NAD T773 Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Thomas Garcia   
Friday, 01 October 2004

When it comes to designing and manufacturing components with excellent QRP (quality to price ratio), few companies can match the track record of NAD. For the last three decades, NAD has stayed true to their founding creed, designing and manufacturing components with outstanding performance, excellent value and simplicity of operation. Speaking as a satisfied customer, I’ve owned many NAD products through the years, utilizing them in a broad array of applications with excellent results. NAD has applied this same high-performance, cost-conscious design and manufacturing philosophy to their first seven-channel, surround sound receiver, the T 773. Positioned at the top of NAD’s “Classic” line of audio/video receivers, the T 773 incorporates an extremely full-featured, flexible processor/preamplifier/tuner section with a formidable multi-channel amplifier. Offering the latest surround sound DSP algorithms, with a few proprietary modes as well, the T 773 is also capable of being upgraded via a RS232 port, insuring its ability to stay current with potential future upgrades and technological advances. In fact, just after the completion of my review, NAD offered an upgrade to their Operating System (OS), now identified as Version 2.0. This latest OS improvement includes an assortment of operational and set-up features, along with the addition of two new surround formats, Dolby Digital Pro Logic IIx and Dolby Pro Logic IIx. Quite reasonably priced, the NAD T 773 is currently shipping with the Version 2.0 OS and the cost remains unchanged at a suggested manufacturer’s retail price of $1,799.

Aesthetically, this T 773 looks relatively similar to many NAD receivers from the last 20 years, hence the “Classic” series nomenclature. With its muted charcoal gray casing and minimalist graphics, the T 773 is neutral and unassuming in its appearance. Weighing in at a relatively husky 52.8 pounds, the T 77
3’s overall physical dimensions are well proportioned, measuring 17-1/8 inches wide, by seven-and-five-eighths inches high, with an unconnected depth of 16-5/8 inches.

Admittedly, I love the look of high-tech, modernistic components, and the T 773 is not likely to win many “eye candy” awards. Still, I applaud NAD’s refusal to stray from their heredity, shrugging off costly and unnecessary cosmetics, and continuing to offer high-performance components at exceptionally competitive prices. Potential buyers should not be taken aback by this, as it falls directly in line with the NAD philosophy of spending money where it truly makes an appreciable sonic difference. NAD uses high-quality 192 kHz/24 bit DACs and operational amplifiers that are selected on the merit of their musical sound quality. Particular attention is given to the front main channels, which are fed from a specially selected two-channel DAC for the best possible sonic performance with Redbook CDs and uncompressed PCM recordings.

As with most NAD components, the front panel is uncluttered and arranged in a straightforward, sequential manner. Screening of the receiver’s modes, settings and functions for both main
system and second zone can be viewed through the Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD), located at the top right center of the unit. To the right of the VFD is a stable, velvety smooth volume control, which is adjustable in one-decibel increments. A lighted power switch is positioned at the top left side of the front panel. Directly to the left of the VFL are four buttons and two toggle controls managing the displays status and tuner section. Easy front access is available to both audio and video inputs (left and right audio, composite and S-Video), along with a headphone jack that is hidden behind a small removable cover towards the bottom left. The remaining controls are centered on the front panel and include buttons for speaker selectors, independent video and audio source selectors, the tape monitor loop and a digital audio selector, which is independent from any video switching. Furthermore, there is a control for direct access to the 7.1 analog inputs, a surround mode switch, a button that enables level adjustments for each loudspeaker individually, and tone controls with a defeat position.

The NAD has an abundance of audio, video and cont
rol connections, including six sets of audio and video inputs, each with S-Video and Composite, two for the inputs can be paired with matching audio and video outputs to create full tape loops. Component Video is handled by three sets of inputs and one output. NAD incorporated six user-assignable digital inputs (four coaxial, two TOS link), two digital outputs (one coaxial, one TOS link) to manage direct digital sources. Creating a virtually transparent path for SACD and DVD-Audio sources, the 7.1 input has only the main volume control and an output buffer stage in the circuit. To maintain purity, the analog stereo inputs are not digitized unless a surround mode is engaged. A second zone Multi-Source audio/video preamp output is offered, complete with independent source and volume control. Also, there is an A/ B speaker switcher (two-channel only), direct preamp outputs for connecting an external amplifier, an audio only tape loop, two subwoofer outputs, along with a multitude of additional connections to accommodate most complex switching and custom installation needs.

As a full-featured surround sound receiver, the T 773 incorporates all of the present processing modes such as Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, DTS, DTS EX Matrix, DTS ES 6.1, Dolby Pro Logic,
a fully adjustable Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS NEO:6. As mentioned earlier, NAD’s most recent upgrades incorporate two new modes, Dolby Digital Pro Logic IIx and Dolby Pro Logic IIx (absent from my review sample). Both algorithms process stereo and 5.1 signals into a 6.1- or 7.1- channel output. Users can choose Movie or Music modes to tailor their listening experience to the source material. For two-channel signals, Dolby Pro Logic IIx Music mode features three additional user controls: Dimension, Center Width and Panorama. Dolby Digital Surround EX is also now selectable from the front panel or the remote. Additionally, the T 773 provides other enhanced multi-channel stereo modes, such as NAD’s own Enhanced Ambience Recovery System (EARS), a proprietary stereo to 5.1 channel algorithm, and Matrix 7.1 (another proprietary stereo to 7.1 algorithm). For non-critical listening, a Stereo Enhanced mode can be selected, sending unprocessed full-range stereo to selected channels, a useful feature for background music or party situations. Included in the T 773 is an RDS FM/AM tuner section, featuring 30 station presets. Each preset can be stored with a custom name, or can automatically scroll station ID and text messages from RDS enabled FM stations. Direct access is available from the remote to either presets or station frequency.

Performance-wise, the T 773 is a very potent receiver, rated at 110 watts per channel, from 20Hz-20 kHz at less than 0.08 percent total harmonic distortion with all seven channels driven simultaneously. Slightly greater power (145 watts) is available for two-channel operation. Great attention was paid to overall layout and grounding design in order to achieve the lowest possible distortion, while retaining the ability to pass exceptionally high peak currents. The power supply uses NAD’s exclusive PowerDrive circuit to extract maximum performance under varying conditions and is, in essence, an advancement of NAD’s Power Envelope concept, which was introduced during the 1980s. This “smart” circuit offers a unique combination of very low distortion, even when driving difficult low impedance speakers, and helps sustain high dynamic power and peak current for accurate musical dynamics.

The T 773’s power amplifier section uses an all-discrete desig
n with multiple high-current output devices in a Class AB configuration. Output power is provided by two Holmgren toroidal transformers, one dedicated to the left, center and right main channels, the other covering the remaining four surround channels. Each transformer has two secondary windings to provide separate high-current and high-voltage power supplies. NADs PowerDrive control circuit is, in effect, an analog computer that constantly monitors voltage, current and temperature to determine the optimum power supply setting, switching between high-voltage and high-current settings based on actual conditions. The T 773 also uses NAD’s proprietary Soft Clipping circuitry (which can be disabled via an external switch), helping to reduce the typical distortion that can be produced when an amplifier is driven beyond its (useful) limits. Cooling is handled via an internal heat sink, which is augmented with five internal precision fans that run at low speeds. This helps to insure that the T 773 can handle any possible ambient temperature, speaker load and dynamic program material without overheating.

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.

The Downside
Taking all things into account, I had a rather difficult time finding many significant downsides to the NAD T 773 A/V surround sound receiver. Few receivers have the capability of driving fairly inefficient speakers to full reference levels. Though NAD has a solid history of producing amplifiers that can drive most loads, this receiver will perform very well with moderate to reasonably efficient loudspeakers. There was a time when 110 watts per channel was considered relatively substantial, but with the dynamic range of today’s digital sources, there will be times when the 773 hits its limits. Augmenting inefficient speakers with an outboard powered subwoofer will alleviate low-frequency demand on the main loudspeakers, thus reducing their power needs and demands on the amplifier section.

Though not unique to NAD, the speaker binding posts were of minimal quality. Also, because of their close proximity to one another, it was exceedingly difficult to connect speaker wires. I’ve experienced other surround sound receivers that spread the amplifier output terminals to both left and right sides of the receiver, allowing for more real estate to facilitate these connections.

Unwavering from their historical priorities, NAD continues to build components with strong performance and straightforward functionality. Accomplishing this at an affordable price, NAD has consistently been one of the leading manufacturers of quality to price ratio components. Their commitment to providing a real-world upgrade path for the T 773 was demonstrated by NAD’s release of their Version 2.0 Operating System, offering viable and valuable improvements to an already competent component. The T 773’s performance was outstanding, its installation and implementation was a breeze, and it provided enough functionality and adjustability to accommodate most home theater systems. It offers an honest 110-watt, seven-channel amplifier section that is capable of driving any reasonably efficient loudspeaker system to very high levels, and it will become more effortless if the system is augmented with a powered subwoofer. NAD refrained from adding a lot of useless DSP surround sound modes, such as Hall, Club, Stadium, etc., yet included a few modes that could provide benefit to varying material and sources. It performed flawlessly throughout my review, staying relatively cool even during demanding demonstrations. It always maintained its composure, remaining tonally accurate during both music and movie playback. NAD has always been one of the handful of manufacturers that I have recommended without hesitation in the past. The NAD T 773 A/V surround sound receiver continues that confidence and is firmly planted in my list of components meriting a high recommendation.
Manufacturer NAD
Model T773 Receiver
Reviewer Tom Garcia

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