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Cambridge Azur BD651

Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD-B Review

What is it?

Essentially a Blu Ray player, which supports 3D.. but it’s oh so much more. It also plays DVD’s DVD Audio, Super Audio CD’s and HDCD’s. There are a few of the more exotic BD formats, such as BD-ROMS and RAMs and HD DVD’s that it does not support, but really it plays almost anything you are likely to want day to day. You can even plug in a USB stick and play media from that!

What’s the Technical Blurb?

It comes with USB input as mentioned, a LAN port (for BD live content), analogue video outputs, a full 7.1 analogue output array, 2 HDMI outputs (both of which support 3D) and an eSATA input to connect a Hard drive! It uses a Cirrus Logic 24-bit DAC.

The display is dimmable – which is handy as the default setting was rather bright. Boot speed was super fast and Blu Ray disks loaded almost immediately, with virtually no lag. Unlike my Panasonic BD player, which seems to take an age. In fact all responses were super fast on the Cambridge Audio. This is not common on Blu Ray players at this price point and really is to be applauded.

What does it look and feel like?

The styling is classic Cambridge Audio, it has a slightly utilitarian look, which is not unappealing and comes with a very nice remote control, with simple clear controls. On-screen menus are also a cinch and perfectly intuitive. It’s a sturdy machine, a confidence inspiring weight to it, with a thick aluminium front plate and chassis which feels nicely put together.

Why would I want one?

Well, it justifies its price as a Blu Ray player alone, the image quality on Batman Begins is stunningly good, I use a Panasonic 42” 600hz Viera Plasma Panel, and although it’s a year or two old now, it was able to show clear differences in IQ from my Panasonic BDP. The Cambridge was incredibly smooth in action sequences and had a lovely lifelike quality to the images, it seemed somehow less artificial than the Panasonic, but without giving anything away in the detail stakes.

It’s DVD up-scaling was on a par with the Panasonic, which is rather good in this area so parity is better than satisfactory. It uses Marvell QDEO up-scaling for those that are interested in such things and it seems to work very well!

Oh and I should mention that it is silent in operation too. No fans, no noise, no hum, nothing.

Where this player beats the opposition is its musical ability. It’s SACD replay of Dark Side of the Moon had us listening to the album twice in a row. Such detail resolution and the refined presentation was a joy. It did seem to be rather bass happy with Red Book CD’s though, I felt that listing to Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” the drums were visceral but ever so slightly in your face. I should mention that during very busy sequences when listening to SACD’s it came close to tripping over itself. I wouldn’t say it lost it, but I felt wary a couple of times. It’s not quite as nimble as we might expect from a Naim or Ayre CD player – but then it’s not in that price bracket either. Cambridge Audio’s dedicated red book spinners at a similar price point are certainly better with Red Book CD. However, we should remember, this is a very good Blu Ray player and the fact it does a Stunningly good job with SACD and HDCD disks is a bonus!

 

In short?

You really could sell your CD player and just use this as your primary source for music, especially if you have a lot of SACD and HDCD disks in your collection. But that’s not why most will buy it, most will buy it because of the stunning image quality, the simply astounding connectivity and practicality and the fact it’s built like a tank. I’ll confess, I have asked Audio Partnership what price they’d want for me to keep it… it’s £500.00 by the way.. :-)

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