NAD T 773 AV receiver Page 2

The receiver's volume knob or the volume button on the remote control adjusts the overall sound level, but NAD's HTR 2 remote control, which comes with the T 773, lets you tweak the levels of the surrounds, center channel, and subwoofer independently, without having to negotiate any menus. It's a brilliant innovation—three innocuous buttons at the tail end of the remote let you adjust the soundfield's balance on the fly, without affecting any other parameters. Other manufacturers let you do this, of course, but it's usually a two- or three-step process.

Like most home theater receivers these days, the T 773 has a separate "multi-source" output to feed a system in a second room, or to serve as the controller of a whole-house system. Input selection and volume of this second zone are controlled with the supplied ZR 2 remote control, independently from the program in progress in the NAD's primary zone—like two receivers in one. The multi-source (MS) video output is composite only.

The T 773 was extremely easy to use, whether via the front panel or the remote. Very little instruction would be needed for even the most technophobic movie fan to get comfortable with it. It's capable of deep tweaking for those who care to explore the setup menus, but most folks will be happy with the default settings. The display labels can be changed—say, from "External 7.1" to "SACD DVD-A"—but that's probably as far as most consumers would want to go.

Right out of the box, the T 773 sounded excellent. I played tons of CDs in 2-channel mode. Clean, airy, and dynamic, the music it made was rhythmic, infectious, and enveloping. In surround mode, it was even more involving. The Triplets of Belleville and School of Rock were among the many DVDs I enjoyed on the small system. The NAD was such a great match for the NHT speakers that I often found myself drawn to watching a film or listening to music with that system rather than with my much larger (and more expensive) main system.

The T 773 sounded good at all volume levels—from moderate, where I could converse comfortably with music in the background, to totally overwhelming. It never got irritating, even with some wall-shaking sound effects, such as those in 28 Days Later. The NAD's digital circuitry is superb; it locked on to any digital signal and decoded it in its native format with no hint of residual hash or grain in the analog output.

In my big system, the T 773 was surprisingly close to the performance of the Parasound Halo combo—amazing, given that, at $1799 retail, the T 773 is less than 25 percent of the cost of the Halo C 2 preamp-processor and A 51 power amp. The NAD had astounding dynamics, with a huge bass drive, seductive midrange, and transparent treble. I was shocked at the quality of sound the T 773 delivered with movies and music.

Fans of 2-channel sound might enjoy experimenting with NAD's EARS feature, which generates an involving and natural-sounding 5.1-channel surround field from a stereo input. (I've gotten hooked on Parasound's version of this, which is called, quite naturally, Natural.) Unlike the ersatz ambience processing available on most home theater receivers (Church, Club, Stadium, etc.), I found NAD's EARS mode a listening enhancement, not a cheesy irritant.

There are also two Enhanced Stereo modes, in addition to seven standard surround modes. If you're feeling experimental, pressing the HRT 2 remote's Surround Mode button lets you step through all the available soundfield modes. I couldn't find any way to put the T 773 into mono—there's no mono function on either the front panel or the remote. Mono is a useful feature when playing noisy old recordings, but probably isn't of much value for most buyers of home theater receivers.

HTR 2 Remote Control
Special praise is due to whoever designed NAD's HTR 2 remote control, which comes with the T 773. It's, by a long stretch, the most logical, easy-to-use universal remote I've ever handled. All its primary functions—and there are many—are so clearly laid out that first-time users will feel familiar with it immediately. Just remember to press the Amp button in the upper left corner before you begin—pressing any other device selector brings up the operating program for that device and renders the HTR 2 mute as far as the T 773 is concerned.

Pressing any button on the HTR 2 illuminates all the buttons for a user-selectable period of two to nine seconds—long enough to execute any basic command in the dark. DVD and video-display navigation buttons are right where you need them to be, as are the volume up/down and channel up/down buttons. The HTR 2 is programmable for every piece of gear in your system, and it can be set up to execute macros so that one press of a button turns on your video display, dims your lights, and starts your DVD player, all in the proper order.

My quibbles with the T 773 are small: the lack of a mono function and the plethora of video inputs. I have yet to figure out why anyone needs six video inputs. I'd gladly sacrifice one of them for an extra set of 7.1-channel analog inputs, or a second component-video output. I can easily imagine using a single receiver to feed the component inputs on two different video displays—a plasma screen during the day for television, and a projector at night for movies. Being able to do so without having to plug and unplug cables would be a huge benefit.

In my book, the NAD T 773 scores high where it counts most—in sound and video quality, ease of installation and use, versatility, ruggedness, and implied reliability. Its no-nonsense visual design makes it among the least likely receivers to catch your eye on the sales floor, however. NAD makes some of its latest home theater gear in polished aluminum instead of its decades-old charcoal gray. The T 773 would look stunning turned out like that, but even in its current drab uniform, it's still an outrageous bargain that outperforms a lot of stuff at many times its price of $1799. With its upgradeable firmware, it should continue to do so for a long time to come. Performance, after all, is the name of the home theater game, and that's where the T 773 really shines. Highly recommended.