NAD T758 V3 A/V Re­ceiver Mod­u­lar Dirac.

PRICE $1,300

Sound & Vision - - CONTENS - by Mark Fleis­chmann

WHY ON EARTH WOULD A mag­a­zine de­voted to the lat­est and great­est in sur­round sound re­view a re­ceiver that made its de­but in 2011? Seven years in re­ceiver years is— well, a lot of years. But the NAD T758 V3 is not some old wheezer on its way out. The com­pany’s Mod­u­lar De­sign Con­struc­tion al­lows the ad­di­tion or swap­ping of slide-in mod­ules of­fer­ing new con­nec­tions or fea­tures. “In­stead of planned ob­so­les­cence,” the com­pany says, “we have planned evo­lu­tion.”

The com­bi­na­tion VM130 video and AM230 au­dio mod­ule that pushes this model from V2 to V3 adds Ul­tra HD video, Dolby At­mos, USB, and—via USB don­gle—plug-ins for Wi-fi and Blue­tooth, thus ac­com­mo­dat­ing a con­trol app and NAD’S BLUOS, a grab bag of wireless au­dio stream­ing and multi-room fea­tures. The V3 also swaps out the pre­vi­ously used Audyssey room cor­rec­tion (which was pretty spiffy and con­ve­nient to be­gin with) with bleed­ing-edge-but-nerdy Dirac Live LE, mak­ing this one of the few re­ceivers to have it. To ac­com­mo­date the new board, the V3 loses one HDMI in­put, leav­ing only three in to­tal for the re­ceiver (plus one out­put), as well as two dig­i­tal au­dio in­puts (choose op­ti­cal or coax­ial for ei­ther). Hav­ing just three HDMI in­puts is a no­table lim­i­ta­tion to be aware of, but prob­a­bly not a deal breaker for most sys­tems. Three is enough for a set-top TV box, a Blu-ray player, and ei­ther a stream­ing video player (Roku, Apple TV, etc.) or a game con­sole—but not both. How­ever, your stream­ing hub might be in­te­grated to­day within your game con­sole, or in your TV or Blu-ray player. In keep­ing with the times, legacy com­pos­ite video in­puts are ab­sent al­to­gether, hav­ing been elim­i­nated in the V2.

With Tunein in­ter­net ra­dio added via the BLUOS func­tion­al­ity, NAD has also de­cided to avoid du­pli­ca­tion and cut costs by elim­i­nat­ing the FM tuner. While that elim­i­nates your lo­cal ra­dio stations, you get them back again in stream­ing form along with stations from all over the world. Un­less you have an ana­log-fm fetish, you’ll prob­a­bly agree it’s more than a fair trade. [Edi­tor’s Note: OK, so the purg­ing of FM tuners I’ve long pre­dicted be­gins. Should we still call this a re­ceiver? I sup­pose it’s still re­ceiv­ing ra­dio sig­nals, just via the in­ter­net, right?—rs]

Af­ford­able High End

For the few read­ers un­ac­quainted with NAD, this British-turnedCana­dian au­dio brand first be­came famous for the leg­endary 3020 stereo in­te­grated amp. Now part of the Len­brook Group, which also mar­kets PSB speak­ers and Blue­sound stream­ing au­dio prod­ucts, it has a healthy line of two-chan­nel and sur­round prod­ucts. Among the sur­round prod­ucts, the only other model to get a V3 up­grade so far is the brawnier T777 re­ceiver; both the T758 and T777 have seven amp chan­nels. NAD’S ex­per­tise in bring­ing high-end val­ues to af­ford­able price points makes it a friend to thrifty audiophiles.

The T758 V3 is clas­sic NAD, with a plain face­plate and min­i­mal front-panel con­trols. Other than the vol­ume knob and nav­i­ga­tion rocker, with its menu but­ton, the only other but­tons pro­vided are source up/down and listening mode. They are al­most pu­ri­tan­i­cally small, but the NAD ethos is to put the good stuff un­der the hood, where you can ma­nip­u­late it via re­mote con­trol or the new con­trol app. The re­mote is sen­si­ble look­ing, with con­trols well dif­fer­en­ti­ated by size, shape, color, and lay­out. A sec­ond, smaller re­mote is sup­plied for Zone 2 op­er­a­tion.

Rated power is 110 watts times two and 60 watts times seven, NAD be­ing among the few man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­vide an all-chan­nels-driven spec. (As al­ways, you can check that against our Test Bench specs.) Those seven amp chan­nels are enough to run a 5.1.2-speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion with two front height chan­nels for Dolby At­mos or, not as much fun in my opin­ion, a 7.1-chan­nel con­fig­u­ra­tion with back-sur­rounds. You can add rear height chan­nels to achieve 5.1.4 with con­nec­tion of two chan­nels of ex­ter­nal am­pli­fi­ca­tion to the ap­pro­pri­ate line out­puts on the back, or also add back-sur­rounds for this unit’s max­i­mum 7.1.4 con­fig­u­ra­tion with an ad­di­tional two chan­nels of

ex­ter­nal power (though in that case you might be an 11-chan­nel re­ceiver or even sep­a­rates guy). DTS:X was ab­sent at press time but planned in a fu­ture soft­ware up­date.

The VM130/AM230 up­grade mod­ule con­tains all the afore­men­tioned video and au­dio con­nec­tions plus a USB jack. Out of the lat­ter hangs an in­cluded USB hub with four ports. I filled three of them with the Wi-fi and Blue­tooth thumb an­ten­nas/ don­gles, plus an in­cluded mi­cro­phone pream­pli­fier for the Dirac room cor­rec­tion.

Ul­tra HD passthrough runs at a max­i­mum of 60 frames per sec­ond with 4:4:4 color sam­pling (in other words, no color com­pres­sion) and with HDR10 pic­ture-op­ti­miz­ing meta­data (but not Dolby Vi­sion—so far). The com­pany says that “Be­cause the ARM pro­ces­sor we use for Blue­sound and its BLUOS High Res Net­work Stream­ing op­er­at­ing sys­tem also has ex­ten­sive video pro­cess­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, we were able to use this pro­ces­sor to man­age the video and also al­low BLUOS net­work stream­ing, a ma­jor new fea­ture up­grade.” NAD pro­vides no video scal­ing, say­ing that job is bet­ter left to the video dis­play—a tack also taken lately by other AVR mak­ers in all but their most pre­mium mod­els. HDCP 2.2 DRM en­sures an or­derly copy­right hand­shake with UHD sources.

Do­ing Dirac

But the big­gest story here is the ad­di­tion of Dirac, from the 15year-old Swedish com­pany that of­fers room cor­rec­tion for high-end home the­ater sys­tems as well as au­dio pro­cess­ing for mo­bile and au­to­mo­tive use. NAD has not just adopted Dirac Live LE but also got­ten PSB’S speaker-de­sign­ing em­i­nence grise Paul Bar­ton to tweak it. Bar­ton cre­ated mi­cro­phone cal­i­bra­tion curves and a “Room-Feel” tar­get “that is in­formed by his ex­ten­sive re­search into acous­tics and hu­man per­cep­tion of sound.”

He also made the po­ten­tially valu­able sug­ges­tion to keep the full im­pulse re­sponse cor­rec­tion of Dirac Live (which deals with time and phase anom­alies) but also limit its fre­quency re­sponse corrections (i.e., equal­iza­tion) to fre­quen­cies be­low 500 hertz. This bass range is where most rooms have the largest im­pact on per­for­mance. Many audiophiles pre­fer to avoid elec­tronic tam­per­ing with their sys­tem’s midrange char­ac­ter and in­stead tweak the listening ex­pe­ri­ence with acous­tic treat­ments to the room. There is a camp that ad­vo­cates for do­ing both. If you want full fre­quency re­sponse cor­rec­tion, you can down­load the stan­dard Dirac soft­ware for $99 ex­tra.

Most re­ceivers have a com­bined auto setup and room cor­rec­tion pro­gram. Dirac works dif­fer­ently, leav­ing speaker settings to be man­u­ally in­put by the user and per­form­ing only room cor­rec­tion. Note that this re­ceiver re­quires you to spec­ify your speaker char­ac­ter­is­tics in the Speaker Con­fig­u­ra­tion menu and then as­sign amp chan­nels to ei­ther height or back-sur­round du­ties in a sep­a­rate Am­pli­fier menu. That's some­what un­usual and not well flagged in the man­ual. Fail­ing to set both menus prop­erly could re­sult in the Dirac soft­ware not "hear­ing" your height or back-sur­round speak­ers and re­sult in er­ror mes­sages, as oc­curred for me ini­tially un­til I got things straight­ened out with a lit­tle help from NAD.

Even with­out this hitch, set­ting up for a Dirac run proved less straight­for­ward than run­ning the soft­ware in most AVRS. It in­volves link­ing to­gether a chain of four in­cluded items. You end up with the mi­cro­phone plugged into a bar­rel adapter, plugged into a USB mic preamp, plugged into a USB hub, plugged into the USB jack of the VM130 mod­ule on the back panel. The USB mic preamp can also be plugged di­rectly into a PC, though your fire­wall and an­tivirus soft­ware might have to be dis­abled to al­low the re­ceiver to be rec­og­nized by Dirac—po­ten­tially leav­ing you open to crim­i­nal hack­ers dur­ing test­ing. Mac users must also se­lect the USB Mi­cro­phone in sound settings. Ad­di­tion­ally, both the AVR and com­puter must be on the same lo­cal net­work.

Once the setup was prop­erly con­fig­ured, I then used the soft­ware in the com­puter to mea­sure the room acous­tics from nine listening po­si­tions, loaded NAD’S pro­pri­etary Room-feel tar­get onto each group of chan­nels, or­dered the pro­gram to op­ti­mize settings, saved the project, and fi­nally ex­ported the settings to the AVR. You can save up to three ver­sions in the soft­ware and se­lect them in the re­ceiver’s in­ter­face. The tar­get-load­ing and op­ti­miz­ing steps share the same Fil­ter De­sign tab on the Pc-app user in­ter­face, and the app doesn’t step you through them se­quen­tially—i needed a bit of ex­tra hand-hold­ing from NAD to get it

right. NAD does of­fer a step-by-step video on its web­site and con­text-sen­si­tive help in the Dirac app.

Ul­ti­mately, Dirac is an au­dio

tweaker’s par­adise; it’s great to see how your sys­tem mea­sures in your room and how the pro­gram cor­rects it. And the re­sults, as you’ll read be­low, were ex­cel­lent.

But be ad­vised that, com­pared with the plug-and-play sim­plic­ity of most auto-cor­rec­tion schemes, the learn­ing curve for this one is steep.

As­so­ci­ated equip­ment in­cluded five Par­a­digm Ref­er­ence Stu­dio 20 v.4 speak­ers, two Klip­sch RP-140SA el­e­va­tion mod­ules, Par­a­digm Seis­mic 110 sub­woofer, Oppo BDP-83 universal disc player, Mi­cro Seiki BL-51 turntable, Shure M97XE car­tridge, and Denon PRA-S10 serv­ing as phono preamp. All movie demos were on Blu-ray Disc.

Tighter and Snap­pier

Desul­tory break-in listening, be­fore room cor­rec­tion, re­vealed a rea­son­ably neu­tral am­pli­fier with no gross flaws or ad­di­tive char­ac­ter. NAD is good at that. With Dirac, the most ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence was the im­prove­ment in bass re­sponse, which zapped my room’s stand­ing wave and tight­ened rhythm sec­tions. Leav­ing the ba­sic midrange char­ac­ter of my room and speak­ers in­tact was no bur­den—the room’s bal­ance of fre­quen­cies is agree­ably lis­ten­able, if not un­flawed, and the speak­ers are pretty neu­tral. The im­pulse re­sponse cor­rec­tion was more sub­tle, and where room cor­rec­tion is con­cerned, sub­tlety is not a bad thing. Imag­ing im­prove­ments were mi­nor, but ev­ery­thing from top to bot­tom seemed a lit­tle snap­pier.

The Guy Ritchie bomb King Arthur: Leg­ends of the Sword

was a Dolby At­mos feast, giv­ing the height chan­nels a good work­out. Even with only one pair of At­mos speak­ers sup­ported by the seven-chan­nel re­ceiver, the sound­field was big, airy, and not ter­ri­bly speaker bound, es­pe­cially in front. What my notes call an “EZ tonal bal­ance” didn’t pre­vent a finicky approach to de­tail, es­pe­cially in the score’s buzzing trom­bone and cello flour­ishes, souped up in the mix for max­i­mum men­ace. Well-mea­sured bass rounded out the pack­age.

The Zookeeper’s Wife (DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio) is a true story about zookeepers who pro­vided es­cape and refuge for peo­ple from War­saw’s Jewish ghetto dur­ing World War II. The Nazi bomb­ing of the zoo was all too force­ful and evoca­tive. This sound­track had a warmer, softer feel and a slightly less vivid sound­field, though the re­ceiver didn’t al­low the soft­en­ing to im­pair di­a­logue in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity.

The fi­nale was Game of Thrones, sea­son seven, episodes one to three, an even more vig­or­ous cel­e­bra­tion of Dolby At­mos. As the White Walk­ers rose out of the mist in “Dragon­stone,”

the mix threw a sur­pris­ingly large pro­por­tion of the or­ches­tral score into my up-fir­ing Klip­sch el­e­va­tion mod­ules. The bat­tle of two naval fleets in “Storm born” be­came more of a medieval bat­tle scene as armed men crossed be­tween boats and at­tacked hand to hand, fill­ing the sound­field with may­hem—this was per­haps the only scene where I would have liked to have been run­ning at least four height chan­nels. It be­came abun­dantly clear in this scene that the net ef­fect of Dirac room cor­rec­tion and height ef­fects was greater than the sum of its parts, the room cor­rec­tion sharp­en­ing per­cep­tion of nu­mer­ous fast-mov­ing ob­jects ri­ot­ing through­out the wedge-shaped sound­field.

Bliss of Bis

Si­belius’s Kullervo and other works fea­tured Osmo Vän­skä lead­ing the Minnesota Orchestra and YL Male Voice Choir on yet an­other beau­ti­fully recorded mul­ti­chan­nel hy­brid SACD from the Swedish la­bel Bis. (Vän­skä’s Beethoven cy­cle is my go-to hi-res sur­round ver­sion.) The sound­field was ex­tremely airy— prob­a­bly be­cause the re­ceiver was re­ceiv­ing mul­ti­chan­nel PCM from the disc player and up mix­ing it to Dolby Sur­round, with its sim­u­lated height ef­fects, by de­fault. But even with Dolby Sur­round switched off in the GUI, the sound­field was fine-grained and col­or­ful, with no­tably clear, sump­tu­ous, and well-in­te­grated de­cays, es­pe­cially with a solo clar­inet part in the sec­ond move­ment. There was also a strong spa­tial sense of the venue, pos­si­bly a mix­ture of the Room feel tar­get and in­for­ma­tion em­bed­ded in the record­ing.

Billy Cob­ham’s sec­ond solo al­bum Cross­winds (LP) har­nessed his tire­less and some­times ex­plo­sive drum­ming to a per­co­lat­ing jaz­z­funk groove, ser­viced by the Brecker broth­ers and the late gui­tarist John Aber­crom­bie. I com­pared the room-cor­rected stereo mode to ana­log by­pass and tried to lis­ten be­yond the ob­vi­ous sub-on, sub-off dis­tinc­tion. I was well into side two be­fore re­al­iz­ing that the sound­stage was get­ting a lit­tle ex­tra fo­cus from Dirac, though again, it was sub­tle.

Once I got used to tight, fast rhythm sec­tions, I couldn’t re­sist go­ing for more. Ste­wart Copeland’s prodi­gious play­ing on the sec­ond Po­lice al­bum, Reg­gatta de Blanc (LP), never sounded more dis­ci­plined and sat­is­fy­ing. But the room cor­rec­tion also ex­ca­vated sev­eral distinc­tive high-fre­quency tex­tures from his cym­bal work. Andy Sum­mers’ Tele­caster was also a feast of spi­dery tone as he worked his way through tremolo, phase shifter, and other ef­fects. Dirac rocked this al­bum hard yet sub­tly.

The Blue­sound app was easy to in­stall and trou­ble free, not balky or buggy as some are. The 16 sup­ported stream­ing ser­vices in­cluded some new to me (Calm Ra­dio, Mur­fie, WIMP). Pandora was not among them, so I wasn’t able to ac­cess my free ac­count, but Ra­dio Par­adise was an ad­e­quate sub­sti­tute. It de­scribes it­self as “a unique blend of many styles and gen­res of mu­sic, care­fully se­lected and mixed by two real hu­man be­ings.” NAD gives it spe­cial promi­nence, along with Tunein, on the stream­ing home screen.

NAD’S Mod­u­lar De­sign Con­struc­tion makes V3 of the T758 a spe­cial oc­ca­sion as one of the small but grow­ing num­ber of sur­round prod­ucts with Dirac. Putting aside the afore­men­tioned chal­lenges with learn­ing to use it, it's an em­pow­er­ing tool for the quest­ing au­dio tweaker who wants the flex­i­bil­ity to ex­per­i­ment with room cor­rec­tion pa­ram­e­ters. Cou­pled here with this fine-sound­ing re­ceiver, the au­di­ble re­sults are beau­ti­ful.

The main re­mote has small but well-laid­out but­tons.

The rel­a­tively un­adorned face­plate is in keep­ing with NAD'S clas­sic aes­thetic.

NAD pro­vides a sec­ond, smaller re­mote to op­er­ate Zone 2.

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