The first job of any high-end A/V receiver is to deliver audio amplification that rivals that of serious separate components, and in this the T785 succeeds admirably. Its 7 x 120 watts output effortlessly drove my everyday speaker suite, which is slightly lower in sensitivity than typical systems, with both authority and finesse during both stereo and multichannel listening.
With the T785 cracking the whip, that old warhorse the Saint-Saëns C Minor "Organ" Symphony on a Telarc CD delivered its full complement of aural power and glory. The final movement blends the breadth and depth of the late-classical orchestra with that of a large pipe organ, with results that can easily overwhelm an audio system. But the NAD never displayed anything but controlled, musical, tonally refined playback. It also displayed impressive brute force. When I cued up the multichannel DVD-Audio disc of Donald Fagen's Kamakiriad, I was rewarded by truly studio-control-room levels of dynamic smack and clean, full-range SPL.
An equally important task of any flagship A/V receiver is to provide convenient, competent switching and integration of standard- and high-def video sources, and the NAD shone here as well. The T785's HDMI switching was quick (well, as quick as HDMI switching gets...) and glitch-free, and its video processor delivered clean 1080p upconversion from analog and digital sources. What's more, the T785's extensive noise-reduction and other video-processing options delivered one of the better presentations of standard-def video I've seen when suitably tweaked, working particularly well with lesser-quality signals. (No, the T785 doesn't make crappy broadcasts look just like hi-def, but when you're watching a poor-quality SD college hockey game, it helps a lot.)
A final item worth mentioning is NAD's Audyssey implementation. Rather than just contenting itself with Audyssey's own notion of "corrected" room and speaker response, NAD worked to implement an additional "NAD EQ" curve, available from the DSP Options menu. Compared with the Audyssey standard "target curve" (also userselectable), this yielded a subtly but distinctly warmer, less "analytical" timbre, most noticeable on music passages rich in mid-treble such as massed strings. On my system, which is quite flat and extended at high frequencies, I indeed preferred it.
As expected, the receiver passed my favorite Blu-ray Disc movie-scene obstacle courses without breaking much of a sweat. Thanks to NAD, I watched the Bollywood-inspired Across the Universe with more pleasure than expected. The T785 presented its just-okay Dolby TrueHD soundtrack with great transparency and precision, although it also had the effect of making the continual Auto-Tuning of the two leads' singing voices painfully evident.
The T785's audio and video performance was immensely satisfying, but it was its sheer everyday usability that stole my heart. The supplied HTRC1 remote controller is a heavy, handsome object that eschews touchscreens or modal operations for well-spaced keys, sensible graphics and key shapes, full backlighting, and almost perfectly intuitive operation. It also carries two of my favorite features: always-available, dedicated volume-trim keys for surround, center, and subwoofer channels, and a DISP key that pops up a translucent bottom-of-screen panel showing information like current surround mode and A/V signal details.
Now, the T785 is short on features per se - to its credit, in my book. One that it does have is an unusually intelligent multizone scheme, which includes a supplied, secondary cardtype remote controller for one of the three possible remote rooms/zones, and an assignable stereo-mix digital output for another. A second that deserves special mention is NAD's Preset scheme, a simple set of five memory locations. Each of these can store a combination of surround-mode and DSP options (which include the all important Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic Volume settings), tone controls, picture controls (aspect ratio, edge enhancement, noise reduction, and brightness/contrast), plus speaker- setup selections including all the size, crossover, and level calibrations or adjustments. A moment's reflection should convince you of how powerful this simple arrangement is: You might design one preset for full-bore, fulldynamics home theater playback and another with moderate Dynamic EQ/Volume processing plus brighter pictures dialed in for casual, daytime viewing.
So is NAD's new flagship T785 the perfect A/V receiver? Pretty damned close if your interest, like mine, lies more in pure performance and less in features or flash. It's not cheap, but the top end of a maker's lineup rarely is, and the unit's excellent performance, peerless livability, and unique antiobsolescence engineering justify the cost.
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