NAD T777v3 AV Receiver Review
Is the 777 your Dreamliner to home cinema bliss?
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What is the NAD T777v3?The NAD T777v3 is the latest single chassis AV Receiver from NAD and - as the name suggests - is the latest revision to a design that has been with us for a while. This revision gives the NAD the sort of functionality that we’ve come to expect from an AV Receiver in 2018 including object based surround, full 4K passthrough and automatic setup. So far, so normal. Steve Withers who is rather more industrious than me in terms of AV Receiver reviews has been looking at such devices for a while now.
The NAD is a little different to many of those rivals however. The HDMI specification comes with the promise of a degree of futureproofing that is fairly unusual in these technologically turbulent times. The auto calibration software is the Dirac suite rather than the more usual suspects. It also supports streaming hardware and software that is regarded as some of the best in the industry. There’s plenty in the T777v3’s specification that suggests it is something a little different to the norm.
There is something not in the specs that is worthy of note too. NAD knows their way around amplifiers. The T777v3 is like many of their products in that it doesn’t boast an enormous power output but this comes backed up with the idea that there should be enough power to get the job done in a fuss free and entirely pleasurable way. Has the NAD sense of sufficiency survived the move to high res, ultra high def and Atmos?
SpecificationsAt the most fundamental level, the NAD is a seven channel AV Receiver. The seven channels are listed as being 80 watts but crucially, this figure is the output of the NAD into 8 ohms, at a low distortion (0.08%) and with all channels driven at once. This is a great deal more demanding that the figures quoted by many rivals and it should mean that the NAD is capable beyond the bald numbers.
These seven channels can be used in either 5.1 with a zone 2, 7.1 or 5.1.2 with support for Dolby Atmos being part of the decoding suite. DTS X is to be added later on but at the time of writing is not supported and no logo is present on the casework. Additional power amplifiers (something that unlike a number of rivals NAD actually makes themselves) can be added to bring the 777v3 up to 5.1.4, 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 configuration. The argument over whether it is better to have all these channels on board at the outset or whether NAD’s approach is the better one will run and run but both options are available to you at the price point. Initial software versions of the 777v3 didn’t allow for 5.1.4 but this has been corrected.
This is tied to an HDMI board that is HDCP 2.2 compliant and includes support for HDR10 passthrough with Dolby Vision and HDR10+ to be added in an upcoming update. The 777 has six inputs (one on the front) and two outputs - one of which supports ARC. Additionally, two coaxial and two optical connections are fitted for legacy support. This is pretty much the NAD’s only concession to legacy connectors though. There is no analogue video switching at all on the rear panel and the only analogue connections are audio ones. A 7.1 channel input and preout are fitted and the preouts for the effects speakers are placed separately on the outer edge of the rear panel for easy access.
The other headline feature on the NAD is the fitment of Dirac. As standard, the 777v3 comes with Dirac Live LE. This performs the Dirac measurement and calibration on frequencies between 20 and 500Hz. For $99, you can upgrade to the full fat Dirac and get measurement and feedback from 20Hz to 20kHz. NAD supplies all the required hardware for you to make the measurements yourself and the process is impressively straightforward. The additional $99 cost is something that Arcam doesn’t ask you to pay with their AV Receivers but equally, the supplied fitment will cover the most problematic area of a frequency response. You can upgrade at any time so you do at least have the choice to see how the standard fitment does first.
The last fitment to the 777v3 is an interesting one. The NAD comes with a BluOS dongle that attaches to the rear panel of the main receiver. This allows it to become part of a multiroom network that rivals the Yamaha MusicCast system for breadth of equipment choice. You get UPnP streaming, internet radio and a huge selection of streaming services. Once the module is up and running, you get full app control of the AV Receiver as well.
In news that will surprise absolutely nobody, the NAD is a large grey box. Beyond this constant though, there are some aspects of the NAD that are positive and rather impressive. The first is that even though the basic aesthetic of the T777v3 is the same as the other members of the NAD range, it feels much more in keeping with a product in the £2,000+ range than more affordable models. The front panel isn’t a thing of beauty but it is well laid out and the display is clear and easy to use.
In fact, most parts of the NAD feel like a quality offering. The on screen menu is logical and easy to use and you have a choice of information that the front panel can display as well. The connections and controls feel solid and substantial and the supplied HTR 8 handset is well laid out, backlit and easy to use (if for whatever reason you crave a remote that is none of these things, you also get one of the ubiquitous- and terrible- ZR7 remote controls). There’s less overt heavy engineering on display here than with some Japanese house brand rivals but it does feel like a quality offering.
There are some annoyances though. The HDMI sockets are arranged in a vertical stack with the sockets themselves fitted flat. This makes leaning over to make additional connections very tricky indeed. The layout of the multichannel input and output is also somewhat confusing unless you have clear line of sight to it. One other slight oddity is that the NAD doesn’t have an on screen volume overlay. I’ve had one of these for the last four years on a Yamaha RX-A3040 and I have to be honest, I genuinely miss it.
On the flipside to this, the functionality you get from BluOS makes most rivals look outdated. It is slick, logical and entirely stable. If you are looking for an AV Receiver that will handle your music requirements as well as it will your film ones, the T777v3 has a head start on meeting these needs better than many rivals.
The other headline feature on the NAD is the fitment of Dirac
How was the T777v3 tested?The NAD was connected to an IsoTek Evo3 Corus mains conditioner and was tested with five Elipson Planet M satellites and a BK Electronics P300SB subwoofer. Some stereo testing was undertaken with Dynaudio Special Forty speakers. Source equipment included a Cambridge Audio 752BD, a Sony Playstation 4 and a Sky HD box. The screen in this instance was a Panasonic GT60 Plasma TV. The BluOS module was tested with a Western Digital MyBook NAS and the app installed on an iPad Air and Motorola G4 Android phone. Material used included Blu Ray, on demand and broadcast TV, Playstation games and lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF files for the BluOS.
Sound QualityThe initial testing was undertaken without Dirac to get a handle of the basic characteristics of the NAD. This was simple enough to do and from the outset, the NAD demonstrates a presentation that is slightly different to any other AV Receiver I have ever tested. The way it goes about delivering soundtrack material is almost entirely free of any sense of embellishment. More than any other multichannel product I remember testing, it feels like a well sorted stereo amp that just happens to work in more than two channels.
This manifests itself most noticeably in the way that the NAD goes about handling noisy and congested scenes. Revisiting the Scorponok attack sequence in the original Transformers Movie (which feels like an Oscar winner after the more recent efforts), the T777v3 is manages to deal with the frenetic action on screen in an utterly logical way. There is an effortless sense of everything being placed correctly and the movement of detail from speaker to speaker is smooth and effortlessly controlled. There is nothing that seems to unsettle this receiver - it is able to take even the most ballistic sequences and make them flow.
This is combined with a tonal balance that is consistently well judged. It delivers vocals in a way that is clear, weighty and consistent. One minor but very welcome feature that helps this is that the NAD can adjust the centre, surround and subwoofer levels from the remote on the fly which means that if there is any sense of the dialogue being consumed by the rest of the mix, you can boost the level to help keep things balanced. Across the different balances of Sky, the PS4 and BluRay, you have a better chance of keeping everything sounding ‘right’ with the NAD than rivals that do without that little tweak.
There are some oddities however. The NAD has a trait that I normally associate with big stereo power amplifiers in that because it is generally free of distortion, it can periodically seem like it runs out of headroom. It is possible in my perfectly ordinary lounge to run the T777v3 at 0dB which is something that I could never do with the Yamaha. The reality is that 0dB with the NAD is seriously loud but the performance is so clean and free of the standard triggers of high volume that you end up birching it. In practise, once you’ve dialled into the furious looks on the faces of your friends and family who are getting more traditional volume triggers in other rooms, you’ll use the levels more carefully.
There is a slight irony that with these levels of control and refinement, the NAD isn’t perhaps the natural candidate for Dirac. Running the instructed mic settings and inputting the data reveals that beyond some wacky responses at 50Hz (ie, well below their set crossover in use), the Elipsons are producing a usefully flat response. The result of this is that the effect of Dirac in this room on these speakers is nowhere near as profound as what I experienced with Dirac on the Arcam SR250 on my Neat floorstanders. This being said, unlike many auto calibration programs, there is no sense of the performance being flattened and constrained.
This of course, is the result of five small speakers, optimally positioned in an unusually well behaved room. Where Dirac comes into its own is when speaker positioning isn’t optimal and when suspended floors are messing with your in room response. It remains head and shoulders above rivals for applying correction and optimisation to speakers without dismantling their character. It does demonstrate though that there is still no real substitute for choosing speakers that work in the room space and that are placed correctly. Given that it comes with the T777v3 as standard, it’s a very welcome addition though.
The final ribbon to an enticing bow is that the NAD is genuinely excellent in stereo. Connected to the peerless Dynaudio Special Forty, the performance is exceptional. That same balance of control and refinement is used to great effect here and the result is more than listenable in a way that so many of the NAD’s rivals can struggle to emulate making them sound a little heavy handed by comparison. Combine this with the BluOS interface and you have a genuinely capable all round device.
More than any other multichannel product I remember testing, it feels like a well sorted stereo amp that just happens to work in more than two channels.
- Outstanding sound quality in stereo and multichannel
- Usefully comprehensive spec
- Well made
- Currently awaiting some key features
- Can feel a little tight on headroom
- No volume overlay
NAD T777v3 AV Receiver ReviewThe range of choices available to you in the high end AV receiver market is considerable right now and with the requirements being asked of them almost reaching a point of stability, this is a better time than has been the case recently to actually purchase one. Viewed dispassionately, the specification of the NAD isn’t quite there yet. There’s no Dolby Vision or HDR10+ support and DTS X is absent too. They are promised but until they exist on the unit, it has to be seen as being at a slight disadvantage. To go 7.1.4 will also need additional amplification at further cost.
The thing is though that one step away from the bleeding edge of technology, the NAD is one of the most satisfying AV devices to live with, listen to and use that I have experienced in quite a while. It sounds fantastic in both multichannel and stereo, it should demonstrate this ability in a wide selection of settings thanks to Dirac and it has a truly excellent streaming interface. This is a fabulous all rounder that delivers a continuously satisfying performance and for this reason, it comes highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,499.00
Value For Money8
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