Ouputs used were RCA to the Decware pre amp and XLR directly feeding the S300 power amp.

    Songs used:

    Eagles, Hotel California 24/192 FLAC

    Norah Jones, Come Away with me 24/192 FLAC

    Metallica, Nothing Else Matters 24/96 FLAC

    Lenny Kravitz, Are you gonna go my way, crappy MP3

    Red Hot Chili Peppers, Under the Bridge CD

    Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dreams entire CD

    I compared the M51 with a Musical Fidelity M1DAC (MF). The MF M1DAC is one of the most neutral DACs I have ever heard and will be a good base line.

    After playing my test songs on the MF M1DAC and getting used to that sound I connected the M51 and played the same songs and what I heard was both surprising and I was a little disappointed... (the disappointment has more to do with my taste as you'll read later)

    The pre-review info will be longer than the actual review...

    Biggest surprise was how it handled the crappy MP3, there was a HUGE improvement over the detail heard compared to the MF and it sounded less 'digital'.

    The low end sounded good, it was there, it sounded nice and tight, but it was missing some 'oomph'.

    Mid range was great, voices sounded clean and very separated from the instruments, which is a weak point of many DACs that I have heard.

    High range was crisp, but way too clean for my taste, crazy detailed. I heard more little things than I remember hearing with any other DAC.

    From an audiophile point of view this DAC is the best I have heard, beating the MF, PS Audio PWD, Bryston BDA-1 and Rega DAC in detail, instrument separation and again.. DETAIL! You will hear little nuances hiding in the music that stayed hidden with most other DACs.

    From a music lover point of view this DAC lacks some emotion, some character, warmth. You miss that little raspy sound in a voice, the sound of the fingers touching (plucking) the snares of the guitar. Qualities that the Bryston and Rega definitely have.

    This DAC will divide the camp in 2 groups:

    1. the lovers of detail and pure sound quality, that will rave about the M51.

    2. the lovers of a more 'live music' sound that has more warmth and might not sound as perfect.

    At that point I was still divided, until.....

    I added the M51 to my main setup:

    Oppo 103 as cd transport Optical

    Sonos ZP90 with W4S 96kHz mod Digital RCA

    Primaluna Dialogue 2 with KT120 tubes

    Goldenear Aon 3 speakers

    All audio cables are Anti-Cables

    All Power cables are Wireworld Silver Electra

    API power conditioner

    I played the same songs, but all at 16/44.1 (cd) quality.

    To compare I used my faithful Bryston BDA-1.

    First I played all the songs with the BDA-1 in place and it sounded like perfection (in my ears). Not the greatest detail, but when you close your eyes you are in that 'smokey bar' and the band is there playing in front of you.

    Plugging in the M51, letting things warm up and playing the same songs I could not believe what I heard....

    Compared with my other setup and test this sounded so lean, thin, uninteresting and bland... WTF!

    I disconnected everything, checked again if everything was connected right and working as it should. Played the same songs again and crap.... well.. crap? not crap, but not what I heard in the other setup.

    The bass was almost gone, mid range was still very good and the high end was real sharp. Don't get me wrong, the incredible amount of detail was still there. I was still hearing little details that I did not hear with the BDA-1.

    I think that in this setup classical music will shine a whole lot more than what I prefer to listen to. Just from a detail and separation of the instruments point of view.

    It may sound like that I am biased and will pick the BDA-1 over about anything, but I am looking for a serious replacement for the BDA-1 and was critically listening to both DACs.

    I will keep on playing with the M51 over the next few days and see if things change after more time settling in and if anything changes I will let it know...

    I hope it all made sense...
     
  2. karmanfamily

    karmanfamily AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    895
    A little correction on my review above:
    Last night I replaced the KT120 tubes in my amp with a set of Svetlana 6550C's and the bass improved a lot.
    I guess the KT120's are not really working well for me in my amp. Later I read that the KT120's shine at higher volumes, so that might have been the issue.

    The M51 is starting to look like a keeper.
     
  3. BuckHansom

    BuckHansom New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Virginia
    Just discovered this thread. What did you finally decide? I have a NAD M51 I run my Sonos into. I have a MC275 amp, McIntosh C200 pre and La Scala II speakers. I have bee considering a McIntosh D150 and pairing it with MCT450. Right now I have no CDP in my system.
     

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