HomeTheaterReview.com Take a Listen to T 757
January 11, 2012
NAD T 757 AV Surround Sound Receiver Reviewed
By Andrew Robinson (from HomeTheaterReview.com)
Enjoyment is a simple concept; you either enjoy something or you don't - it's black and white. And yet the technology charged with aiding in our enjoyment, thus enhancing our lives, has become increasingly complicated. Take for instance home theater: HDMI was heralded as the "one cable solution" yet many of us still wonder when that cable is going to arrive. AV preamps and receivers are another area where features and so-called functions have overwhelmed performance and thus our enjoyment, replacing it instead with anxiety. And then there is 3D, which I won't even get into. It doesn't take much to begin to understand why home theater and audiophile markets are failing to turn interested consumers into long-term enthusiasts. Everything has gotten too complicated, for why should anyone invest in multiple speakers, AV receivers, higher-end cables, Blu-ray players and expensive HDTVs when a soundbar, for many, will provide the same level of enjoyment? I'm not trying to be the voice of doom here, but clearly there is a problem and a disconnect between what the people want and what manufacturers are giving them. Luckily, there are manufacturers like NAD who have always put their customers' enjoyment above all else by keeping things simple.
NAD is a manufacturer that has been with us awhile and over the years has built a very loyal customer base around the principle of music first. When everything you do falls under a singular focus, in NAD's case a focus on the purest sound reproduction, then the fog of technology becomes easier to see through, for instead of trying to navigate through it you can simply rise above it.
A perfect example of this can be found in NAD's newest AV receiver, the T 757 AV Surround Sound Receiver. The T 757 retails for $1,599, personifying another NAD ideal - value. Unlike many of today's modern AV receivers, the T 757 puts music first, which is physically evident in the T 757's Spartan appearance. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more streamlined and minimal AV receiver fascia than the one found on the T 757. Clad in NAD's trademark graphite/dark charcoal grey color, the T 757's faceplate features a large, but simple, LCD display flanked by a handful of manual controls, the most predominant being the volume dial and directional control pad. There is a small trap door that hides the T 757's front mounted inputs (composite video, analog audio, digital audio and Audyssey ) so as not to mar the T 757's otherwise tailored good looks. While the T 757 may have a minimal appearance, it's still a substantial piece; measuring 17 and an eighth inches wide by seven inches tall and 16 inches deep. The T 757 tips the scales at a respectable 34 pounds as well.
Around back the T 757 in line with the minimal theme, sports one of the cleanest back panels I've seen in terms of inputs and organization. Starting from the left and working to the right you'll first come across the T 757's digital audio and video inputs and outputs. The T 757's digital audio and video inputs reside on a card which is part of NAD's MDC platform or Modular Design Construction philosophy whereby owners will be able to upgrade the digital section of the T 757 as the technology evolves without having to purchase a whole new AV receiver. NAD has been employing their MDC philosophy for years and it has served them and their customers well for it makes products like the T 757 practically future-proof. As for the digital inputs themselves, the T 757 has three coaxial and three optical digital inputs mated to both a single optical and coaxial output. In terms of HDMI, the T 757 has four 3D compatible HDMI inputs as well as a single 3D capable HDMI monitor out. With regards to the T 757's HDMI prowess it will transcode legacy or analog video signals to the HDMI monitor out, though it will not perform any scaling to 1080p like other similarly priced AV receivers. NAD does this on purpose, claiming that scaling often occurs either at the source or at the display level, making the feature in an AV receiver such as the T 757 irrelevant and in some instances more complicated than necessary. Having lived with the T 757 for a few months I can now see what NAD is on about.
"Around back the T 757 in line with the minimal theme, sports one of the cleanest back panels I've seen in terms of inputs and organization."
Moving beyond the T 757's digital MDC AV card, you'll find (moving top to bottom) its RS-232 port, XM Radio input, MP Dock Data Port, 12-Volt trigger out, IR in and dual IR out. Continuing on you'll find the T 757's analog video inputs which include two composite, an S-Video and three component video inputs mated to a single component video monitor out as well as a single composite monitor output. To the right of the analog video inputs is the T 757's analog audio inputs, including a full compliment of 7.1 channel analog ins, which are becoming increasingly rare these days given the proliferation of HDMI and the lack of multi-channel music. There are three pairs of analog audio inputs as well as a single pair of analog audio inputs for a second zone. Strangely missing is a phono input, which I was kind of expecting to find on the T 757, especially from a company that puts so much emphasis on music coming first. But in the same breath I understand, for if pure music enjoyment is your end game, then a dedicated phono preamp is going to be what you're after. Thankfully, NAD makes a few stand-alone phono preamps that are not only sonically good but also good value. Lastly there is the T 757's antenna input, which rests just above its 7.1 channel preamp outputs. On the right side of the T 757's back panel you'll find its seven, five-way binding posts which accept all types of wire minus spade terminated cable due to the large plastic surrounds located at the base of each post. A detachable power cord as well as a switched AC outlet rounds out the T 757's list of inputs located on its back panel.
Under the hood or behind the scenes the T 757 boasts 60-Watts of what NAD claims is Full Disclosure Power, as in all channels being driven simultaneously at the point of measurement. In terms of dynamic power the T 757 is rated to 137-Watts at eight Ohms and 243-Watts at four. As for surround sound codecs the T 757 does decode and playback all of the latest formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The T 757 also has a faux surround sound DSP for two channel source material that NAD calls EARS, which isn't unlike Meridian's Tri-Field for those looking for a point of reference. The T 757 does feature Audyssey's latest room correction software but unlike other AV receivers who tout Audyssey features like a logo on their favorite NASCAR, the T 757 somewhat underplays the auto-EQ technology as if to discourage customers from using it. I like that.
The T 757 arrived on my doorstep shortly after another fine receiver, the Anthem MRX-700, left my humble abode. While the T 757 retails for less than the Anthem MRX-700 I consider them to be competitors, though upon opening the T 757's box it was immediately apparent that you couldn't ask for a more different approach to AV receiver design. The T 757 is beautiful to behold for it is simple yet elegant and immediately reminded me of another high-end brand - Classé. Not that the T 757 looks anything like Classé's latest product line, it doesn't, but it manages to be beautiful in its simplicity, not unlike Classé's SSP-800 AV preamp or CA-2300 amplifier.
"In all truthfulness, I have yet to encounter an AV receiver that is easier and faster to setup than the T 757."
Installing the T 757 in my system was as easy as making the requisite connections, plugging the sucker in and hitting power. I used a variety of loudspeakers with the T 757 beginning with Magnepan's MMGs, followed by Tekton Design's M-Lore and then later Paradigm's new Monitor 7 loudspeakers. By the end of my review I was using the T 757 as an AV preamp connected to my Parasound 5250 v.2 multi-channel amp driving my reference Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers. As for sources I utilized my Sony BDP-S580 universal Blu-ray player, Dish Network HD DVR and AppleTV. Everything be it speakers or source components were connected via Transparent Link and Wave cables; this included my reference 800 Diamonds. As for the video side of things I connected the T 757 to my Panasonic 3D plasma as well as to my Anthem D-ILA front projector via single runs of Transparent Performance HDMI cables.
Upon powering the T 757 up, I immediately pulled up its on-screen menu which was surprisingly barren, no fancy illustrations or layers of menus, just a few simple options, each of which took you to a limited set of options and controls. Setting the speaker settings within the T 757 was simple and straightforward and with the help of an SPL meter I was able to balance all of my speakers' levels in no time. From there I set the subwoofer crossover point and - voilà - I was done. Audyssey will accomplish the above mentioned tasks as well as provide some level of EQ but I chose not to use it for I don't normally like what Audyssey does to the sound of my system given that I've taken the requisite care to treat my room with acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics.
In all truthfulness I have yet to encounter an AV receiver that is easier and faster to setup than the T 757. From opening the T 757's box to pressing play on my Blu-ray player and sitting down for a quick demo the entire process took maybe 15 minutes. I let the T 757 play for a solid 24 hours before sitting down for any sort of critical listening.
I began my evaluation of the T 757 by testing its power rating, which compared to some AV receivers available today may seem low at 60-Watts of power. Well, the T 757's 60-Watts was more than up to the task, powering the less than efficient Magnepan MMGs. Satisfied that the T 757 could punch above their weight class in terms of power I experimented with speakers, flip flopping between the affordable Paradigm Monitor 7 v. 7 floorstanding speaker and the Internet direct darling Tekton Design M-Lore. Both the Monitor 7 and M-Lore are efficient designs (91dB plus) and have fairly benign loads, which suited the T 757 just fine. Both have a slight edge to their high frequency performance that makes for a somewhat upfront presentation, something the T 757 retained though it sounded far more weighty and fleshed out than with other AV receivers I've demo'ed recently. Regardless of the three budget loudspeakers I used to initially test the T 757's abilities, one thing became readily apparent: the T 757 was decidedly higher-end sounding than I had originally thought possible, which lead me to want to connect it to and power my reference, $24,000 per pair Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamonds.
"The entire sequence when played back via the T 757 felt more weighty, lifelike and natural than what I had become accustomed to."
With my 800 Diamonds connected I jumped right into some of my favorite cinematic demos beginning with The Matrix on Blu-ray disc (Warner Brothers). Chaptering ahead to the lobby shootout towards the end of the film I was reminded of the shift that has occurred in mixing techniques over the years. Modern films, like The Matrix, are mixed almost exclusively in the digital realm which allows for more complex and ultimately more engaging sound and surround sound mixes; however these techniques have introduced a sharpness and focus to the sound of many films which is accentuated when played back through theater speakers. For instance, when the SWAT team runs towards Neo and Trinity just before the shootout, their uniforms and various buckles, shoes and guns ring like bells on Santa's sleigh. Through the T 757 those same sound effects felt more dimensional and organic - dare I say analog - than through some of today's feature-laden AV receivers and/or AV preamps. The entire sequence when played back via the T 757 felt more weighty, lifelike and natural than what I had become accustomed to. The entire scene felt and sounded more three-dimensional and thus was more engaging, not to mention enveloping, which surprised me. Furthermore, the T 757 bass prowess was staggering and among the best I've heard fromany AV receiver. The T 757's ability to retrieve the subtlest of low-end cues was something I wasn't prepared for. I got the sense that the designers at NAD don't view subwoofers as one-trick ponies capable of only reproducing low rumbles and seat stirring punches - instead the T 757 treated my JL Audio Fathom f110 with the same respect and finesse it gave my 800 Diamonds. Dynamically the T 757 was a little timid, lacking that last ounce of snap and violence that is sometimes called for with scenes such as the lobby shootout.
Next, I cued up another favorite, Moulin Rouge! on Blu-ray (20th Century Fox). Jumping to the scene where Nicole Kidman's and Ewan McGregor's characters first meet, the T 757 proved equally adept at dialog and subtle ambient cues, as it was large-scale action. While it may have been difficult to hear past Kidman's orgasmic-like musings, there was a lot more to this scene aurally than I believe many hear, something I quickly realized with the T 757 in my rig. The subtle cues of Paris at night and the nightclub still bustling below were all present and accounted for and clearly audible despite the action taking place center stage - I mean screen. Dialog was clear and natural with solid weight and dimension, which helped to anchor the actors in the space beyond just their visual appearance on screen. When things finally take a turn for the musical, the T 757's audiophile DNA was readily apparent, possessing a rhythmic liquidity that defied the digital signal driving the performance. The fireworks featured in the McGregor's performance of Elton John's "Your Song" showed me that perhaps I judged the T 757's dynamic prowess a bit too soon for the initial pops were in fact explosive and surprising.
"The entire scene felt and sounded more three-dimensional and thus was more engaging, not to mention enveloping, which surprised me."
Sticking with musicals I cued up Burlesque (Sony) starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. The chapter featuring the original song "Express" had it all for the T 757 to sink its teeth into; airy highs, vocals and thunderous bass. The obviously enhanced finger snaps of the performers possessed more of a "fleshy" sound, like two fingers popping off one another, than an artificial sound effect made to stand in for the real thing. This was a brilliant showcase of the T 757 high frequency mettle, specifically its ability to resolve and retain detail and air. Again, true dimension seemed to be the name of the game. Aguilera's vocals too seemed richer, more organic and sat better within the soundstage, which I must say was more recessed (though not vague) than with other AV receivers. Despite the T 757's slight accentuation of its lower midrange and propensity for bass, the performance didn't sound or feel at all sluggish or overly lush. As for the bass the T 757 was, again, surprising, retaining more of the drums' natural texture and decay than any AV receiver before it.
The other nice thing about the T 757's performance as it pertained to movies was that at no point did I notice it to be altering or taking anything away from the visuals on screen. I could detect no differences in picture quality when I passed the various 1080p signals through the T 757 versus when I went straight into my Panasonic plasma. Also, the T 757 passed every 3D test by locking onto and displaying 3D signals without incident - evident in my demo of Resident Evil: Afterlife on Blu-ray 3D (Sony).
Prior to the T 757 arrival the majority of experience I had with NAD, long term, came in the form of their two-channel products, specifically their 320BEE integrated amp, 218 THX amplifier and S-300 integrated amp, which I still consider to be among the most beautiful pieces of audiophilia ever. So, imagine my surprise when I realized that the T 757 had all the audiophile chops of the before-mentioned products and then some. If I had to pick a specific track with which to summarize the T 757's two-channel performance it would be my demo of Diana Krall's "A Case of You" from her Live in Paris CD, which I had ripped to my AppleTV. The opening piano was delectable and oh-so sweet; blooming with air and texture that upon closing my eyes sounded hauntingly like the real thing. Krall's vocals were spot on and her placement, ever so slightly right of center, was rock solid within the expansive soundstage. Again, the T 757 did prove to be a bit laid back in its overall presentation, possessing one of the more cavernous soundstages I've heard in a long while but the combined effect was nothing if not soulful.
"As for the bass the T 757 was, again, surprising, retaining more of the drums' natural texture and decay than any AV receiver before it."
After listening to several two-channel tracks, be they the smooth jazz vocals of Diana Krall or the driving rock of Audioslave's guitars, I came to understand the T 757. The T 757 isn't an AV receiver, not when you think about it in the context of a Denon or Onkyo product. No, the T 757 is more a multi-channel integrated amplifier that just so happens to accept a video signal. When you view the T 757 in that light and live with it day-to-day and realize how trouble-free your home theater experience has become, you begin to look at other home theater products and think how did this become so complicated?
While I may not consider the following items to be a downside, inevitably some of you will. For starters the T 757 does not perform any sort of video upconversion or processing like what you might find with other, similarly priced, AV receivers. Instead the T 757's video capabilities are similar to that of a HDMI switcher passing the signal through without altering it in any way. Remember, the T 757 (and NAD) is a "music first" company so it should come as no surprise that they didn't waste any time or money on video trickery for that would've required too much attention and thus taken the designers' focus away from the T 757's sound quality.
Next, the T 757's setup procedure is decidedly simple. How is that a downside you ask? Well, if you're a tweaker the T 757 is going to disappoint, for you can't set your speaker distances to the nearest centimeter, nor can you manually set your EQ for the T 757 doesn't have one. It has digital tone controls not unlike what you'd get with an NAD integrated amplifier but multi-band EQ? You'll have to rely on Audyssey for that - however at this level you still can't tweak it.
When using HDMI for two channel audio signals, specifically those coming from my AppleTV, there was a slight delay that preceded every track resulting in a half second of silence, which was kind of annoying. This silence was not heard while watching Blu-ray discs nor when watching broadcast HD content leading me to wonder about its cause. When I connected my AppleTV to the T 757 via a pair of analog interconnects coming from my outboard DAC, the delay ceased.
Lastly, the T 757 just isn't complicated enough for an AV receiver. Instead it's more or less a multi-channel integrated amplifier, which suits me fine but is bound to upset those who demand more from an AV receiver even if that more comes by way of features they'll ultimately never use. Though one feature that I believe would benefit the T 757 would be some form of streaming and/or Internet music capability - at the very least Bluetooth connectivity.
Competition and Comparison
At or around $1,500 retail the NAD T 757 faces some stiff competition and the first that comes to my mind is Anthem's line-up of AV receivers - specifically the MRX-500, which is priced at $1,499. The MRX-500 boasts 75-Watts of power across all five channels, is 3D capable and features video processing not to mention Anthem's own ARC room correction software, which is superior to Audyssey though not as easy to use.
"Remember, the T 757 (and NAD) is a 'music first' company so it should come as no surprise that they didn't waste any time or money on video trickery for that would've required too much attention and thus taken the designers' focus away from the T 757's sound quality."
Another challenger has to be Cambridge Audio's Azur 650R A/V receiver at $1,599. Like the NAD, the Azur's focus is squarely placed upon music and movie soundtrack reproduction. The Azur is even lighter on the video side of things, boasting three HDMI inputs all of which are HDMI 1.3c, so not 3D capable.
Lastly, there's the far more expensive Arcam AVR500, which boasts more power, more features and connection options, though like with the Azur, 3D is missing from the Arcam's equation. Still, like the NAD, the Arcam AVR500 is equally simple and attractive and another AV receiver that puts the music first - even if that means paying more than double what you would for the T 757.
You may notice that none of the big-box manufacturers are listed here and for good reason. While Onkyo and Denon may make more AV receivers than the before-mentioned manufacturers combined, none of them can sonically hold a candle to the NAD. While the mass-market AV receivers are good in their own rights - most are phenomenal values - they just aren't as emotionally engaging. That being said, they're easier to find for they're sold virtually everywhere. For more on AV receivers please visit Home Theater Review's AV Receiver page.
I'm just going to come out and say it: I love the NAD T 757 AV receiver, not just for the things it does but for the things it doesn't do, for it's singular focus on sound quality is not only brilliant, it's also refreshing. AV preamps and receivers have become far too complicated over the years, becoming mini computers in their own right, computers that perform tasks that are already being handled elsewhere in the signal chain. Sure there are some features I wish were present, mainly Internet connectivity and/or Bluetooth capability, but the T 757's omissions aren't enough to get me to back off my enthusiasm for this wonderful receiver because it does what few AV receivers manage and that is sound decidedly high-end.
Even when I desired more power I didn't disengage the T 757 from my system, instead I utilized it as an AV preamp, for it sonically outperformed all the other AV preamps I had on hand. I've reviewed a lot of AV receivers over the years and I can't think of a single one that has moved me quite the way the T 757 has.
If you want to get off the AV receiver rollercoaster or perhaps the home theater train altogether and just get on with enjoying your music, movies and life, I can think of no better receiver to take you to your final destination than the NAD T 757.
For the full T 757 Review, and more reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com, click here.
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