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NAD Masters Series M12

Direct Digital™ stereo preamp/DAC

3 Reviews | 3 questions - 7 answers

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Overview

Our take on the NAD Masters Series M12

It's not easy to keep up with the rapidly changing world of digital audio. Fortunately, NAD continues to produce forward-thinking digital gear to keep you ahead of the curve. Their Masters Series M12 is serious business, inside and out. Its streamlined look and innovative, flexible connectivity are almost enough to make you forget about sound quality — until you hear it. There's a lot going on inside this preamp/digital-to-analog converter. If it's not enough, you can do even more with NAD's add-on modules for further connectivity options.


High-res audio

Moving at the speed of digital

It's not easy to keep up with the rapidly changing world of digital audio. Fortunately, NAD continues to produce forward-thinking digital gear to keep you ahead of the curve. Their Masters Series M12 is serious business, inside and out. Its streamlined look and innovative, flexible connectivity are almost enough to make you forget about sound quality — until you hear it. There's a lot going on inside this preamp/digital-to-analog converter. If it's not enough, you can do even more with NAD's add-on modules for further connectivity options.

Pure digital design for pure sound

The M12 is an all-digital preamp designed to reduce distortion to near non-existent levels. By eliminating analog signal paths between the built-in digital-to-analog converter and the output stage, NAD prevents these noisy circuits from introducing distortion that degrades sound quality. Plus, volume control and source switching are controlled digitally, eliminating further interference from mechanical and electronic components. This ensures that your music remains as pure as possible from your digital source all the way to your separate power amp — check out the matching NAD Masters Series M22 for a killer combo.

NAD Masters Series M12 digital preamp/DAC

The M12 offers lots of digital and analog connectivity. Add MDC modules (sold separately) for even more connections, including HDMI and wireless network or Bluetooth playback.

Play everything from high-res digital files to vinyl

We rarely see this many connections on a preamp. Naturally, there's no shortage of digital inputs, including an asynchronous USB input for connecting your computer. It's compatible with digital files with resolution up to 24-bit/192kHz, for more detail and depth than CDs. There are also front- and back-panel inputs for USB memory devices like thumb drivers and hard drives. The M12 has more than just digital connections — there are balanced XLR inputs and outputs for use with sources and power amps with balanced connections as well as unbalanced RCA connections. There's also a phono input so you can plug in a turntable with either a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge.

NAD's groundbreaking future-proof modular design

As digital technology develops quickly, it can be hard to commit to a piece of equipment knowing something new could be right around the corner. That's the beauty of NAD's Modular Design Construction. This allows you to swap in new circuit board modules with new connectivity as technology changes. There are already two modules available for the M12 that will expand this preamp's capability:

DD HDM-1 - Add HDMI switching to the Masters Series M12 with this module's three HDMI inputs. It allows you to connect a Blu-ray player or streaming media device like Apple TV to the M12 for high-resolution decoding of Dolby® TrueHD and DTS Master Audio soundtracks. An HDMI output passes video through to your TV.

DD BluOS - This module adds wireless music streaming to the M12. It's compatible with Bluesound wireless multi-room music products, so you can integrate this preamp into a whole-house audio system. It also adds Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi®, and wired Ethernet connections for streaming music from smartphones, tablets, computers, and network-attached storage devices (NAS).

Touchscreen display

You might notice the obvious lack of buttons on the front of the Masters Series M12. You won't miss them. That's because the display is actually a touchscreen. You can choose your source, scroll through menus of digital tunes from your connected USB memory device, or adjust the settings using the intuitive menu system. If you explore the menu, you'll find some cool options like tone controls, source renaming, mono listening mode for old movies and LPs, and independent crossover selection for each of the two subwoofer outputs.

Product Highlights:

    Features:
    • stereo preamp with digital inputs for a network music player, disc player, computer, and more
    • NAD's Direct Digital design performs functions like volume control and source selection in the digital domain, for shorter signal paths and virtually no audible distortion
    • digital inputs allow for use as a stand-alone digital-to-analog converter (DAC)
    • Modular Design Construction allows you to add more connectivity via user-installed modules
      • optional modules offer HDMI in/out and network connectivity for wireless music streaming and integration with Bluesound products
    • Class A analog output stage with balanced and unbalanced connections
    • subwoofer outputs with selectable crossover frequencies
    • touchscreen display offers intuitive playback controls, source selection, and settings adjustments
    • remote control
    Connections:
    • balanced stereo XLR inputs and outputs
    • unbalanced stereo RCA inputs and outputs
    • phono input for connecting a turntable
    • balanced digital XLR (AES/EBU) audio input for professional disc players or processors
    • asynchronous USB (Type B) input for connecting a computer
    • two Type A USB inputs (front and back) for connecting a hard drive or memory device (MP3, WMA, and FLAC files)
    • optical digital audio: 2 inputs, 1 output
    • coaxial digital audio: 2 inputs, 1 output
    • 2 subwoofer preamp outputs
    • RS-232 port for automated control systems
    • 12-volt trigger and IR input
    • detachable power cable
    Specifications:
    • supports PCM sampling rates up to 24-bit/192kHz from a connected computer or thumb drive (front-panel USB port is limited to to 24-bit/96kHz resolution)
    • total harmonic distortion: <0.0005%
    • signal-to-noise ratio: greater than 125 dB
    • channel separation: greater than 115 dB
    • 17-1/8"W x 5-1/4"H x 15-1/8"D
    • weight: 17.9 lbs.
    • warranty: 3 years
    • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

    What's in the Box:

    • Digital Preamp DAC
    • 68" AC power cord
    • Remote control (HTRM 2)
    • 4 Magnetic feet
    • USB thumbdrive
    • Cleaning cloth
    • Quick Start Guide
    • Warranty Card
    • Cleaning Instructions

    Featured Video

    Reviews

    NAD Masters Series M12 Reviews

    Average Customer Review(s):

    (3 Reviews)

    NAD Masters Series M12

    Crutchfield customer from Prairie Village, KS on 11/15/2018

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    Very happy with this product. I recently purchased this unit on the assumption I could return it in the event it did not meet my expectations. Going to keep it! NAD has a very nice product here. This unit is replacing an older Mark Levinson CD processor/DAC and a pre-amp. Firstly and I know the most important to audiophile people is how it sounds. Well to put it simply-outstanding. The soundstage and imaging is very open and airy. Bass notes are punchy and well defined. The attenuation of the volume is perfect. You will hear every frequency uncolored evenly throughout the volume range. The unit sounded a little harsh and commercial out of the box but after some break in the tone has warmed up beautifully. I would recommend using a high quality USB cable if connecting to a PC. A cheap "printer" cable will degrade the sound a little bit. I like separate sub out connections (main reason for considering over other DACS in this price range). you will be able to dial your speakers and sub in perfectly. It is nice to be able to keep the ultra low frequency from your main speakers at the source. Another advantage is you can run your sub un-attenuated setting trims and frequency cuts to their maximum so they do not color the signal. Unit and remote is easy to program and operate. It looks really nice and both the remote and the main unit are built well. The packaging is even a work of art.

    Pros:

    Cons:

    NAD M12 pre-amp

    Crutchfield customer from Clermont, FL on 6/17/2016

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    Excellent product. Good sound, easy to understand menu and touchscreen.

    Pros:

    Cons:

    NAD M12 Preamp

    Joe D from Texas on 10/25/2015

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    I searched around for a replacement preamp and settled on the M12 based on mid level pricing, specs and versatility. My first impression was I was very impressed with the quality of the sound that was delivered to my speakers. I played Al Dimeola, Elegant Gypsy which has ridiculously fast guitar and intricately overlaid instrumentality to gauge how well the M12 delivers clean, uncolored, fast attack and high dynamic range music. I was blown away by how much more I was hearing and the expanded soundstage. The digital and analog inputs also allowed me to utilize some rather ancient devices alongside my digital inputs. Quite a nice preamp with remarkable sound and it looks pretty good too!

    Pros: Love the digital/analog capabilities and the well delivered sound

    Cons: Only a 2 channel device - but it does deliver audiophile quality sound.

    Details

    Hands-on research

    Features and Specs

    General
    Signal to Noise Ratio 125
    THD 0.0005%
    Number of Inputs
    USB Connections Type-B(1), Type-A(2)
    Ethernet Connections None
    Phono Inputs 1
    Preamp Outputs 6
    Network Streaming Services N/A
    Bluetooth Optional
    AirPlay Compatible None
    Dimensions
    Width (inches) 17-3/16
    Height (inches) 5-1/4
    Depth (inches) 16-7/16
    Weight (pounds) 17.9
    Parts Warranty 3 Years
    Labor Warranty 3 Years

    Product Research

    Audio Features
    Digital + Analog Connectivity
    Touchscreen & Remote Control

    Audio Features

    Direct Digital Technology: NAD's Direct Digital technology is unique in both its extreme precision and in its speed. Direct Digital technology uses a very powerful processing engine that operates at much higher speed and with much greater accuracy than typical Digital-to-Analog converters. Running at 108MHz, the M12 resamples the incoming pulse code modulated (PCM) signal and converts it to a pulse width modulation signal (PWM) with a sampling rate of 844kHz. Operating in a differential mode with double precision, the M12 has state-of-the-art specifications for low noise and distortion free sound. The extreme headroom afforded by the 35-bit architecture allows for a DSP-based volume control that does not reduce resolution. Even with 24-bit high definition signals, the output can be attenuated by 66dB (very quiet) before bit truncation begins.

    Pure Class-A Analog Stage: The NAD M12 employs a pure Class-A buffer using the latest generation of Super OP Amps to provide low impedance balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) connections to power amplifiers or active loudspeakers.

    Modular Design Construction (MDC): Modular Design Construction (MDC) helps to prevent obsolescence by providing a simple upgrade path to add future features and functionality to the NAD Master Series M12 integrated amplifier. The following MDC modules are available -

    • BluOs Module: By simply adding the optional BluOS MDC Module(745MDBLUOS, sold separately), the M32 becomes part of the BluOS wireless multiroom music ecosystem. The BluOS module connects to your network via a wireless (WiFi) or wired (Ethernet) connection, and is controlled via Apple iPod touch/iPhone/iPad, Android smartphone/tablet, Windows PC, or Mac computer. BluOS supports streaming of internet radio, select online music services, and Hi-Res audio files. The BluOS module also includes dual USB (type-A) port for music file playback from USB mass storage class devices, like a thumbdrive or digital portable audio player. In addition the BluOS module offers built-in Bluetooth for wireless music streaming from a Bluetooth source device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
    • Balanced/Unbalanced & Phono MM/MC Module: The DD AP-1 module (745DDAP1, sold separately) adds a balanced and unbalanced analog line-level input, plus a MM/MC compatible phono input.
    • 4K HDMI Module The MDC HDM-2 (745HDM2, sold separately) adds HDMI capability with three HDMI inputs and one HDMI output for video plass-through. Based on the latest 6GHz HDMI chip, the MDC HDM-2 includes full support for UHD (4K) video pass through to a video monitor, plus support for 24-bit/192kHz 2Ch PCM (not compatible with Dolby Digital/DTS).
    • 1080p HDMI Module: The DD HDMI-1 module (745DDHDM1, sold separately) adds three HDMI inputs and one HDMI output for video pass through. Full 3D Video support with video resolution up to 1080p/60. Supports 2 channel PCM audio with 24-bit/192kHz resolution (not compatible with Dolby Digital/DTS).

     Note: These MDC modules are all sold separately (not included). You can add up to two MDC modules.

    Digital + Analog Connectivity

    USB (Type-B) Port: The NAD M12 direct digital DAC is ready for the world of computer audio with its rear-panel asynchronous USB (type-B) input that can directly stream 24-bit/192kHz content from your Windows PC, Mac computer, or  other network-attached storage device (NAS). Your computer will need to meet the following system requirements.

    • Windows PC Users: Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 or higher, Microsoft Windows 7.
    • Mac Users: Minimum Mac OS X Snow Leopard (version 10.6) and later versions.
    Note: Download the "NAD USB 2.0 Audio Driver" (from NAD's website) and install this driver to your Windows computer. Mac OS X Snow Leopard (version 10.6) and later versions already include USB Audio 2.0 drivers (no need to download NAD USB 2.0 Audio Driver).

    Front- & Rear-Panel USB (Type-A) ports: The M12 features a front- and rear-panel USB (type-A) port which allow you to connect a USB mass storage class (MSC) device, such as a USB flash-drive or thumbdrive. The M12 will playback MP3, WMA, and FLAC music files loaded on your compatible USB device. Your USB device must be formatted in FAT 32.

    Note: The USB ports are not compatible with Apple iPod/iPhone/iPad or Android smartphones/tablets.

    Digital Audio Inputs: The NAD M12 Direct Digital DAC includes five digital audio inputs; two optical (Toslink), two coaxial (RCA), and one AES/EBU (balanced XLR).

    • Digital AES/EBU (XLR) Input: The NAD M12 is fitted with a Digital AES/EBU (XLR) jack to connect high-end audio sources, such as SACD and DVD-Audio players. For high-end sources with higher sampling rates like 176kHz and 192kHz, it is highly recommended that such sources be interfaced with the AES/EBU (XLR) In connector.
    • Digital Coaxial/Optical Inputs: The M12 also features two rear-panel optical (toslink) digital outputs and two coaxial (RCA) digital outputs to connect your digital audio components. Connect your CD, DVD, and Blu-ray disc players. The Digital inputs support sampling rates of 32-192khz.
    Note: If connecting to a television set's optical output, please make sure that you are able to select PCM as the default optical out audio format from your television's Audio menu. This DAC is not compatible with multi-channel audio signals and will not work with televisions that do not output PCM.

    Balanced/Unbalanced Connectivity The NAD M12 offers balanced (XLR)/unbalanced (RCA) analog audio inputs and outputs.

    • Balanced XLR Inputs/Outputs: The M12 is fitted with a pair of balanced XLR inputs to connect your high-end or professional audio component. In addition, there is a pair of balanced XLR output to connect your audiophile grade power amplifier.
    • Unbalanced RCA Inputs/Outputs: There are two sets of analog stereo unbalanced RCA inputs (including a Phono MM/MC input). There is also one set of unbalanced analog stereo RCA outputs to connect to your stereo amplifier.

    Dual Sub Outputs: The NAD M12 is equipped with dual mono-RCA sub outputs to connect up to two powered subwoofers.

    Remote Integration: The M12 offers 12V trigger, IR and RS-232 connectivity for remote integration.

    • 12V Trigger Input/Output: With this 3.5mm input triggered by a 12V DC supply, the M12 can be switched On remotely from standby mode by compatible devices; such as amplifiers, preamplifiers, receivers, etc. If the 12V DC supply is cut off, the M12 will return to standby mode.
    • IR Input: This 3.5mm input is connected to the output of an IR (infrared) repeater (Xantech or similar) or the IR output of another component to allow control of the M12 from a remote location.
    • RS-232 Port: The RS-232 port allows connection to a compatible PC or external whole-house control system from companies such as AMX or Crestron. NAD is a certified partner of AMX and Crestron and fully supports these external devices.

    Touchscreen & Remote Control

    Touchscreen Display: The NAD M12 features a front-panel display with touchscreen control for easy-to-read text and simple control.

    Remote Control: The supplied IR remote provides wireless operation of the M12 and features controls for other NAD source devices.

    Volume Control: The volume control adjusts the overall loudness of the signal being fed to the loudspeakers. Volume control is characterized by perfect signal tracking and channel balance. It gives a highly linear and low noise operation. The volume control can set to "Fixed" or "Variable".

    Tone Control: The M12 has the following Tone Control levels; Treble, Bass and Balance. Bass and Treble controls only affect the low bass and high treble leaving the critical midrange frequencies free of coloration. The Balance control adjusts the relative levels of the left and right channels.

    Auto Standby: The unit can be set go automatically go into standby mode after approximately 30 minutes of inactivity.

    Our Product Research Team

    At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

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    Customer Q&A

    Crutchfield asked  
    Why did you buy this?

    This has all of the features I'm looking for and the reviews are favorable. Of course with any hi end audio purchase I would not feel comfortable if I could not return the product if it does not meet my expectations. I like Crutchfield's 60 day return policy. [ David  Nov 02, 2018 ]
    Read product reviews [ Vincent  Dec 27, 2017 ]
    Awesome suite of options and excellent sound processing. Delivers fantastic sonic depth and image. [ Joseph  Jan 26, 2017 ]
    I bought this preamp because it was the match for the M22. [ Louis  Jan 24, 2017 ]

    3 questions already asked

    You are not. It is what manual control is all about. The M12 is a fine piece of audio apparatus. I know this because I own one. Sometimes the human ear must determine optimum settings. For example: a $2,500 espresso machine. Not everything in life is "automated." One must apply his or her artistic flair. [ Jeff  Dec 03, 2018 ]
    Kev - not engaged enough to know what "room correction" is... but I can tell you my M12 replaced a Proceed Pre-2 (not crap in its day) and the difference is *amazing*. Nobody makes Class-A stuff anymore. Nobody... it's either push-pull or D. I wanted A (my amp is Class-A, you can heat a can of soup on it). Plus I have the BluOS card and the thing is connected to my home office network and also BT. I love this thing, A++++ [ KEVIN  Dec 03, 2018 ]
    Yes. There are 2 sets of outs. You can also use one for sub out. [ EDDIE  Apr 05, 2017 ]
    The M12 comes with the phono pre-amp board already installed, so you don't need to purchase it separately. Look closely and the back panel pictures of the M12 and you will see it. It is also listed as installed in the M12 manual. [ Louis  Jan 12, 2017 ]
    Yes [ Tho Hong  Aug 16, 2015 ]
    I am not running phonograph input into my NAD but there is a board you can purchase that will plug into the NAD amp that allows phono input and changes the analog signal into digital. [ Mark  Aug 14, 2015 ]
    On the c390 there are no analog inputs to speak of. [ DAVID  Aug 14, 2015 ]
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