In action-oriented film sequences, such as the XF-1l spy plane crash scene from The Aviator, the M15 and M25 carried themselves with equal parts poise and dynamic swagger. They caught the violent screech of the XF-11’s wing peeling the top off a Beverly Hills residence like some demonic can opener, but then shifted gears to capture Hughes's post-crash urgency as he gasps, “I’m Howard Hughes, the aviator…” Some components handle big moments well while others are good at finesse, but few can do both things at once at such a high level. But more importantly, the M15/M25 pair offers natural, unforced clarity on dialog. Listen to the golf course banter between Hughes and Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) in The Aviator, and you will hear why Blanchett won an Academy Award for her performance (her Hepburn accent is spot on).
On CDs and high-resolution music material, the M15 and M25 proved delightful. They did a fine job of capturing small details and textures, faithfully conveying the sense of air and space surrounding performers. Like many high-end audio components, the NAD pair shows a certain chameleon- like quality, reflecting the sonic characteristics of whatever material they are fed. And when fed well-made recordings, the NAD pair sounds jaw-droppingly great.
I savored Steve Strauss’s performance of the Springsteen tune “Youngstown” from Just Like Love, an SACD released under the German audiophile label Stockfisch. Strauss’s dark, rough-hewn voice appeared front and center, reinforced by his light, supple guitar work. In the near background, a crack team of sidemen including guitarist Chris Jones, fretless bassist Hans-Jörg Maucksch, and percussionist Beo Brockhausen helped flesh out the sound. But what really made the track jump was eerie low percussion whose ominous thumping and clanking was reminiscent of heavy machinery from a steel mill. I was deeply impressed by the way the NAD gear at once delineated and yet wove together these diverse musical elements within a holographic, three-dimensional soundstage. Multichannel audio just doesn’t get much better than this.