NAD M51 Direct Digital DAC Impressions
Mar 27, 2012 at 5:14 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1,623


Headphoneus Supremus
Jun 10, 2009
I dont know if anyone here has this DAC, but Stereo Net Australia board member lil Caeser seems to have heard most of the current ~$1K front-runners and rates the M51 very highly
Just ignore that stuff about the Lampizator unless you happen to have 5K ......
NAD Product Page -
NADs Youtube vid:  
Sadly, the only other review atm seems to be in Dutch - NAD have kindly translated the highlights :
(Google Translate, IME, turns reviews to something resembling the rantings of a madman - YMMV)
I look forward to those impressions for anyone with $1500.  
Mar 27, 2012 at 5:41 PM Post #2 of 1,623
This has been on my wishlist for a while, and I may have one in my hands in another month or two. Any owners here? Also, there's one for sale on the FS forums at a pretty decent price.
Mar 28, 2012 at 1:38 AM Post #3 of 1,623
NAD seem to be kicking a few goals atm, with the Viso 1 and C446 network streamer getting rave reviews from various quarters - sadly, NAD have chosen to highlight the What Hi-Fi reviews, but the less said about that magazine the better.
Interestingly, the C446 seems to have been designed for those of us who insist on pooh-poohing the supposed value of 24/192, at least if the above review is to be believed - for all that, they like the sound and  thats what matters to me. Personally, I've tended to prefer Marantz speaker kit to the NAD offerings I've heard, but there's no denying the bang for buck at the lower end of their range. 
The VISO 1 is probably better left for another time and place. I lost interest in iPod docks the day the i-20 was released. 
Mar 31, 2012 at 10:35 PM Post #4 of 1,623
Just received mine today and currently listening to it while its breaking in. What I can say at the moment is that I am hearing quite a good DAC. Its obviously a very unique design and seemingly effective. Its the very first unit that has put my Marantz SA-11S1 SACD player on notice.
This thing is very good indeed.
Apr 1, 2012 at 6:09 AM Post #6 of 1,623
Just on the basis of using the third filter on the Marantz, they sound more similar than different, but in  a good way.
Upright bass being presented with greater power and richness. It also seems to provide all the transparency and detail of the Marantz, but with a greater sense of ease. Dynamics from percussion instruments also feel a bit more complete. I still need to do bit more listening and the NAD should have a moment to break in as well.
In the past, I had tested and returned two lower cost DAC's on the basis that they fell far short of the Marantz. This is no doubt a very good DAC. How well it would compare to others high end units, I don't know. Maybe I should order different unit to try 
.  Suggestions?
I will report on how further listening goes. As for system I'm using, Pass Labs XP10 mated to an X250.5. The sources are the Marantz and  Mac Mini for computer audio. Both the NAD and Marantz have been using balanced connections.
Apr 1, 2012 at 9:18 AM Post #7 of 1,623
Wow, those are very transparent amps. I find the differences between digital sources very subtle on 1st listen; only becomes apparent after reverting back after awhile
Apr 1, 2012 at 10:59 AM Post #8 of 1,623
Very interested in this new technology. I'm keeping an eye on the NAD C390DD, an integrated digital amp described as a DAC with a 150watt output, but first more reviews and some more time for the manufacturer to iron out the mistakes that are always in complex new products.
Price of this technology will probably go down too, I think this is the future of amps.
Apr 1, 2012 at 11:04 AM Post #9 of 1,623
My experience with digital sources are a bit different overall. It may very well have to do with the Pass equipment not getting very much in the way. In the past, I had tested out Emotiva's XDA-1 as well as the Teac UD-H01. At the time, computer audio still seemed to be quite early on and I just wanted the Mac Mini to have a balanced connection that didn't sound as poorly as it had. So while both DACs had been an improvement over the Mini analog, both fell short of the Marantz when it fed them via SPDIF.
I came to the conclusion the most of the lower cost options were a step up from integrated, but few would give the Marantz a real run. In my system, the various digital sources all have notable differences that are immediately apparent. This morning I could very clearly hear the advantage the M51 has on percussion over the SA-11S1. On the SA-11S1, they were not presented with the same weight and definition and thus not giving it the same body. Both are highly resolving, but the M51 has a bit more image depth and allows every instrument to be more clearly defined. The bass is not just stronger, its more defined and is adding a nice fullness and richness of sound without any loss of definition.
Other DAC's I have considered was the PS Audio PWD (now in Mark II edition), Bel Canto Series, and others. The M51 was the first unit to provide a solution for digital volume control with very little to nearly no loss and quite a new approach. I can say that the sound is very impressive and is a clear step up from the SA-11S1. Would any of the others go further? I don't know and I would sure like to find out. But with the new PS Audio costing $4,000 list and my cost on the M51 being less then half that, I have doubts it would provide a gain with the cost. In some respects, the PS Audio would be inferior as it provides a digital volume control that doesn't match the solution in the M51. This volume control issue is also true of the Bel Canto. 
Apr 2, 2012 at 8:49 AM Post #11 of 1,623
It has perfect functionality for me, looks good, and all the reviews I've found are telling me what I want to hear (body and weight, rather than bright), so I've gone for it.  It's on a 30 day money back trial in case it turns out to be godawful :)
Should arrive by the end of the week.
Apr 2, 2012 at 8:29 PM Post #12 of 1,623
Did you purchase from a dealer or online?

It has perfect functionality for me, looks good, and all the reviews I've found are telling me what I want to hear (body and weight, rather than bright), so I've gone for it.  It's on a 30 day money back trial in case it turns out to be godawful :)
Should arrive by the end of the week.

Apr 3, 2012 at 1:01 AM Post #13 of 1,623
Will be auditioning this soon in comparison to the W4S DAC2, Calyx DAC and Audiolab M-DAC. Looking for one of these to be the DAC for my secondary/headphone system.
Apr 3, 2012 at 3:07 PM Post #15 of 1,623
I picked up an M51 a couple weeks ago, and unfortunately am struggling to find time to really listen due to ongoing reno work in the house.  I originally listened to it via a Stax 3050 set that I picked up, and was relatively impressed; not having heard the Stax with anything else though, it was hard to relate though.  I finally got it set up in a modest but decent speaker rig (M51->balanced into a Class-D-Audio SRS-224 -> ProAc Super Tablettes), where I find it absolutely fantastic. Listening to the type of music that the little Tablettes do well (acoustic/folk/vocal), it sounds wonderful - rich, textured, detailed without being bright. The only aspect on which I'll reserve judgement is on bass weight and dynamics, which can't really be evaluated on mini-monitors particularly well.
 Functionally, the M51 is a home-run for me. I have it set up as the control center for the TV rig where it works quite well. Two HDMI inputs to handle the DirectTV box and DVD/B-R player, plus spdif for the Squeezebox (eventually will probably replace the squeezebox with a PC connected via USB).  The fact that it replaces a pre-amp/pre-pro as long as you only need stereo is a big win IMHO.

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