With my 800 Diamonds connected I jumped right into some of my favorite cinematic demos beginning with The Matrix on Blu-ray disc (Warner Brothers). Chaptering ahead to the lobby shootout towards the end of the film I was reminded of the shift that has occurred in mixing techniques over the years. Modern films, like The Matrix, are mixed almost exclusively in the digital realm which allows for more complex and ultimately more engaging sound and surround sound mixes; however these techniques have introduced a sharpness and focus to the sound of many films which is accentuated when played back through theater speakers. For instance, when the SWAT team runs towards Neo and Trinity just before the shootout, their uniforms and various buckles, shoes and guns ring like bells on Santa's sleigh. Through the T 757 those same sound effects felt more dimensional and organic - dare I say analog - than through some of today's feature-laden AV receivers and/or AV preamps. The entire sequence when played back via the T 757 felt more weighty, lifelike and natural than what I had become accustomed to. The entire scene felt and sounded more three-dimensional and thus was more engaging, not to mention enveloping, which surprised me. Furthermore, the T 757 bass prowess was staggering and among the best I've heard fromany AV receiver. The T 757's ability to retrieve the subtlest of low-end cues was something I wasn't prepared for. I got the sense that the designers at NAD don't view subwoofers as one-trick ponies capable of only reproducing low rumbles and seat stirring punches - instead the T 757 treated my JL Audio Fathom f110 with the same respect and finesse it gave my 800 Diamonds. Dynamically the T 757 was a little timid, lacking that last ounce of snap and violence that is sometimes called for with scenes such as the lobby shootout.
Next, I cued up another favorite, Moulin Rouge! on Blu-ray (20th Century Fox). Jumping to the scene where Nicole Kidman's and Ewan McGregor's characters first meet, the T 757 proved equally adept at dialog and subtle ambient cues, as it was large-scale action. While it may have been difficult to hear past Kidman's orgasmic-like musings, there was a lot more to this scene aurally than I believe many hear, something I quickly realized with the T 757 in my rig. The subtle cues of Paris at night and the nightclub still bustling below were all present and accounted for and clearly audible despite the action taking place center stage - I mean screen. Dialog was clear and natural with solid weight and dimension, which helped to anchor the actors in the space beyond just their visual appearance on screen. When things finally take a turn for the musical, the T 757's audiophile DNA was readily apparent, possessing a rhythmic liquidity that defied the digital signal driving the performance. The fireworks featured in the McGregor's performance of Elton John's "Your Song" showed me that perhaps I judged the T 757's dynamic prowess a bit too soon for the initial pops were in fact explosive and surprising.
Sticking with musicals I cued up Burlesque (Sony) starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. The chapter featuring the original song "Express" had it all for the T 757 to sink its teeth into; airy highs, vocals and thunderous bass. The obviously enhanced finger snaps of the performers possessed more of a "fleshy" sound, like two fingers popping off one another, than an artificial sound effect made to stand in for the real thing. This was a brilliant showcase of the T 757 high frequency mettle, specifically its ability to resolve and retain detail and air. Again, true dimension seemed to be the name of the game. Aguilera's vocals too seemed richer, more organic and sat better within the soundstage, which I must say was more recessed (though not vague) than with other AV receivers. Despite the T 757's slight accentuation of its lower midrange and propensity for bass, the performance didn't sound or feel at all sluggish or overly lush. As for the bass the T 757 was, again, surprising, retaining more of the drums' natural texture and decay than any AV receiver before it.
The other nice thing about the T 757's performance as it pertained to movies was that at no point did I notice it to be altering or taking anything away from the visuals on screen. I could detect no differences in picture quality when I passed the various 1080p signals through the T 757 versus when I went straight into my Panasonic plasma. Also, the T 757 passed every 3D test by locking onto and displaying 3D signals without incident - evident in my demo of Resident Evil: Afterlife on Blu-ray 3D (Sony).
Prior to the T 757 arrival the majority of experience I had with NAD, long term, came in the form of their two-channel products, specifically their 320BEE integrated amp, 218 THX amplifier and S-300 integrated amp, which I still consider to be among the most beautiful pieces of audiophilia
ever. So, imagine my surprise when I realized that the T 757 had all the audiophile chops of the before-mentioned products and then some. If I had to pick a specific track with which to summarize the T 757's two-channel performance it would be my demo of Diana Krall's "A Case of You" from her Live in Paris CD, which I had ripped to my AppleTV. The opening piano was delectable and oh-so sweet; blooming with air and texture that upon closing my eyes sounded hauntingly like the real thing. Krall's vocals were spot on and her placement, ever so slightly right of center, was rock solid within the expansive soundstage. Again, the T 757 did prove to be a bit laid back in its overall presentation, possessing one of the more cavernous soundstages I've heard in a long while but the combined effect was nothing if not soulful.
After listening to several two-channel tracks, be they the smooth jazz vocals of Diana Krall or the driving rock of Audioslave's guitars, I came to understand the T 757. The T 757 isn't an AV receiver, not when you think about it in the context of a Denon or Onkyo product. No, the T 757 is more a multi-channel integrated amplifier that just so happens to accept a video signal. When you view the T 757 in that light and live with it day-to-day and realize how trouble-free your home theater experience has become, you begin to look at other home theater products and think how did this become so complicated?
While I may not consider the following items to be a downside, inevitably some of you will. For starters the T 757 does not perform any sort of video upconversion or processing like what you might find with other, similarly priced, AV receivers. Instead the T 757's video capabilities are similar to that of a HDMI switcher passing the signal through without altering it in any way. Remember, the T 757 (and NAD) is a musicfirst company so it should come as no surprise that they didn't waste any time or money on video trickery for that would've required too much attention and thus taken the designers' focus away from the T 757's sound quality.
Next, the T 757's setup procedure is decidedly simple. How is that a downside you ask? Well, if you're a tweaker the T 757 is going to disappoint, for you can't set your speaker distances to the nearest centimeter, nor can you manually set your EQ for the T 757 doesn't have one. It has digital tone controls not unlike what you'd get with an NAD integrated amplifier but multi-band EQ? No way. You'll have to set up the NAD receiver line before you'll be able to enjoy such features as Audyssey's MultiEQ, for when it comes to the T 757 auto speaker setup is all you get.
When using HDMI for two channel audio signals, specifically those coming from my AppleTV, there was a slight delay that preceded every track resulting in a half second of silence, which was kind of annoying. This silence was not heard while watching Blu-ray discs nor when watching broadcast HD content leading me to wonder about its cause. When I connected my AppleTV to the T 757 via a pair of analog interconnects coming from my outboard DAC, the delay ceased.
Lastly, the T 757 just isn't complicated enough for an AV receiver. Instead it's more or less a multi-channel integrated amplifier, which suits me fine but is bound to upset those who demand more from an AV receiver even if that more comes by way of features they'll ultimately never use. Though one feature that I believe would benefit the T 757 would be some form of streaming and/or Internet music capability - at the very least Bluetooth connectivity.
Competition and Comparison
At or around $1,500 retail the NAD T 757 faces some stiff competition and the first that comes to my mind is Anthem's line-up of AV receivers - specifically the MRX-500, which is priced at $1,499. The MRX-500 boasts 75-Watts of power across all five channels, is 3D capable and features video processing not to mention Anthem's own ARC room correction software, which is superior to Audyssey though not as easy to use.
Another challenger has to be Cambridge Audio's Azur 650R A/V receiver at $1,599. Like the NAD, the Azur's focus is squarely placed upon music and movie soundtrack reproduction. The Azur is even lighter on the video side of things, boasting three HDMI inputs all of which are HDMI 1.3c, so not 3D capable.
Lastly, there's the far more expensive Arcam AVR500, which boasts more power, more features and connection options, though like with the Azur, 3D is missing from the Arcam's equation. Still, like the NAD, the Arcam AVR500 is equally simple and attractive and another AV receiver that puts the music first - even if that means paying more than double what you would for the T 757.
You may notice that none of the big-box manufacturers are listed here and for good reason. While Onkyo and Denon may make more AV receivers than the before-mentioned manufacturers combined, none of them can sonically hold a candle to the NAD. While the mass-market AV receivers are good in their own rights - most are phenomenal values - they just aren't as emotionally engaging. That being said, they're easier to find for they're sold virtually everywhere. For more on AV receivers please visit Home Theater Review's AV Receiver page.
I'm just going to come out and say it: I love the NAD T 757 AV receiver, not just for the things it does but for the things it doesn't do, for it's singular focus on sound quality is not only brilliant, it's also refreshing. AV preamps and receivers have become far too complicated over the years, becoming mini computers in their own right, computers that perform tasks that are already being
handled elsewhere in the signal chain. Sure there are some features I wish were present, mainly Internet connectivity and/or Bluetooth capability, but the T 757's omissions aren't enough to get me to back off my enthusiasm for this wonderful receiver because it does what few AV receivers manage and that is sound decidedly high-end.
Even when I desired more power I didn't disengage the T 757 from my system, instead I utilized it as an AV preamp, for it sonically outperformed all the other AV preamps I had on hand. I've reviewed a lot of AV receivers over the years and I can't think of a single one that has moved me quite the way the T 757 has.
If you want to get off the AV receiver rollercoaster or perhaps the home theater train altogether and just get on with enjoying your music, movies and life, I can think of no better receiver to take you to your final destination than the NAD T 757.
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