I believe what NAD has developed in the M50.2 Digital Music Player is the ideal solution; a computer in a hifi component accessed from a tablet, with my music organized, easily accessible, and sounding great.

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player front

Highlights

NAD Masters Series M50.2 Digital Music Player

  • Mirrored – 2 terabyte hard drives
  • CD playing and ripping
  • Bluetooth and Wifi
  • Internet radio
  • TIDAL, HDTracks, Spotify and other streaming servers
  • MQA, FLAC, WAV and all other file types
  • High-resolution audio
  • BluOS® operating system

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player top left

Introduction

I find it beyond ironic that in today’s resurgence of analogue audio and vinyl in particular, that we quietly move forward with digital music, hating to say, the TRUE future of music playback. I’m a vinyl lover, always will be as there is nothing more gratifying than an evening with several albums on your lap, a glass of wine and the music.

NAD MUSIC PLAYER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Dimensions (WxHxD):

435 x 115 x 305mm (17 1/8 x 4 9/16 x 12 1/16”)

Net Weight:

8.1kg (17.9lb)

Sample Rate:

32kHz to 192kHz, 16/24 bit

Wireless (Wi-Fi):

and gigabit Ethernet inputs

Automatic ripping of CD:

to internal RAID of two 2TB hard drives

SPDIF Outputs:

AES/EBU, Coaxial, Optical

HDMI 1.4:

(audio only)

USB output:

(mass storage mode)

USB inputs:

1 front (host), 1 rear (device)

TFT touch:

panel display

Bluetooth:

AptX®

BluOS Features

Supported File Formats:

MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG Vorbis, WMA-L, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, MQA, HRA

Supported Cloud Services:

WiMP, Slacker Radio, Qobuz, HighResAudio, JUKE, Deezer, Murfie, HDTracks, Spotify, TIDAL, Napster, Microsoft Groove (with OneDrive), Classics Online, KKBox.

Supported Operating Systems:

Microsoft Windows XP, 2000, Vista, 7, 8, Apple Macintosh

Free Internet Radio:

TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, Calm Radio, Radio Paradise

Input:

Two USB Type-A rear panel connections, rear
One USB Type-A front panel connection, front
One USB Type-B service connection, rear
Coaxial and Optical input

Output:

AES/EBU
Optical TOSlink
Coaxial 75 ohms
HDMI 1.4

Connectivity:

WiFi 802.11n/g 2.4G
Gigabit Ethernet 10/100Mbs
Bluetooth AptX®

M.S.R.P:

$3,999.00

Company:

NAD

SECRETS Tags:

NAD, Master Series, Music Player, Music Player Reviews 2017

I don’t believe the jury is still out about digital music in the mainstream for audiophiles. In fact I do believe it has been embraced. Like myself, I believe it was more about ripping, storage, accessibility, playback, software and file quality. I really didn’t want a computer in my audio room mostly for reasons of frustration. I also couldn’t accept the concept that my music was now “filed” with my vacation pictures. I did begin to have a laptop with music, connected with a DAC and sent to my preamp. Great potential, but it just wasn’t the same.

Design

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player top

The Masters Series is a unique, nothing spared, top-of-the-line set of components from NAD that includes; amplifiers, a preamp DAC, and an AV processor, in addition to the M50.2 Digital Music Player, a source component. The entire line is beautifully styled with a brushed aluminum chassis and a matte black face that gives the unit some dimension. The top of the M50.2 is actually very attractive where normally it’s purely a vented or stamped metal design. But the M50.2 doubles a layer of black and silver machined metal and with the exposed screws; makess it extremely stiff and the mesh-type screen is all a bit of beautiful industrial design.

The M50.2 comes beautifully boxed by the way, a need-to-mention as this is first rate all the way, with the owner’s manual on a leather-bound USB stick.

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Unlike the other components the face of the M50.2 has merely a black screen and no dials or knobs, even the on/off is touch or pressure sensitive, no switches at all. Once the unit is on however, a bright touch screen displays information on input, album art, etc. What you’d normally also see on a remote control, volume, track selection, etc. is also displayed. Some basic settings and other information can also be displayed and selected however most is done from the App.

In addition to the logo which also doubles as an indicator for the processing inside with different colored lights glowing, below the screen is a discrete CD slot for playback and ripping. NAD gives you a choice for ripping your music to either MP3, WAV or FLAC files.

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player CD inserted

Below the CD slot a USB for quick connection.

Connectivity on the rear includes a single analog line level input but digital inputs/outputs from coaxial and optical along with an AES/EBU output. An HDMI output allows a monitor to show what you could also see on the front panel displays.

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An RS 232 slot allows interface with other equipment and although the M50.2 has an internal hard drive, 2 USB connections allow additional mass storage devices. Two antennas accommodate Bluetooth and wifi however a hard connection for wifi is also accommodated.

Finally, 12v triggers in/out and an IR sensor for external remote controls.

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player rear

Setup

The M50.2 incorporates the use of Wifi, Bluetooth aptX, Streaming, BluOS (Bluesound) and USB connectivity. The main premise is to play high-resolution audio with sampling rates up to 192kHz and bit depths up to 24 bits. In fact it will rip CD’s and store them on a 2TB drive with a mirrored backup. It will play literally every audio file out there including the new MQA format.

Turning the NAD M50.2 on and off can only be done on the unit itself with a top mounted touch-sensitive button. Hold for a second and it powers on from standby, however to prevent you from accidently turning it off, you must hold it down for more than a couple of seconds before it powers down. I did not find a way to have it power itself down, even leaving it on for an hour. I think a minor improvement might be to have it go into standby if no source is playing for a given period of time, say 30 minutes or so. I must also say it runs dead, dead quiet.

I’m very impressed with the CD transport and the ripping function of the M50.2. Firstly, it simply can act as a player, slide the CD into the slot on the front of the unit and it will show you the metadata and artwork information and play. You can also take a few minutes and rip the information and music to the ample hard drive.

Greg Stidsen,

Director of Technology and Product Planning at Lenbrook International clarified for me with this statement about the M50.2 ripping feature:

We do a ‘bit perfect’ rip which means no upconversion to 24/192. We do have separate clocks for 44.1 (and multiples) and 48 (and multiples) which eliminates conversion rounding errors when only one clock is used. Our ripping takes a little longer than a computer rip because we do smart ripping where we note the checksum (total number of bits in the file) from the metadata and continue to rip until we get all the bits. We don’t use CCIR correction algorithms to ‘fill in’ missing data like a CD player does, so in theory a rip could sound better than the same CD played on an ordinary CD player.

Although it does take a little time rip an entire CD, the fact that you can play any music from any source while it’s transferring makes that a moot point.

After downloading the app to your device, phone or tablet, and including both Mac and Windows desktops, the setup is quite simple and quick. It must be stated again, the M50.2 is a software based product, which means it can be upgraded and can therefore maintain its’ relevance.

For those who subscribe to Roon, NAD has partnered with the online service and made the M50.2 ready for organizing your stored library.

Bluesound App

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player app

The brain of this system is the Bluesound App which I installed on both my phone and my tablet. It’s essential for the operation of the M50.2 and the proprietary BluOS® operating system that integrates other components.

The Bluesound App is intuitive enough; because BluOS® controls other source components in the lineup, the app can select from a variety of players including the M50.2 as part of the “whole house” technology. It can connect through the wifi system and/or through Bluetooth and organize any music available on the network including the plethora of music servers streaming, too many to mention.

Interesting enough sorting music can also be done by filtering the file quality, selecting MQA or high resolution, for examples. The NAD M50.2 is fed the information and clearly shown on the front display panel or a monitor which I found helpful sitting 10 feet back.

Setting the M50.2 on my wifi was a bit of a challenge because of my spotty service. At times, the wifi found the M50.2 and other times I’d manually enter the information but once locked on, the M50.2 was flawless. The finely lit surround of the NAD logo will glow with different colors that tell you where it is in the process, solid blue means you’re good to go.

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player setup

Navigating the App takes some getting used to but it’s best done while connected to the M50.2. it simply won’t give you information or setup functions without a device to control. For example, selecting how you want the music ripped from a CD. It first must be found through a series of menus and then it can be selected. Still, nothing can be done without a “Player” present and connected.

But once on the system, everything is easily sorted and shown in the Bluesound App.

Listening

Needing a DAC, I used the excellent sounding Cambridge Audio Azur 851D preamp/DAC for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows me the sampling rate coming out of the M50.2 right on the display screen and secondly, I wanted to use the AES/EBU digital input. As a combination preamp and DAC, I could also bypass another component in the chain. I used my ample Parasound A21 amplifier and the amazing GoldenEar Triton Reference for speakers and I had a system! With my phone or tablet addressing the M50.2, I was off and running.

How the NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player sounds is 100% about the quality of the original source. But let me be clear, the M50.2 can sound astounding with the best material. Redbook CD’s played or ripped out of the M50.2 is just as superb and clean as my reference Marantz SA-11S1 SACD player. I grabbed the first CD within reach off the shelf, and threw it into the CD slot. I was asked if I just wanted to hear it or rip it, I ripped it to FLAC files. It did take a bit longer than I expected and in fact wondered if it was frozen, it wasn’t. Sometime later it confirmed the CD had been copied and it showed up on my tablet, art and all.

It was the Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris CD, All the Roadrunning with absolutely no difference I could decipher between hearing the CD or the ripped files. Voices were strong, clear and warm and the music was beautifully staged and dynamic.

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player album

Of all the streaming services available, I’ll admit I enjoy Tidal more than most for its consistent quality and high-resolution capability, including MQA. Subscription to Tidal can be with or without the premium “hifi” for lossless quality where MQA resides. For the most part though, Tidal is CD quality. The NAD M50.2 serves the music perfectly, dynamic and clean.

The Cambridge Audio DAC fed from the M50.2 identified the higher resolution with a 96kHz sampling rate when I listened to the new album from Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. Can’t say I love every track but there are some very sweet songs. I was taken by McVie’s voice, where you can sense her maturing age, in a good way. The M50.2 gave her voice texture and grace. Musically the production is typical Lindsey, polished and rich, and the NAD digital player was stellar delivering fine detail and low volume levels and open, spatial dynamics at upper volume levels.

I was in the middle of a move and wasn’t able to setup my computer on the new network in time to play my HDTracks material bought and downloaded from the site. The Bluesound App does allow you to connect to your account and download directly to the internal hard drive. I do wish I had time to try this and may before I return the M50.2 for my own enjoyment. All my HDTracks purchases are FLAC files and up until now only played back through my system via my laptop and an inline DAC to my preamp. The NAD M50.2 would make accessing this music much easier.

If I had a least favorite form of playback would be from my device to the M50.2 via Bluetooth audio, purely for the inconsistency of the source material. My phone is full of MP3 files and I felt there was a bit of dynamic loss in the sound quality and it required increasing the volume to get the sound up to the quality of the other sources I mentioned. Ironically Bluetooth worked the best, always connected and faultless.

Internet radio as anyone knows is very inconsistent. However, I’d never heard Radio Paradise and was very impressed by the dynamic quality of the music and the M50.2 made me a big fan dishing out a rich sound. I’ll be sure to contribute and subscribe. But you may enjoy Spotify, Slacker, Deezer, or iHeartRadio or, yada yada service just as well.

Conclusions

NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player logo

THE M50.2 is a no-brainer for value compared to: The idea of setting up a computer and storage, software to control ripping and file arrangements, easy integration into a home system, excellent dynamic sound and functionality.

Likes
  • Excellent dynamics
  • Ease of use with BluOS on a tablet or phone
  • Great styling
  • High-Resolution Audio
  • Sophisticated gear
  • High quality front display
Would Like To See
  • On/Off without touching the unit

As complex as the NAD M50.2 Digital Music Player may seem, it’s really quite the opposite. The engineers at NAD made setup navigation a snap. Accessing and listening to music as user-friendly as possible and for me, that makes it just right! The difference for me is that I would actually listen to more music because of the convenience afforded by the M50.2.

NAD has developed a true reference quality component in the M50.2 Digital Music Player and anyone who hasn’t quite jumped into digital audio, may find this unit to be the catalyst.

Seriously recommended!

  • Mars2k

    It should sound good at that price. Does this unit upack an MQA file completely? The Tidal app will decompress an MQA to 96K , i can do that on a Windows PC with the web app. Will the NAD DAC decompress a 192K MQA file all the way to 192k? Tell me why this device is worth that amount of money.

  • Piero Gabucci

    Hi, thanks for the question(s). Firstly, yes the M50.2 is a full decoder, although I don’t know if Tidal had higher than 96kHz files? I know I was only hearing 88.2 or 96.

    Your other question is of course subjective. There are other pieces out there like the Sony at $2,000 with 1 TB hard drive, no CD player or burner, no MQA (and therefore no MQA royalties). Cambridge has a $1,000 network player but lacking any storage or CD player/burning. I know Marantz has a $700 player as well, but no where near the features and built quality of the NAD. I’d compare the NAD more to an Aurender Music Server which can be $3,500-$8,500. Or McIntosh at $6,500?!

    The other option is as you sort of alluded to, build a computer based system, with say a JRiver Media organizer. A new computer, software, setup, wifi, Bluetooth, CD/CD burner, DAC, 4 TB storage, and on and on.

    Is the NAD M50.2 expensive? Yes. In my opinion is it worth it? Yes.

  • Mars2k

    Yes, Tidal’s Master Series has tons of files that have sampling rates above 96K. Tidal downloads all of it and the first unfolding takes it to 96K that’s done in software like the streaming app. If your player or streamer is coupled with an MQA-enabled DAC an additional unfolding will take the file to the sampling rate that the file has or the max rate the DAC can support. For example if the file is at 384 and the DAC only supports 192 then 192 is the max rate you can get with that combination.
    Much of what Tidal has is also on HDtracks for download and the native rate for each of those files seems to be the same on both sites which makes sense of course.

  • Piero Gabucci

    Good to know Tidal has MQA files 192+, thanks. Most of my high-Res is from downloading and mostly from HDTracks.

  • Mars2k

    It occurred to me after last response that you could test the whole MQA thing by locating a 192K track you are familiar with on HDTracks then stream the file from Tidal. Would be interesting to see if the proc decodes assuming you still have the unit. Having a hard time finding an MQA-enabled DAC for my system. They seam to be either USB like the Dragonfly or orders of magnitude more expensive like the Myteck Brooklyn with nothing in between. Tidal is a great service would love to get it integrated into my audio system in a way that would really take advantage of MQA technology on a respectable home system.
    Enjoyed the read thank you Piero…all the best.

  • Nuz1

    Did you use the M50.2 in conjunction with other bluesound products? I’m interested to hear how user friendly it is as the server for a whole house system. A few specific questions:

    If the unit is in standby mode and another bluoS streamer on the network is activated, does the M50.2 automatically wake to provide files to said streamer?

    a. If yes, does the screen of the front of the M50.2 become active when it is providing files to other streamers?

    b. If no and the unit has to remain powered up in order to always be ready to provide files to other streamers on the network, is there a way to turn off the screen while the unit is powered up?

  • Piero Gabucci

    Appreciate the feedback, thanks. I no longer have the unit, but as I mentioned, the timing of setting up my computer-stored files from HDTracks didn’t work out. I did spend a lot of time trying to find tracks on Tidal above 96k, which is why I questioned whether they exist. My Cambridge DAC is capable of identifying up to 384kHz but never found any. You should see more DAC’s with MQA and I just saw dCS now supports the format. Guess what those units cost?! I actually had been using the Meridian Explorer 2 DAC from my computer to my preamp, that seems very reasonably priced. That will get you to 192.

  • Mars2k

    Yes, so will the DragonFly and as with the Meridian Explorer it only has analogue out. I think that even if one of those 2 DACs, rated at 96k, receives a 96K MQA file it will completly unpack to 192K or whatever the native rate of the file is. Need to verify that though. About your Cambridge, is it MQA enabled? DAC must be MQA enabled. Lots of DACs could support MQA with a firmware change but then somebody has to pay the license fees to Meridian the owner of the protocol. As with most things the wave is rolling in but just not to shore yet. Lots of next years mainstream gear will support MQA. Its just today I want to stream Tidal through my home audio instead of my computer. I have a Bluesound Node 2 but again that’s just a streamer and does not not fully unfold above 96K. Not quite up to the standard of much of my higher rate I-Rez stuff. You are correct very little music above 192K