In the weeks leading up to High End, many companies send out press releases describing the products they’ll be unveiling at the show. I try to look at every press release, though I sometimes miss a few. But the one that jumped out at me the moment it arrived came from NAD, announcing the Masters M66 streaming DAC-preamplifier. The M66 is priced at €5999 and will be available this fall.
The folks at NAD are making no bones about the fact that they think highly of the latest Masters-series product, stating in the release, “The M66 is a no-compromise component so advanced, it represents an entirely new category of hi-fi separates.” Based on the ultra-rich feature set, which I’ll just touch on below, they might be right.
There are some key things to know. As stated in the press release, “the M66 has a selectable Analogue Direct mode that bypasses all digital processing,” which means it acts as a straight-up analog preamplifier with both balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) outputs. Purists will like that, particularly since the M66’s separate analog and digital circuits promise a quiet, low-distortion signal path.
But for those who want to go whole hog with the M66, incoming analog signals can be digitized to take advantage of two of the M66’s signature features, full-bandwidth Dirac Live Room Correction and Dirac Live Bass Control. The M66 has a notable four balanced (XLR) and four single-ended (RCA) subwoofer outputs. With Dirac Live Bass Control, users can calibrate output of all connected subwoofers independently. The M66 should have the most advanced and versatile subwoofer connectivity of any component on the market right now.
Additional features include a built-in moving-magnet and moving-coil phono stage; an onboard digital-to-analog converter based on ESS Technology’s ES9038PRO Sabre chipset; and a headphone amplifier said to have “very low output impedance and very high maximum output voltage, enabling the M66 to drive demanding high-impedance studio monitor headphones.” It also has a built-in network streamer based on the highly regarded BluOS multi-room music platform from sister-brand Bluesound, as well as a 7″ front-panel color touchscreen for information display, setup, and configuration; those functions are also available through the BluOS app. Like all BluOS-enabled components, the M66 supports Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Tidal Connect, and it’s Roon Ready. Lossless streaming to 24-bit/192kHz is available via ethernet and Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth is also there for lossy wireless playback. I could go on and on describing other features, but you should get the gist by now—the M66 is as feature-rich and versatile as preamps come.
The M66 was on active display at High End 2023 in the DALI room. DALI was using it along with two Masters M23 power amplifiers, each bridged to mono, to demonstrate the brand-new Epikore 11 loudspeaker, which is priced at €40,000 per pair and was unveiled today. Jason Thorpe and I took in a demo and were amazed by what we heard. Jason wrote up his impressions of the NAD/DALI system in an article called “DALI Epikore 11—the Sensible Trickle-Down.”
My thoughts mirror Jason’s, but I wanted to make an additional observation: while the bass was astonishingly powerful, it never overshadowed the midrange. That led me to ask the DALI reps if the M66’s room-correction feature was turned on. It wasn’t—they were using the BluOS streaming and the internal DAC, but otherwise the M66 was acting as an analog preamp, so they could demonstrate the Epikore 11s’ capabilities on their own in that room. But obviously, activating room correction would be an interesting thing to try—and with the versatile M66, prospective owners can experiment to their hearts’ content.