New York – Component-audio supplier NAD is launching a new Master series of components to expand its demographic to connected 30-something music enthusiasts who haven’t grown up with traditional full-size audio components.
To widen its appeal, the brand is adding the wireless-network multiroom-audio technology of sister brand Bluesound to select Master-series audio components. These components will offer the performance that 30-something consumers can now afford but with Bluesound-technology access to the new music sources that they grew up with, including PCs, mobile devices and Cloud-based sources.
NAD and Bluesound, which launched last year, are owned by Lenbrook Industries of Pickering, Ontario.
In launching the new Master series, NAD is entering a second phase in its efforts to broaden its demographic base. Last year, the brand launched a $999 network receiver, $499 DAC /amplifier, $499 USB DAC, and headphones to target a younger generation of music enthusiasts who connect to PCs, smartphones and tablets to play music but who have shunned full-size audio components.
Those products appeal to students and young adults, and the new Master series is intended for a slightly older group who has “started to amass money to buy better things,” said John Banks, Lenbrook’s chief brand officer. These consumers, however, are also “practical, no-nonsense” people who aren’t interested in exclusive luxury goods but are interested in getting “the most sound for their dollar,” which has been NAD’s core value since its inception, he said.
These emerging component-audio customers, and others, have gravitated in recent years to products that offer “high functionality” but not high performance, Banks noted, because the functionality is in demand.
The new functionality also resonates with “traditional audiophiles,” he noted.
With the launch, NAD is offering a more full-featured and high-resolution wireless multiroom solution compared with its previous wireless AirPlay and DLNA offerings, said Greg Stidsen, Lenbrook’s technology and product planning director.
“AirPlay and DLNA are limited multiroom,” he said. “To get synchronization and gapless playback features, you have to add custom software.” NAD’s adoption of Bluesound’s BluOS “addresses all those issues as a fat client with everything streaming asynchronously for best sound quality. We can have eight wireless rooms, or 36 wired rooms, all play in sync.”
Bluesound shipped its first high-performance audio products in 2013, but none took the shape of a traditional hi-fi component. The products include the $699 Pulse active biamplified tabletop speaker/streamer, $699 Power Node streamer/amplifier, $449 Node streamer without amp, and the $999 Vault streamer/ripper, which includes hard-drive music storage but lacks an amplifier.
High-resolution files can be sent to streamers from the Vault or from networked PCs and NAS drives. The system is controlled from Bluesound’s mobile-device apps.
NAD will incorporate Bluesound’s BluOS into a $449 Modular Design Construction (MDC) module that can be dealer- or user-installed into the back of select NAD components to turn them into wireless Bluesound-system streamers.
The DD BluOS module plugs into the currently available $2,599 C 390DD integrated stereo amp in the Classic Series and into the new Master-series M12 two-channel digital preamp/DAC, available Sept. 1 at $3,499 without module. Additional stereo components will be developed to accept the module.
NAD is also developing a separate Bluesound MDC module for A/V receivers and A/V preamp processors. That module, possibly shipping in September or October, will be compatible with all MDC-capable AVRs and A/V preamp/processors offered since 2006 and with a planned $5,499 Master-series M17 A/V preamp processor available Sept. 1.
The MDC modules will enable the NAD components to stream music, including high-resolution audio, via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet from a PC, NAS drive or Bluesound Vault.
The module, which comes with included Wi-Fi adapter, also incorporates Bluetooth with AptX, enabling a Bluetooth stream to be redirected home-wide to other Bluesound streamers. Music stored on hard drives and USB sticks plugged into the NAD components can also be redirected to Bluesound streamers.
The module also incorporates Cloud-based music services available in the U.S., including Slacker, TuneIn, Rdio, Qobuz, Deezer, Juke and High-Res Audio. France’s Qobuz will launch later this year in the U.S.
Via the Bluesound app, consumers can download high-resolution files direct from Qobuz and High-Res Audio to a Bluesound Vault or to an existing NAD Masters 3TB M52 Vault Raid 5 Array, which must be plugged into an NAD component incorporating the Bluesound module. NAD plans in the summer to offer direct high-resolution downloads from HD Tracks.
The new M12 digital preamp/DAC that will accept the first Bluesound module is one of four new Master-series components that will be available Sept. 1 along with the BlueSound Module. The other three Master-series components are the $2,999 M22 2x150-watt stereo amp, $5,499 M17 7.1-channel preamp/processor, and the $3,999 M27 7x180-watt amp.
The M12 will incorporate multiple innovations, including a touchscreen interface to eliminate mechanical front-panel buttons and operate future MDC modules incorporating new technologies for which NAD can create the needed touchscreen buttons, Stidsen said.
The M12 will accept up to six MDC modules and will ship with three included modules. Of the three included modules, one offers balanced and single-ended analog inputs and an MM/MC phono input. A second offers 192/24 USB input, and the third offers optical, coaxial and AES/EBU inputs.
The Bluesound module and an HDMI module will be available as options for the M12.
For the M17 7.1-channel preamp/processor, NAD plans a first-quarter availability of a $299-suggested MDC module incorporating HDMI 2.0 ports with 60fps 4K passthrough and HDCP 2.2 copy protection. For M17 owners, it will be offered as a free upgrade when it becomes available.
The new two-channel amp and the seven-channel amp will feature new amplifier technology that’s the best the company has ever offered, said Stidsen. They use Hybrid Digital technology promoted as Class D “switching amplification perfected.” The technology offers Class D’s efficiency but drives down distortion levels “below measurement,” the company said. The amps also deliver the same sonic characteristics and uniform continuous output into 4, 6-, and 8-ohm loads, an “ultra-high” damping factor, wide open-loop bandwidth, extremely low-phase shift, harmonic and intermodulation distortion independent of load, high current capability, and low output impedance.
To support the products’ launch, NAD will launch a social-media campaign, digital and print advertising, and web videos.
The company expects about 50 to 60 of NAD’s more than 320 U.S. dealers will offer the new Master series, or about the same number that handle the current series. Most of those dealers are already Bluesound dealers.