NAD T 778 AV Surround Receiver
- 140 watts per channel, 9.2
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dirac Live, Apple AirPlay 2
- BluOS supports multi-room distribution of hi-res formats like MQA
- Modular Design Construction allows upgrades to future I/O technologies
- Six HDMI 2.0 inputs pass 4K video and the latest audio codecs
- Front panel touchscreen with color display
- Programmable backlit remote included
The AV Surround Receiver is the heart of many hi-fi systems and NAD’s T 778 is a flagship entry into that genre. With 9.2 channels rated at 140 watts per, it supports nearly every audio format and passes 4K video through its six HDMI inputs. With Modular Design Construction, the user can swap out I/O cards when new technologies appear. Maintaining NAD’s reputation for neutral sound, it also includes Dirac Live room correction and BluOS which opens the T 778 up to a vast world of streamed content. With NAD’s build quality, this AVR can serve the user through many upgrades.
At the heart of many hi-fi systems is an AV surround receiver. This all-important box combines the functions of pre-amp, power-amp, and video management into a single component. Today’s receivers also must manage streamed content for users who have put their optical discs into storage in favor of playing their music either from the internet or from an in-home file server. The NAD T 778 can manage all those functions. Its hybrid digital amplifier design supports nine channels at 140 watts per. If you have enough speakers for a Dolby Atmos setup, it can run either 7.1.2 or 5.1.4. Modular Design Construction (MDC) means you can swap out I/O cards when new technologies appear. How many receivers have been relegated to the closet when a new HDMI version came out? I’m cringing at the thought of replacing my Integra DHC 80.1 processor someday because it only supports HDMI 1.3a.
Using hybrid digital amplifiers, the T 778 serves up NAD’s classic neutral and honest sound. With Dirac Live included, you can tailor both frequency and phase response to best fit your listening environment. BluOS with multi-room capability ensures access to a huge amount of streamed content from thousands of providers. The T 778 can anchor a home theater or just provide great audio for a two-channel or surround audio system. As NAD’s flagship receiver, there is little it cannot do. Let’s take a look.
Full Disclosure Power (9 channels driven):
140W @ 8 ohms, 170W @ 4 ohms
IHF Dynamic Power:
165W @ 8 ohms, 280W @ 4 ohms
Total Harmonic Distortion at rated power:
IM distortion at rated power:
>300 (20Hz-1kHz, 8 ohms)
Input Sensitivity and Impedance:
1.12V (ref. 8 ohms, volume at 0dB)
±0.3dB/-0.8dB (ref. 1kHz, 20Hz-20kHz)
Signal to Noise Ratio:
>100dB (rated power @ 8 ohms, A-WTD), >82dB (1W @ 8 ohms, A-WTD)
17 3/16” x 5 9/16” x 16 14/16”
NAD T 778 AV Surround Sound Receiver MSRP:
Receiver Review 2020, NAD, T 778, AV Surround Receiver, receiver, surround sound, home theater, mqa, mdc, avr review, receiver review
There are quite a few things to see and hear in the T 778. First off is the hybrid digital amplifier design which delivers nine channels rated at 85 watts per, Full Disclosure Power, which represents a maximum load at the rated distortion level of .08%. In use, the power delivery is closer to 140 watts at 8 ohms with peak dynamic power at 165 watts. Though I can’t verify this with test gear, I can say that this receiver runs cooler than anything I’ve yet reviewed. My front three speakers present a 4-ohm load with 6 ohms for the two surrounds. After blasting Mahler symphonies for an hour, the receiver is barely above room temperature. To call these amps efficient is to engage in understatement. I can’t imagine a speaker that won’t be driven well by the T 778.
One could stop there and be more than satisfied with the sound which is NAD’s familiar honest and neutral presentation. But since no one has a perfect acoustical space, Dirac Live is included. The necessary mic is in the box along with a license to download the latest software. I’ve used Dirac before in my reviews of the T 777 and T 758. The latest version has a much slicker interface, better performance, and more options for personalization if you upgrade to the Pro license.
The T 778 also embraces the latest technologies with BluOS and MQA. BluOS is NAD’s streaming platform and it allows access to a universe of content from paid providers, free internet radio, and locally stored music. It also has multi-room capability that works with the receiver’s second zone and is easily controlled by a phone or tablet app.
Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is supported on every digital input. You can stream this high-res format from services like Tidal through BluOS. Or if you prefer another source, the same quality will come through the T 778’s HDMI, coax and optical inputs. Also supported is Apple AirPlay 2. This allows easy integration with the music apps found on iPhones and iPads.
I/O follows NAD’s Modular Design Construction which in the T 778’s case consists of two card slots. There is an HDMI card with five inputs and two outputs, all version 2.0 with HDCP 2.2. A sixth HDMI 2.0 resides on the front panel. This card also has an RJ-45 and a USB port. The second card has two each of coax and optical inputs along with RCA’s for two additional pre-out channels. By adding a two-channel power amp, you could have a total of 11 channels for 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
The rest of the very clean back panel carries inputs for moving-magnet phono input, two analog stereo and pre-outs for two subs, L/C/R, and four surround channels. The setup menu has options for using the extra amps as rear surrounds, height channels, or bi-amping the front speakers. The T 778 is also integrator friendly with trigger and IR inputs and outputs along with an RS-232 port. The nine-speaker terminals are five-way binding posts that accept a variety of cable connectors or bare wire.
The remote is a high-quality handset that is backlit and programmable. It can be used to control other components and function as a universal remote with volume punch-through and macro capability. You can also control all the T 778’s features from the front touchscreen. This large color display is the nicest feature of its kind I’ve ever seen and it responds to both touch and swipe gestures. When you’re not using it, it shows either status messages or graphics to represent streamed content. One of my favorite features is the virtual VU meter. Available on the BluOS input, it shows classic needle-type meters that dance along with your music. It’s just the thing for parties or audiophiles that enjoy a nostalgic look. The only other items on the front panel are a small volume knob, power toggle, headphone jack, and HDMI & USB ports.
The first order of business is to make all the T 778’s physical connections. I connected my Axiom speakers to the binding posts with banana plugs which fit securely. I ran LFR1100 towers with only the front drivers engaged which effectively turns them into M100s. The center channel is a VP180 and the two surrounds are QS8. The sub is also Axiom, an EP800 connected with a coax cable. My single physical source was an OPPO UDP-203 connected via HDMI and coax for two-channel CD playback. For streaming and networking, I hooked the included USB hub into the rear port. The hub has the necessary dongles for Wi-Fi and BluOS functions.
The quick-start instructions recommend checking for a firmware update which I did first. There was no update for the T 778, but I installed a BluOS update which took a few minutes. I used the BluOS app on my phone to connect the receiver as a player, then turned to the Dirac Live setup.
To run Dirac Live, you’ll need a computer (PC or Mac), or you can use a smartphone (iOS or Android). I used an HP Spectre 360 laptop to which I connected the included USB adaptor and calibrated microphone. The procedure is pretty simple. By following the steps on-screen for setting levels and measuring at five points around my seating position, I had everything done within 30 minutes. You can save as many configurations as you want and transfer up to three of them to the T 778. Once this is done, you can switch between the correction files in the OSD or with the front panel touchscreen.
While I loved exploring the sound of the T 778 with CDs and Blu-rays, my favorite activity was to turn on the BluOS input and surf through an almost limitless selection of online content. You can sign up for your favorite music services like Tidal or Qobuz or just browse through thousands of radio stations which costs absolutely nothing. It’s all arranged by genre so dialing up music to fit your mood or that of your guests, is a matter of a few swipes on your phone or tablet screen.
The BluOS app is very convenient and well designed. Once you’ve started a stream, a volume slider and pause/play button appear at the bottom of the screen. You’re never more than a click away from control which is good because every radio station or stream comes in at a different volume. I can’t imagine an easier way to provide background music for any occasion.
The sound quality of streamed content varies widely depending on the source and the compression level, but I went through dozens of selections and found they all sounded very good. I’ve listened to several other NAD BluOS-enabled components in the past and the T 778 is my favorite so far. It brought a presence to the music that I’ve not heard before. I had access to all the different surround programs, so I cycled through them and settled on Dolby Surround as my favorite. It provided a balanced presentation using all five speakers and the sub with a little depth added, no doubt by a slight phase manipulation. I would describe it as a wet sound, which is something I always enjoy.
Playing Redbook CDs, the T 778 is equally at home with hard rock or classical music. Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light is loaded with detail that is hard for many amps to resolve. Layered guitars with heavy distortion can often descend into a one-note mush. Luckily, the NAD’s super-accurate amplifiers had no trouble presenting every instrument with the perfect degree of separation. You could easily hear each part, sometimes as many as six guitars, on top of the drums, bass, and vocals.
I had the same impression when listening to Metallica’s Hardwired to Self-Destruct. Their recordings have only one volume level – LOUD. There is no effort made towards subtlety or texture. But the T 778 still managed to place the lead and rhythm guitars in different parts of the sound stage while Lars Ulrich’s drum lines rushed by in the background.
Dialing down the intensity with a little classical music, I cued up Alicia de Larrocha’s performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with the St. Louis Symphony. I was fortunate to hear her play live once in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Her sound is so crystal clear you can hear every note, no matter what the tempo. This came through the T 778 beautifully. A piano fan would immediately know it was her playing. I almost felt like I was inside the instrument watching the hammers hit the strings.
For a bit of surround music, I turned to my SACD of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony performed by the San Francisco Symphony. The T 778 played the multi-channel layer using PCM and its Direct mode. Though the center and surround channels are used sparingly for this recording, the sound stage was expansive both in width and depth. A super-low noise floor contributed to a huge dynamic range with the most delicate of pianissimos contrasted by blasts of brass and percussion. Woodwind solos came out from the texture with delicate string accompaniment in perfect balance.
Every NAD receiver I’ve reviewed serves up movies with relish, but the T 778 hit a new high for me. I started with Star Trek Beyond and was immediately struck by the clarity of its dialog. The black noise floor contributed to super-tight control of the deepest bass and the most fragile highs. Ambient sound effects moved all around me with clear information coming from every individual speaker. This combined into one of the most realistic surround sound fields I’d ever experienced.
That tight control continued in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. The opening of this film starts with a bass sweep down to a register that will bottom out any subwoofer, including my Axiom EP800. The first battle scene is full of sound bursts separated by moments of silence. The impact was palpable and textural; felt as well as heard. Through the explosions and destruction, dialog remained clear. Even the heavily processed voices of the transformer robots were detailed enough to understand every word.
The NAD T 778 AV Surround Receiver earns its flagship status and easily competes with others in its class. It adds value with Modular Design Construction which makes it almost future proof.
- Rich and dynamic sound that is always neutral and honest
- Modular Design Construction allows for future I/O upgrades
- Excellent remote
- Premium build quality
- Impressive touchscreen display
- Well-integrated streaming with BluOS
- No flaws of consequence
I’ve reviewed a few NAD receivers over the past eight years and the T 778 is the best-sounding one yet. As a flagship AVR, one expects it to top the less-expensive models in its line, and given the dynamics, I heard from both music and movies, it most certainly does. With a completely silent noise floor and amazing responsiveness, every burst of sound, whether it was massed strings or violent explosions, came across with tactility and detail. Textures were rich and varied and I never strained to hear the finest nuances. There is no fatigue here, not even with low-quality content. You can listen to this receiver for hours and easily lose track of time.
I really enjoyed the inclusion of Dirac Live which made the T 778 a perfect fit for my room. Its frequency and phase correction created a perfect balance on the first attempt. And with BluOS, I could sit for hours and surf internet radio stations or content from multiple providers.
When investing $3000 in an AVR, one is inevitably concerned with future technologies. Thanks to NAD’s Modular Design Construction, there is no worry. New HDMI version? Swap out the card. It’s a good bet you won’t need to replace the T 778 for many years. Since its core hybrid digital amp technology is so strong, it’s extremely unlikely that something better sounding will come along.
The T 778 is an AVR for the long haul. I’ve enjoyed my time with it more than any other NAD component I’ve reviewed. It receives my highest recommendation.