Cambridge Audio Azur 651C review

Good looking and spacious sounding, but not the best Tested at £450

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A good-looking, spacious-sounding disc spinner but not quite a class-leader


  • +

    Superb build

  • +

    open, expansive delivery

  • +

    well-defined detail

  • +

    even tonal balance


  • -

    Timing and dynamics could be better

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Four years ago, Cambridge Audio dominated the sub-£500 market for hi-fi electronics.

The company’s most recent efforts have been solid rather than spectacular, however, now is as good a time as any for a new CD player (and matching amp) to take centre stage.

Attractive design and great finish
Stacked together, the 651C CD and partnering 651A amp make an attractive pairing (although we always recommend placing kit on a dedicated rack – and that’s how we tested this twosome).

For the money, build quality and finish are excellent, with solid, chunky fascias on both components and wrap-around metal covers adding the finishing touches.

The 651C has a large dot-matrix display on the front, and its high level of contrast makes it nice and easy to read.

Like the company’s DacMagic, the 651C provides three different audio filters to help tweak the sound. Inside, you’ll find a toroidal power supply, a completely new DAC design, and a CD transport fitted with extra bracing to help maximise the amount of data being read off your discs.

Impressively engaging performance
One of the perks of having multiple components from the same company is being able to use a single remote control. The Azur wand is nice to use, if a little long in the hand, while the circular D-pad is springy and responsive, and lets you play, skip tracks and alter the volume.

The 651C delivers music in a wonderfully open and spacious way. Spin Beyoncé’s Baby Boy and the roomy soundstage affords the weighty bassline and zingy strings plenty of space to breathe.

There’s a good degree of fine detail served up too,while rhythmically the player simply laps up the pace of this highly charged track.

However, switch to something more demanding in terms of subtlety and finesse, and the 651C doesn’t quite hit the same standards. With Diana Krall’s I’m An Errand Girl For Rhythm, timing gets a little out of kilter and you don’t get a sense of the dynamic highs and lows of her vocal or the fervent piano-playing.

The track sounds a touch flat compared with close rivals such as the Marantz CD6004.

There’s plenty of appeal to this matching pair. They look the part and work well together to produce a grand sound that isn’t short on scale.

They’re not the most sophisticated sounding machines and bass can get a bit tubby, but on the whole, this pairing is a covetable enough set-up.

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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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