For over 30 years NAD (originally an acronym for New Acoustic Dimension) has had the premise that to add 10 percent more performance to an NAD product would increase the price by a factor of 10. While there is some truth to this philosophy it may not always achieve the desired results when trying to tweak that last bit of righteousness out of a recording.
The T 973 seven-channel power amplifier will deliver a continuous 140 watts per channel into 8 or 4 ohms with all driven simultaneously. NAD also specs a considerable higher “Dynamic Power,” which better describes the way the amplifier will perform in the real world, amidst musical signals and reactive speaker loads, with 230 and 390 watts per channel into 8 ohms and 4 ohms respectively.
The T 973 houses seven individual amplifiers on separate PC boards with each channel acting like a mono block within the common chassis. Each channel’s unbalanced RCA input and binding post outputs are unique to its own circuit board keeping wiring to a minimum while reducing the possibility of interchannel interference even when more than one unrelated source is driving the power amp (as might be the case in a custom installation set up). A large toroidal transformer along with 80,000 µF of storage capacitance supplies power to all seven channels.
The input circuit is a dual differential FET Class A design along with a Class A driver stage, while the outputs are high-speed bipolar devices fully protected against excess temperature, DC fault and short circuits. Each channel has an individual gain adjustments with a common 12V trigger input jack and automatic turn on/off trigger switch. A soft clipping circuit can be activated on the back panel that limits the output when using the amplifier close to its power capacity and tweeter damage due to clipping might be a concern. The T 973 runs cool at moderate listening levels due to an onboard fan, which may or may not be a problem for some, it is for me.
Like many AV components the T 163 AV tuner/preamplifier has the ability to control several audio and video devices in varying formats but does require a video display or TV for set up. All audio inputs are unbalanced on RCA connectors except for the two TOSlink digital inputs and one output.
Six video inputs have both S-video and composite along with two tape loops while three component video inputs with a single output handle higher quality HDTV requirements. The T 163 has three stereo analog audio inputs along with six digital audio inputs four of which are coax on RCA connectors. A 7.1 analog input bypasses the converters and DSP providing an unobstructed signal path for SACD. Rather than the cheesy surround reverb programs i.e. Hall, Room, Jazz Club etc. found in many products like this, the T 163 has EARS (Enhanced Ambience Recovery System) which is a proprietary NAD surround processing matrix scheme that works well for turning stereo recordings into 5.1. All of the Dolby Digital and DTS formats are supported both in discrete and matrix formats as well as HDCD decoding.
The D/A converters for all channels support up to 24-bit/192 kHz with the analog outputs employing discrete buffer amplifiers for lower output impedance and higher current drive capabilities. All inputs can be renamed, with the preferred surround mode saved to an input location with five custom scenario presets for storing unique speaker settings including bass management, surround mode and EQ settings for instant recall.
I connected the T 973 power amp to my SLS ribbon monitors and the T 163 preamp to my Philips DVD 962 SA player and listened to SACDs. The sound was good but lacked the inner detail and depth perspective that I am used to hearing with my reference system (which only costs four times as much). Next, I listened to DVDs decoding both Dolby Digital and DTS through one of the coax digital inputs, here the sound was smooth and full with good overall tonal balance. The fact that this NAD combo may lack a bit of detail is a good thing here when dealing with the audio from DVD as more detail can resolve more of the warts or distortion artifacts in lossy compression schemes. Well-recorded CDs with natural ambience work well using the EARS matrix setting turning stereo into 5.1 again – smooth, full and easy on the ears.
The T 163/T 973 combo offers a feature-rich 7.1 multichannel solution at a reasonable price along with respectable sonic quality, at $1,499 for the T 163 and $1,999 for the T973. You would have to shell out quite a few more bucks to do better.
For more information: 800-263-4641, www.nadelectronics.com.