NAD Masters Series M3 Integrated Amplifier Review


Jul 25, 2006
NAD Masters Series M3 Integrated Amplifier Review

NAD Masters Series M3 Integrated Amplifier Review


With 2-channels of 180-watts of pure power, we're quite certain the M3 meets the outline of our technical brief which reads, "The industrial design must create a physical presence that is powerful, dynamic and solid, yet refined and elegant." We're certain we've met the challenge of this outline as well as your personal requirements.

The M3 includes an entire host of convenient features to allow seamless integration into virtually any listening application. The M3 offers internal switching for two pairs of speakers and tone controls as well as a second Zone 2 output with independent commands and even its own remote control.

Front panel controls allow for direct access of all features as well. Performance features are many, and include a precision volume attenuator with 0.5dB steps and a range of 87.5db, a remote balance control with 0.5dB steps, and a Mode control which allows stereo, left only, right only and mono settings. Tone controls offer bass and treble adjustments as well as a "spectral tilt" option that is highly effective at correcting the tonal balance of many recordings by simultaneously increasing the bass and decreasing the treble (and vice versa) to create a warmer or cooler balance. There are also a second set of preamp outputs and a switchable high-pass filter for the internal amplifier, to allow easy implementation of any active subwoofer or for bi-amplification.

M3 Dual Mono Integrated Amplifier Features

  • 180 watts X 2, 10Hz - 20kHz, with 0.03THD, both channels driven into 8 or 4 Ohms
  • Dynamic power of 280 watts at 8 Ohms, 480 watts at 4 Ohms, and 785 watts at 2 Ohms
  • PowerDrive
  • Dual stage high current/high voltage power supply
  • Dual Mono topology
  • Twin NAD Custom-Made "Holmgren" Toroidal transformer
  • Ultra precise multi-stage electronic volume control using discreet resistors
  • 7 inputs, including 1 balanced XLR
  • Tape/Zone 2 output (independent source selection, no volume control)
  • Speakers A B with custom 5 way binding posts
  • Biamp mode with selectable 40, 60, 80, 100 Hz crossover frequency on Pre Out 1
  • Powered subwoofer
  • Main Amp input
  • Remote Bass and Treble controls with Spectral Tilt option
  • Remote Balance control with 0.5 dB steps
  • Selectable Mono, Left, Right, and Stereo options
  • RS-232 interface for advanced custom installations
  • 12V Trigger for advanced control options, 1 Out
  • 3.5mm IR Control jacks, 1 In and 2 Out
  • Detachable AC cord
  • M3 System Remote Control
  • ZR 3 second zone remote

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The M3 is NAD’s concept of the ideal musical companion, capable of transporting the listener to that place where the music simply exists in its own perfect space. For this task we have pushed classical analog circuit design to unprecedented levels of performance. The total lack of audible noise and distortion is the result of some very sophisticated analog engineering, and rather surprisingly, the use of digital control.

Freed of the constraints of traditional analog switches, NAD’s Director of Advanced Development, Bjorn Erik Edvardsen devised an architecture using precision 1% resistors controlled by digital switches for all the level adjustments required for volume control, balance control and tone control. (Yes we still believe in tone controls – more on that later.) Input selection is via precision sealed reed relays. A major advantage of this architecture, in addition to its extremely precise performance, is the ability to place controls in the most advantageous physical position within the circuit. The signal never has to travel to the front panel for switching, as with traditional amplifier designs. Getting to the infinitesimal levels of noise and distortion of the M3 requires very careful circuit layout, as only tiny changes in the signal path can have large effects on performance. Keeping signal paths as short as possible is also greatly aided by the use of SMD (miniature surface mount) components and multi-layer PCBs (circuit boards).

The design brief reads: “The industrial design must create a physical presence that is powerful, dynamic, and solid, yet refined and elegant”. We wanted a design that will still look fresh and new a decade from now, a design with classic proportions and understated details. We also wanted an amplifier that was not only easy to operate, but also very flexible and complete in its control options.

Unlike many high performance amplifiers, the M3 includes a full suite of convenience features. Speaker switching for two pairs of speakers and very flexible tone controls are provided, as is a Zone 2 output with its own independent set of commands and dedicated ZR 3 remote control. Front panel controls use a multi-function knob and buttons to quickly navigate all amplifier functions. All operating conditions are clearly displayed on a 2 line dot matrix VFD display. Direct access is available to many functions via the SRM 3 remote handset. The SRM 3 handset also features basic controls for the matching NAD DVD/SACD player.

Performance features include a multi-stage precision volume attenuator with 0.5dB steps and a range of 87.5dB, a remote balance control with 0.5dB steps, and a Mode control that allows stereo, left only, right only, and mono settings. Tone controls offer bass and treble adjustment, as well as a ‘spectral tilt’ option that is highly effective at correcting the tonal balance of many recordings by simultaneously increasing the bass and decreasing the treble (and vice versa) to create a warmer (or cooler) balance. We have also included a second set of preamp outputs and a switchable high pass filter for the internal amplifier, to allow easy implementation of an active subwoofer or biamplification.

The rugged chassis is built using thick 2mm mild steel plates with a front panel employing extruded aluminum and die-cast zinc in its construction. Special attention was paid to the control of mechanical resonance, as this can affect sonic performance. Special isolation feet use aluminum and silicon rubber in a vibration damping configuration. All signal connectors are heavy duty gold plated types specifically engineered for the NAD Masters Series components. Finished inside and out, the M3 utilizes powder coating and advanced automotive paint finishes, creating an enduring and elegant mechanical package.

The preamp uses all discrete low noise high impedance J-FET buffer amps and very high quality reed relay switches at the preamp input. Special high current low output impedance Class A gain modules provide tremendous dynamic headroom and high output current, combined with a exceptional S/N ratio in excess of -100dB (IHF).

The volume attenuator is very unique in that it uses discrete 1% precision resistors that keep impedance (and noise) very low. It is arrayed in 3 stages to reduce the residual noise in each amplifying stage and prevent the ‘cascade effect’ of noise that is present in most preamp designs. This circuit also provides the balance control, and as a result channel separation is superb and inter-channel cross talk is virtually eliminated. These resistor arrays are switched using 15 volt digital switches under software control, keeping all attenuation at the ideal point in the circuit architecture. Low impedance stepped tone controls provide +/- 5 db of boost/cut in the bass and treble regions, or can be configured to provide variable slope, or ‘spectrum tilt’ at +/- 3dB per decade.

Biamp function allows the use of a second amplifier or active subwoofer PreOut 2, and offers a high pass filter function on PreOut 1, with selectable 40Hz, 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz or Full Range options. These are analog 2nd order filters configured around the low impedance differential Class A output stage of the preamp. This output stage also employs proprietary distortion cancellation circuitry.

A balanced line input is also provided using identical JFET buffers feeding a discrete differential amp and yielding common mode rejection in excess of 80dB.

Separately regulated DC supplies are derived from the dual mono power supply. Copper buss bars and discrete regulators keep circuit noise to an absolute minimum throughout. The display and digital functions operate from an independent power supply to prevent any interference with the analog signal path.

The M3 features a Dual Mono design with separate unregulated, and discrete regulated supplies for different stages of the 2 channels. The twin custom-made “Holmgren” toroidal transformers use proprietary magnetic shielding technology. High current rectifiers feed low ESR 105C filter capacitors.

NAD’s PowerDrive technology measures load impedance continuously on each channel and adjusts the power supply voltage for maximum undistorted dynamic power into the connected speaker at all times and under all operating conditions. The signal processor also continuously measures temperature and average long term power and, based on this information, chooses the optimum voltage.

PowerDrive allows the M3 to sound far more powerful than its already impressive 180 watt per channel rating would suggest. Totally effortless sound, even at elevated levels, is the hallmark of the PowerDrive amplifier.

The M3 utilizes a wideband current-mode Class A voltage amp featuring large open loop compensated bandwidth, and running from low noise stabilised power supplies. NAD’s patented current amp output stage starts with < 0.02 % static and dynamic distortion open loop (before feedback), even into 3 ohms at 20-20k at all levels. By utilizing small amounts of feedback the circuit returns distortion levels at all audible frequencies that are at limit of measurement – less than 0.002%!

The super rugged output stage features 4 pairs of 150W discrete bipolar output transistors per channel, for 50A peak undistorted output current. Massive heat sinking assures a lifetime of trouble free operation.

NAD Masters Series M3 Integrated Amplifier Review
The more I listened to the M3, the more I was reminded of NAD's original 3020 integrated. I can't think of a higher compliment. Michael Fremer at

Reproduced from

Older audiophiles remember the splash NAD made in the late 1970s with the introduction of their 3020 integrated amplifier ($175). Ridiculously cheap, it looked graceful and sounded warm, inviting, and holographic. Removable jumpers between the 3020's sections permitted enthusiasts to determine whether the magic resided in its preamp, its power amp, or in some synergy of both.

In the opinion of most listeners, it was both. But while the 3020's relatively low-powered amplifier (conservatively rated at 20Wpc into 8 ohms) limited it to driving small, efficient loudspeakers, its remarkably fine-sounding preamp section, complete with a decent moving-magnet phono stage, inspired many buyers to eventually add a more powerful outboard amp and go the biamp route?or, given the 3020's low price, to ignore the NAD's power amp altogether. Consumer demand led NAD to later release the preamp section on its own, as the bargain-basement-priced 1020.

NAD was able to achieve such high performance at such low prices by avoiding the high capitalization costs involved in building a factory to produce its products. Instead, it had them manufactured to its specifications in existing factories in Taiwan. While this arrangement is commonplace today, back then it was unusual, even radical.

The M3 dual-mono integrated amplifier, one of NAD's new "Masters Series" products, appears to be the company's latest attempt to produce another two-channel classic, this time one combining excellent build quality with cutting-edge electronic engineering, 21st-century remote-control ergonomics, and high-end sound. Like the 3020, the M3 is the product of NAD's director of advanced development, Bjrn Erik Edvardson, and Asian manufacturing expertise, this time in the People's Republic of China. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Unlike the 20Wpc 3020, which was inexpensive and looked it, the 180Wpc M3 costs much more than many entry-level two-channel integrateds. Even so, its build quality seems that of a product costing many times its $2799 price. The chassis is made of 2mm-thick milled steel plates, the front panel of extruded aluminum and diecast zinc. Feet of aluminum and silicone rubber help isolate the circuit boards from vibrations. Line-level connections are made via gold-plated, chassis-mounted RCA jacks. The finish comprises a brownish powder coating and an advanced automotive paint; these, along with the chassis' smoothly rounded contours and heatsinks, give the M3 a coherent, understated beauty that's rarely achieved in audio at any price.

Digital nerve system, analog musculature
With six pairs of single-ended and one pair of balanced inputs, the M3 offers enough versatility for almost anyone's audio system. Two sets of speaker output terminals are provided on the roomy, cleanly laid out rear panel, each using those annoying Euro-spec plastic-protected connectors?fine for banana plugs, pins, or bare wire, not so fine for audiophile-grade speaker cables, most of which are terminated with spade lugs.

The simplicity of the M3's front panel hides a versatile, feature-packed preamplifier section with seven custom-namable inputs (including a balanced XLR), electronically activated bass, treble, and "Spectral Tilt" controls, dual-mono, stereo, mono left and mono right modes, a balance control, independent source selection for a second zone, and two preamp outs, one of which features a selectable biamp mode with built-in 40, 60, 80, and 100Hz low-pass analog filtering for use with a satellite/subwoofer system.

Dominated by a large, fluorescent display, the front panel includes a row of small pushbuttons labeled Listen (input selection), Record/Z2, Mode, Balance, Tone, Bi-Amp, and Speakers. A single large knob controls not only the volume, in continuous 0.5dB steps over a range of ?77.5dB to +10.0dB, but setup as well. While using the Listen button requires you to scroll through the entire list of inputs to reach the one you want, large pushbuttons on the remote provide direct access.

According to NAD, all of this versatility and control come at no sonic price. Level adjustments (volume, balance, tone) are accomplished using digitally switched 1% resistors. Sources are switched via precision sealed reed relays similar to the ones McIntosh uses in its top-of-the-line C1000 preamp. NAD says that, along with ensuring precise control, use of these technologies means that all actual switching and adjusting components can be located optimally within the circuit, and that the analog signal doesn't need to be routed to the front panel's "virtual" controls. Careful circuit layout, short signal paths, miniature surface-mount components, and multilayered circuit boards all help contribute to NAD's claim of "infinitesimal levels of noise and distortion."

The preamp section is an all-discrete design using low-noise, high-impedance JFET buffer amps at the input and proprietary high-current, low-output-impedance, class-A gain modules. The claimed result is wide dynamic headroom, high output current, and a signal/noise ratio in excess of 100dB (IHF). The balanced XLR line input uses identical JFET buffers that feed a discrete differential amp claimed to yield common-mode rejection in excess of 80dB.

The dual-mono amplifier's power supply features custom-wound Holmgren toroidal transformers, separate unregulated and discrete-regulated supplies for various stages of the circuit, high-current rectifiers, and low-ESR (effective series resistance) filter capacitors. An independent power supply is used for the display and digital functions to help keep noise to a minimum.

NAD's PowerDrive circuit continually monitors output current and adjusts the power-supply voltage rails to maximize the dynamic power sent to the speakers. According to NAD, PowerDrive makes the M3 sound far more powerful than its rated 180Wpc. (For a detailed explanation of PowerDrive, see the sidebar "What Is PowerDrive?," in Jim Austin's review of NAD's C 372 integrated amplifier in the October 2006 Stereophile.)

The power-amp circuit uses a wideband, current-mode, class-A voltage amplifier and an NAD-patented current-amp output stage with small amounts of feedback to help deliver less than 0.002% distortion at all audible frequencies. The output stage's four pairs per channel of 150W discrete bipolar output transistors deliver 50 amps of peak output current.

Setup and use
Throughout the review period, I didn't remove the M3's jumpers to audition its pre- and power-amp sections separately, nor did I use its second-zone function, or its second-preamp output with the selectable low-pass filters for sat/sub or biamp use. Instead, I used the M3 the way I figured most Stereophile readers interested in it would: as an integrated amplifier.

Operation of the M3 was straightforward, thanks to its ergonomically pleasing remote control (it's not backlit, though the buttons do glow in the dark) and its easily legible fluorescent display. Switching among inputs and adjusting the volume, modes, and other operating parameters were handled crisply and cleanly. In terms of build quality, ergonomics, and functionality, it seems the M3 should cost far more than a relatively modest $2799. When I look back at my time with the M3, the phrase that comes to mind is "bullet-proof." And its front and rear panels also serve as handles that make lifting and installing the M3 a pleasure.

Warm and lush
Should you use a $2800 integrated amplifier to drive a $46,000 pair of Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX2 speakers?or, for that matter, a $70,000 pair of Peak Consult El Diablos?

Well, why not? With its 180Wpc, the M3 should be more than capable of effectively driving, without strain, most moving-coil speakers?if not to their dynamic maximums, then at least to satisfying sound-pressure levels. Makers of expensive loudspeakers often like to point out how relatively easy their speakers are to drive, how inexpensive watts have become, and how much more you get from a marriage of expensive speakers and cheap electronics than the reverse.

Judging by how pleasing the Wilsons and Peaks sounded driven by the NAD M3, those speaker makers have a point. While neither pair sounded as harmonically surefooted, dynamic, and detailed as when driven by my Musical Fidelity combo of kWP preamp ($11,000) and kW monoblocks ($23,000), I know that what I heard from them with the M3 was far superior to anything I'd hear from $34,000 worth of electronics driving $2800 worth of loudspeakers. Count on it.

The biggest differences between the megawatt/buck Musical Fidelitys and the M3 were in dynamics and bass control. While the M3 could make the Wilsons or Peaks play loudly and cleanly without sounding strained, it wasn't (I assume) able to produce enough current to deliver the bass extension and control of which both speakers are capable. While the following sonic memory is almost a year old and thus perhaps unreliable, the $649 RR2150 receiver from Outlaw Audio (see my review in the March 2006 Stereophile, Vol.29 No.3) dug into the Wilsons' bass bins somewhat more effectively than did the M3, though with less textural subtlety. The M3's deep-bass performance sounded generally somewhat soft, and less capable of plumbing the depths than the more powerful and more expensive audiophile-grade solid-state gear. The M3's bass performance was almost tube-like?which, depending on your perspective, is a compliment or an insult.

That said, I doubt most buyers of the M3 will use it to drive expensive, current-gulping speakers. And no, I haven't contradicted myself. I'd still prefer the M3-Wilson combo to any pairing of cheap speakers and expensive amp you might come up with. The M3's smooth, coherent top-to-bottom presentation would allow that imaginary owner of an M3 and Wilson MAXX2s to thoroughly enjoy the partnership.

The M3's top end was also somewhat lacking in extension and control (ie, transient speed and clarity) compared to the Musical Fidelitys, but as it will more than likely be paired with lower-priced speakers not equipped with the smoothest, highest-resolution tweeters, that combo should provide excellent sound as well. With the M3-Wilson and M3-Peak combos, the NAD's softer, sweeter top worked beautifully with the softer, less extended bottom end.

In short: Driving the $46,000/pair Wilson MAXX2s, the NAD M3 was far more musically enjoyable and impressive than it had any right to be. The reason was an overall sophisticated, coherent balance that was so right that, instead of spotlighting any obvious deficiency, it fooled the ear-brain into adding what was missing. For example, had the M3 combined an iron grip and extension on the bottom with its soft, sweet top?or soft, limited extension below with fast, extended highs?either resulting sound would have been annoying: one bass-heavy and probably dull overall, the other minimonitor-thin and shrill, or tending in that direction.

Instead, the M3's overall presentation was both impressively coherent and evenhanded tonally, particularly in the all-important midrange, where it sounded smooth as peach fuzz and rich and delicate as a souffl, with neither hard edges nor lopped-off soft ones. And while the M3's overall sense of pacing was less than high-stepping, the top's velvety richness and the bottom's relative softness combined to produce a coherent rhythmic picture.

I figure that, driving a smaller speaker with limited bass response and a somewhat sizzly tweeter (a combo typical of inexpensive speakers), the M3 would, within limits, deliver performance analogous to what I heard via the Wilson MAXX2s. How swell is that?

The more I listened to the M3, the more I was reminded of NAD's original 3020 integrated. I can't think of a higher compliment. While the M3's output, build quality, and cost far exceed the 3020's, its smooth, even-keeled, slightly soft sound was as enticing, if not more so, than that of the original 3020, and leagues above that of entry-level products, good as they might be for the money.

The 3020 made the big splash in the audiophile community that it did not because it competed with the best audiophile gear of that era, but because, despite its limitations, it produced an involvingly musical experience rarely achieved at the price. The same can be said of the M3. I spent a few days comparing commercial CDs and CD-Rs I'd made from vinyl, playing them on a recently received Naim CD555 CD player ($28,000) and switching between the M3 and the Musical Fidelity gear. (I promise you, the Naim contributed nada to the soft or the rolled-off anywhere in or out of the audioband.) The message was consistent as relayed above; I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the M3's evenhanded presentation.

The M3's dynamics were equally well balanced. Its subjectively low noise floor means that its handling of microdynamics would be exceptionally good at any price, and also meant that its less-than-explosive macrodynamic performance while powering big, difficult-to-drive speakers was easier to ignore.

The LP tracks I'd compiled on CD-R proved particularly useful. "Do I," from Warm and Wonderful (Columbia CS 8488), a luxurious-sounding Les Paul and Mary Ford album, sounded as velvety?as rich, tubey, and cushiony?through the M3 as it did through the MF gear: the sonic pictures floated convincingly free of the speaker baffles instead of snagging on bright leading edges.

The leading-edge sparkle was somewhat muted with the Small Faces' "Lazy Sunday Afternoon," and the track's astounding bass extension was a bit curtailed?but what remained struck an attractive balance of midband warmth, detail, and resolution of low-level details.

While the M3's overall dynamics didn't jump out at me when they should have, compared to an amp capable of ten times the wattage, I could hear deeply into the lowest level of musical minutiae. In "Tourist Town," from Marti Jones' Used Guitars (A&M SP 5208), the surprise kick drum near the beginning usually knocks me off my chair. Through the M3, it merely startled. On the other hand, as the opening guitar line fades into black before the kick drum, I could hear way into the decay. In other words, the longer ago I'd heard the big amps' presentation, the easier it was to accept and appreciate what the small M3 could offer.

I can already hear some of you: "It's got tone controls?why not boost the bass and treble a dB or so to get the weight and sparkle you think are missing?" I tried that. All I got were some standout sparkle, some elevated boom, and a hole poked through the M3's coherent membrane. No thanks.

NAD makes at least four integrated amplifiers that cost less than the M3. I haven't heard any of them, but I also haven't read any reviews that grant any of them the special status that seems reserved for the legendary 3020 alone.

The M3 is the first NAD integrated amplifier since the 3020 to have captured the spirit and addictive sound of that still-lauded design, even as it ratchets up the levels of technology, build quality, ergonomics, overall sonic performance, and (especially) power output to the state of the art. That's why I consider it a better value than the 3020, even though, when adjusted for inflation, its price is five times as high.

It may have been unfair to test the M3 with my very expensive speakers, but it seemed appropriate, given NAD's ambitions for the product. I'm only speculating, but I'll bet the combination of the M3 and a good $7000/pair speaker would create a solid foundation for an exceptionally fine-sounding music system costing less than $15,000.

The powerful, feature-packed, superbly built M3 is easy to recommend. The combination of its smooth, sophisticated sonic balance, exceptionally silent background, overall musical coherence?and, especially, its freedom from obvious sonic glitches?produced consistently attractive and musical sound that was easy to live with. If there's any justice, the M3, like the 3020 before it, should attain the status of audiophile legend. This latest creation of Bjrn Erik Edvardson is a work of art.
Hi-Fi World M3 Review

NAD?s massive new M3 integrated amplifier powerhouse proved more than up to corrupting Adam Smith, absolutely?.

The name NAD has been synonymous with good quality budget audio equipment for many a year. From their original class 3020 amplifier of late 1970s through to its latest incarnation, the C325BEE, and encompassing a wide variety of matching tuners, CD players and cassette decks along the way (not forgetting the infamous 5120 turntable either!), NAD have always been more than able to make bargain items that performed far better than their price tags would suggest.

However, they are recently becoming well known for more expensive units, and the NAD M3 Dual Mono Integrated Amplifier here gets about as far away as you can from a basic twenty watt starter amplifier. Weighing in at 23.5kg and measuring 435x135x386mm (WxHxD) the M3 is a real heavyweight ? and not just in the physical sense. Power output comes in at a specified 180 Watts and our measurements show that this is conservative, as it topped 200Watts on test without breaking into a sweat.

No less impressive is the feature count that NAD have packed into the M3. How do seven inputs, (one balanced), two separate zone outputs with their own remote controls separate outputs for powering an active subwoofer, complete with variable low pass filter settings and defeatable tone controls with ?spectral tilt? options sound?

Equally impressive are the audiophile features squeezed in as well, including reed relays for input selection; arrays of 1% resistors controlled by digital switching for volume control, and extensive use of surface mount devices to minimize signal paths on the PCB.

Undoubtedly, the M3 appears worth its ₤1,900 asking price on features alone, but as we all know, ?it don?t mean a thing if it ain?t got that swing? so listening duly commenced. Sources included an Eastern Electric Minimax Compact Disc player and Pioneer PLC-590/SME M2-10/Ortofon Rondo Bronze turntable set up through an Eastern Electric Minimax phono stage. The loudspeakers cowering nervously on the ends of the cables from the M3 were our Spendor S8es.

Sound Quality
Expecting to be pinned back against the sofa in our listening room, I started off with some classic rock courtesy of Steve Earle?s ?Copperhead Road?. Peeling myself off said sofa and readjusting the volume slightly I could not fail to be impressed by the sheer impact of the M3. If your system is lacking in scale and sounding a bit lifeless then, believe me, this amplifier will well and truly shake it awake!

Bass was very impressive. The high damping factor of the M3?s output stage brings even the most wobbly speakers firmly into line and delivers rock solid low frequencies. Detail was excellent and this had the expected effect on rhythm, delivering it with punch, verve and style.

Midrange was equally impressive, being open and well defined. Soundstages were wide and stable, presenting both singers and orchestras in a very favorable light and not missing any subtle nuance of a recording. Vocals were detailed but had an underlying hardness to them ? some singers almost sounded as if they were in something of a bad mood and were forcing out their words with venom. Spinning Holst?s ?Planets Suite?, however, showed that the dynamic range of the M3 was as wide as you could ever need, and it whispered sweetly on the more pianissimo sections, whilst delivering the full force of the orchestra once they hit their stride.

At the top end of the spectrum, the treble was detailed and clear, but is very definitely quite forward with a slightly metallic ?sheen? to it. Whilst this worked wonders in extracting detail and background subtleties from all sorts of musical material, it did mean that some instruments, particularly the likes of pianos and violins, could sound ?processed?. The M3 is definitely solid-state; thermionic aficionados may not be too impressed! That said, it never becomes harsh or unpleasant and it has all the control and grip many prefer. This is no soft, wooly or warm sounding amp; it is brisk and fast.

This was amply demonstrated by the Corrs track ?Only When I sleep? which I keep tucked away on one of my test compilations. The production of this track is?well, the nicest way to describe it is ?enthusiastic? and it can be almost painful on less forgiving equipment. I was wondering if the M3?s forward nature would lead to an hideous aural assault, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out this was not the case. Whilst the strident nature of the track was obvious, the M3 actually did an excellent job of cleaning it up and sorting its usual mid and high frequency blue into some sore of order.

It is hard not to like the NAD M3. It certainly represents superb value for money purely in terms of bulk and features ? and it is impeccable built. It does not disappoint when you start using it as it really is an absolute powerhouse! It has the ability to drive any loudspeaker you can think of to serious levels and yet it can be subtle and sensible when required.

Obviously, its characteristic sound will not be to everyone?s liking as it has a lively presentation and does add a slight sheen to treble. However, this can be minimized by careful loudspeaker and source matching. With its excellent range of connections and features, the M3 will slot into many a system and inject a breath of fresh air into it. Power corrupts, so they say, and I for one am more than happy to be led astray by NAD?s M3!

NAD Master Series M3 integrated amplifier

The more I listened to the M3, the more I was reminded of NAD's original 3020 integrated. I can't think of a higher compliment. While the M3's output, build quality, and cost far exceed the 3020's, its smooth, even-keeled, slightly soft sound was as enticing, if not more so, than that of the original 3020, and leagues above that of entry-level products, good as they might be for the money.

Michael Fremer. Stereophile

You can read the complete review at ->
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