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Review and Measurements of NAD T777 AVR

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Audio/Video Receiver (AVR). It is on kind loan from a generous member who has loaned me a bunch of other gear. The T777 is a high-end offering from NAD and costs US $2,750.

The front panel and controls have some of the best look and feel of any AVR I have tested so far:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Review.jpg

The volume control actually feels like a volume control and not some stiff knob as is common in likes of Pioneer. The 4-way selector on the left is very responsive but I still find it odd that it doesn't have a click in the middle. The menus are more to the point although still obscure as other AVRs. What does PCM Surround mean? That I sent it multiple channels of PCM or that it is simulating surround?

The front panel "Display" button was great in getting insight into audio and video formats being fed to the unit. It cycles through different aspects of the input signal from audio to video. Like it though wish all of it was shown at once.

Back panel shows the NAD modular scheme of this machine:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Back Panel Review.jpg

Elimination of legacy composite and component video inputs makes the back panel a lot cleaner. That said, it is still obscure. The top set of RCA jacks for example says Audio 5 but not if this is input or output.

Speaker terminals are a step above budget AVRs, able to solidly hold my very heavy banana cables without looking like they are going to break any minute.

I drove the unit using HDMI from my PC. A reboot was required for proper output and resetting of Windows display settings. Without it, I could barely see what I was doing! My computer monitor can sync to my PC. Why do consumer electronic devices still have so much problem with computers in this day and age?

And interesting thing was the Nvidia card in my machine recognizing no less than 16 channels of audio! This made it a bit of a pain to test as I had to keep turning off the extra channels. In some cases, I could not and even though I was feeding the unit 2 channels, it would report 3.1 or some such thing.

I should note that this is one heavy AVR. A large toroidal transformer sits on the left side making that corner extremely heavy. My lab is in a loft and this was at the limit of what I could carry by myself up the stairs.

Anyway, my overall impression of the NAD T777 is very positive. It had a luxurious feel that I find quite lacking in AVRs.

For testing, I had to do a factory reset as once again Dirac EQ settings could not be reset from the menus.

HDMI DAC Audio Measurements
Here is our dashboard view, feeding the unit through HDMI and measuring on Pre-out:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Audio Measurements.png


Yes, another disappointing performance. SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is set by the high third harmonic to the tune of 84 dB, placing the unit in the forth and worse bucket of all DACs tested so far:
Best Audio DACs.png


Among AVRs, the performance is in the middle (numerically speaking). It is however much better than T758 whose amplifiers clipped severely, taking down the DACs with it:

Best AVRs Reviewed.png


Dynamic range was decent though:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


We are clocking at 17 bits or so.

I was surprised to see the frequency response not being flat:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


Don't know what explains this.

Filter response was classic DAC chip implementation where instead of rolling off rapidly to 22.05 kHz, it takes its time to 24 kHz:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Filter Response Audio Measurements.png


Jitter test shows less than excellent engineering design but audibly it is fine:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Intermodulation distortion versus level tells us more than the SINAD picture:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In IMD Audio Measurements.png


We see that performance is best at around -7 dB, giving us 90 dB of "SINAD." As we climb to 0 dB volume level, we lose fair bit to SINAD of 78 dB. The latter may be due to stress caused by the amplifiers being driven hard.

Multitone test shows what we already know:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Linearity test showed the same:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Linearity Audio Measurements.png


The zigzag nature of the curve tends to indicate truncation of 24 bits rather than proper dither. The exponential rise indicates noise swamping the signal. One channel is worse than the other as you see, showing lack of precision in design.

Amplifier Audio Measurements
Let's throw a stereo signal at the unit using HDMI and measure 5 watts into 4 ohm and see what we get:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


Not pretty. Not only do we have a lot of harmonic distortion and noise, we also have power supply spikes at 120 Hz indicating lack of sufficient capacitor reserves or poor grounding. The 120 Hz is so high that it is helping reduce SINAD although it is not as audible as harmonic distortion. Needless to say, ranking with respect to all amplifiers tested is not good:

Best Audio Amplifiers Reviewed.png


Among AVRs though, it is not half bad:

Best AVRs Reviewed.png


Pressing the display button told me 3 channels were active even though I was sending it 2. So I used analog input from here on starting with the repeat of the dashboard:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Analog In Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


Fortunately (or not), performance was the same with analog input indicating the amplifier is the limiting performance, not the DAC.

Dynamic range at full output level or just 5 watt is rather disappointing:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Analog In Amplifier SNR Audio Measurements.png


I tested power into 4 ohm using HDMI in and got this:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR HDMI In Amplifier Power into 4 ohm Audio Measurements.png


But when I used analog input, I could not get as much power before clipping:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Analog In AmplifierPower into 4 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Given the sharpness of the "knee" in the curve it is hard to determine the exact clipping point but still, the difference is a bit odd. Perhaps analog input stage clips itself?

Using analog input, here is our power into 8 ohm:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Analog In Amplifier Power into 8 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Spec is 120 watts and we are close enough to it to be fine with that. Notice the improved performance relative to its smaller brother, the T758 AVR. Then again, long, long ways away from state-of-the-art amplifiers like the Purifi.

Peak power shows a lot of reserve capacity:
NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Analog In Amplifier Peak Power Audio Measurements.png


The power supply is designed to drive more channels than 2 that we are testing. And without regulation, we are able to produce a lot more juice this way which is handy for handing high dynamic range in movies and such that don't last long.

Checking sensitivity to source frequency we get:

NAD T777 V3 Home Theater Surround AVR Analog In Amplifier Frequence vs Level vs Power Audio Me...png


Ideal amplifier would not care and all the graphs would land on top of each other. Here, we see at both extremes the T777 gets a bit unhappy. it clips earlier at 20 Hz (orange) and distortion spikes up and down throughout the graph. It is likewise wiggly at 20 kHz (red). Not too bad though.

Conclusions
As avid readers of the forum would have predicted, the NAD T777 V3 produces "OK" performance, unable to break away from the pack in any meaningful way. Desktop products run circles around it as a result. All is not lost though. The look and feel of the unit is excellent. The extra beefy power supply and amplifiers help to improve performance over lower end units in the line. And Dirac EQ should be a great help in producing much better in-room performance than a system without.

Measurable performance fails to garner my recommendation. But you have the data to decide otherwise.

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Vovgan

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#2
Thanks for another great in-depth AVR review!

performance was the same with analog input indicating the amplifier is the limiting performance, not the DAC.
Is it reasonable to infer from this that using a top-tier external DAC cannot in principle make this AVR sound better?

The reason I’m asking is that I’m using a Chord Qutest to feed my Denon 6500 AVR and it sounds much better this way compared to using Denon’s internal DAC, however given the results of AVRs tested here so far it is hard to imagine that Denon’s amp module would prove to be better than its DAC.

In more general terms, does it matter whether SINAD of a DAC is 10 or 40 dB better than the amp I’m using?

Thanks!
 

amirm

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#3
Is it reasonable to infer from this that using a top-tier external DAC cannot in principle make this AVR sound better?
That's correct.
 

Sal1950

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#4
At least you didn't chop pinkies head off. :p
 

amirm

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#5
At least you didn't chop pinkies head off. :p
He is on strike due to lack of pay relative to amount of work he has done in previous reviews....
 

Willem

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#6
This confirms once again my preference for using my 2 channel audio system for watching movies. You lose the surround experience but you gain ultra clean power and the impact of much larger speakers (quad electrostats in my case) than you could realistically have in multichannel.
 

scooter

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#7
Thanks for another review Amir!
Based on this and all previous AVR measurements now I'm even more interested to see the measurements of an integrated stereo amplifiers', how their amp and analog path sections will differ from AVRs...
 

Timbo2

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#10
Thanks!

I had assumed that the NAD T758 V3 AVR and this model used the same digital AV switching card. After your review here and comparing the photos of both your reviews I realized that isn't the case.
 

audimus

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#11
To be more precise and less ambiguous in conclusions:

... the NAD T777 V3 produces "OK" measurement performance, unable to break away from the AVR pack in any meaningful way. Desktop DAC products run circles around the DAC in it as a result.
 

thomasjast

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#14
Why do audio products designed in the age of brilliantly and cleanly designed internals of smartphones and small form factor computers still look like they came out of Wozniak’s back garage?
Because they clearly have the interior room to do so. Tight spaces require elegance and planning!
 

audimus

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#15
Because they clearly have the interior room to do so. Tight spaces require elegance and planning!
True, but these things look like the American cars of the last century which seemed like different people designed different portions of the car using the spare parts bin and then slapped them together with bolts and cables running all over the place. These things are not cheap.

I would think that has some impact on maintainability (unless that is never a design goal) if not on audibility from interference, etc.

They have done SOME planning to get that modular design for the different functions but it still looks like what a prototype would look like rather than something that productized the prototype.
 

vkvedam

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#17
Thanks for the review @amirm , I admire your relentless aspiration to measure a top class NAD product :)
 

Sal1950

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#18
This confirms once again my preference for using my 2 channel audio system for watching movies. You lose the surround experience but you gain ultra clean power and the impact of much larger speakers (quad electrostats in my case) than you could realistically have in multichannel.
At the loss of the complete intent of the films production team. With so many movies, that soundtrack is a big part experience the movie was intended to convey. I don't think you miss much in impact using 5 smaller speakers with good amps and multple subwoofers., over your 2 large ones.
Also, can't speak for my system but we have members here with things like 5 Revel Salon2's all around, big enough impact for ya?

IMHO, your missing out on a lot.
Your choice.
 

speedy

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#19
At the loss of the complete intent of the films production team. With so many movies, that soundtrack is a big part experience the movie was intended to convey. I don't think you miss much in impact using 5 smaller speakers with good amps and multple subwoofers., over your 2 large ones.
Also, can't speak for my system but we have members here with things like 5 Revel Salon2's all around, big enough impact for ya?

IMHO, your missing out on a lot.
Your choice.
I completely agree and Atmos takes it another step further.

I’ve yet to see someone hang Revel Salon2’s from their ceiling though :p

Joking aside...
- I’m a believer that excellent left/right speakers and 2 subwoofers are a min requirement for a great home theater experience... and excellent speakers don’t need to be huge. Three amazing identical bookshelf speakers across the front sound stage would be great.
- A center is key if it can nearly match/exceed the capabilities of the left/right speakers. I’ve seen so many home theaters with great left/right speakers and a tiny & poorly placed center speaker.
- Just my opinion, but the rest of the speakers don’t need to be nearly as capable as the left/center/right speakers since 99% of what comes out of them should theoretically be related to immersion and ambiance vs actual discrete sounds.
- The side surrounds are much more important than the back surrounds and should be prioritized accordingly in quality.
- Atmos height speakers are a can of worms, but I think the most important thing is that they disappear and can’t be audibly distinguished.
 
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amirm

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#20
To be more precise and less ambiguous in conclusions:

... the NAD T777 V3 produces "OK" measurement performance, unable to break away from the AVR pack in any meaningful way. Desktop DAC products run circles around the DAC in it as a result.
They do the same on amplification although admittedly they are not desktop products.
 
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