Third, the T 775 offers the characteristically smooth, rich tonal balance I have come to regard as the NAD “house sound.” This sound is, perhaps, tipped just slightly to the warm side of absolute neutrality, but from musical or cinematic perspective this is far, far preferable to sounds that are skewed in the other direction; that is, toward a cold, austere, “spotlighted” presentation that, while initially impressive, can prove sonically fatiguing over the long haul. The appeal of the NAD “house sound” is that it is unfailingly welcoming, engaging and, I think, relaxing so that it makes you want to keep listening for hours on end.
To experience the delicacy and refinement of the T 775, try listening closely to the first conversation between Amelia Earheart (Hilary Swank) and George Putman (Richard Gere) in Amelia. What the T 775 will reveal, and in an effortless way, is the very hard work that Ms. Swank has put in to mastering the crisp diction and somewhat unusual cadences of Earheart’s distinctive voice. Earheart was very well spoken and had gift for precise, eloquent word choices, which Swank mimics so beautifully that you almost feel she has transformed into an entirely different person—truly “inhabiting the role,” as the old saying goes. (You can verify the effectiveness of Swank’s work, by the way, by watching the extras for Amelia, which include some early newsreel footage that captures the sound of Earheart’s unusually crisp, clear speaking voice.). With the several different speaker systems I used with the T 755, the receiver consistently exhibited an uncanny level of natural clarity in reproducing the sounds and delicate—almost subliminal—inflections of human voices.
But as you might expect, the T 775 is very good at handling much larger scale passages, such as the hand-to-hand battle in the shipyard that takes place in chapter 13 of Sherlock Holmes. As the relatively compact and agile Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is pursued by the behemoth Dredger (Robert Maillet), you not only sense but hear the futility of Holmes’ evasive maneuvers as Dredger, bearing an enormous long-handled maul that has already proven too heavy for Holmes to lift off the ground, shatters giant shipyard beams and braces as if they were toothpicks, then picks up an enormous cast iron chain and flings it at Holmes as if it weighed no more than a pair of nun chucks flying through the air in a Bruce Lee movie. The big NAD does a great job of capturing the explosive force of the beams bursting, the clanking of the links of the massive chains, the loud but futile “pop” of Watson’s pistol being fired in Holmes’ defense, and—finally—the deep, ominous groan of the ship breaking free from its dry-dock supports and sliding into the Thames, dragging heavy chains, capstans, and other debris with it as it goes. The T 775 has enough sheer dynamic “oomph” to let giant-scale sound effects like these really expand, “breathe,” and fill the listening room.
But good though the T 775 is as a cinema receiver, it is truly a “music first” component—just as NAD advertizes it to be, which implies that for all its muscle this receiver give even greater emphasis to refinement and sonic subtlety. For proof of this, try listening to the Conspirare choir’s rendition of the Dolly Parton song “Light of A Clear Blue Morning”, as heard in A Company of Voices/Conspirare in Concert [Harmonia Mundi]. For those unfamiliar with Conspirare (the name means, “to breathe together”), it helps to know that the group is a sophisticated and eclectic choir that—under the guidance of Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson—is working to inject new energy and life into the world of choral music. To this end, the choir sometimes chooses “pop” songs, such as “Light of A Clear Blue Morning” as its musical vehicles, but treats them to astonishing new arrangements that impart refined structures, polish, sophistication, and deeper meaning that provide a whole new take on familiar material.
“Light of A Clear Blue Morning” opens with a simple, haunting piano passage, where the T 775 really lets you hear the sound of the instrument reverberating and resonating within the interior of Austin’s Long Center for Performing Arts. Then, the main lyric of the song is taken up by the powerful, crystal-clear voice of soprano soloist Kathlene Ritch, whose voice gradually soars and swells, lifting the song up to the hall’s highest balconies. Finally, the rest of the Conspirare choir joins Ritch, with individual choir sections taking up and expanding upon, individual lines or phrases drawn from Parton’s lyrics. The effect is enchanting, as if the song is literally unfolding and slowly filling the hall with its power. The NAD does a fine job with Ritch’s voice, and gives palpable body and presence to the choir sections as they join in. But perhaps the most amazing quality of all is the manner in which the T 775 deftly captures the echoes and reflections of sounds within the recording, creating the really believable illusion that you are enjoying the performance within a large, warmly resonant concert hall. (The effect was especially significant to me, since I had the privilege to be present in the Long Center when the original recording was being made.).