NAD M50.2


To anyone who has heard the NAD M50.2, how does it compare in sound to other music servers, such as those more expensive from Aurender, etc?
imgoodwithtools
Over the years I'd owned several NAD pieces, the last a stack of the "Masters Series" components.  I've enjoyed the simplicity of the design and the sound quality.  However the last few purchases were not without problems, my SACD player needed a new transport, the integrated amp I owned before that had a "right channel out" intermittent problem.  The receiver I owned before that would lose its settings.
So, I'd recommend that, if you spring for NAD equipment, make sure you have confidence that the dealer you purchase from can support your purchases.
Now that I've moved on to other brands (McIntosh & PS Audio), I'm having no equipment in the shop!
imgoodwith tools we are one of the only dealers in the country to sell most of the major streamers, including the NAD, the Naim Core, Aurender, Lumin, Baetis and a few others.

The answer to your question isn't as simple as you think as all of these products offer some things that the others don't.

In terms of sound quality the NAD is very good. 

You should contact us and we can most likely give you some good advice on what device may be the best for you.

Dave
Audio Doctor NJ
Hi audiotroy. I don't know exactly what I want. I do not need a DAC. I have a Berkeley Alpha Reference 2 that I Love. The NAD intrigues me both because it seems simple to operate, and that I can easily rip my CDs to its hard drive. Is 2TB enough? I have about 4000 CDs but probably wouldn't rip them all. Once on the NAD, how easily can the digital files be moved off? And I do question the build quality, based on ejr1953s experience. I am also intrigued by the Aurender N10. But I am Not a computer guru, and I don't know how to easily get my CDs on the Aurender. I plan to mainly play CDs, or files of them, and also some high res. downloads. I won't stream music much, if at all. Thoughts?
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I posted earlier, but I think I made an error so I just decided to redo it. 

I purchased an M50.2 recently. I was also looking for an “all-in-one”
streamer option, and was debating between this, the Aurender N10, the Aries and the Nimitra. 

In the end, even though the M50.2 doesn’t support DSD, it still hit 90% of the other stuff I wanted. It rips CDs nicely. The software (BluOS) does a good job with the metadata and CD covers, but the files are acessible via network shares if you want to do more.  Along with the conventional stereo digital outputs, it also includes HDMI for multichannel audio (assuming you can find some) but it’s nice to have the option.  It will back up data to an external HDD. The BluOS app on the iPhone works, but if you want to go with Roon instead, that’s always an option. 

The sound quality is good, and the unit is silent. No complaints there. If you need any other information, let me know. 
I know this is a tough or unanswerable question since you bought the NAD, but do you suspect the sound quality is as good, as say, Aurender through a great DAC? 
And I am pretty computer illiterate when it comes to computers in audio systems, but once CDs are ripped to the NAD, is it easy to move them off?
Take this with a grain of salt, but if you’re using USB, then as long as your DAC is using asynchronous USB and your data is clean (the NAD performs error checking when ripping...if the track’s checksum doesn’t match the metadata on the CD, it rescans) then, well, data is data. I don’t see how any digital source can be any better than the other, especially if you’re processing the PCM through a standalone DAC. 

As I mentioned, the NAD mounts network drives, so all you need to do is scan your network on your PC and the drives pop up.  You can, if you choose, to simply drag and drop the files from there or attach a USB drive and go to the BluOS app and select backup, which will make it mirror the internal files to the external USB drive. Pretty easy. 
Thanks for the info, avlee. When it comes to digital, with me, all bets are off. I used to have a PS Audio Perfectwave transport. It supposedly took data off the CD numerous times, and dumped that data into a buffer. So, in theory, the data should be "perfect". I just auditioned the new PS Audio Directstream transport. No contest. The Directstream kills the Perfectwave. Why? Clocking errors or clocking precision? I don't know. It also sounds different moving from AES/EBU to coaxial. It even sounds different swapping between different brand digital interconnects. Why? I don't know.
It may sound different because the dB levels coming from each different type of connector might be different from the transport.  Volume affects tone.

I caution you about thinking that any conductor will provide a different profile than another.  Conductors are conductors.  Audioholics had a great article which actually shows data.  That being said, I'm not going to try to convince you of anything.  Cables...are a sensitive issue for many.

Keep in mind that PCM data is PCM data.  If something sounds different, it's because the DAC is interpreting the data differently.  If there are bit-level differences, digital audio is not like analogue audio.  You'll hear pops or discontinuous audio, not fuzzy static or interference.  I can't speak for PS Audio, but if you listened to a Directstream transport in the store, you can't compare that to how your system at home sounds.  Or how your memory thinks it sounded.  Speakers, DACs, room layout and acoustics...these are going to all confuse the issue.

With regards to the NAD M50.2, it's a solid piece of kit, and I just set up the trigger in system to turn it on when I activate the correct input on my surround processor.  It's a clever device which fills 90% of my needs.  Airplay would be nice (or Airplay 2?) and if they allowed me to transmit DSD via HDMI, I'd be on cloud 9.  We'll see what they end up doing.
Thinking about it, if the transport does some minimal equalization or processing, it could alter the data, but I'm also assuming the transport does not.  I don't think the directstream transport does that, but the directstream DAC's firmware updates have been said to change tone.  I assume the firmware updates are changing some equalization settings.
Hi avlee,

I don't want to blow up this thread by jumping off topic, because I truly am interested in the 50.2.

But let me say this, I currently have my Perfectwave transport sitting one shelf directly above the Directstream transport. All I have to do is swap one end of a digital AES/EBU and I can compare transports. They Do Not sound the same. Not even close.
And starting another cable debate seems fruitless, but I offer that Anyone could hear the differences between a Fururech Digiflux and an Audioquest Diamond digital cable. They are like night and day.
And for who is interested, PS Audio is offering a trade-in program for cash credit toward a Directstream transport. My Perfectwave is headed to Colorado as a trade-in next week.
Ok.  I don't want to argue with you about cables.  It's really pointless. 

That being said, if there's a difference between the Perfectwave and Directstream, I have no idea what could be causing it.  I assume they both have the same transport mechanism, and I can't imagine that they do any sound processing, but who knows?  Perhaps the decoder in each product is making a difference, and if you say there's a difference, then there's a difference.

Either way, it's not likely that one is getting different *data* than the other.  It's how it's processed and sent to the DAC.  I don't have an aurender to compare to the M50.2, and I don't know the conversion steps (D->A->D?) but the M50.2 claims it does D->D.  If you accept that, then there is no extra analogue step required in the decoding due to the use of PWM.  Sound quality is really good, but there will always be someone who will tell you they like one over the other.  I would say it's subjective, but to me, it's very much good enough.

I received an email from NAD support.  They've said that "we are an airplay 2 partner, the details of the integration and compatibility are not yet available.  As for DSD, it's come up a number of times, however we cannot comment on the future of any upgrades.  The M50.2 does not do multichannel audio."

Two things to pull from this email:

1) Airplay is obviously being considered, but timeline is unknown.  Based on their other products (M17) I would assume DSD is not likely to come either.  This product is software driven, but there may be technical difficulties in how the data is piped to outputs.
2) I was wrong about MCH.  I don't know why I thought I read it supported multichannel.  Not super happy about that, but to be honest, I don't have any multichannel audio anyways.  That being said, if you want that feature, I would consider the Nimitra Fidelizer.  The Aurender is also stereo only.

I'll try an MQA file tonight.  I'm not sure how this is supposed to work, but as I understand it, either your DAC needs to have an MQA decoder or in this case, the M50.2 can decode the hi res FLAC directly.  In that case, I should see 24/88 or 24/96 or higher on my processor when I play a FLAC off of Tidal rather than CD quality (16/44).  I'll keep you posted.
I'm not an electronics engineer, so don't crucify me, Ok? Lol

But, from what I understand, CDs are PCM data, pulse code modulation. So the PCM datastream is not only digital steps, but also sampled at uniform intervals. Therefore the data must also include a clock somewhere. Even if the data itself is identical, the sampling timing is also critical.

I suspect, but can not prove, that its the clock or the timing that's responsible for the difference in sound between different units. I have three transports here, a PS Audio Perfectwave, a PS Audio Directstream, and an Esoteric K-03X, which can be used as a transport. The three units all sound different when feeding the exact same rest of the system. Which led me to wonder if the NAD might sound differently than, say, an Aurender playing the exact same rips or data.

PS Audio, on their website, states the betterment of sound from the Directstream over the Perfectwave is a result of better data timing, due to an improved memory buffer, and an ultra-low jitter fixed clock.

I also suspect its that timing aspect that results in different sound from different digital interconnects. Some are better at not messing up the timing than others.
Sounds good enough for me. Either way, the clock in the NAD M50.2 - since it’s brand new - should be pretty good. Time, technology, etc etc.  If you want me to test any functionality, let me know. 
I hope it's a nice unit. Mine has been unboxec and sitting on the floor since last Friday (-:   Like some others I will use this in a combined HT set-up.

I'm pulling out an Arcam AVR and moving to the Arcam pre-pro this weekend so I have hesitant to set-up until I pull the whole system this weekend. 

The M50.2 will run into the Arcam pre-pro. The way I understand it is the M50 will unfold to the last level of MQA but to get the final level you still need a MQA DAC.
This trying to decifer NADs beat around the bush response from an email I sent.

i still think/hope it will sound excellent. I guess I will find out. Although it is not MQA compliant I am seriously thinking of pushing the NAD Masters M12 in with the M50.2 and Arcam. It gets such nice reviews.

This may be about all I would want to spend with a combined HT and Stereo set-up. I think the NAD sometimes gets a wrap perhaps not worthy but the Masters seems to be pushing price and performance. Maybe a stereo only rig I'd do it differently but this better to be a nice combined HT set-up.

Maybe I'll post back early next week once I rip everything down and get it set up again. I have a 30 day return on both the NAD and Arcam. I'm more worried about the Arcam pre-pro to be honest. Let's see how they gel.

Speakers KEF Reference 1, KEF Reference 4C center, LS50 rears and KEF height modules. Amps Simaudio M400 mono amps. 

I hope it it all comes together. I have been missing a decent stereo rig. NAD was the choice after looking over features and hopefully decent sound etc.

More to come once I get the M50.2 off the floor and into running mode.

Rick
Rick,

from the (only?) review out there, someone plugged their NAD M50.2 into a Mytek and played an MQA. The NAD decoded it, then the Mytek indicated it was receiving an MQA, but apparently no further processing was done. I think the NAD decodes the MQA/FLAC to high resolution PCM, and from there it’s up to your DAC to give you music.
I’m on the trial Tidal HiFi option now. Streamed some music last night. A couple notes:

1) streaming “masters” music over WiFi is not a viable solution. I had to switch to wired. 

2) The blue MQA light came on the M50.2 and my Emotiva was getting 24bit/96khz music (so, definitely getting the first bit of decoding) rather than the 16/44 I get from ripped CDs or even the default 24/44. But that brings me to...

What is really going on?  Tidal doesn’t tell me (anywhere I can see) what the music specs are...so if it was never encoded above 96, I’m not going to get above 96.  On What’s HiFi, a reviewer wrote (reviewing Tidal Masters):

The benefit of owning (currently limited) kit with built-in MQA decoders, such as the Audirvana Plus 3 computer software – announced at CES 2017 – or Meridian’s Explorer DAC 2, is that all decoding is done by the hardware (bypassing the app in this respect altogether), which can unpackage the entire MQA file for playback in its original resolution.

my M50.2 is indeed directly hooked up to Tidal. So, if the music was encoded at 192kb, I should be getting it...I assume. I will try to find some music that should be 24/192 and see if I get that tonight. That being said, I am at least getting 24/96 from Tidal without a newer MQA signed DAC. That’s a small bit of success. 
Ok, so final MQA update...I tried some songs from the masters collection which are supposedly able to stream at 24/192 (Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane) but all I’ve seen is 24/96.  So, it looks like the decoding step on the M50.2 isn’t doing everything.  It’s a bit disappointing, but a) 24/96 sounds *just fine*, and b) I’m not paying 2k or so just to get a nice LED to light up somewhere. I’m a bit of a cheapskate that way. 

Also, while most masters songs stream just fine over WiFi, I find that every now and then I run into something that pauses, even at 24/96 (Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City). I’m not sure if it’s a network issue, but I plan to get an 8 port gigabit hub to eliminate that issue anyways. 
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Thanks avlee-

i do think you need an MQA DAC to complete but I can’t do this right now either.

if you can believe I moved from the M50.2 from in box on floor to out of box on floor!! Progress.

i am redoing my HT set-up where this unit will be inserted and I’m not there yet.

I sure hope I can get it all under control by the end of this weekend. I am anxious to get the M50.2 rolling as well as the rest of the rig. It’s all torn apart.

Thanks for checking Tidal. It’s so difficult to tell what your getting these days in regards to Tidal.

Rick
When you hook up the M50.2, I would think about using the 12V trigger in to turn it on and off. There is no remote control button for power on/off (or rather, no programmable setting...the M50.2 doesn’t come with a remote, you program in your own codes to it, and I didn’t see a power on/off programmable setting) so you can either turn it on and off by pressing the button or by setting up a trigger for the input you want to use (I went with AES) on your DAC and activating the M50.2 with that. When you turn off your trigger, the M50.2 turns off automatically as well. Pretty useful.
With regards to sound quality, I can make the following comments:
1) I'm getting excellent frequency response ("loudness" setting is off on my processor/DAC) from the low range to the high.  Everything sounds crystal clear.
2) My wife remarked last night that when she closes her eyes, she really feels like she's sitting in the recording studio.  She's not as into the audio *equipment* as I am, but she appreciates good sound.  She likes this network device.
3) I've put about 20 CDs through this thing, and some were, to say the least, banged up.  I was embarrassed at the condition of some of the discs.  That being said, this device ripped them all cleanly (I didn't hear any weird audio pops or anything like bad data) and encoded them without difficulty.  Haven't had any software hangups with the M50.2...it just works.

For the OP, if you can demo this device, I think you want to demo it and play around with it.  Mine is not going back.
I just returned from Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. Great experience. Unfortunately, the NAD room didn't have a 50.2 on display.

I spoke with the Aurender folks and they said they would have a new transport/memory device available within 6 months specifically for ripping CDs to an Aurender digital player. 

With this relatively new territory including MQA with streamers, etc, I think I will spin CDs for another 6 months or a year, and see what's on the market then.



Very cool. Aurender makes good gear. 

Best of luck!
Just a quick note: according to the Nov 28 Stereophile review of the Nad M50.2, DSD support will be made available before the end of the year. 

Nice!