The T748 proves its worth from the very beginning of Return of the Jedi on Blu-ray. John Williams’ iconic theme over the title crawl is relayed with such force and grandeur that it’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The brass is crisp and cutting yet underpinned by rich bottom end, and this intensity is matched later on by Vader’s Imperial March, which sounds more menacing than ever.
From then on, the NAD continues the great work, tearing into the soundtrack with aplomb. It’s a dextrous performer that’s just as comfortable with quiet dialogue-driven scenes as it is with energetic action sequences, and sounds more powerful than its 7 x 40W rating suggests.
Luke and co’s escape from Jabba’s clutches is a real thrill ride – blaster shots fizz around the soundstage with vibrant energy and Jabba’s barge explodes with a well-controlled boom that really does shake the room. There’s a thrilling tautness and cohesion about the effects presentation, allowing you to lose yourself in a bubble of childhood nostalgia.
The Speeder bike chase through the forest of Endor is equally exhilarating, giving the T748 a chance to show off its smooth steering as raspy engines career in every direction. When the hapless Stormtroopers smash into trees, the explosions are deep and punchy, while the openness, sense of space and accurate positioning makes the overall presentation hard to dislike.
But during Luke’s conversation with Obi-Wan, the T748 shows its sensitive side. It shapes Alec Guinness’ distinctive voice with care and attention to detail, picking out every vowel and consonant without sounding nasal or sibilant. Jabba’s dulcet tones have real presence too, thanks to the deep bass layered underneath his voice.
The T748 also gets a decent grip on detail, drawing out the movie’s subtle ambience and high-frequency effects with the sort of refinement you’d expect at this price. That goes for every channel too. Surround information is beautifully presented, particularly the scenes set on Endor – the creature calls echoing all around the soundstage effortlessly convey a sense of distance and expansion.
Its performance remains well controlled under duress, refusing to buckle when the volume starts to climb towards anti-social levels. And in the stereo domain the T748’s smooth, open character does lovely things to music, resulting in a sound that’s clean and detailed but not clinical – the natural warmth and dynamism puts paid to that. Instruments and vocals actually sound like instruments and vocals, while the timing and tightness are up there with the best at this price.
Any negatives? Well it’s an accomplished performer all round, but didn’t engage and bewitch us to quite the same extent as the Onkyo TX-NR1009 or the Marantz SR7005, both of which offer greater power, dynamism and detail.
NAD’s T748 is an excellent performer, delivering exciting home cinema sound and smooth music playback. It’s also distinctively stylish and impressively built, which counts for a lot in our book.
However, at this sort of money we would have expected more connections and a better onscreen operating system, given that there are slicker and better-equipped amps on the market in the same price ball-park. And although we appreciate NAD’s performance-over-features approach, we can’t deny being a little disappointed not to find DLNA streaming or internet radio on the spec sheet.
But if those things aren’t crucial, then the T748’s masterful performance will make this feel like money well spent.