NAD Masters M28 Seven-Channel Power Amplifier Review Page 2

Source components used for this review included a Marantz UD7007 disc player (for music) connected to the Denon via its coaxial digital output and an Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player (for movies) linked via HDMI. Speakers included a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 10 towers, a Silver C350 center, and Revel Concerta dipole/ bipole surrounds.

The response of the front speakers in my current setup gets little in the way of low-end support from the room, so subwoofers are required to produce adequate bass. There's also a bit too much energy in the 100-200Hz region—enough to make the sound excessively warm. To overcome these limitations without relying on Audyssey room EQ or the system's two SVS PB-3000 subwoofers (more on those later), I instead used the Denon receiver's graphic EQ controls at 63, 125, and 250 Hz, finalizing the result by measurements at the listening seat (using the Parts Express Omnimic system). The L/R speakers' bass dropped off significantly below 50Hz, but I still got superb results. And the 4-6 dB bass boost required at 63 Hz didn't overtax either the speakers or the NAD amp—even in my very large listening space.

Music Performance
With this setup, bass was consistently tight and deep, and often dramatic, particularly with the hard whacks of big Taiko drums or the growling, aggressive bottom end on the organ transcription of Pictures at an Exhibition. Midrange was open and transparent, with the system sounding as good or better in my room than I've ever heard it. The top end sparkled as well, with no trace of harshness when listening to every- thing from well-recorded female vocals to crisp percussion.

How did the NAD fare in comparison with the Denon AVR's internal amp channels? With both level-matched as closely as possible—within 0.2dB or less—the class-A/B Denon amps were highly listenable on their own (this will be surprising only to those with a preconceived notion about AVR sound quality), sounding impressively clean and clear from top to bottom. Also, they laughed off the bass boost I used and were no more challenged by it than by the NAD.

Was the NAD better? I'd have to say yes. It hit a little harder in the bass, though the Denon amps never sounded strained in comparison. The NAD also sounded more relaxed while never turning soft and rendered a higher level of inner detail during complex passages. Those differences were more subtle than my words might suggest, but audiophiles live for subtle and are often willing to pay for it.


Some will argue that a high-end pre-pro is a more suitable match for the M28, and certainly a more likely one given the NAD's cost. But an admittedly brief comparison between the Denon's preamp outputs and my normally resident Marantz AV8805 pre-pro (both using unbalanced connections) revealed only small differences from the Denon, ones that would likely come down to personal preference. There were also no frequency response differences worth noting with either amp driving the Monitor Audio Silver 10 speakers (measured at the listening position with the Omnimic system, their response curves virtually overlapped after accounting for a small level difference). To minimize variables, I therefore continued using the Denon as a pre-pro from its preamp outputs to drive the NAD amp for the remainder of my review.

But how would the NAD compare with a well-regarded separate class-A/B amp in the same two-channel, no- subwoofer setup? For that I turned to the Parasound Halo A 52+, a five-channel amp I've used in many of my recent audio reviews. At matched levels, my back-and-forth listening comparisons favored the NAD by a hair. The Parasound was slightly darker and warmer (though not by much), and the NAD dryer, with more incisive leading edges on high frequency transients. Any given listener's preference here might easily shift depending on the system. I ultimately leaned in the direction of the NAD but could live happily live with the Parasound (and have for some time now). The five-channel Parasound does have a $2,000 price advantage ($3,000, or $600/channel), while the NAD offers a premium cosmetic design and seven channels ($4,999, or $714/channel).

Movies Performance
Adding in center and surround speakers to complete my listening tests, I limited the setup to 5.0 (5.2 with the subwoofers engaged). The NAD's seven channels alone aren't enough to fully power my current 5.2.4 speaker array without adding two (non-NAD) amps for the additional two speakers. And using a 5.2.2 setup (which the NAD plus powered subs can support) would have required making significant changes to my physical speaker setup—adding either an extra pair of surrounds or only a single pair of overhead Atmos speakers (the latter requiring repositioning from their current location where they're optimized for a 5.2.4 Atmos setup).

For multichannel music I went with the 5.0 setup, still without subs. Animusic is a fun Blu-ray that combines computer-generated images with electronic music mixed in DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround. The range of its selections is wide, from an elaborate percussion piece in a highly reverberant space to an odd (but thrilling) transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Listening to this disc on my system with the NAD M28 amplifier, to say the results were all I could hope for would be an understatement.

Hans Zimmer Live in Prague's ensemble combines a wide range of musicians, soloists, a large chorus, and, of course, film music composer Zimmer himself (who as a young man was a member of the rock band The Buggles, known primarily for the music video Video Killed the Radio Star!). It's a marvelously entertaining disc, particularly if, like me, you're a fan of film scores. The results were spectacularly huge and room-filling, without a trace of distortion even at high levels. While the NAD certainly wasn't solely responsible for what I was hearing, it more than held its own.

For a grand finale, I cranked up the two powered subwoofers, crossing them over to the main speakers at 90 Hz. (Using subs took some of the heavy lifting off the NAD M28, but I figured that's how most potential buyers will use it.) With this setup, the system was cooking. The sound mix for the climactic battle scene in Ender's Game came across as compelling, and How to Train Your Dragon excelled on both its music score and action scenes. But the most jaw-dropping sound with the NAD M28-powered system came from Blade Runner 2049. Watching it, I heard deep, hard-hitting deep bass and remarkable ambience that enhanced every scene.

While most of the deep bass in the 5.2 setup was coming from the subwoofers, it was the overtones above the subwoofer crossover frequency that gave the bottom-feeding growlers texture, dynamics, crispness, and dimensionality, and for that we can credit the NAD amp.

The NAD Masters M28 is an exceptional amplifier. Though pricey compared to other multi- channel amps, it's a no-brainer if it fits your needs and budget. I'd love to see an enterprising manufacturer (NAD perhaps?) offer a three-channel amp featuring Eigentakt class-D modules to drive just the front speakers in a system to supplement an otherwise competent A/V receiver. And who will be the first to design a receiver packed with a full onboard Eigentakt amplifier complement? This development is so sonically impressive that I suspect we'll see much more of it in new products over the next few years.

NAD Electronics
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