|NAD T773 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Friday, 01 October 2004|
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Configuring the NAD T 773 Surround Sound Receiver was relatively easy due to its intuitive architecture. The layout of the rear panel was clean and organized in a sequential way, which made for an easy cabling installation. Total set-up time from unpacking to listening was under 30 minutes. An additional amount of time was taken to optimize the T 773 after I got it up and running, such as fine-tuning the distance parameters and amplitude for each speaker. One shortcoming I did experience was connecting the loudspeaker wires, as the amplifier output binding posts are of minimalist design and are tightly grouped together.
With the new Version 2.0 software upgrade, all units now come with Quick Start A/V Presets for five of the most common speaker setups: 7.1 large speakers, 7.1 small speakers, 5.0 large speakers, 5.1 small speakers and 4.1 small speakers. These pre-configured settings further simplify set-up, particularly for first-time users. There are five independent “Scenario Presets,” which can store speaker level and tone control settings for instant recall, making it easy to custom-tailor your system for different types of program material. Encoded surround modes like Dolby Digital and DTS are automatically selected if the program is so encoded. The T 773 also remembers your last used settings when switched in and out of Standby mode.
System configuration is easily accomplished by using a television monitor and the simple and intuitive on-screen display (OSD), which can be set to also give current status updates as settings are changed during everyday use. For easy component management, each input of the T 773 can be easily renamed, and the video, analog and digital inputs are freely assignable or defeated. Once the T 773 is informed of your specific system set-up, such as speaker configuration, level, distance, crossover frequency and surround mode, all settings are stored in a non-volatile memory, making this a one-time task. The informative front panel display indicates complete information about the source being listened to or viewed, including selected surround mode and volume setting.
NAD’s HTR-2 remote is programmable and can control up to eight different components, aiding in the consolidation of your existing remotes (TV, VCR, DVD players, etc.). It is illuminated for assisted viewing in low-light environments. Remote commands for products not already included in the HTR-2’s memory can be easily entered into the HTR-2. A macro function allows up to 64 individual commands to be triggered by pressing just two keys. With this feature, all of the commands required for watching a DVD, for example, are executed automatically by the HTR-2’s Macro function. With the Version 2.0 upgrade, the set-up menu has a more ergonomic interface with further flexible options, including increased control of the independent Zone 2 audio and video outputs, simplifying custom installations. Zone 2 can now be powered by either the main HTR-2 remote or the ZR 2 (separate Zone 2) remote control. There are both Fixed and Variable second zone volume controls. When set to Variable, the second zone volume is adjustable via the ZR 2 and if set to Fixed, the second zone volume is set to a preset level that is selected in the zone settings within the set-up menu. The Fixed setting will be most useful when a separate amplifier with its own volume control is being used for the second zone. Additionally, either Speakers A or Speakers B can be assigned as active when the second zone powers on. For custom installations, IR inputs and outputs and the RS-232 port allows easy integration of the T 773 to a variety of advanced control systems. Furthermore, there are three 12-volt output triggers to automatically switch other components on and off, one 12-volt input, and a completely independent Zone 2 line output that will send both audio and video to a remote location. Lastly, volume adjustments for subwoofer, center and surround channels can be directly accessed from the remote control without entering any menus, a nice feature for on-the-fly tuning.
For those who relish low-frequency special effects, a new Enhanced Bass setting (available with the Version 2.0 OS) allows full-range operation of all the speakers, with the additional bass contribution of the subwoofer. Essentially, when one or more speakers are set to Large, and the Enhanced Bass mode is engaged, the subwoofer becomes active for maximum bass output.
I used a wide variety of sources during my evaluation of this surround sound receiver. The T 773 proved to be an excellent performer on all types of DVD soundtracks, remaining poised during the most diabolical outbreaks, yet refined during the more subtle sequences. The amplifier section of the T 773 did an excellent job of recreating the action scenes in the cops and robbers thriller “Heat” (Warner Home Video). The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was extremely enveloping through the T 773, always sounding natural with clear, intelligible dialogue. Additionally, this DVD is peppered with some extremely realistic-sounding gunfire scenes, most notably the intense bank robbery sequence. Throughout this movie, dialogue is recorded at a lower level than the action sequences, providing an excellent test of the T 773’s dynamic capabilities. The raw force of pistol blasts and machine-gun bursts sounded extremely realistic through the T 773, causing an instant flood of adrenaline through my veins. The NAD easily delineated the sound of passing cars and fleeing people on the streets, distant screams and ambient city noise, all adding to the tense illusion of being at the scene. Due in part to the NAD’s admirable job of steering information to the rear channels, ambient sounds such as breaking glass, ricocheting bullets and other spatial clues were created with extreme clarity, substantiating this suspenseful and immersive outburst. Low-frequency extension and definition was impressive. The T 773 convincingly recreated a rumbling locomotive as it entered the rail station and the full thrust of thundering jet landings during the movie’s final scenes. Overall, the NAD receiver did a convincing job of recreating the unrestrained dynamic contrast of this suspense-filled, action-packed DVD.
Winner of the 1990 Best Picture Oscar, “Dances With Wolves” (Image Entertainment/DTS) proved to be a revealing source for evaluating the NAD’s DTS decoding capabilities. The T 773’s rendition of this soundtrack was expansive, creating a full, credible sound environment with seamless front to back transitions. Beautifully interwoven throughout the movie, the musical score by John Barry sounded splendid, adding emotion and drama to many of the sequences. Through the T 773, dialogue was clear and focused, moving realistically from side to side as the scene dictated. More subdued relative to most action DVDs, this soundtrack focuses more on realism and finesse rather than brute power. Still, there are certain action-packed scenes that provide powerful dynamics, notably the buffalo hunt sequences, which give you the sensation of riding along with the thundering herd. Overall, the NAD T 773 remained graceful and composed, regardless of the source material.
NAD has always had a strong reputation for making musical-sounding components, and the T 773 was no exception. Following in the footsteps of its many predecessors, this audio/video receiver performed equally well with music. I listened to a wide variety of CDs, DVD-Audio discs and DVD concert sources, all varying in quality and content. The T 773 was very neutral and free from any discernible tonal coloration, allowing me to accurately assess each recording on its own merits. This was extremely evident while listening to the DVD video, Concert for George (WEA Corporation). Performed on the first anniversary of his death, this magnificent concert honoring the life and music of George Harrison was spine-tingling. Packed with a cosmic collage of musical superstars, this tribute kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Performances by Eric Clapton, Beatles Paul and Ringo, Tom Petty and Heartbreakers, Billy Preston and Jeff Lynne individually and collectively were mind-numbing. The speed and micro-nuances of Anoushka Shankar’s unique sitar were easily deciphered and rendered by the NAD T 773. Backing up Shankar was a 16-piece orchestra performing a composition especially written by her father, Ravi Shankar. The entwined combination of sitar, vocals and accompanying instruments had an enchanting symmetry, which was richly rendered by the T 773, displaying excellent high-frequency extension and midrange purity.
As a devout Beatles fan, listening to Ringo Starr perform “Photograph,” a song he co-wrote with Harrison, was heartwarming and very apropos for the evening’s event. The NAD T 773 presented a wide and spacious soundstage of this vast array of performers, yet kept Starr’s voice centered and focused. Another poignant song, “All Things Must Pass,” sung by the trio of Clapton, McCartney and Lynne sounded magical, with each singer’s contribution clearly discernible. A haunting and thundering rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sent this concert off the charts.
The T 773 performed equally well with multi-channel audio discs. NAD’s 7.1 input has only the volume control and output buffer stage in the circuit, making it a virtually transparent path for SACD and DVD-Audio sources. I listened to several DVD-Audio discs, including a recently received copy of Everclear’s multi-channel version of So Much for the Afterglow (DTS Entertainment). Pop play list singles such as "Father of Mine" and “Everything to Everyone” combine a stirring mix of guitar riffs and dynamic drum segments, which vividly came to life when experienced in this surround format. The accurate and neutral 7.1 analog stage of the 773 was once more evident during the instrumental cut “El Distorto de Melodica,” allowing each instrument to float effortlessly in its own space. Equally coherent and unadulterated were the plucky banjo rhythms of “Why I Don't Believe in God,” which engages the surrounds in a more aggressive manner.
Listening to the 1997 reissue of the quintessential Jimi Hendrix album Axis: Bold as Love gave me an appreciation for NAD’s stereo playback capabilities. NAD uses special 192 kHz/24 bit DACs for the front main speakers for enhanced two-channel listening. The opening chime of “Little Wing” floated mystically in midair, followed by the tight and thunderous drum intro into this classic ballad. Much of the appreciable improvements of this re-release lay in the added clarity and increased palatability of Hendrix’s vocals. Songs such as “Bold as Love” and “If 6 Was 9" contained ferocious guitar licks, rhythmic bass and driving drums, each instrument being fleshed out by the T 773. On the softer side, "Castles Made of Sand” highlighted the receiver’s ability to unveil the multiple shades of Hendrix’s intriguing instrumentals and bluesy vocals.
FM sensitivity was more than adequate, allowing me to pull in all my regional stations and a few fairly distant carriers quite clearly. My local classic rock and jazz stations sounded remarkably good, and I found myself leaving the T 773 on FM throughout the day for casual listening. I randomly utilized the T 773’s various surround sound modes on a variety of FM stations, generally experiencing good results, although benefits did fluctuate depending upon the source. Overall, these DSP modes imparted a greater weight and body to most FM material, creating a rich, enveloping sound environment. AM reception and sound quality were on par with other receivers I’ve recently experienced, but admittedly I am not critical of AM performance.