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Cambridge Audio Azur 640R review

Big, exciting sound, but lacking high-def audio decoding Tested at £600.00

Our Verdict

This is the best Cambridge Audio multichannel receiver we’ve heard – however, it’s up against stiff competition these days

For

  • Looks, build, spec, price
  • exciting, up-and-at-’em sound

Against

  • Overlooks fine detail
  • some treble concerns
  • limited spec is an issue at this price

The 640R's smooth, substantial fascia is mercifully free of extraneous controls, as is the beautifully tactile remote handset – only the thin, brittle-feeling volume control and the BBC Micro-style set-up menus strike a low-rent note. And the impression of value and class only get stronger when you switch it on.

The manual set-up is simple enough (though it's a struggle to get the subwoofer to meet the speakers at a common volume level), and the fascia display, while a bit on the ‘big print for the optically impaired' side, is at least legible from a distance.
Thanks to the 640R's HDMI-switching, video connections to a display can be routed through the receiver. Then, having connected as many of the Cambridge' Audios 7.1 speaker outputs as required, you can allow the receiver to do its thing.

And its thing, where movies are concerned, is excitement. Soundtracks to films like The Incredibles are delivered in big, bold fashion, the Cambridge sacrificing a little in the way of fine detail retrieval in favour of a rambunctious, attacking and involving presentation. Dialogue is distinct, the bottom end – while fractionally fuzzy – hits good and hard, and effects are steered rapidly.

There's plenty of sparkle at the top end, though in some areas treble is rather hard, so careful speaker-matching will be required. The soundstage is well defined and convincingly integrated, even when the going gets noisy and complex. There's tangible energy from the 640R, and an engaging enthusiasm for big dynamic variances.

Musically integrated
Music, too, is well integrated, with a toe-tapping emphasis on rhythm and tempo and the same exciting, rather excitable character as multichannel soundtracks. Music lacks the dynamic shove of films, though, and suffers from the same shortage of fine detail.

It's this lack of ultimate detail, plus that worrisome tendency to harden
the upper-mid/low treble information, that denies the 640R the final star. That, and the fact that it doesn't offer more modern specification niceties, such as onboard decoding for high-definition audio, or automatic calibration: in the modern market, that's an issue.

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