Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD review

Fine picture and sound, but not the best in class with fast motion Tested at £500

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Very good – nearly great – and a real contender, even in this fiercely contested market


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    Fine picture and sound

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    impressive sound

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    good specification, including twin HDMI outputs


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    Limited online support

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    awkward remote

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    rivals deliver better at times

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At first glance, the Azur 651BD looks more like one of Cambridge Audio’s CD players than a home cinema component.

Mind you, even the briefest of glances at its socket-festooned rear panel will swiftly disabuse you of any lingering confusion as to its intent.

Peer a little closer, and you’ll notice that the 651BD and the Oppo BDP-93EU have much in common. Their socket fit is identical, and they also share key technologies such as Marvell QDEO upscaling and Cirrus Logic 24-bit/ 192kHz digital-to-analogue conversion.

Still, platform sharing is nothing new, and the end result is great.

Certainly, the 651’s socket fit is among the best in this sector, with both multichannel analogue outputs for use with older generations of AV receiver, and twin HDMI outputs.

This means you can connect to an AV receiver via one HDMI out, and to your TV via the other – perfect if you own a receiver that doesn’t support 3D video. Or you could connect to a second display (a projector, say) – though only one HDMI benefits from the fine QDEO upscaling.

It also has USB and e-Sata inputs plus an ethernet port.

Universal disc playback
The 651 can replay a huge range of disc formats, including SACD, DVD-Audio and even HDCD.

As for video, despite the murky transfer of Immortals, this player manages ample contrast and considerable depth.

Give it something more lustrous to shine with, such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and it positively sparkles. It could be a little smoother with rapid motion pans, however, as Captain America’s extremes of movement highlight, especially in 3D.

Upscaling DVD is less problematic, the vaunted QDEO scaler doing its job in fine style: in fact, in every key facet of image quality, from edge definition and overall stability through to colour vitality and black depth, the 651’s image satisfies.

Muscular surround sound
We’ve just as few reservations about the sonic presentation, with movies at least. Super 8’s muscular 7.1 soundtrack provides the perfect test: as the train crash sequence unfolds, the 651 pours on the energy, helping the receiver deliver exceptional drive with each impact.

Music fares well too, although the sense of high-frequency composure, good detail resolution and considerable drive is offset by an occasional lack of agility, particularly with complex rhythms.

It also seems curious that a company so associated with digital music excellence could release a Blu-ray player so apparently limited in its support for online music streaming.

That, together with a remote control that needs a rethink, plus the occasional tendency to freeze with certain discs, is enough to knock the 651BD down a little against its rivals – but only just.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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