Lifestyle. The phrase keeps creeping into the audiophile conversation. Seems that regular people are being courted by traditional, stalwart high-fidelity manufacturers more, and more. There’s been a realization that there’s a lot of money to be made from a lifestyle audio product designed to woo neophytes listening to TV sound bars, and smart phone docks into spending hard-earned cash for something that sounds better.
Lifestyle can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but in this context I’m talking about getting average people who love music – who are not just in love with the gear associated with playing it back – to invest in something more than a Beats Pill to have higher-quality audio playback capabilities in their lives. This is not as easy as you’d think because there’s a lot of tech knowledge that goes along with getting buy-in. First, try explaining what FLAC means, and why it sounds better than Mp3, and why someone who listens to free streaming services should pay for lossless streaming on Tidal. MQA? Good Lord, have you ever heard a rep stumble through an explanation of MQA? People’s eyes glaze over within seconds, and they leave the room confused.
Nope, it seems a straightfoward approach is best, just play the music for the people, and lure them in with an attractive box that does it all (minus speakers, and source), and let them realize for themselves what they’ve been missing. NAD seems to get this, as the company’s M32 Direct Digital Amplifier was in full control of the Sonus Faber Amati loudspeakers it was connected to via Transparent cabling at the Vancouver Audio Festival hosted by HiFi Centre. Featuring NAD’s Modular Design Construction (MDC) the chassis houses four slots (one is already occupied by a SPDIF module from the factory) for expansion modules so you can customize your 24/192-capable inputs/outputs. Options include AES/EBU, Coaxial (x2), Optical (x2), and USB-B. Partnered with the BluOS™ wireless multi-room music software system, a moving-magnet phono stage, two line-level inputs, and a discrete headphone amp, along with full MQA certification, the M32 has a lot of future-proof built in.
A lot of people in Vancouver wanted hear the difference between MQA, and other digital formats during demonstrations in this room throughout the festival, and I have to say there was considerable buy-in from attendees on the MQA sound vs anything else. I’m already a fan of what MQA is doing with their mastering, and streaming codec technology, as I prefer titles that have had the MQA treatment to those I’ve heard which haven’t in head-to-head comparisons, and through the M32 the difference seemed obvious to everyone listening.