While everyone else is trying to cram in as many features as possible in their home theater receivers, NAD has taken a minimalist approach to their new "entry-level" receiver, the T748. You won't find video upscaling, internet radio, or 2nd Zone capability, but you do have 7 channel amplification (with front speaker Bi-amping option), 3D and Audio Return Channel-enabled HDMI connections, dedicated iPod docking port, and auto speaker calibration system.
In addition, this unit runs very cool with its two built-in cooling fans. Is this the right home theater receiver for you? Keep on reading to find out. After reading this review, get a closer look with my supplementary T748 Photo Profile.
The features of the NAD T748 include:
2. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1/EX/Pro logic IIx, DTS 5.1/ES, 96/24, Neo:6.
3. Additional Audio Processing Options: Enhanced Stereo and EARS (Enhanced Ambience Retrieval System)
4. Auto-Calibration speaker setup system (built-in test tone and plug-in microphone provided).
5. Audio Inputs (Analog): 4 (3 rear/1 front) Stereo Analog.
7. Audio Outputs (Excluding HDMI): 1 Set - Analog Stereo, Subwoofer Pre-out, 1 Headphone output, 1 set of 7.1 Channel Analog Audio inputs.
8. Speaker Connections: Up to 7 Channels, surround back channels can be reassigned for front left/right channel speaker Bi-Amping.
10. Video Outputs: 1 HDMI (3D and Audio Return Channel enabled), 1 Composite Video.
11. Analog to HDMI video conversion. HDMI pass-through of native 1080p and 3D signals. The T748 does not perform deinterlacing or upscaling functions.
12. AM/FM Radio Tuner with 30 Presets.
13. Rear mounted iPod docking port connection (labeled MP Dock/Data Port).
14. RS-232 and 12 Volt Trigger connections provided for custom install control capability.
15. Wireless remote and onscreen menu system.
16. User Manual on CD-ROM.
17. Suggested Price: $900.
How The NAD Auto Speaker Setup System Works
The NAD Speaker Auto-Calibration works by plugging in a provided microphone into the designated front panel input, placing the microphone at your primary listening position (you can screw the microphone onto a camera/camcorder tripod), go into the auto-calibration option in the speaker setup menu.
This takes you to submenu where you designate whether you are using a 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup and then the Auto Calibration takes it from there, first determining the size of your speakers and distance of each speaker from the listening position. From there the system will set the optimum speaker level for each channel you.
However, as with all automatic speaker setup systems, the results may not always precisely accurate or to your taste. In these cases, you are able to go back in manually and make changes to any of the settings.
The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:
Home Theater Receiver (used for comparison): Onkyo TX-SR705
Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93.
DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.
Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.
TV Monitor: Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor.
Video Projector: Optoma HD33 (on review loan).
Video Scaler: DVDO Edge
Additional Level checks made using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter
The software used in this review included the following titles:
Blu-ray Discs: Across The Universe, Ben Hur, Hairspray, Inception, Iron Man 1&2, Kick Ass, Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, The Expendables, The Dark Knight, The Incredibles, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
3D Blu-ray Discs: Avatar, Despicable Me, Disney's A Christmas Carol, Drive Angry, Goldberg Variations Acoustica, My Bloody Valentine, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Space Station (IMAX), Tangled, Tron: Legacy, and Under The Sea (IMAX).
Standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.
Internet Streamed Content: Troll Hunter (Netflix)
CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.
DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.
SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.
At first glance, the power output ratings stated for the T748 may seem modest, but, in reality, that is not the case. The T748's power ratings adhere to the FTC standard which is more conservative than standards used by many manufacturers. I found that the power output of the T748 to be more than adequate to fill an average size room and compared well to my Onkyo TX-SR705 home theater receiver in both 2 and 5/7 channel operation modes.
Using both analog and digital audio sources, the T748, in both 5.1, and 7.1 channel configurations, delivered an excellent surround image. The T748 is robust, and runs cool, over long listening sessions. Feeding both two and multi-channel PCM signals via HDMI from the OPPO BDP-93, as well as undecoded Dolby/DTS bitstreams via HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial connections to compare between externally processed audio signals and the internal audio processing of the T748, I was happy with the result. Using a variety of music and movie source material, the T748 did an excellent job. There was no sense of any strain or recovery time issues with demanding music or movie tracks.
In addition to the standard Surround Sound processing modes, NAD also offers its own sound processing option: EARS (Enhanced Ambience Retrieval System) is an alternative to Dolby Pro Logic II/IIx and DTS Neo:6.
Instead of trying to replicate the precise directionality of the Dolby and DTS surround sound format options, EARS takes the ambiance cues that are present in two-channel music recordings and places only those ambience cues into the surround channels. This is designed to create a more natural immersive sound, without exaggerated directional manipulation. The result is actually quite good.
I found when scrolling through the available surround modes, EARS did a great job of keeping the main focus in the front left, center, and right channel speakers, but also sending a enough of the ambience to the surrounds and also sending slightly deeper bass to subwoofer, without over-exaggeration in either case. EARS cannot be used in conjunction with Dolby or DTS sources, it is best used with stereo music content.
Also, if you desire not to use any audio processing options, NAD also provides an Analog Bypass setting which allows a direct path from the incoming audio signal straight to the amplifiers and speakers with out further processing.
The T748 also provides extensive audio setting options, such as being able to adjust the dynamic range settings for Dolby Digital and DTS source material independently, as well as setting up to five A/V presets that can be assigned to each source independently as a default A/V setting profile for that source. However, in addition to specifically assigning an AV setting profile for each source, you can access all the available presets on each source as well by pressing the preset button on the remote then selecting number buttons 1 through 5.
However, as much as I like NAD's audio setting flexibility, I was disappointed that two important audio connection options were not included. NAD has decided not to include a dedicated phono input, nor a set 5.1/7.1 multi-channel analog inputs on the T748.
Proceed to Page 2: Video Performance, Pros/Cons, and Final Take