Raw power, no frills

Richard Stevenson auditions the wild child of audio visual receivers and finds that this non-conformist is a credit to the NAD lineage

NAD is not a brand to follow the masses. In fact, while the AVR herd are grazing on features and connecting to the milking machine of network integration, NAD receivers are more ‘free range’. The T757 goes a step further and is truly feral. What we have here is a significantly wallet-wrenching AV receiver that has thrown off what are considered basic features on even budget models costing one-fifth of the price. Instead, this chunky beast concentrates on sonic performance, delivering your speakers an ultra- clean analogue signal designed to make your ears love you. I would even go so far as to say that its dark grey exterior and clean lines make it the best-looking NAD receiver yet, too.

Not as EQ as others

So let’s look at what the T757 doesn’t do. There is no Room EQ as NAD believes in the more purist ‘hi-fi ’ approach to sound. There is no fancy GUI, no App-based remote control and no networking functionality. While the relatively frugal 4-in/1-out HDMI connectivity has 3D/deep colour switching compatibility the T757 has no upscaling or Audio Return Channel functionality. If you have an old DVD player or standard- definition broadcast TV the NAD will convert analogue inputs to HDMI, but only at native resolution. Given that anyone in the market for a £1,500 AVR probably already has an upscaling Blu-ray player or upconverting TV anyway, maybe this isn’t such a great loss after all.

Connectivity is pretty comprehensive, but the lack of USB input is a pain for those with a penchant for digital music devices, or who regularly use their notebook PC as a source. The T757 does offer some iPod integration, but only by using the optional IPD-2 dock, which will cost you another hundred quid. Fully-powered zone 2 audio output can be achieved using channels 6 & 7 and NAD supplies a credit-card style second zone remote for this application. Alternatively you use those amplifiers to run 5.1 and bi-amp the front channels, which works a treat with the T757.

NAD has significantly upgraded its user interface and onscreen menus for the T757. Its simple text menus are speedy to navigate and presented at 1080p over HDMI. An onscreen mini-menu is also available that shows base-line info (volume adjustments etc) for a few seconds overlaid over the on screen content. The menu methodology is straightforward enough, albeit after getting used to a quirk of the remote control; when you have highlighted a feature in the menu, you have to press the right arrow to select it rather than the more usual ‘enter’ key. Surreal.

And then there is the specification sheet. While supremely low distortion and excellent signal-to-noise figures are indeed impressive, 60W per channel is not. Looking at the beefy power supplies and solid internal build of the T757, I can only conclude that some of the smaller components, such as the transistors, have been chosen for their sonic abilities rather than their power output. That said, if it can actually produce a genuine 60W (see test) for all seven channels when the going gets tough, it will then perform on par with most AVRs that like to claim power well over 100W on paper.

From an installer’s point of view, the T757 is also well up to spec with RS232 control and plenty of 12v triggers and iR repeaters. One of this NAD’s most appealing features is its Modular Design Construction. Claimed to enable users to embrace the ever-changing world of AV technology without having to ditch their original investment, MDC means that most sections of the T757 can be swapped out and upgraded as and when they are available. Theoretically, when we are all loving 4k x 2k video the NAD’s HDMI board can be swapped out for one capable of handling this super high-definition format. The MDC concept has won NAD a prestigious Reddot Design Award.

Teething problems

The built-in Audyssey auto setup is a trimmed down system with only single point measurement and relatively coarse adjustment of dB levels and speaker distance. It also had quite an epic hiccup indicating that my monster Tannoy Dimension TD12 loudspeakers were ‘small’ and the Velodyne DD18 subwoofer was out of phase, irrespective of whether it was set at 0 ̊ or 180 ̊ phase. Several re-runs with the microphone in different places failed to get any different result, so I resorted to manual setup.

So, thus far we have an AVR that is rather expensive, bereft of features, low powered, hampered by a quirky remote control and utterly beleaguered with set-up issues in my room. As receiver reviews go, they don’t start much worse than that.

However, in a come-back that The Who would be proud of, the T757 pulls magic out of the bag with its unfettered audio muscle and a soundstage richer than a tray of Belgian chocolates. It sounds warm and robust with an engaging atmosphere that actually makes it difficult to concentrate on how it sounds, without falling into the plot of the movie. Such is its enveloping nature the speakers seem to disappear, leaving you cosseted by the smooth and inviting soundstage.

Packing a punch

Big action blockbusters have palpable clout too. Those 60W per channel seem to punch well above their weight, although the subwoofer channel is relied on heavily to build the real sub-sonic presence that underpins the movie. In fact, I wonder if the penchant of the auto-set-up to set speakers to small is not actually engineered to offload more current hungry low frequency output to the subwoofer. It’s an interesting conspiracy theory, but play Fast & Furious 5 and it really doesn’t matter. The cars howl, the gunshots pound the room and the girls look fabulous. I realise that this has little to do with the AVR, but it is of note that the T757 does nothing to get in the way of one’s appreciation.

The more esoteric Paul on Blu-ray is a feast of effects from the opening sound of the huge door shutting to the crowd scenes at the San Diego geek convention. The soundtrack moves along at a pace, while dialogue is bold and solid. The lack of EQ allows my room’s 60Hz boost to get a little noticeable, but it never gets overbearing. The upshot is the size of the soundstage and the positioning of effects in it is not quite as crisp and precise as some of the NAD’s peers, but the sheer presence more than makes up for it.

Musical talents

While I don’t usually mention too much about stereo music reproduction, the T757 rather demands it. With the front channels in bi-amp mode, there is plenty of power and no hint of the top-end grain that can afflict some AVRs when listening to a high quality two-channel source.

It laps up a range of musical styles, eking out the detail in complex classical music, while rocking the sofa with more up-tempo material. After living with the T757 for a week, it feels more like a good hi-fi amplifier with the added benefit of providing stellar AV surround sound service as well. And I might even be able to live without those missing features yet.


HCC VERDICT

NAD T757
Price:
£1,500 Approx

Highs: Rich and enveloping sound;  great stereo performance; modular  design construction
Lows: No EQ; USB input or networking; basic onscreen menus

Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 2/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

Dolby Digital TrueHD: YES
DTS-HD Master Audio: YES
THX: NO
Multichannel audio: YES 7 x 60W
Multichannel input: YES, 7.1 rcA input
Multiroom: YES, 1 powered audio zone
AV inputs: YES, 3 composite, 1 S-video inputs, 4 optical and 3 coaxial
HDMI input/output: YES 4-in, 1-out v1.3 (3d bandwidth but no Arc)
Video upscaling: NO
Component input/output: YES 3-in, 1-out
Dimensions: 435(w) x 172(h) x 397(d)mm
Weight: 15kg
Features: modular design construction; iPod support via optional dock; front mounted optical digital input