|NAD T762 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Christopher Zell, Ph.D.|
|Monday, 01 September 2003|
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I wanted to see if the NAD could rock, and what better source for that than “Live in San Francisco” (Sony Music Entertainment), the double disc DVD concert video from one of my guitar heroes, Joe Satriani. I could listen to Joe play all day, and the NAD served the music well, once again creating excitement without being edgy and fatiguing. On “Flying in a Blue Dream,” Joe’s singing, melodic guitar rose above the throbbing, palpable beat pounded out by Stu Hamm (certainly one of the finest bassists in rock) and drummer Jeff Campitelli, escalating into chunky raw riffs with great detail, then back and forth between the two styles as only Satriani can do. Sonics through the T762 were powerful and melodic, sometimes both at the same time. The surprising old-time rock ‘n’ roll prelude to “Summer Song” was a real treat, with Hamm and Satriani trading licks back and forth before blasting into the familiar, punchy rhythm of this extremely invigorating cut. Moving on to one of Joe’s trademark melodic compositions, “Always With Me, Always With You,” the NAD was musical and spacious, as the surrounds creating a very realistic feel for the large hall. Sparser numbers such as this, and Stu Hamm’s spectacular “Bass Solo” highlighted the T762’s ability to recreate the original event, complete with the echoes and imperfections, as well as the power that only a live concert can provide. The NAD was up to driving to very high levels, not quite able to reach reference volume with 100 watts a channel, but loud and clean up to that point. The NAD’s proprietary Soft Clipping made the transition unobjectionable, subtly compressing the dynamics rather than turning harsh as the volume is cranked especially high. To be safe, I have soft clipping engaged for sources like this where I’m likely to lose my head and goose it with reckless abandon, allowing me to have my fun worry-free.
I found the NAD T762 to be a consistently solid performer with movies, as was certainly the case with Tim Burton’s “Batman” (Warner Home Video). I have always thought the original film in the “Batman” series was the best, creating an appealing dark mood and quirkiness that was present in the early comic books I read over and over again as a youth. Danny Elfman’s score was at various times mysterious, majestic and melodious through the NAD, providing a large part of the alluring atmosphere radiating from this film. During scenes such as Jack Nicholson’s Joker riding a float into downtown Gotham City to the addicting music of Prince, the T762 rocked and shocked, as it should, helping to create one of the most memorable moments in the film. Despite the fact that this is an action film, filled with raucous, almost over the top sounds, fights and effects, the NAD not was overly etched or fatiguing. This did not mean that its presentation was soft or euphonic, evidenced by the easily intelligible conversation in complex sections, or the wealth of very clear underlying details in the Vegas style party in Bruce Wayne’s mansion. The clicking of heals on the floor, glasses clinking, chips rustling, and the roulette wheel rolling in the background all articulated the wealth of detail that the NAD provided. This receiver worked well in all of the various films I viewed, never calling attention to itself or offensive, but still providing jump when appropriate.
I spent a few nights enjoying the DVD-Audio disc Vespertine (Electra Entertainment Group) from Icelandic pop artist Bjork. The unique music on this disc, while bearing many similarities to her other albums, is influenced by the album’s namesake, the traditional evening prayers sung by monks (vespers). There is no mistaking Bjork’s varying, sometimes almost childlike vocals and general quirky style, but I found this disc soothing and subtle musically (if not always lyrically), consistently rewarding and interesting. Her unique ability to move gently from strange sounds and beats into starkly contrasting, beautiful melodies on tracks such as “Hidden Place” was portrayed very well through the T762. All of the details and curious sounds underlying the melodic choir and orchestra on “It’s Not Up To You” were clearly brought out by the NAD, flowing nicely into the pretty, almost waltz-influenced refrain. Quite often, the center channel information on this disc is purposely quite strong, making the room enlarge in all directions in an eye-opening manner when the music finally opens up into the four remaining channels. Overall, Vespertine was an excellent, enveloping, and strangely soothing late night experience through the NAD surround receiver.
Regardless of how much I enjoy multi-channel audio, the majority of music that I own and enjoy is still two-channel. Therefore, the T762’s performance with two-channel material was extremely important to me. In addition to testing the T762’s two-channel prowess, it was very interesting to play around with the processing of stereo to multi-channel playback on this and other discs. Each of the primary processing algorithms, Dolby Pro Logic II, EARS, DTS NEO:6, and Matrix 7.1 had its own unique strengths and weaknesses. I would not declare a winner among them, each complementing different songs in distinctive manners. If forced to generalize, I would say that the well-recorded and detailed cuts tended to favor straight two-channel, while others often benefited from the extra ambience and spaciousness provided by multi-channel modes. I know this sounds wishy-washy and noncommittal, but it is amazing how each album, and even different cuts within an album, were each synergistic with different treatments. The exception may have been Matrix 7.1 which, while occasionally fun, was usually too aggressive in the surrounds for my taste. The more options of quality stereo to multi-channel processing modes available in a home theater processor or receiver, the merrier for me. I enjoy having them all at my disposal, especially when there are adjustable parameters available for further fine tuning and tailoring.
I listened extensively to an interesting disc I have rediscovered of late, Situation Dangerous (Magna Carta) by drummer Terry Bozzio, bassist Tony Levin and guitarist Steve Stevens. Although not entirely improvised like their first album, Black Light Syndrome, the new offering from this virtuoso trio still takes you on a rollicking musical tour of wild, progressive, and flamenco-tinged rock, through melodious and atmospheric jazz, and everything in between. Listening to “Endless” in two-channel mode, the NAD depicted a great sense of space between Stevens’ clear acoustic and electric guitar, the underlying cello and bass lines, and the crisp percussion. The stereo presentation was the clear winner on this particular cut, very three-dimensional and detailed without being etched. Interestingly on this track, some of the multi-channel modes, particularly EARS, actually sounded less spacious and flatter in comparison to the two-channel feed, at the same time losing a bit of the transient snap and air. Similarly, “Melt” was excellent in stereo, the clear instruments emanating from a black background, bringing to light the low noise floor that I experienced time and time again during my review of the T762. But two-channel was not the clear champion this time. Other modes, particularly EARS with its tasteful use of the surrounds, and Dolby Pro Logic II, added impressive ambience without losing the excitement of the performance. Although two-channel never failed to please, moving on to other tracks such as “Tziganne” highlighted many positive qualities of surround sound. This track opened up in multi-channel, particularly Dolby Pro Logic II, without losing too much of the snap and cleanness of the straight stereo feed. I think you get the idea here without my forcing any more specific examples down your throat: the NAD T762 handled two-channel material very well, and utilizing the other modes at the fingertips of the user greatly enhanced the experience and fun. The T762 did not highlight any range or aspect of the music above another, nothing stood out or was obviously lacking, it simply provided a pleasing, balanced musical presentation across the board.
Additionally, I want to comment on the tuner section. I’m not too hopped up about the radio stations available in my local area (San Diego), either from a content or a sound quality basis, but the NAD did a fine job of picking up all the stations I do listen to occasionally. In general, I was pleasantly surprised by both tuner operation and sound quality. I found myself listening to more radio broadcasts that I had previously done during the past few years. FM sensitivity seemed above average, as I pulled in all the standard stations and a few extra quite clearly. Sonics were very good for FM, sounding musical and non-etched, especially considering the typical quality of FM signals. I also found the multi-channel surround modes to be very useful with FM, filling the room with sound in a pleasing manner. More often than not, I found DTS Nero:6 to be very complimentary to FM music, although Dolby Pro Logic II with all of its adjustments, and also EARS and Matrix 7.1, were effective at times. Since FM source signals are not extremely high fidelity to start with, the detrimental effects of processing were minimal, while the enhanced spaciousness and slight rounding of transients in some modes were welcome changes. As far as AM radio is concerned, it is my experience that reception can be quite dismal for many receivers on the market these days, but not so with the T762. I’m not saying I was rocking out to AM -- after all, how good can a limited bandwidth AM station be? -- but sensitivity was fairly good, background noise low, and voices very clean and intelligible. This is enough for me, since AM mainly serves the purpose of talk radio for me these days, not music.