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Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was a young class of amp. It was not the same as other amps, and tried to do things differently - its own way - but found itself harassed and subjected to ridicule. Its makers, you see, fell constant prey to the most malign of sins; cost-cutting measures.

This class was Class D, and its primary claim to fame was efficiency. While it could run with power supplied in such limited quantity it would make a Class A amp cry, it - like all amps - would strain the limits of its power supply; efficient or not, when the music demanded power, it railed against the limitations set by its makers, and so for years and years, Class D remained somewhat forgotten - technology to be publicly shamed when brought up in polite conversation concerning high fidelity audio.

Nearly seventy years after its creation, NAD sought to change this perception and unleashed a beast that would be remembered not just for its looks and impeccable build quality, but for its reinvention of arguably the most scorned and dejected of amplification topologies, and a level of focus on the inevitably digital future in an industry too often trapped in the past. This beast was the M32; an updateable, expandable, modular, integrated amplifier that would head the soon-to-be-expanded “Master Series” lineup. This integrated amp could be run alone, or add a second poweramp (the M22) and convert itself into a bridged monoblock amplifier; it could add streaming alone by using one of the “MDC” modules, or full streaming and CD-playing / ripping by utilising the matching M50. A slew of other MDC modules soon followed, allowing anything from phono stages to additional analogue inputs to be added and updated as desired, offering a level of flexibility and choice that was almost unheard of, certainly at its price.

While the reviews for it were typically favourable, they erred on the side of garnishing praise for its “bang for buck” more than its outright audio performance. To the general public, however, the M32 became a staple, and a boon for an audience seeking performance as well as extreme flexibility.

Fast forward to 2019, with what was now a full suite of Master Series products, NAD had done the impossible; they had broached the gap between what is considered “serious” HiFi, and what has historically been viewed as a poor-man’s class of amplification, and brought - not just in the literal sense, but successfully brought - it to the favourable attention of both mainstream audiences and the “HiFi” crowd. It was at this point, in the middling stages of the COVID-19 event, that rumours stirred around the possible appearance of a successor, and this was to be named - in a highly unusual twist that would shake the foundations of the high-fidelity world - the NAD Masters M33

Okay, so the name was… unexciting. While crossing language barriers can be a struggle when using words as model names, one does get a little tired of various configurations of literal letters and numbers. Maybe more than a little. Thankfully for NAD, they had something else up their sleeve for this release; a part whose tech managed to pleasantly surprise its detractors, and that outshone it's now grossly antiquated forebear in every respect. The core of this success? In a word; Eigentakt (bless you!).

Despite sounding somewhere between a German military doctrine and that sneeze of your [grand]father’s (you know the one; the sneeze that shook the very gates of Hades and woke everyone in the neighbourhood within a twelve-kilometre radius), Eigentakt was the most important change for the sparkly-new M33. Manufactured by Purifi, this new series of amp module was to be the jewel in NAD’s industrial-chic crown. Offering stellar power output in excess of the M32, all but nonexistent levels of distortion, and an expansion on the company’s investment in the “HybridDigital” Purifi system which made its debut in the wonderfully compact - and imaginatively named - M10, the M33 was an unhinged titan, a digital-behemoth whose sole desire was tonal accuracy befitting its Teutonic heart.

Armed with the raw numeric firepower of Eigentakt’s 200 - 700wRMS in one hand, and the streaming superiority of the BluOS platform now integrated with the amp rather than as an optional extra (courtesy of Lenbrook, the parent company of NAD and Bluesound - but that’s another tale…), the M33 exceeded every expectation, and achieved near-universal praise for its considerable abilities - changing public perception of what an amp can be, and redefining the value-for-money metric.

As of writing this piece, I can say that NAD’s intense focus on progressing a technology all but abandoned by the HiFi community to the extent of all else (interesting model names included) was a rousing success. Whether it was the M32 which whetted the public appetite for an amp that simply screamed “MORE!”, the pandemic forcing people to build upon their home audio systems - with little else to do, or the slew of impressive reviews causing demand to outstrip supply many times over (especially here in Australia, with our comically spare population density), the M33 became the first amplifier I’ve witnessed in many years that created such intense public interest - a fact doubly impressive given the unit’s not-insubstantial cost.

“But Mischa, is the Master Series worth it?” Well, that depends entirely on whether you’re happy to pay the price. Does it sound excellent? Yes. There have been enough demos done now on a wide enough range of speakers to state that unequivocally; yes, it IS worth it - if you like neutrality. Whether we are talking about the massive M33, the unhinged combination of M66 preamp and dual-M23 power amps used as monoblocks, or the simple, compact, goodness of the M10v2, NAD have managed to reset their Master Series lineup, and offer a genuine “one-box” type solution (... except in the case of the M66 / M23, I suppose… three box solution?) that impacts the tone of what it’s fed as little as is humanly possible, while simultaneously offering every conceivable input and source option. Is it for everyone? Of course not - nothing is. Is it worth coming in to see us at Melbourne HiFi to have a listen, if you’re in the market for a “do-it-all” stereo solution? Yes. Oh my, yes.

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