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I have a fondness for NAD. The brand has succeeded over the decades by creating products just a few degrees askew from those of everyone else; never following the herd but, equally, rarely radical. In two-channel audio this has often meant a stripped-down, fundamentalist approach with products having an appealing Bohemian quality. However, when it comes to multichannel AV, eschewing key technologies in favour of a ‘music-first’ approach could be a little too existential for its own good. Enter the T765.
   In a sector of the market that is dominated by metal-encased festivals of technology, like Denon’s AVR-3808 and Yamaha’s RX-V3800, the T765 is yesterday’s news. There is no on-board decoding for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, no networking functionality and the on-screen menus use stoic block text. The HDMI implementation is switched only (three-in and one-out) and the power figures of a claimed 80W across seven channels look very humble indeed by the standard set by the competition.

FEATURES: HANDY OR HYPED
Of course, NAD is keen to point out that within this music-first approach, it dares to ‘skip the heavily hyped me-too features’ and does not ‘succumb to the lure of wattage wars’. That’s absolutely priceless considering the T675 offers me-too Audyssey room EQ and that NAD spent most of the 1980s and ’90s pushing the power envelope with ever higher wattage figures.
   Moreover, given the choice between getting proper active HDMI implementation, Audyssey EQ or a root canal filling, automatic EQ comes in third every time.
  I’m sorry, I’m not buying it. No matter how the literature may spin it, the T765 is painfully short on useful features that the competition has on models half this price and the addition of Audyssey makes an absolute mockery of NAD’s claim that this stripped-down approach comes as part of a ‘do no harm’ philosophy. Oh, the irony.

GUTS 'N' MUSCLE
So it’s all the more ironic that the T765 sounds rather good. It has a smooth, punchy stance with huge low frequency presence that really underpins rock and pop music. Hooked up to the big Tannoy Dimensions the top end is a near perfect balance of extension and clarity that errs just enough on the side of caution to avoid aggression at high volumes.
   It is not the most neutral of presentations, but the sonic signature is damn close to the reference NAD Masters Series, having real musical energy and passion that many AV amps miss completely. In stereo mode it creates sound pressure levels with an ease that utterly belies its modest 80W claim and it’s no weakling in multichannel, boasting guts and muscle aplenty.
   There is no specific ‘direct’ mode but the straight stereo input is remarkably clean at normal listening levels. The string arrangements on Damien Rice’s O CD is beguiling and the NAD offers much of the sweeping scale I heard with some of the two-channel amps that featured in last month’s group test.
   The tonal intonation is on the warmer side of neutral, particularly as the strings swell on tracks like ‘Eskimo’, but it never fails to craft the illusion of a full orchestra.

SUITE SOUNDS
For multichannel music and cinema surround formats, the T765 has a full suite of 7.1 channel analogue inputs with an analogue bypass mode that disables the DSP engine. On the side of justifying NAD’s design philosophy, if you have a top-notch SACD/DVD-A player or an HD disc spinner, then the analogue input is almost certainly the best connection anyway as you eliminate any additional jitter in the S/PDIF interface.
    And as such the T765 doesn’t disappoint. With a Denon DVD-3930 feeding it a diet of multichannel  SACD the sound is warm and infectious in equal measure. With Sting’s Sacred Love and The Who’s Tommy the T765 positively encourages heroic use of the volume control followed by impromptu karaoke sessions blighted only by the wife complaining and the dog howling in anguish.
   Likewise, Anne-Sophie Mutter’s rendition of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas has plenty of scale and dynamic range but the smooth balance means that the upper edge of the violin is just a little too far back in the mix. You can’t help feeling that fine details are getting lost in the enthusiasm of it all.
   Conversely the T765 did a fine job of taming the pig-awful remastered Genesis SACDs. The re-mix of Wind and Wuthering in multichannel is entertaining enough but the recording balance is very bright (presumably to make it sound ‘clearer’ on SACD). The NAD tackles this with an even hand, smoothing the balance enough to let the music really come through. 

HIGH OCTANE RIDE
While the NAD’s robust and energetic stance is simple but rather addictive with music, it really clicks with
high-octane movie soundtracks. Miami Vice on HD DVD is full of large scale sound effects and is backed with rock and dance music that the T765 simply excels at. It managed to pick out a fair degree of small details, like the faint background whispering that builds the atmosphere as our heroes walk through the Haitian village in the opening scenes, but it’s not so comfortable with intense dramas. Female dialogue is certainly a little richer and chestier than ideal.
   Having heard and been impressed with more upmarket NAD receivers in this series, with their multiple sets of Burr-Brown DACs and more robust power, I can only really say that the T765 is a strip-down special, stripped just a little too far. 

VERDICT
The T765 is a thoroughbred NAD, complete with battleship looks, quirky choice of features and an undeniable musicality that nearly transcends its colourful if slightly muted reproduction. The architecture clearly has potential but the basic HDMI implementation and lack of on-board HD audio decoding make this receiver an also-ran in today’s AV receiver market.

 

 

Originally published in the February 2008 issue