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NAD Raises the Bar with New Masters Series M15 Surround Sound Processor


A distinctive new industrial design, advanced engineering and improved components set new benchmarks in home theater performance

NAD introduced the M15 Surround Sound Processor, one of the first four new components in the new Masters Series during the CEDIA Expo 2005 in Indianapolis this week.

The M15 is THX Ultra II Certified and features HDMI switching, dual differential 24-bit, 192 kHz DACs, Dynamic Headroom Scaling for optimum digital resolution and a linear power supply. It offers the widest array of surround formats including Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES Discrete and Matix, DTS NEO:6, THX Ultra II post-processing, along with 7.1 Matrix, Dolby ProLogic II and the proprietary NAD EARS circuitry for creating natural surround sound from any format input, 7.1, 6.1, 5.1 and 2.0 stereo, digital or analog.

“NAD’s keen and enthusiastic attention to every sonic detail is obvious from the very first note,” says Bob Brown, Chairman of NAD Electronics. “The M15 is the result of innovative circuit designs, proprietary operating and decoding software, and premium quality parts combined with a 30 plus year heritage of producing components with a musical presence that transcends mere technical specifications.”

The brains of any A/V system is the preamp processor because it takes the raw, unprocessed digital audio signals, decodes them into multiple (5.1, 6.1, or 7.1) analog channels, and sends them to your amplifier and speakers. Thus, compatibility is an important issue due to the multitude of different A/V formats and diverse signal transmissions in today’s home theaters. Whether it is digital or analog, the M15 Surround Preamp Processor has the flexibility to accept all the popular formats with a wide variety of inputs and outputs:

NAD components have always had superb technical specifications and NAD has clearly created a new benchmark in overall performance and design with the new Masters Series components.

NAD is famous for providing low distortion and sonic realism in their classic circuit configurations. However, the M15 utilizes new techniques and the latest precision parts to achieve new standards for low noise and low distortion. With full 24- bit, 192kHz analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion, the M15 fully exploits the best source material available today and for the foreseeable future. Most surround processors use 8-channel DAC’s, however, NAD found that equipping the M15 with multiple two-channel DAC’s in a dual differential mode resulted in remarkably superior sonic performance.

The M15 allows the space, scale, and transparency encoded in the directional sounds of Dolby and DTS surround soundtracks, to push the boundaries of your listening room to nearly infinite dimensions.

Unprocessed analog inputs, whether stereo or via the 7.1 inputs remain in the analog mode, sometimes known as ‘bypass’ mode. If a digital processing mode is selected, these signals are digitized using a 128x over-sampling Sigma/Delta ADC that employs a linear phase digital anti-aliasing filter to prevent any trace of ripple in the audio band. This superb quality ADC operates at 192MHz and full 24-bit resolution.

The M15 is a clean sheet design and based around two high-speed 24-bit DSPs, the M15’s exemplary DSP topology gives better noise and distortion performance than 32-bit floating point designs. New thinking about D/A and A/D conversion processes led to a circuit design that offers a level of technical precision and sonic performance unprecedented at this price level.

Super high-speed (8 MHz band width) low distortion (0.00008% THD) amplifiers are used for analog input and output buffers. These FET OPAmps feature high slew rate and are capable of the high output current. Low noise and superb dynamics are assured.

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Dynamic Headroom Scaling is perhaps the most important innovation used in the M15 to squeeze the last ounce of nuance from any audio format. This unique approach maximizes digital resolution.

Surround sound processing and post processing are very demanding and sometimes the spare ‘headroom’ required to accommodate these complex processes means that the 24-bit signal path may only be working at 12 — 14 bit resolution, only as good as CD level performance. Since the headroom is fixed, if resolution is reduced this limitation is imposed on all signals, whether the maximum processing power is required or not. Once resolution is reduced, the output signal loses its detail and dynamics.

The M15 addresses this problem by dynamically adjusting, or ‘scaling’ the amount of headroom, based on the exact needs of the digital processes running at any given moment. This unique approach maximizes the audio resolution for every type of signal.

The M15 can easily handle today’s high-resolution video signals, supporting a wide range of analog and digital video formats. Professional quality video buffer amplifiers feature 150MHz open loop bandwidth with super low phase shift and distortion.

HDMI switching is available for two sources. This newly developed high-resolution digital audio and video format allows encrypted transmission of high -resolution (HDTV) signal formats without passing through analog conversion.

The M15 is also capable of transcoding, or ‘upconverting’ Composite and S-Video signals to Component Video output. Through the use of the highest quality components and digital comb filters, the video quality of Composite and S-Video is fully preserved.

The on-screen-display (OSD) is simple and effective, and is completely bypassed when not in use to preserve video resolution. It is also available on component and Zone 2 outputs. There is also a ‘bypass’ Component Video Output that even excludes the OSD switch to provide a reference quality video signal.

“Build-Artistry” and Master-Class Engineering
While others offer build quality the Masters Series delivers “Build Artistry”. The M15 and all the other Masters Series Components are a result of many years of research by NAD’s product development team. The new Masters Series is the perfect balance of performance, value, style, flexibility, and ease-of-use, defining them as the best products in the company’s 33-year history and industry setting benchmarks.

From the smooth and precise action of the front panel controls to the elegantly proportioned remote handsets, every element of the design has been carefully considered for ease of use and clear logical operation. The new industrial design is solid and substantial, yet fresh and exciting. The look of the M15 visually reveals the dynamic performance capabilities contained within its sturdy forms.

With 2mm thick steel panels, combined with extruded aluminum and die cast zinc parts, the chassis forms an incredibly solid foundation to reduce air and structure born vibration from reaching any sensitive electronic components residing within. Specialized vibration damping feet employ silicon rubber to further isolate the chassis from vibration. This high standard of mechanical construction assures a lifetime of trouble free use and maintenance.

The heart of every electronic component is its power supply. Taking the raw current from the wall socket and creating stable, clean DC voltages is crucial to obtain the maximum performance of every circuit in the M15. Utilizing a custom-made, high current NAD Holmgren transformer the M15 employs three secondary voltage taps, one for each of the three sections in the preamp; audio, video, and digital. These feed into independent rectifiers and multi-stage regulators to obtain pure and stable voltages for each individual circuit. By keeping them completely separate, any possible cross contamination is prevented.

The M15 is equipped with a large front panel display in addition to an OSD (on-screen) display to provide setup information directly on your video monitor. The M15 offers several convenient and performance enhancing customization features. For instance, surround format preferences, level matching of inputs (prevent a jump in volume when switching sources), and renaming of inputs can all be set in the M15’s simple two-layer menu.

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Digital domain tone controls, AV presets, and direct access to sub, center, and surround levels allow unprecedented control of the sound field. Center channel tone control, enhances presence of the human voice to improve dialog intelligibility, which is most effective for Dolby processed recordings. AV Presets store unique speaker configuration, level, distance, crossover frequency, surround modes and tone control settings for instant recall from the remote control. You could, for example, have different setups for music and movies, or even settings for different types of music or different surround modes. Direct access to the subwoofer, center, and surround speaker levels, without calling up menus, allow for ‘on-the-fly’ adjustments without interrupting the video program.

The M15 is supplied with NAD’s HTRM (Home Theatre Remote — Masters Series), a ‘smart’ remote that can learn the commands of any component’s IR remote. A logical layout of keys supplemented by a two-line LCD display creates an easy and satisfying user interface that can be used by touch alone, allowing the user to stay focused on their video program. Special attention has been paid to the ergonomics of the HTRM so it feels ‘right’, whether you are right or left handed, and whether you operate it with one hand or two. In darkened rooms, the HTRM automatically illuminates its keys and display for easy viewing.

The PC interface allows advanced programming or cloning of the HTRM. Simply connect via USB cable to a computer running MS Windows and load the supplied program. Commands for various components can be stored, and complex macros are easily configured and downloaded into the HTRM.

Just one look at the M15 and you know it is a serious audiophile product. While it meets the sonic standards of even the most critical listener it must still have the flexibility and features to meet the demands of today’s complex custom installations.

The M15 was supplied with programmable 12-volt triggers (1 in, 3 out) to automatically switch remote power on and off to a connected amplifier, including the new Masters Series M25 Seven-Channel Power Amplifier designed specially to mate with the M15. Also outfitted with rear panel IR remote input and outputs, and an RS-232 port, the M15 is highly compatible with many of the most advanced control systems such as AMX and Crestron. Additionally, the operating and decoding software can be upgraded if and when new features and formats become available.

A completely independent second audio and video ‘zone’, with its own remote control, is part of the M15 package. This line level output has independent source and volume selection, and is ready to interface with outboard amplifiers and controllers to send music and pictures to another room in the home.

It’s time to get back in touch with the most elusive part of music-the emotional part. Experience sound quality that is more spirited and inspired. It’s an experience that equals or exceeds all performance benchmarks-regardless of price. The M15 Surround Sound Processor will ship in November 2005 with a US MSRP of $2,999.

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