Who says that in order to build a home theater, you’ll need to buy so many different components that you’ll have to house them in a component rack? And who says that they can’t have style? If you’re looking for the home theatre experience in a smaller space, a compact receiver with a built-in amplifier, surround sound decoders and a DVD player may be the perfect solution. Choose wisely though, because compact equipment often compromises performance and functionality, in order to be compact. But there are always exceptions and the NAD L73 DVD receiver intends to be one of them.
When NAD decided to introduce a compact 5.1 channel all-in-one receiver, their goal was not to compromise its audio or video performance that NAD equipment is known for. So does the L73 live up to the promise?
The L73 is smaller than a typical home theater receiver, yet it performs all the functions of a receiver (with a tuner) and even has a built-in DVD video/audio player. It features an elegant design with a sleek titanium finish that nicely complements today’s displays. Two prominent oval shapes present themselves in the front – one is a display and the other is a DVD tray. A multi-directional keypad together and 11 buttons, allow access to basic functions, DVD commands and the setup menu. Volume control and source selection is performed by one of two rotary knobs. Another smaller oval-shaped lid covers the front video input (composite/S-video) and a headphone jack.
The NAD L73 delivers 45 watts to each of its 5 channels (or 60 watts to two channels). It provides playback of DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, MP3, WMA, VCD, SVCD and JPEG. A set of basic sound decoders are present onboard including Dolby Digital, DTS, ProLogic II, Dolby Virtual and Dolby Headphone. On top of these, the L73 can also play sound in the EARS (NAD’s proprietary surround) mode and a Stereo Enhanced mode. Of course, the built-in DVD player delivers either an interlaced or a progressive picture to your display (selected via its onscreen menu). NAD’s L73 uses Crystal Sigma-Delta analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters with 96 kHz/24-bit resolution.
The L73 has a smaller number of inputs and outputs than a typical mid-range receiver but it’s understandable given its compact size and the fact that the DVD player is connected internally. The rear panel houses 3 video inputs (1 component and 2 composite/S-video) and 3 video outputs (1 component and 2 composite/S-video). A 5.1 channel analog input section can also be found for connecting an external SACD or DVD-Audio player. Finally, there is also a single digital audio input (coaxial/optical), a single optical output and a 12V trigger. Speakers connect to the L73 via multi-way binding posts.
I had the L73 connected to my home theatre much quicker than a typical receiver. This is largely due to the fact that the DVD player is built in. I didn’t have to make any audio or video connections that are normally required between a DVD player and a receiver. This meant no component cables, no digital audio cables and no analog audio cables (for DVD-Audio). Consider the cost of all these cables and the clutter they would have made otherwise. With the L73, you simply don’t need any of them. Other than connecting the speaker and subwoofer cables to the receiver, I only connected one other component, namely my satellite receiver. I connected the L73’s component video outputs to my display and allowed the receiver to perform the video switching.
I decided to warm up the L73 by placing a regular stereo disc of The Best of Chopin in its disc tray. This piano-only disc has a certain emotion and energy flow when played on a good system. The gentle keystrokes of the piano played with the realism of a real grand piano. Softer passages transitioned into more powerful keystrokes with exactly the emotion that I have grown to appreciate from this CD. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the L73 had the capability of performing nearly at the same level that NAD separates would. No less impressive was the L73’s rendition of a DVD music disc, Romantic Moments with Beethoven – London Philharmonic.
For a more upbeat selection, I turned to the Blue Man Group DVD-Audio disc The Complex. The details and depth of the soundstage were clearly distinguished in every song on this disc. The sounds of weird drums and various electronic instruments filled my room and created an incredibly large soundstage with precise movement from channel to channel.
After several additional selections from my music library, I can honestly say that the L73 is the best sounding all-in-one receiver that I have listened to so far. It had a warm character and handled everything very well, from jazz to hip hop. Every recording sounded clean and natural.
As I was selecting different music tracks, navigating through DVD-Audio disc menus and switching between various listening modes, I got a good sense of the L73’s remote control operation. The slim but long backlit remote fit comfortably in my hand. The buttons are arranged logically and were appropriately responsive. It did take me a few minutes to figure out exactly how to use the remote though – I’m not one to pick up the manual unless I have to. For a first time receiver user, it will be confusing just like any other receiver remote. But it had me puzzled a few times. For example, some button presses sent me in unexpected directions. While navigating a DVD, pressing the ‘menu’ button can misleadingly switch the input to the tuner. What? Upon closer look, there is an ‘FM’ label under the ‘menu’ button. This could be avoided by a slightly better design/layout of the remote. Anyway, after the first 10 minutes of operation, I had everything figured out and operated the L73 smoothly with the remote. A first-timer should probably read the manual.
Now that I was acquainted with the musical ability of the L73, I proceeded to watch some movies beginning with the Saving Private Ryan DVD. I thought it would be a good DVD to test the receiver’s punch and surround abilities. From the opening scene, as the American forces make their way on to the beach, the NAD produced a powerful and realistic scene across all the channels. Explosions and gunfire filled my room with just the right amount of punch and the powerful sounds were never sloppy or overwhelming. Don’t let the L73’s modest power ratings of 45 watts per channel lead you to believe that this receiver may not pack enough power. While it may not be powerful enough for a large home theater room, it did a great job in my medium-sized room. Watching other movies, including Kung Fu Hustle and Star Wars: A New Hope, I was impressed with the L73’s attention to detail as well as its’ agility. The dialog came through with clarity during each movie that I watched on the L73.
The video coming through the component outputs of the L73 was as expected from a midrange DVD player, completing the home theatre experience. The black levels were great and the shadow details were not squashed. The skin tones were natural and the colours were always well saturated.
Compact, simple and all about performance is what NAD must have thought when designing the L73 DVD receiver. The L73 has musical abilities that reach far beyond a typical all-in-one receiver and a capability of achieving the sound performance closer to separate components. On the theatre side, it produced a powerful movie watching experience. Additionally, it is easier to set up than separate components and with price tag of $1300 it is also quite affordable.
NAD L73 DVD Receiver
• Power output (stereo mode): 2 x 60 Watts (18dBW)
• Power output (5 channel mode, 8 Ohms): 5 x 45 Watts (16.53dBW)
• Total harmonic distortion: 0.08%
• Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz ±0.5dB
• Frequency response: -3dB 10Hz to 60kHz
• Signal/noise ratio (ref. rated power / 8 Ohms): 99dB
• Signal/noise ratio (ref. 1W / 8 Ohms): 85dB
• Frequency response DVD-Audio: 48kHz sampling 10Hz – 22kHz 96kHz sampling 4Hz – 44kHz
• Frequency Response CD Audio: 10Hz -22kHz
• Dynamic range: 103 dB
• Video inputs: 1 component, 3 S- Video, 3 composite
• Audio inputs: 1 coaxial, 1 optical
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 17 1/16 x 4 3/4 x 13” (435 x 121 x 330 mm)
• Weight: 32 lbs (14.5 kg)