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T 757 Pushing Less is More to New Heights

November 25, 2011

Sound and Vision Test Report :NAD T 757 A/V Surround Sound Receiver 

By Daniel Kumin

When I reviewed one of the first of NAD’s long-awaited “new generation” A/V receivers almost 2 years ago (can it be?). I liked it a lot.

Know what? I like this one even better. NAD, a company long known for different-drummer-marching if not iconoclasticism, has taken its "less is more" approach to A/V electronics to new heights, a fact evident from even a casual glance at the T 757's front panel. You'll see one knob, a 4+1 way cursor/enter pad, and four buttons — period. No 2011 AV Receiver Award Recommendedtouch controls, no thicket of keys behind a drop-down "modesty panel", nada. And the elegant remote controller is just as clean.

I admire the design freshness and forthrightness: The T 757 is a bold stroke for simplicity and usability. To prove it, let me begin with the stuff NAD leaves out (all or most of which you'll find on every price competitor): a printed owner's manual (you get a PDF on CD-ROM), superfluous composite- and S-video jacks (you get one output of each flavor, plus two composite ins), superfluous stereo audio jacks (three inputs, no record outputs), THX (anything), any video processing beyond analog-to-HDMI conversion, any DSP-synthesizing ambience listening modes whatsoever, network streaming, an MP3 "restorer" feature. And there's more. Now, be honest: Is any of the foregoing a deal-breaker?

Also absent are puffed-up power ratings: NAD specs the T 757 at 60 watts, all channels driven simultaneously, full-range, at <0.05% distortion. Yet it still qualifies as 7 x 120 watts under the FTC measurement standard.

Stuff you do get includes basic Audyssey auto setup/speaker calibration (but not room-correction EQ), plenty of HDMI and component-video inputs (four each), Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, and plenty of thoughtful design elements.

SETUP

Slotting the T 757 into an all-HDMI layout could hardly be simpler: Connect HDMI and speaker wires, plug in the supplied Audyssey calibration mike, run the routine, and you're done. I loved the NAD's onscreen display: instant on/off with clear, plain text, plainly laid out with a minimum of choices and menu branchings.

There are a few subsequent options to be considered, mostly on the Input page, but nearly all can be left at their defaults with the user none the wiser; the NAD will just "work". And this again emphasizes NAD's design mantra for the T 757:less. There are very few optional listening modes (essentially, Dolby PLIIx and DTS Neo:6), and none that are likely to be wildly inappropriate, regardless of program. There's no picture formatting or video "enhancing". Consequently, even the most unsophisticated users will find it difficult to make the output of NAD's receiver "sound funny" or "look weird"

PERFORMANCE

NAD makes a good deal of fuss in print about its “music-first” design brief, so given this (and my experience of many an earlier NAD), I expected superior sound from my initial full-range stereo auditions. I was not disappointed. The T 757 plays far, far louder/cleaner than you’d expect from a "60-watt" receiver, and in fact I found little if anything to distinguish its 2-channel sound from that of my everyday, 150-watt power amplifier.

"...punchy with excellent bass control, but also smooth, detailed, and full of the subtle, ultra-precise pan-pot imaging. I expect from top-shelf, big-studio productions."

For example, clean studio pop like Jackson Browne's "About My Imagination" (from 2002's The Naked Ride Home) sounded exemplary: punchy with excellent bass control, but also smooth, detailed, and full of the subtle, ultra-precise pan-pot imaging. I expect from top-shelf, big-studio productions. Whatever I played, the T 757 maintained the NAD T 757 A/V Surround Sound Receiver simultaneous solidity and quickness that's characteristic of ample, well-controlled power. A favourite recording of Stravingsky's L'historie du soldat wowed me with wonderfully believable timbres and deep ambience.

The T 757 includes NAD's proprietary EARS (Enhanced Ambience Retrieval System) listening mode for stereo signals. While that's a hokey acronym, EARS is a simple, highly effective surround mode relying on the ambient phase cues embedded in natural-acoustic stereo recordings, one that seems conceived under the Hippocratic oath of "first, do not harm". When this was engaged, the Stravinsky disc enjoyed a quietly airy, defined, lifelike presence, particularly notable on the "puff" of trumpet attacks.

"Good as the T 757's performance rates, its human factors score even higher: snappy control responses, an instant-appearing (and –disappearing) pop-up display strip that steps through all the important signal and mode status info in good detail, and lots of other smart touches you don't notice at first."

Usually, we listen to movie sound less closely, or at least less critically, than we do music, but there are exceptions. The Blu-ray of Black Swanis a prime example, Tchaikovsky's ballet music is a star of the show, and the T 757 delivered every note of the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack with authority and nuance. The fine gradations of hall ambience, from rehearsal studios to practice rooms to main stage, also sounded effortless.

ERGONOMICS

Good as the T 757's performance rates, its human factors score even higher: snappy control responses, an instant-appearing (and –disappearing) pop-up display strip that steps through all the important signal and mode status info in good detail, and lots of other smart touches you don't notice at first. For example, the receiver's volume control moves by 1-dB steps, instead of the oft-seen 0.5 dB; most people won't discern half-decibel changes, so what's the point? Combined with the perfect remote-volume "ballistics", this makes achieving the desired setting superbly easy. A small point, but what's the single control you use most often?

One omission I mourned a little is direct-DSD decoding for SACDs—though the T 757 reproduced player-decoded multichannel 176/24 PCM just fine, and sounded splendid doing so. Another is the absence of easily accessible channel-level trims.(You must travel to the Setup menu to tweak channel levels, and then cycle back to reset them).

Any inconvenience here is mitigated considerably, however, by NAD’s valuable Preset routine, which allows you to store 5 combinations of every setup parameter, including listening mode, tone control, and channel levels, crossovers, and delays, for recall either manually or by associating a preset with an input source. When you combine this with the T 757's ability to "delete" unused inputs, and to set the default surround modes independently at each input for incoming stereo and multichannel signals, it should be quite easy to set up an almost idiot-proof system.

"...quite easy to set up an almost idiot-proof system."

The theme of plainness applies to video processing: Aside from converting analog video to HDMI, there ain’t none. (NAD says it leaves processing to the TV or projector "where it belongs"). The T 757 passes HDMI and component video (and composite/S-video) signals untouched to their respective monitor outputs, and also digitizes and converts the latter three at their incoming format/resolution to HDMI. That's all there is, but if you have a Blu-ray and HD cable/satellite source (and realistically, you almost certainly do), what more do you need?

NAD T 757 A/V Surround Sound Receiver  with MDCIn the "extras" column, NAD's new model remains true to its roots. There are no network-streaming, wireless, or virtual-surround features—though there are well-thought-out audio-only Zone 2 facilities, complete with a nice, sub-compact second-room remote. NAD's optional iPod/Phone dock ($159) promises to integrate your iThingy thoroughly into you're A/V system, which is pretty much a market necessity today. And there's an input for an XM Radio antenna (and subscription) for those who can't get enough data-compressed sound right here on earth.

But one of the T 757's most intriguing extras is easily overlooked: something that NAD calls MDC, for Modular Design Concept. This puts key technology sections—specifically, digital audio and video (HDMI)—on discrete, "card-cage" subassemblies that can be swapped out by a local NAD dealer. (NAD has already delivered large numbers, at $400 to $600 apiece, to upgraders of earlier-model MDC receivers). So when HDMI spec 2.7c comes along a decade hence—the one with Smell-o-Vision and Holo-deck options—you won't have to scarp your whole T 757.

BOTTOM LINE

'More of what you want and less of what you don't". That might have been NAD's credo in designing the T 757, and it's one I can subscribe to with considerable enthusiasm. The T 757's audio performance was entirely above reproach, and its "hands off the video" philosophy will serve most contemporary systems just fine. This refined receiver's price is not insubstantial, but then again neither is its performance.

 

For the full online review from Sound and Vision, click here.

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