- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 19 August 2010
Given the design and construction of the T785, I had high hopes for how it would perform in my system. I started off with some two channel audio, using the analog inputs to get an idea for how it performed strictly as an integrated amp. The recent Mobile Fidelity remastering of Beck's Sea Change album has become the CD I turn to first, as it's very open and transparent and sounds as detailed as I think a standard CD can sound. I started out listening with Audyssey engaged and was treated to a very wide and deep soundstage, but things were a little muddled. Instruments and vocals seemed to be located in a general area of the stage and not anchored to a point, and the detail that I often hear wasn't quite there. I switched over to the Analog Bypass listening mode instead of stereo, and found that it made a world of difference. This bypasses all internal DSP functions, A-D conversions, and speaker settings (so you are running full range) so it's truly acting as a straight amplifier and nothing else. In this mode, the soundstage wasn't quite as wide as with Audyssey, but it was far more precise and clear. Vocals and instruments were anchored into place as if you were listening to them record in a studio and all the detail in the recording came out. I think this is mostly a function of Audyssey, which is designed to give the best possible sound to a number of listeners over a larger seating area as well as correct for room issues, but for when I listened to music by myself that might not be as desirable. The AV presets let me keep my analog inputs in Analog Bypass mode, which sounded the best to me.
Though I don't use Audyssey for my two channel listening, as soon as I go back to multichannel I always have it engaged. I fired up what has become my new benchmark for pushing a receiver or amplifier, the Blu-ray release of Fight Club. Where amplifiers with poor power supplies struggle is when going from a quiet sequence to a loud, dynamic sequence and they can't provide the large amounts of power that speakers might need in a short period of time. A good scene for testing this out is the mid-air plane collision scene, where you go from a quiet airplane cabin, to having a mid-air crash and all the noise and explosions that result from it. It's an aggressive mix that uses all the channels and asks a lot of your amplifier. When presented with this challenge, and with the volume cranked up, and T785 came through with flying colors. It sounded just like I was in the cabin of that airplane, with no clipping or compressed dynamics, even at a volume level far above what I would normally listen at.
Moving onto multichannel music, I went back to the Blu-ray of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at Radio City Music Hall. Most people have watched this on Blu-ray or own it which makes it a good disc to reference, and it just sounds fantastic. Listening once again on the T785 all of those little details in the recording came through. The sound of Tim Reynolds picking at his guitar, the metallic ringing that you would get from an individual note, all of it was there. After listening for a while, I just stopped writing notes and sat back to enjoy the rest of the concert as it had been a while since it sounded that good on my system.
One feature that people really want in their receiver now is a video processor, as everyone is moving to a 1080p display and since the scaler in the display is often lacking, they count on the receiver to pick up the slack. The Sigma Designs VXP that is built into the HDMI board of the T785 is one of the best solutions out there, used in many other high end products like the Lumagen Radiance XD and Anthem's D2v reference preamp. The T785 might be the least expensive solution out there with a Sigma Designs VXP, but they still get the performance out of it. Most of my material now is HD and so I doubted how much the scaler would help, but the area that I actually appreciated it the most was when using my TiVo HD, which I didn't expect.
I run my TiVo at native rate output, as many people do with their cable box or DVR, since I want to have it processed as little as possible. One side effect of this is that when I change channels the display and the box need to re-handshake over HDMI every single time, and it takes a few seconds just to change a channel. With the T785 set to 1080p60 output for the TiVo input, the display never lost a handshake when changing stations and it took only a second to do so. This probably seems like a very picky thing, but it made switching between channels (like with sporting events) much quicker than before, and just made watching TV more enjoyable. It also did a fantastic job scaling the content by not introducing any artifacts that I could see, and doing a great job passing the benchmark tests that I would throw at it from the Spears & Munsil and Marvell test discs.
Finally, as some people are interested, the FM tuner worked very well for me picking up the local NPR and ESPN radio stations, which some receivers have had trouble with in the past. The one quibble I had with the VXP is that it won't pass Blacker-than-Black and Whiter-than-White information, which is useful in calibrating a display. However, NAD feels that the display should be calibrated with a direct connection, not through any other equipment so you can be certain that nothing is interfering with the signal path, and as they don't have a VGA input on the T785 the didn't want to pass along information that shouldn't be there anyway.