Manage, Play, and Rip Digital Music from Network or Local Music Sources
Unless you were lucky enough to visit a recording studio, you could never hear the most accurate form of a musical recording: the studio master. This is now changing with the increasing popularity of studio master-quality HD downloads. That's great news for anyone who loves music. But the problem is that the system required a computer, which wasn't built for audio performance.
With NAD's Masters Digital Music Suite, you can download, listen, stream, and store precious HD recordings without a computer, completely shaking up the way you enjoy HD music. The M50 Digital Music Player is where most of the processing and control functions are located, and it acts as the brain of the revolutionary Masters Digital Music Suite.
"Comparable with High End Analog"
"Finally music streaming over Ethernet is comparable with high end analogue equipment, but a lot easier to handle, without noise and without damage over time," reports René van Es in his February 21, 2013 review for The-Ear.net. "No matter how you offer your music, USB or on Ethernet, what goes in comes out unaltered. No upsampling, no downsampling."
Much of the M50's system is defined by software, not hardware. This means that new cloud services or audio codecs can be integrated by simply changing the software stack of the M50. This software upgrade potential allows the M50 to live on and maintain its cutting edge functionality. While the focus is clearly on 24-bit, 96 kHz studio master downloads and listening, NAD's software roadmap includes the addition of Internet radio and premium cloud services in the future. The M50's massive processing power will support years and years of software upgrades.
NAD has included the latest generation low power, super high performance ARM processor in the M50. These have more computing power than a PC from just a few years ago, yet run cool and do not require noisy fans. Digital connectivity includes SPDIF, USB, and – unusually for a stereo audio component – HDMI. NAD included HDMI because it is a secure encrypted format that supports 24-bit, 192 kHz HD Audio in PCM's native I2S format, but it is not a video output.
The M50's CD transport can playback from or rip to the M52 Digital Music Vault using FLAC lossless encoding. Ripping is completely automatic, while NAD's music management software for your tablet or smartphone can fetch metadata and cover art from the Internet, when connected. All without a computer! Everything is organized and instantly available for playback. You can browse your music collection and easily create playlists by album or category listing on the fly.
Wired and Wireless Connectivity
The M50 gives you a choice of a wired or wireless network connection, using standard Wi-Fi protocol IEEE 802.11 b/g/n. While you can stream 24-bit, 96 kHz music wirelessly, a wired connection or local storage for HD music is preferable in order to avoid unwanted dropouts. Wi-Fi capability also offers the convenience of controlling your music collection from a smartphone or tablet. When combined with NAD's M52 Digital Music Vault, the M50 is ideal for enjoying your HD music as well as CDs, MP3, FLAC, or AAC compressed music.
Smartphone or Wireless Remote Control
While a smartphone or tablet is the best way to operate the M50, NAD also included an IR remote and four-line graphic VFD display to play CDs like a conventional hi-fi component. NAD also included an RS-232 and IR input to allow for easy integration with home automation systems.
NAD has always emphasized better sound, so after ripping a CD, playback is different and much improved in the M50 over existing CD players. Instead of streaming directly from the disc to the output, the M50 momentarily stores the data in a memory buffer where it is re-clocked to the M50’s high precision master clock for the lowest levels of jitter. Enjoy fully asynchronous audio playback from all your media sources.
Prodigious Processing Power
The M50 boasts processing power to support years of future software upgrades. It features an ARM Cortex A8 Core, 1600 MIPS with ARM Neon DSP Media co-processor and vector floating point unit for intensive audio processing. It has 256MB RAM and 4GB flash memory that's field-upgradable.
It uses open-platform Linux software, featuring bit-perfect streaming software developed by leading Linux audio experts, custom-developed Linux device drivers, and fully vertical platform software development supported and controlled entirely by NAD.
Eight-Layer PCB Layout
The M50 uses eight-layer PCB layout optimized for the lowest jitter. Its jitter specs are competitive with NAD's best CD players. Output jitter is dramatically lower than many popular streaming products. High-frequency switch-mode power supplies provide extremely low noise. Industry-leading low power consumption is comparable with the latest mobile devices.
"Finally music streaming over Ethernet is comparable with high end analogue equipment, but a lot easier to handle, without noise and without damage over time."
"No matter how you offer your music, USB or on Ethernet, what goes in comes out unaltered. No upsampling, no downsampling."
- René van Es, The-Ear.net, February 21, 2013
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|M50, M51, M52 Review|
For about 10 years I’ve been using a home-made digital system. I would rip wav files and playback via AlbumPlayer software, going ASIO out from a PC via M-Audio soundcard to a high-end DAC [Sonic Frontiers 3]. This is, in effect, is what NAD has done with the M50, M51, M52 – of course they have done it with dedicated, high-quality, expensive components. My system worked extremely well but I got tired of replacing windows machines every 3 years when they invariable died. So about 6 months ago, I bought the M50, M51 & M52. The M52 has plenty of storage – I’ve ripped in flac about a thousand CD’s and barely made a dent. It works very well with the M50 and is easy to locate/access on a network. It is not a NAS and doesn’t work on its own so you must have the M50 to use it. The file folders, file names and artwork need to be laid out in a particular manner – this is done automatically when ripping via the M50. You have to follow that format if you are copying in from another source. The hard drives used on the M52 are of the highest grade and the data is more secure because of its RAID 5 configuration. It is, however, still recommended to back up your entire collection to another location for couple of reasons. I had a blinking drive light pretty early on in my ownership which means the drive lost connection to the RAID controller [not that you would find that printed anywhere], so, with the help of tech support, I reset the unit. You must back up your data prior to reset as there is the possibility of losing it. The reset procedure didn’t solve the issue so they sent me a new one to which I transferred the backed-up music. The new one has been working fine. If a hard drive fails, they would also want you to have a back-up; it’s not clear to me that they would send you one hard-drive to replace the failed one as there is not clear drive-failure procedure established they may send a replacement unit. In any case, because it takes sooo long to rip CDs, make a backup! The M51 DAC is outstanding. It does a great job of playing the ripped files. Flac encoding works very well and I don’t hear any shortcomings in sound quality. I think flac files played through the M51 sound better than when I recorded wav files - plus one can easily add tags with flac which is not the case with wav files but see M50 below. While the DAC can handle most music formats, the M50 only rips in either flac or mp3 – though I don’t know why anyone would rip in mp3. If you, like me, are downloading high resolution files to take advantage of the M51’s capabilities, then you are doing it from a computer and transferring the files to a folder in the M52. Of the three components, the M51 wins the cost/benefit analysis. The M50 is more complex to analyze. It works well with the M52 and M51. I have a null modem cable from the M50 to the M51 to be able to control the volume from my IPad this only started to work with the May/June 2013 software update. As virtually everyone who has reviewed the M50 has noted, ripping is VERY slow – especially when you are ripping hundreds of CDs like I did. I did come across some ripping problems but for the most part, it handled the CDs very well. There were some artwork issues – no or incorrect artwork and some ripping issues: CDs hung and were not encoded to FLAC, some songs were truncated. Given how many CD’s I ripped, it did an admirable job overall. I occasionally have some playback issues where I get a FLAC Encoder Error and playback stops. I have to see if re-ripping solves this – unfortunately, you cannot only rip a song or a few songs from a CD to the M50, it’s all or none. The M50 has two major weaknesses: 1. its lack of ability to Tag edit & 2. Its lack of playlist capabilities. You might as well plan on buying JRivers excellent media center software $50 or something similar if you want to correct tags and fix artwork. I’ve also had some difficulty with compilations where it shows each song as a separate album. The M50 would be unbeatable if NAD would just incorporate JRiver into it. I suggested to NAD months ago, they need to fix the editing and playback capability and while they say they are working on it, the pace of changes has been excruciatingly slow. Let me emphasize, there is NO ability to fix tags: if any item – name, album, artwork, etc. is ripped incorrectly, it stays that way unless you have tag editing software. The playback software is mediocre at best. Yes, you can create playlist but adding and subtracting from them is painful. I won’t go into all the details but some lacking items are: the ability to add songs currently playing to a saved playlist, having to scroll through a possibly huge list of songs to delete one song, inability to restrict duplicate songs in a playlist, no volume leveling capability, no genre playback, etc, etc. The playback software on an IPad is very good and straightforward to use. There are some bugs – for example, switching back from player mode I typically get “loading” messages on the playlist, but overall, it works well. There are some other playback options besides playing your music library: internet radio is available and works well. There is an option for streaming services but it is grayed out and not yet available. Would I recommend the M50, M51 & M52? If one is interested in playing whole albums at a time, doesn’t want to bother getting a PC to work as a music server and has the money to spare, then yes, I would recommend buying the M50, M51 & M52. If you are interested in creating playlist and playing back music as you see fit, then the M50 is not ready for prime time. You could easily get a large hard-drive computer and go digital-out to the M51 and for a lot less money have far superior capability. In any case, I would recommend the M51 DAC.
|- Eric G, CT|