NAD M51 Direct Digital DAC Impressions

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by estreeter, Mar 27, 2012.
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  1. m8o

    I know this discussion is like a year old now. But just an FYI that while I know there are countless HDMI splitters, I HIGHLY recommend the "HD Fury 4k Integral" not only to split or switch HDMI but also to dial in whatever feature, encoding and HDCP encryption capability I want between source and destination. I own 3.

    With it you don't need to rely on HDMI passthru. You can run the dac in parallel to the next device with full audio/video going to both. And you can use a smartphone app to tweek the video and/or audio signal, like force 2-channel or 5.1-channel audio from the source, and oodles of other stuff.

    Seems the Amazon seller I bought mine from is out of them. There was a legal action against the manufacturer over the HDCP overriding it can force; not sure if there is an injunction over its sale now. If you can find it sold somewhere, get it.
  2. phonyx

    Personally yes, I really like this DAC. Get it in front of a good pre/power combo and feed it high res files and I think it punches way above it's price point, to be cliched. I feed mine with the NAD Masters series M50/M52 combo, and the DAC feeds my Pass Labs X2.5 pre and X250.5 power amp. I run a Chord Hugo TT head-fi setup and I have tried the TT in place of the M51 in my lounge - the M51 comes pretty close, IMO, and looks far more like a HiFi item than the TT while doing so (not bashing the TT, I know what it was designed for and I use it as such). 
    Great DAC for the money the M51. Very transparent, which is what I am into.
  3. m8o
    Thanks for the reassuring words. I decided to buy one from another headfi'er last week and it should be here shortly; so th price was far better than new. I'll be using it to drive my McIntosh MHA-100 and Rane HC6S via split balanced and other amps via unbalanced.

    The only curiosity I'm left with is why they exchange hands so often. I'll be the fourth owner (or more, if it exchanged hands before I had visibility to its provenance). This forum, audiogon, others, are filled with sales of this. Seemingly at a greater rate than its A+ stereophile rating would suggest it should have.
  4. barid
    Just the never ending quest to try new gear:)
  5. m8o
    Well I know about you :) ; have read you say that. But that stands for most?

    Only saying that rhetorically. No way to answer without a large number of sellers chiming in I guess.

    I guess I have a hard time relating. I just buy stuff and never part with it; just stop using it and it sits.
  6. phonyx
    People tend to use DAC's to flavour the sound. Smooth it out, add some energy, etc. DAC tech is also advancing at a rapid rate and so something new comes out with new buzzwords and special design terminology and people jump ship. There's a lot of M51's out there because they're very good for their price. They do not however add much of anything to the sound signature, which is personally why I like it, and why I like the Chord DAC's. 
    Sound is more than measurements, but it's measured performance is truly stellar. Look at that 24 bit noise floor approaching -160db and the sine wave it generated on stereophile. 
    Don't sweat it. You've got one at a great price, just check which firmware you're on when it arrives and judge with your ears. 
  7. m8o
    Thank for that. I get you point. I do indeed understand 'musicality' thru ownership of my mha-100 amp compared other amps I've owned.

    After all this time, is revision 1.39 still the firmware preferred?
  8. phonyx
    I like 1.41. It's what mine shipped with. 1.39 is just 1db louder at the same volume setting, nothing more. If you volume match them I was unable to hear a difference. That said 1.41 auto powers off after i think 45mins of no signal which annoys me sometimes as it's the only item in my NAD stack which does this. YMMV
  9. Spark85
    Hello All.

    I have made changes in the power of a headphone amplifier with good results and I would like to do the same with the power of the NAD M51 I have ¿Could anyone tell me about the possible results and with what voltage is the board fed?

    Thank you.

  10. m8o
    I spent a few hour with the new arrival. This is indeed an incredibly good dac.

    It's 2:19am so forgive me for not elaborating; like any regular readers need me to say a word anyhoo. It would be more for the late comers like me anyway. No buyer remorse is the important take away.

    Streaming SACD over hdmi from my Arcam DV139 as source, and the M51 is displaying the expected 176.4k of a un-re-sampled dsd to pcm converted stream. So that apeases a concern I had when reading early thread posts saying folks saw 88.2K. But I only read about 10% of this thread so I probably missed updates saying that's all better now.
    phonyx likes this.
  11. m8o
    There are a whole lot of positive things that can be (and have been) said about this DAC. But what perhaps stands out most to me is ...

    The M51 handles CDs that are victims of "the loudness wars" as adeptly as it does CDs from every year going back to the beginning of CD pressings! (I still own the first gen Magnavox CD player that was ever sold when Philips & Sony released the first ones, and CDs to match)

    Notable example... I've known of Sia from her downtempo Zero 7 days. But it was only after her recent resurgence that I decided to buy all her solo work (I already had some zero 7 work). Music stylings aside, on a purely technical basis, I couldn't help but think what a shame it is her recent stuff had been marred by over compressed boosted hi transients chopped production; I found I would not listen to it often due to that. That stands both for recent CDs and higher bit rate stuff from HDTracks.

    Enter the M51. No more 'crunchiness' of the play back marring the enjoyment. But that is in no way thru rolling off the top end or from slow transients. Quite the opposite. The Dacs ability to be so fast, give every note it's space regardless of instrument layering, and here is the key, not get congested and confused by the complex waveform pushed up to and sustained at or near the msb and still reproducing all the detail near lsb ... is what it's ALL about! I reread Stereophile's review and was reminded of NAD's claim that their conversion and digital filter in this were free of any jitter and ringing respectively. I think I just witnessed the reality of that claim in action.

    Msb: most significant bit
    Lsb: least significant bit

    This dac musically exposes every nuance in the music, completely unflappable while doing so. Serious props has to be given to its class-a analog output stage for keeping up with its digital stage.

    Same story for every newer CD that exhibits similar 'loudness war' negatives. In the past I would defend the dac built-in to my McIntosh MHA-100 amp. But no more. I shouldn't say that. I do not think it's all that bad. But I'll agree now it's in another tier lower if not a few when compared to this dac.
  12. thomascrown
    I've tried with mine but it stayed on the whole night with no signal, don't remember if there is an option for the power management. (1.41)
  13. m8o
    More M51 love triggers...

    That time when you realize that for the first minute in a song you've heard countless times, you hear and realize for the first time the pecussionist is periodically sliding a wooden ratchet or rasp instument in a sound space way in the back on the right.

    Or similarly in another song you've heard countless times you hear the singer way down in the mix in what sounds like magnetic pickup from the other side of the tape, but there is no primary singing only the musical playout of the song (and tape was probably not used) so you know it was placed there on purpose ... but you never had equipment before that resolved it so clearly so that it stood out and was completely intelligible.

    I don't look for these "never heard that" moments. But revel in them when the equipment is so good they make themselves evident.

    My chain for these two above is:

    > Opus #1 DAP playing hi-rez tracks purchased from HDTRACKS
    > TOSLINK out
    > short 1ft optical cable
    > NAD M51
    > Balanced Out
    > 2 or 3 ft litz weaved individually insulated silver coated copper (dunno it's fullspecs)
    > McIntosh MHA-100 as an amp only (of course)
    > speaker tap output
    > my custom banana plug to female 1/4 inch plug to male 1/4 inch plugs to 4-pin XLR adapters
    > HiFiMan HE-1000 using the stock cable (that needs fix'n one day to eak out that little bit more).
  14. phonyx
    I still do really love this DAC. I've heard a lot of DAC's since I bought it and I prefer it to everything except some stupid money DAC's I could never afford and my Hugo TT. For the money it's fantastic value.

    I still don't know how it works on a hardware level. Is it R2R or DS or neither?

    Weird that yours isn't powering off after 45 mins of no signal. Maybe optical works differently as it's always receiving light? I run AES/EBU in from my source.
  15. thomascrown

    From the manuals, page 10:

    AUTO STANDBY The M51 has automatic standby mode feature that can be turned ON or OFF. On: M51 will automatically go to standby mode if there are no user interface interaction and no active source within 30 minutes. Off: M51 will not go to standby mode at any time unless directly initiated by pressing front panel Standby button or remote control’s [OFF] button. The default setting of Auto Standby is “Off”.
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