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The Perfect Vision T 163 and T 973

May 7, 2004

The Perfect Vision
May 2004
Reviewer: Neil Gader

....Certainly there are competitors outfitted with a more complete set of bells and whistles, but not all of them will reproduce what a real bell and genuine whistle actually sound like as well as the T 163/T 973.

...For true coolness consider the five custom A/V presets. They store individual system configurations, preferences, and calibrations (in non-volatile memory) that can be recalled at the press of a button. Each input has its own level controls, is assignable, and can be renamed at will. The T 973 amplifier uses modular mono-block amplifier architecture and outputs 140Wpc. Since NAD doesn't fudge its numbers, this rating isn't puff pastry either. It means continuous power, with all seven channels playing simultaneously at full bandwidth and rated distortion. That's nearly one kilowatt pouring off the rails...

....The advantages of isolating the preamp/controller stage from the amplifier section are well known—separate chassis improve isolation and signal-to-noise ratios, and lower distortion, while discrete power supplies result in a cleaner DC supply (particularly important for the delicate preamp circuitry). Thus separates have always been held to a higher standard than integrated components. The crucial question becomes whether there is a perceivable sonic advantage that can make up for the loss of cabinet space and convenience. The envelope please. Even in comparison to the favourably reviewed NAD T 762 A/V receiver (Issue 49), the T 163/T 973 combination makes a strong case for separates, but in subtle ways. Their character was neutral with only a vestigial treble coolness that lightly thinned upper harmonics. Midbass and low bass were better defined than they are with the T 762—warm yet pitch-specific. A cappella singer Laurel Massé [Feather And Bone, Premonition] sounded exceedingly smooth with a warm, almost pillowy softness in her top octaves. The NAD duo also scored big with bass definition, and with low-frequency dynamics that didn't falter even into my notoriously low-sensitivity ATC monitors—speakers that make watts disappear faster than Krispy Kremes at a donut convention. The NADs' bass power and control produced electric pulses, kick drums, and orchestral and soundstage information with dimensionality. Yet in true audiophile fashion, the NAD combo was at its most persuasive capturing the intimate relationship between music and the silent landscape that supports it. Images were tightly focused and distinctly positioned, assisted in no small part by the delicacy of this system's microdynamics.

"Certainly there are competitors outfitted with a more complete set of bells and whistles, but not all of them will reproduce what a real bell and genuine whistle actually sound like as well as the T 163 / T 973."

....NAD's E.A.R.S. (Enhanced Ambience Recovery System) deserves special kudos for the natural, analog smoothness with which it derives multichannel from stereo sources. Since it doesn't employ logic and runs each channel fullrange, it produces a much more liquid sound in comparison to Pro Logic or DTS music algorithms...

...The T 163 and T 973 continue a NAD tradition of audio excitement tempered with refinement and understatement. Rather than adopt a du jour technology, NAD hones the most popular and proven advancements while making them as ergonomically inviting as possible. To be sure, a brace of separates like these will provide a hedge against obsolescence that even the best one-boxers can't provide. You can upgrade one at a time, at your own pace, likely saving a few bucks in the bargain. Certainly there are competitors outfitted with a more complete set of bells and whistles, but not all of them will reproduce what a real bell and genuine whistle actually sound like as well as the T 163/T 973. The NAD electronics illustrate the A/V maxim that in a game of percentages it's still awfully hard to beat a strong team of separates...

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