NAD M33 Initial Thoughts

Current set-up is Harbeth Super HL5+ speakers, Son of Ampzilla II amp, Linear Tube Audio M5Z tubed pre and Bluesound Node 2i DAC/streamer. Trying the NAD M33 for a few reasons - simplicity, desire to support tech advances in audio, correct some room interactions, only listen to digital audio anyway, some glowing reviews.  Have been playing with the M33 for three days incl using the full version of Dirac.  Impressions so far:

  1. It's a beautiful piece of gear with first class packaging - they thought through the details and the buyer experience.
  2. They obviously see this as much more than a 2-channel audio product given the remote - it's substantial and is ready to control an entire entertainment system. It is also not very good off-axis in getting a signal to the unit.
  3. Out of the box with no room correction I found the sound nice, dead quiet background, bass was exceptionally tight and powerful, wide, deep soundstage similar to what I have now (maybe a bit taller actually). But... vocals seemed recessed, music overall lacked some immediacy. It was nice, just not as lifelike as I am used to.
  4. The Dirac process from the software download to figuring out what device to use it on (forget your phone or tablet, use a Mac or Windows PC) to playing with the curves is not super intuitive but worth the effort. Once you have your filters set up it's easy to change them, reload and listen to what you've created. There is so much out there to read on Dirac, it's pretty overwhelming but it does help to spend time Googling things as you can avoid a lot of trial and error. The interaction of the software with the BluOS and the M33 is impressively seamless.
  5. Dirac helped the sound in my room for sure vs no Dirac. I have some peaks and dips in my room (only one that was significant) and I was able to mediate some of the recession I heard previously. But I still can't get it to sound as lifelike as I want. Maybe the best way to put it is that I know more clearly that I am listening to music through gear with the M33 - in particular, I notice my speakers more.  Is this the DAC/preamp, is it the Class D amp section or something else - who knows?  But when I put the old electronics quickly back in play, the sound is just significantly different. In fact, the contrast is so clear that I wonder if my current system is overly lively now that I have the comparison.
I am going to continue to play around more with Dirac (it's fun and interesting) and see if further break-in helps as I have a lot of time left on the return policy from the retailer. If anything changes I will update this thread.

Ag insider logo xs@2xitball
thanks for this great writeup.
Have new to me Harbeth 30.1s and actually have the separates version  of the M33 home for demo this weekend - C298 amp and C658 dac and preamp.
Pretty impressed with this combo here.  Nice clean sound, lots of power for Harbeths, good bass management to my subs out of the amp.
Love the Bluos technology but also running roon and gives me all the MQA and high rez goodies.
This combo is a little cheaper than the M33 with no touch screen, balanced inputs or phono stage - all of which I can do without.
Haven't played with dirac as these are just a 2 day demo but think this could be a deal maker for me and my challenging room.  None of the funky stuff with the C658 I have read about - very smooth and easy to use.
I have an NAD M12 and M22 - predecessors to the M33 - in one of my systems.  It is pretty good gear and it’s my expectation that your M33 is superior.  it’s also well known that it takes about 400 hours of break in to achieve the designed performance with this gear.  While the topology of your M33 is different, I have no reason to expect it needs less break in time. Of course, it may be that you prefer that presentation of your tube pre and Ampzilla even after the M33 breaks in.  But, it’s supposed to be quite good, so please do let us know how it goes as you have more run in time with the piece..
Good sound is like soup:  so many tasty kinds!   It’s hard to settle on just one.