Like many, I admire NAD's long-standing adherence to its 'music first' ideology, which basically boils down to putting performance before features that you might not use.

In a hi-def world, is there really a place for a £900 receiver with just five channels and no HD audio support at all?

Probably not, which is why the all-new T755 – despite looking conservative – is actually a quantum leap forward from the archaic T754 that it replaces.

Improved features

With HDMI v1.3 switching and 7.1 channel inputs, the new model embraces Blu-ray for the first time, instead of simply hoping it'll go away and stop complicating everything.

The T755 has the hi-def format covered with Full HD 1080p switching and the ability to accept a decoded Dolby Digital TrueHD or DTS-HD MA soundtrack as Linear PCM delivered by analogue phono inputs, even though it can't decode the bitstream itself.

Limited audio options

There are still some rather shocking omissions though. For starters, after much recounting, there are definitely only five amplifiers on board.

This obviously rules out any extended 6.1 and 7.1 configurations you might have planned. There are additional 'speaker B' outputs, and a zone 2 remote is provided, but an additional amp or active speaker is required for a second room.

Even more surprising at this level is the lack of audio support via HDMI. Despite being classified by NAD as v1.3, the HDMI inputs only pass through video; you'll need to connect an optical lead or make a multichannel analogue connection to your source to hear anything.

To 1080p or not?

The AVR also lacks video upscaling, but will upconvert legacy sources to component. That in itself is not too much of a loss.

Upscaling to 1080i or 1080p may be a key feature this season in AV circles, but all too often cheap interpolation simply buggers up a perfectly good standard-def picture and adds another level of complicity.

Irritatingly, while you can convert a composite or S-video feed to output via component, analogue-to-digital conversion is absent, effectively eliminating access to the basic set-up menus through HDMI.

This is massively inconvenient, and cocks a snook at how modern HD screens are used. Given that broadcasters can downgrade an HD signal delivered via component (Freesat is already allowing broadcasters to use just such an Image Constraint Token flag on some programmes), you have to keep using the HDMI output.

Limiting menus to component means you have to sacrifice an input on your TV.

Robust design

But let's concentrate on the more positive features on offer. For one thing, the T755 is built like a battleship, flattening most of its rivals in terms of sheer weight, and if you like the science lab styling, it aces them on looks too.

The moody black fascia is generally uncluttered by logos, save for early models (such as the one reviewed) which have a DAB badge.

Naturally, digital radio is present on this receiver, as well as FM, but note that you need an optional extra NAD DB 1 module to receive DAB transmissions.

It's worth it though; if you listen to radio in your cinema room, then you'll love the unfussy clarity and easy channel-hopping.

Frustrating menu system

Equally surprisingly, there's Audyssey room equalisation, achieved via the supplied setup microphone. This is actually the kind of non-essential feature I assumed NAD would eschew.

It certainly speeds up the calibration procedure, though, and given the rudimentary onscreen menu system that you have to deal with here, that's a good thing.

While most manufacturers have gone to some effort to make their GUIs a little more user-friendly in recent incarnations, with NAD it's still a case of scrolling through an unhelpful series of menus.

At least the remote control is a little more intuitive. It's flexible too, with illuminating buttons and the ability to control up to seven other components.

Rich performance

Starting with a Sigur Rós CD and a Denon DVD-1910 as a source, it's reassuring to find that NAD's sonic philosophy still holds true.

A rich and warm low-end gives the T755 a characteristically analogue-sounding tone with a descriptive treble able to pick out the acoustic instruments in Sigur's complicated mixes. In stereo mode the mid-band is open enough to give the music a broad sense of scale, too.

Moving up to a multichannel mix of a Mozart symphony on DVD Audio is an even better way to demonstrate the NAD's poise through all five channels. It's powerful enough to drive a good set of speakers (in this case an array of Miller & Kreisels) without straining and deliver deep notes.

The Audyssey setup tends to set the bass a little high in fact, so you'll probably find yourself turning it down.

Warm tones

This warm tone suits movie playback, too. With the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Pan's Labyrinth, the NAD T755 is able to steer the fairytale music and chilling sound effects with uncanny accuracy.

Sudden crescendos fill the room without topping out at all and, unlike lesser receivers, loud effects sound exciting rather than jarring.

The warmer balance certainly works very well with both musical scores like this and action-led movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

It's just a shame that there's no way of hearing the extended soundtrack on this disc with the NAD receiver and a PlayStation 3. The world's most popular Blu-ray player lacks a multichannel analogue output.

Turn it up

NAD's audiophile reputation is backed up by our Tech Labs' findings. The T755 performs well over specification, exceeding its quoted power output on all tests.

We measured it at 110W into 8 with five channels driven. The excellent fidelity firewall performance (a measure of uncompromised amplification) suggest that it stays consistent at high output levels, too.

Don't be afraid to reach for the volume control, then.

Premium performance, premium price

NAD has probably achieved what it set out to do with the T755, by creating a machine that can deliver high-quality music and home cinema sound.

This purity of vision comes at a high cost. At £900, it's up against high-performance home cinema heavyweights from Denon, Onkyo and Yamaha, all of whom are offering seven-channel machines with all the video and audio processing you can think of.

In fact, if you want your AVR to be the hub of a sophisticated home entertainment system, the features desert that is the NAD T755 will be limiting.

On the other hand, if you only ever plan to use five speakers and you have a Blu-ray player with an analogue 5.1 audio output then it may be reassuring to know that none of your budget is being wasted on fanciful frippery. NAD fans should form an orderly queue.