As far as receivers go, I believe you can score one that will not only do all the things you need it to do these days and sound great to boot for less than $3,000. That being said, a solid separates system will run you at least that just to start and will quickly go up should you want it to actually know what HDMI or Dolby TrueHD is. Those types of processor/amplifier combos can cost as much as $5,000 plus on the low side. So what's a consumer to do? How can one achieve the sound quality of a separate audiophile grade system while still being able to take full advantage of the latest state of the art video resolution and audio codecs? Try the NAD T785 A/V Surround Sound Receiver reviewed here. Retailing for $3,999 the T785 is on the higher side of my before mentioned receiver budget, yet lower than my budget separate system. However it provides you with all the latest connectivity whilst retaining NAD's signature audiophile quality sound in a single, no compromise chassis.
Keeping in the NAD tradition the T785 features a wonderful NAD sourced, PowerDrive internal amplifier with twin Holmgren Toroidal power supplies capable of churning out a real 120-Watts per each of its seven channels. In stereo mode the amplifier's output increases to 150-Watts per channel with a dynamic power envelope capable of generating a peak 250-Watts into eight Ohms if the source material calls for it. While 120-Watts may not seem like much since there are numerous $500 receivers claiming equal if not higher ratings, keep in mind that when NAD releases a power rating they can back it up in a real world setting whereas other manufacturers cannot. Also, should you manage to push the T785 to its limits or worse, its breaking point, NAD's soft clipping technology is built into the T785's amplifier circuitry ensuring you won't damage the T785. If the T785's internal amplifiers aren't beefy enough, you can add any number of separate amplifiers to the T785 through its 7.2 preamp outs.
Aside from the T785's power it boasts quite a list of features, which, if I'm honest, makes it more with the times than many of NAD's previous receivers. For starters the T785 has four HDMI v1.3 inputs and one HDMI monitor out. It can accept native 1080p source material (actually its internal processors can support resolutions as high as 2048 x 2048) as well as ingest uncompressed audio such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. The T785 can switch between various HDMI sources as well as up-convert legacy or SD sources to 1080p. The T785 also supports Deep Color and xvYCC Color Space.
The T785 also features Audyssey's MultiEQ XT Room Correction software with custom response curves developed by NAD specifically for the T785. Along with the Audyssey's auto EQ and setup, the T785 features Audyssey's Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. As I said before the T785 can decode and playback the latest uncompressed audio formats such as Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio as well as all previous incarnations of the two surround sound formats. Along with the surround sound formats the T785 is XM satellite radio ready (subscription and module sold separately) and can interface seamlessly with your iPod via NAD's own iPod dock (sold separately). Also, the T785 can serve as the hub of a very straightforward, basic, multi-room (4 zones) audio system.
It all sounds wonderful doesn't it? It should, for the T785 is one of the more full featured, audiophile grade receivers out there however, it gets better. The problem with buying anything consumer electronics these days is the fact that it's seemingly obsolete upon purchase. Not the case with the T785. The T785 was designed and built using a modular structure, where by key features, technology and/or connections are arranged and installed on a removable board or module in the rear of the unit. This means, in a nut shell, should 2K and Dolby Tripple TrueHD (not a real format I know) become the new standard you could simply pop a new board into the T785 and take advantage of the new format(s) without having to buy a whole new receiver. The T785's design approach makes a lot of sense and seemingly guards consumers against obsolescence in the short and even long term provided one thing; NAD sticks with the T785 and its modular design by making new boards in the future.
I'm not saying they won't or don't plan too, it's just the T785 isn't the first receiver to utilize modular construction, Onkyo and Integra tried it years ago and seemingly forgot all about having to make new boards when new technology came out. If NAD does make new boards to take advantage of new technologies then the T785 is a wonderful investment, however if they abandon the design you have to view it as a regular receiver knowing that someday it may have to be replaced. That being said, on a whole, modular construction or not, the T785 is about as good as it gets for right now.
Read more about the high points and the low points of the T785 on Page 2.