What is the NAD T 778?
The NAD T 778 is the latest high-performance AV Receiver from the company and continues their philosophy of Modular Design Construction (MDC) to offer some degree of flexibility and future-proofing in an industry that is sometimes fast-moving with continually changing formats and technology. NAD is also well-known for offering performance where it is needed, rather than a huge list of formats and logos that you’ll never use (but which looks good from a marketing perspective). With all that in mind, the T 778 is claimed to offer the best possible solutions for today’s home cinemas with the ability to use MDC to upgrade components as new formats become available. This is a unique approach taken by NAD to avoid, in their words, premature obsolescence.
The T 778 is a 9-channel AV Receiver featuring NAD’s Hybrid Digital Amplifier Technology to give a claimed performance of 140 watts FTC power at 8 Ohms and 170 watts at 4 Ohms, as well as 165 watts IHF Dynamic Power at 8 Ohms and 280 watts at 4 Ohms, with 9 x 85 watts FDP (Full Disclosure Power), all channels driven simultaneously at full bandwidth. It is refreshing to see all channels driven figures given by manufacturers. With the nine channels of amplification, you can run up to a 7.2.2 system. There is also processing onboard for 11.2 channels by using the pre-outs and an additional 2-channel amp (if you have one), so you can get to 7.2.4 for Dolby Atmos.
Talking about object-based audio, the T 778 features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, so you have the two widely used formats covered, plus NAD boasts that the AVR has superb musicality for stereo playback, and you also get Dirac Live with a basic (500Hz and under) license for free. Good quality room correction is an essential part of an AVR’s arsenal these days, so to have a quality solution like Dirac Live is welcomed, it’s just a shame that this flagship doesn’t come with a full license for free.
Being modular in design means that the NAD can add new formats and connections where possible, with a dealer swap out and a small fee. The T 778 comes with 6 HDMI 2.0b inputs and two outputs, with only output 1 being 4K capable. This means that there is no support for HDMI 2.1 and 5 rear HDMI inputs does seem a little mean in this day and age. But, there will no doubt be an upgrade module at some point now that the competition is doing HDMI 2.1 inputs, though we haven’t had that confirmed just yet. However, it does lend itself to the MDC approach taken by NAD.
Design, Connections and Control
Design is very subjective, but the NAD T 778 manages to pull off a look that will appeal to a large number of AV enthusiasts as well as normal consumers. While some AV Receiver manufacturers are still following the traditional large and aggressive box that looks muscular and powerful, NAD has downsized the footprint and brought it into the 21st century.
Gone are the large dials at either side of a tall box with dozens of front panel inputs hidden under a central flap and a dot matrix display, which is the traditional design of an AVR. The NAD T 778 is half the height of a normal AVR with a large full-colour TFT touch panel display that dominates the minimalist front panel. To the left of the front panel is the power button and a headphone jack, you then have the large touch display in the centre, with a small volume knob to the centre-right position with a USB and HDMI input below this.
The build quality and finish are excellent with small heat extractor vents in the central spine of the top plate and the connections to the rear. The T 778 measures in at 435 x 140 x 430mm (W x H x D) and weighs 12.1kg.
The NAD T 778 is half the height of a normal AVR with a large full-colour TFT touch panel display that dominates the minimalist front panel.
The connections are around the back as you would expect and thanks to the MDC concept they are separated into five distinct plate sections, and four of these can be used to swap out old connections and replace them with newly updated items. The first modular plate section is top left and is blank and ready for any future additions. Below this, we have 5 HDMI 2.0b ports and two HDMI outputs, with HDMI 1 being the only 4K capable output. There is also a LAN and USB port as part of this plate. At the time of the development of this product, HDMI 2.0b inputs and one 4K output was probably enough for most users, but with new games consoles on the horizon using HDMI 2.1, this could be the next potential upgrade and good use of the MDC approach, (although nothing has been confirmed regarding any upgrade at the time of this review). The HDMI 2.0b ports support 4K 4:4:4 video with Dolby Vision and HDR10 pass-thru, there is no support for HDR10+ at this time.
Moving right to the next top plate section and it contains 2 RCA audio inputs, a Phono stage with ground, Zone 2 RCA outs and 7.2 pre-outs. The plate directly under has two Coaxial and Optical digital inputs and two sets of height channel pre-outs. The final section to the right side of the rear panel hosts a wide array of system integration options such as RS232C, triggers and IR slots. Below all of these is a horizontal line of speaker bindings posts for nine channels which will accept bare wire, spades and banana plug connections. Finally, to the far right of the rear panel is the multi-voltage power socket, power switch and a fan exhaust.
You have a number of options to control the NAD T 778 with the most obvious being the large TFT touchscreen in the centre of the front plate. This allows complete access to all the setup menus, presets and other functions without the need to switch on your projector or TV to use the OSD options, which are identical to those accessed through the screen. You can also use the BluOS application to stream content, adjust the volume and even switch on using some of the features like Spotify connect.
Finally, there is the traditional remote control which seems like the odd one out in terms of design. It is a largely plastic affair with a plethora of backlit buttons and it is far from intuitive to use for the first time. Things like a traditional OK key in the centre of the directional keys is not an OK button as most users would expect it to be. You need to use other commands to perform tasks that seem peculiar and alien if you have used the UI of other AVR products. However, after a few hours of use, I managed to settle into the controls I needed to use, but it seems like an unusual step to take being so different and I can only presume it is to match the functionality of the touchscreen UI.
How was the NAD T 778 tested?
I set up the T 778 in my reference cinema room so it was running the 4-Ohm load of my M&K MP300 LCR speakers, along with a pair of S300T tripole surrounds and two X12 subwoofers. Surround backs and heights were JBL Control 1s. I ran the NAD in a 7.2.2 set up. I also used a JVC DLA-N5 native 4K projector and sources were an Apple TV 4K, Panasonic UB820 Disc player and a Sky Q mini box. I also used Spotify connect and Tidal via my local network, Apple TV box (for Tidal Atmos) and through the BluOS app directly. The NAD T 778 comes with a USB connection box that holds the Wi-Fi adaptor as there is no built-in Wi-Fi connection.
I also ran a number of Dirac LIVE routines and had a play around with filter set up, all with the 500Hz LE version. I settled on a very slightly tweaked filter for my full testing of the NAD T 778 over several months in my cinema room. I know my room extremely well as I have been using it for around 20 years now, so I was satisfied with the results from the LE version of Dirac. If you have a more tricky room layout and acoustics, you might benefit from upgrading to the full Dirac system, which is around £80. It would be good, given the price point of the T 778, if NAD would consider offering the full suite as Arcam does with its higher-end products.
From switch on, we found our first niggle with the T 778 and that is the speaker pop as the AVR comes into life and switches on its amp stages. It’s a quiet double-tap pop that on the first encounter was surprising for such an expensive and well-built unit. This pop is also present when switching sources during use and again it is annoying and surprising that it exists. I know that many forum members who own the NAD T 778 have complained directly to NAD and that a firmware fix is still to be found for these slight, but annoying issues. How much this annoys you will likely vary between users and I found it annoying as it is unnecessary and should have been caught early in the life of the unit. But during actual use of the NAD for me personally, it wasn’t a major issue.
... using all the sources at my disposal I was never disappointed with the performance on offer
One other strange occurrence was the fact that my review sample switched itself off when playing music, twice in a number of days during the initial run-in period. However, this hasn’t happened again after a recent update to the unit. As we are finding out with modern software-driven products, there can be teething problems with some items. Thankfully, it would appear that NAD is certainly working on solutions to issues that do arise. If you are considering buying a NAD T 778 I would recommend you read the owners thread on AVForums for more details on how customer units are performing.
With the slight niggles out of the way and the unusual UI figured out, I used the T 778 for background music playback and movie sessions. I used the BluOS app for streaming Tidal MQA for critical listening, as well as Spotify Connect for background listening while reviewing other products.
... the NAD was capable of extremely powerful and dynamic playback, with no obvious issues of colouration or distortion
Musicality is a strong point of the NAD T 778 and using all the sources at my disposal I was never disappointed with the performance on offer. The master version of John Williams: In Vienna via Tidal was excellent with a wide and expansive stereo sound stage. Instruments sounded real and authentic within the orchestra with plenty of weight and transient speed between the sudden changes in dynamics from quiet passages to full bombast. There is a forcefulness to the sound that is precise and bright, without being sibilant or harsh and that captures the full range of the orchestra. The way that the NAD with Dirac manages to blend the crossover between subs and satellite speakers helps tighten up the overall dynamic without adding any concerns. I have my room and speaker placements well figured out these days, but the added help of the EQ was a benefit that could be heard and appreciated.
I could waffle on with plenty of examples where the T 778 excelled with music playback from my many hours of listening, but suffice to say that I was never disappointed at all with the performance on offer that was also faithful to the original recording and never in any way covering over the cracks. What you put in you got back out without any embellishment, which obviously means that you are getting close to what is recorded on the source you are playing back. The use of digital amplification is still divisive in some quarters, but I found the NAD was capable of extremely powerful and dynamic playback, with no obvious issues of colouration or distortion getting in the way. The sound signature is crisp, clean and forceful, without obvious over the top warmth or tuning and the dynamics are excellent.
It has a few small niggles that could be annoying to some users and the interface is not intuitive to start with
Listening to Dolby Atmos mixed tracks on Tidal was also a fun experience with the wide and expansive soundstage adding real character to the reimagined height mixes. Placement effects were rendered perfectly in the object-based sound field with instruments hanging in space just above your head to the left or right, or hi-hats to the rear right and vocals front and centre, the NAD managed to create an enveloping experience with crisp and clear placement added to excellent musicality.
Moving to 4K UHD film watching, we kept the musicality theme going with demo scenes from The Greatest Showman and Rocketman. I use The Greatest Showman for testing TVs on a regular basis and know all the songs well because of this. The heaving bass lines of the opening number are delivered with sheer physical force thanks to perfect integration of the subs and satellite MK speakers, with deep bass and superb mids and highs creating an almost live sound to the musical numbers. Transients are delivered with stunning speed, going from quiet to full-on bombast without missing a beat. Vocals are also superbly balanced and placed within the wide sound mix, with superb use of the height channels to add that extra layer to the equation. I’m not the biggest fan of Elton John, but the biopic Rocketman serves up some interesting visuals and reimagined hit songs that are superbly mixed in Dolby Atmos. Once again, the dynamics and sound stage were wide and expansive, creating believable spaces within the scenes and vocals remained tight and well focussed.
The end result was a tightening up of my system with better crossover integration and mid-range.
Moving to action fare and I caught up with those Marvel movies I had missed in the build-up to Endgame, so watched them via Disney+ on an Apple TV 4K. Even with compressed Dolby Atmos tracks, the NAD T 778 managed to convey weight, dynamics and clarity from the action scenes within Captain America: The Winter Soldier without any obvious lack of quality. Indeed, for most of my viewing of these movies I wasn’t at any point disappointed that they were compressed Atmos, the NAD did such a great job of conveying the action, explosions and quiet reflective moments you could have been fooled for thinking you were watching the 4K UHD disc versions. I tested further with many a UHD over the months I have had the NAD in for testing and the sound quality is superb. Effects placement is precise and clean, with no distortion or noise getting in the way of the end results. It’s a superb AVR.
The new Dirac 3.0 is easy to use and it has an excellent effect, even in well-used rooms and systems such as my reference room. It is now easy to use and simple to generate excellent results in no time at all, and if you’re a tweaker you can also edit the filters to generate your own presets and save those for various content types. The end result was a tightening up of my system with better crossover integration and mid-range. It didn’t add any colouration or change the well-known sound of my MK MP300’s, it just helped to tighten the sound up and be more focussed, with the effect of the sub sats working as one in a more effective way.
The strongest point of the NAD is that superb, balanced and nuanced sound quality
Overall, the sound quality from the NAD and its integration into my system was an absolute success on all levels with a sound I absolutely adore. It has a few small niggles that could be annoying to some users and the interface is not intuitive to start with. But, even with all that, the performance on offer is truly excellent!
- Superb sound quality with stereo and multi-channel
- Dirac Live EQ
- Excellent design
- The front touch screen is superb
- Real-world power from the digital amplifiers
- Modular design allows future-proofing
- Popping sounds when switching on or changing the source
- Only one 4K HDMI output as it stands
- No full Dirac license.
- A tad expensive
NAD T 778 AV Receiver Review
Summing up on the NAD T 778 is really easy if all you care about is the audio quality on offer. The strongest point of the NAD is that superb, balanced and nuanced sound quality that is improved further with help of the now user-friendly Dirac EQ system. The effect of this within our reference system was exceptionally good with a tightening of the sound stage and added focus to my MK MP300 LCRs and X12 Subs with a more cohesive crossover, making them sound as one hugely dynamic sound system. The results with music and movies are exceptionally good and I enjoyed every minute of my extended review period with the T 778.
But of course, there is no such thing as the perfect product and with today’s software-driven devices there are some niggles with the T 778. We had the pops when switching the unit on and switching between sources. This is not desired and needs to be fixed ASAP by NAD. We also had some issues with the unit switching off on its own, but this only happened a few times and resolved itself, it’s been a good 6 weeks since that occurrence happened. I also had some issues with the user interface of the NAD, especially the remote control and found it quite frustrating for a few days until I got used to the logic used.
It is expensive for an AVR and on first look it may appear to be overpriced for the features you actually get on board. But NAD put all its efforts into providing just the right amount of connections and technology for what you need right now, with its MDC concept there to expand the unit for the future and add technology, such as HDMI 2.1, as it gains traction. There is a wide choice of AVRs that all offer something that will appeal to you and choosing one that fits should be easy enough. The NAD approach is compelling and will find its audience easily, especially with the sound quality on offer.
The design and implementation of the TFT touch screen are superb and I feel this is a game-changer for AVR design going forward. Design is, of course, subjective, but I really like the smaller footprint of the actual unit and the interface with the screen makes this the perfect AVR for your living room, where it needs to be seen. And this design doesn’t impact on the actual performance of the T 778 with the digital amplification producing enough power and excellent dynamics to power most systems within a normal UK living room with ease. I never felt like it was ever running out of steam and it always sounded dynamic at louder levels, without starting to sound brittle or sibilant.
As always, your mileage with the NAD T 778 will depend on your needs and expectations from an AVR, but when distilled down to the importance of sound quality for music and movies, I’m struggling to find anything that is quite as compelling. Yes, there are units that do more for less, but they perhaps can’t quite offer the same sound quality performance and as such, I recommend you get a demo, preferably at home, as the NAD T 778 comes Highly Recommended!
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