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BEST AV RECEIVER FOR MUSIC AND HOME THEATER
Well technically any receiver can play music and even be at the heart of a two channel system. We know that some are better at it than others. So settle in if you’re not already because we’re gonna find out if any of these NAD T778 AV receiver is the double threat you’ve all been looking for.
The NAD T778 is one of Denon’s reference level receivers featuring the brand’s hybrid digital amplifier technology across all nine of its channels; giving you 85 watts per channel on all channels driven. Dynamic power increases to 165 watts though 85 watts should be more than sufficient to power most home theatre loudspeakers on the market right now and I am including difficult to drive models.
The large touchscreen on the front of the NAD is its most notable visual cue on this particular receiver. We have talked about a lot of products on this channel that have had similar screens, but none of them have been touch enabled and that has been one of my biggest gripes. So I was thrilled when I saw the touchscreen on the T778.
It also features direct live which is a room correction software. It also has blue OS which enables direct network music streaming as well as decoding and it features NAD’s modular design and construction which make future hardware updates a little bit more accessible without necessarily having to replace the entire receiver.
The T 778 is among the more beautiful looking AV receivers that I have ever seen. Now there’s no denying it has a look and for me that look has always been utilitarian but the minimalism expressed here and the focus that the designers have put on that large touch screen makes the NAD T 778 look a lot more well expensive and high end.
In truth, the cheapest thing on it is the volume knob and I’m not even sure it was necessary. Now let’s talk about that touchscreen. It’s not a gimmick, you can set up every facet of the T778 performance via that screen, no remote or connected TV required which is great if you know TV isn’t handy for some reason or the remote suddenly decides to stop working.
Now the screen itself is fairly responsive. It’s not an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy good but very few screens are. And honestly even with the remote and a connected television, I really preferred the direct connection that I had with it through its touchscreen. In fact now that I’ve experienced a receiver with a touchscreen, it’s going to make it a little bit more difficult to go back to traditional receivers.
First, getting up and running with blue OS as well as DIRAC live does require the use of a dongle, but using this attachment I was able to connect the NAD receiver to our list of blue iOS devices via the app, and the app is fantastic. It’s great for streaming music especially from services like Spotify and Tidal, not to mention, giving you access to your music that’s locally stored on your home network.
The app even has some basic control over the AV receiver itself. I’m talking about things like input selection as well as volume but nothing really much beyond that. You’re also going to need the dongle in order to run dirac live which is the NAD receivers auto room calibration software. You’re also going to need a laptop or tablet to complete this step; thankfully dirac live is compatible with both Apple and Windows machines. It is the basic version of DirectX, that being said, it’s still crazy powerful not to mention this receiver enables you to store up to three unique dirac filter sets inside its memory.
This enables you to have say a filter set just for home theatre listening, another one for two channel listening, and a third one for whatever you may want. Now, dirac live isn’t as plug and play as say Audyssey so there may be a slight learning curve. That being said, I have played with both the live and pro versions and for 99% of users out there, I do think that you will be just fine with Dirac live.
We tested the NAD with a variety of loudspeakers primarily our Jamo home theatre anchored by the s809 towers, not to mention the Q acoustics concept 300 bookshelves for two channel listening, and we connected the receiver to the LG 8k TV and streamed things like Netflix and Disney plus, not to mention Youtube tv through the new Chromecast with Google TV.
We listen to music via title either directly through the NAD T778 receiver itself or through our Altair G1 DAC streamer and with respect to sound, I did test it with and without it directly enabled and based on what I was listening to or watching at the time, I found the results to be equally pleasing. I especially like the ability to toggle directly on and off from the remote but better yet, I love the ability to create presets based on the content that I knew I was going to be enjoying or the speakers that were connected that had dirac either on or off.
The ability to customise the T 778 really is one of its greatest strengths. Overall its sound is pure and it may utilise a hybrid digital amplifier topology over say a classic D, AB amplifier design, but the sound is smooth, a little bit mellow and spots with good control over the bass and high frequencies and it really doesn’t matter what type of loudspeaker you connect to this receiver as the sound is just present and dirac doesn’t really change things.
The sound is still there, it just might get a little more of it in a lower mid range and bass. With respect to bass on its own without the use of a subwoofer, the bass from the T778 is deep but it’s not the deepest ; we do have some integrated amplifiers in house presently that do manage to get a little bit more bass extension out of our Jamo and Q Acoustic speakers, but for an AV receiver, the bass that is there is close to matching that standard.
The bass is taught and textural dare I say musical not mushy. And if you need more bottom end extension, you can simply add a subwoofer or two to the NAD, dial those subs in with dirac at which point your bass will be second to none. Where the rubber meets the road at least for me in this av receiver is its mid range, I like it ! I find that it matches well with a wide range of loudspeakers not to mention source material. It is on the fuller side of neutral but this is a good thing as it gives vocals via dialogue or music a greater sense of weight and presence as opposed to sounding kind of artificial or overly forward.
I think you’re going to find that on a whole, vocals just have an organic quality that you just don’t really find on a lot of AV receivers, though I will admit at the extremes, mid range detail and absolute inflection may be ever so slightly smoothed over, and this does help give the NAD a little bit more smooth or laid back demeanour.
I was impressed with its high frequency response but more than that, I was just impressed by its overall balance. This receiver may lean ever so slightly towards seductive but there’s not one element of its frequency response that stands in stark contrast to the next. So it is all just completely composed; still the high frequencies are airy and detailed with almost zero edginess and at high volumes they never become fatiguing and this is a great thing especially if you have loudspeakers like for instance our Jamo’s which are known to be a little bit more on the livelier side.
In terms of soundstage and two channel playback, it’s fantastic. There is great definition and delineation throughout, and while it may not be the best in some of the finer separate components, I think for the vast majority of listeners as it relates to soundstage, the nad is going to come off as high end.
Among other receivers, it’s definitely class leading, and with respect to surround sound specifically Dolby soundtracks, I don’t know if it gets better than the NAD T778 at least for me. For an AV receiver, I don’t know if I’ve heard better top to bottom as it relates to home theatre.
NAD T778 DRAWBACKS
Now obviously one of the larger drawbacks to the NAD is the fact that it doesn’t have support for the most bleeding edge HDMI technology though I’m going to argue that in 2021, what it does have is more than enough for 99% of users out there still given the modular architecture of this particular receiver. It stands to reason that anybody could easily update the HDMI capability of this receiver, something they’ve been known to do in the past, and this would potentially save you from having to go out and buy a whole new unit all together.
With relation to HDMI specifically handshake issues with televisions, we did encounter a few handshake issues with our LG TV. Now your mileage may vary here but you should know that there may be some minor bugs in terms of HDMI and eARC and CEC between LG and the receiver. My biggest issue with the NADT 778 is its reliance upon this Blue OS direct and Wi Fi dongle. It’s a total afterthought not to mention it clutters up an otherwise beautifully designed receiver. That just hangs there dangling over top of all of your loudspeaker connections and that’s not ideal.
Sure it works and it works well but given the modular construction of this receiver, not to mention its price tag, it makes me wonder why wasn’t this integrated at launch.
The remote control is one of the more full featured remotes that I have ever encountered and it may become just a little bit overwhelming for some beginners. It works very well with the on screen menus that are beautifully designed and detailed. It’s just that their use isn’t as intuitive as some and that can lead to a little bit more of a frustrating experience.
There’s just some aspects of the onscreen and remote control that just don’t make any sense in terms of its streaming capability. The integrated Blue OS is fantastic, listening to music through services like Tidal internally to the NAD is a great experience and sound quality wise it’s up there.
NAD T778 vs ALTAIR G1 vs YAMAHA A3080 vs SONY DN1080
The NAD comes only second to the Altair G1 which is a dedicated streamer DAC all on its own that retails for $ 2700. So that gives you a little bit of an idea as to the NADs value proposition, not to mention music performance. Obviously the Yamaha vintage series of receivers deserves a mention here, specifically the A3080; though I will admit that platform is just getting a bit long in the tooth and is due for a refresh any day now.
Though unlike the NAD, the Yamaha allows you to customise it as much as you want and it has a sound that leans more towards the higher end side of the spectrum. That being said, I still prefer the NAD T 778 over the Yamaha. Our Sony DN 1080 receiver continues to be our go to recommendation for first time or entry level home theatre enthusiasts so it’s not really a fair comparison with the NA D as it just simply isn’t an entry level receiver.
So if you’re just getting started in building your first home theatre or you’re on a budget definitely look at the Sony, but for seasoned pros, you should be considering the NAD T 778 all day. And to wrap it up this is one of the best AV receivers that I’ve ever reviewed; it’s up there with the likes of Meridian and Lexicon. I absolutely loved it for music and movies and think it would be a great option as a centrepiece to a dual threat type of system.
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