Say the words "simplicity of operation," "musicality," and "modularity" to home theater enthusiasts, and the first electronics brand to come to many minds is almost certainly NAD. Throughout the course of the company's history, it has established what only a select few home theater brands manage to create: a genuine identity. Not just a reputation, mind you, nor merely a following, but a distinct persona.
That distinct persona can be seen in nearly every aspect of the new T 777 V3 AV receiver ($2,499), one of NAD's first offerings to support Dolby Atmos (the other being the T 758 V3). If you're already familiar with the T 777 in its original incarnation, there aren't any surprises here in terms of looks. Same matte-finished face. Same button layout. In fact, it seems that the entire front of the chassis has been carried over intact.
The V3 also supports the same amplifier power ratings as the original, although the addition of Atmos means the amps can be configured differently. NAD rates the T 777 V3 quite conservatively at 7 x 80 watts, but it should be stressed that this is what the company refers to as "Full Disclosure Power," meaning all channels driven, full bandwidth, with less than 0.01 percent THD. Switch to the power ratings reported by most mass-market receiver manufacturers (FTC and Dynamic), and you get output at 140 or 160 watts per channel into eight ohms. In other words, it delivers plenty of sufficiently clean power to drive most home theater systems, unless you've got a very large room.
With seven amplified channels at its disposal, the T 777 V3 can be configured as 7.1, 5.1 with a second powered zone, or 5.1.2. Bring additional amps to the equation, and it can process up to 7.1.4 channels. It also features five rear-panel HDMI inputs and one output supporting HDCP 2.2 copy protection, UHD, HDR10, and Dolby Vision pass-through as of OS version 2.16.10. There's also a second HDMI output and a front-panel input limited to HDMI 1.4.
Supported sound formats include Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio (DTS:X and Neural:X are coming later in 2018), and DSP modes are limited (thankfully, in my opinion) to Dolby Surround, NEO:6 Cinema and Music, and NAD's own EARS and Enhanced Stereo.
The other big selling point of the T 777 V3 is its support for the BluOS high-resolution multiroom audio system, which has been described as Sonos on steroids. BluOS unlocks access to all manner of streaming music services, from the usual suspects like Spotify Connect, TIDAL, Amazon Music, and TuneIn to some less well-known offerings like JUKE, KKBOX, Murfie, Deezer, and many more. It's also the means by which you stream music from your phone or computer, assuming you don't want to go the Bluetooth route (which is also supported).
Spin the T 777 V3 around and take a gander at its back panel, and the differences between it and its original incarnation start to become abundantly clean. Gone, for one thing, are the numerous analog video inputs and outputs. Gone, too, are the terrestrial radio antenna connections. What's left is a neat and tidy collection of HDMI ins and outs, a handful of digital audio connections, six line-level stereo audio inputs, three stereo zone audio outputs, a 7.1-channel analog audio input, and 7.2-channel pre outs, along with separate height channel pre outs. There's also a LAN port, a USB port, an RS-232 connection, three trigger outputs and one in, three IR outputs and one in, and a soft-clipping selector switch that you can engage if you want to gently limit the receiver's output to minimize distortion and prevent damage to your speakers.
The layout of the T 777 V3's connectivity really points to its Modular Design Construction (MDC) template. MDC allows NAD to replace major digital circuits as needed to keep a product updated. Recent MDC upgrades have added, for example, HDMI 2.0b connectivity to components that originally only supported 1.4. In an era where we're all sort of waiting to see how necessary HDMI 2.1 will be and how quickly, that sort of upgradability is welcomed, to be sure.
Just taking the back-panel layout on its own terms, I really dig how easy it is to keep the wiring distinct, tidy, and out of the way. With most receivers, HDMI connectivity goes on top of speaker wiring and analog audio inputs, so interconnects can easily get tangled, especially if you're leaning over the receiver from the front to make or replace connections. With HDMI cables neatly sorted on one side, line-level ins and outs in the middle, and speaker connections way over on the other side, the T 777 V3 makes it quite easy to group like cables with like cables, tie them up nicely and prettily, and keep the back of your rack or credenza looking professional.
In terms of room correction, the T 777 V3 employs Dirac, both in a free LE version and a full Dirac Live upgrade for $99. The former applies frequency correction up to 500 Hz and impulse response filters from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with support for both sofa and single-seat measurements. The latter adds full-bandwidth frequency response correction, as well auditorium-style measurements. Frankly, unless you just have some wacky reflective surfaces in the neighborhood of your first reflections, or a weirdly asymmetrical room, you'll almost certainly be served well by the free LE version. Despite the fact that I'm well versed in Dirac, I couldn't hear any audible differences between my initial setup using the free LE version and a later setup using the full, unlocked Live version.
The room correction system has quirks to be dealt with, no matter which version you opt to use. The included USB microphone adapter and microphone combo is one of the fiddliest I've dealt with in all my experience with Dirac to date, so getting the right balance between input and output gain proved to be a slight source of frustration. Oddly, the NAD implementation of Dirac also forbids you to tweak your speaker levels after you apply your filters. I'm not quite sure why, since other Dirac-equipped gear I've reviewed (and own) allows you to adjust levels after the fact. On the one hand, Dirac does a bang-up job of setting levels and delays, so the chances that you'll need to adjust the results afterward are minimal. On the other hand, there's something to be said for preference. With every home theater system I've set up for my dad, I've needed to permanently boost the center speaker by 3 dB to account for his hearing difficulties, and to cut the sub(s) by the same amount due to his disdain for loud bass. You can, using dedicated buttons on the T 777 V3's remote, boost or cut the center, surrounds, and sub(s) in real time, but the ability to permanently tweak levels would be appreciated.
Other than that, the T 777 V3 is one of those receivers that I put into the "set it and forget it" pile, and I mean that in the best way possible. There are a lot of cool, little options to be found within its UI. Under Control, for example, you have the usual options like network standby, but you can also dig into the CEC settings and turn on or off individual options like power, source switching, etc. One really nice feature is "AV Presets," which allows you to tweak listening modes, tone controls, and such to your liking, then marry them by default to a given input--or even set up a few different options for each input or user and recall them easily via the remote.
Speaking of which, the T 777 V3's remote is a beautifully built beast that's a big step up from the controllers included with most receivers. It's beefy, it's sexy, and it's laid out quite intuitively. Navigation can take a little bit of getting used to, since working the menus involves scrolling up and down between settings, tapping right to highlight selectable options, and scrolling up and down again to choose between them. You don't use the Select button to confirm your choices; instead you tap left again. For the first couple of days with the receiver, I found myself fumbling around the menus like a drunken sloth with motor-skill impairments; but, once I got use to the NAD way of doing things, I found it to be an elegant and less time-consuming way of navigating the setup screens.
Amp assignment is also as intuitive and simple as one could hope for. For the duration of this review, I used the T777 V3 in 5.1.2 mode (with the overhead speakers in the middle position), relying on RSL's CG3 5.2 Home Theater Speaker System for the main system and a pair of GoldenEar SuperCinema 3s as height channels. It's worth noting here that the receiver does feature two subwoofer outputs but treats them as one channel.
The T 777 V3 is also supported by a nice Control4 driver, which can be configured as RS-232 or IP. The driver might not be quite as fully featured as others I've installed lately. It doesn't, for example, allow you to tweak AV Presets (or at least I haven't been able to find a way to program them); however, since defaults can easily be set via the receiver's setup menus, this isn't the sort of thing that most people would use their home control system to tweak. NAD also provides control modules for Crestron, RTI, URC, Pronto, and even PUSH for you Aussies in the audience. It's also supported by the NAD A/V Control app for iPhone.
I almost didn't mention setup of the receiver's BluOS music streaming functionality because, honestly, there's not much to say in terms of configuration. Assuming you're using a wired Ethernet connection, setup of BluOS really boils down to simply plugging in the included USB dongle and selecting the T 777 V3 in the BluOS app. I bring this up mostly because the instruction manual makes the setup seem a little more complicated than it actually is. If you're relying on a Wi-Fi connection instead, setup of BluOS might take a few extra steps, but it's still quite straightforward.
Oddly, if anything, I'd say the network setup process is a little too simple. I say that because the T 777 V3 doesn't allow you to set a static IP address. There's no provision anywhere within its setup screens to turn off DHCP. That may eventually lead to the occasional headache if you rely on IP control via a third-party control system, but it hasn't proven to be a problem during my time with the receiver. It's just a little weird, that's all.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
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