Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Affordable Systems Reviews: Mordaunt-Short Aviano and Cambridge Audio Azur 650R

ARTICLE INDEX

Cambridge Audio Azur 650R Receiver

Specifications

    Azur 650R:
  • HDMI Switching 1.3c, 3 inputs 1 output
  • Decoding formats: LPCM, Dolby Digital / Dolby Digital EX, DTS / DTS ES Matrix/Discrete, PLII/PLIIx, DTS Neo:6, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, Multi-channel PCM. All in 5.1/6.1 or 7.1 variants
  • 32-bit DSPs, 24/192 capable DACS
  • Separate stereo DAC for left/right from surround channel codec
  • Audio Inputs: 8 line analogue, tuner (FM/AM), 7.1 analogue input, 5 digital coaxial, 6 digital optical
  • Video Inputs: 5 composite, 5 s-video, 3 component video, 3 HDMI
  • Audio Outputs: 7 amplified speaker outputs, 7.1 preamp outputs
  • Video Outputs: 1 composite, 1 s-video, 1 component video, 1 HDMI
  • Recording Audio outputs: 2 line level analogue, 2 digital coaxial, 2 digital optical
  • Recording Video Outputs: 1 composite, 1 s-video
  • Other Connections 1 1/4" / 6.35mm headphone output,
  • Audio:
  • Power Output: 7 x 100 watts rms per channel, 8 ohms (all 7 channels driven)
  • 2 x 120 watts rms per channel, 8 ohms (two channels driven)
  • THD: <0.006% @1kHz
  • Crosstalk: <-60dB @ 1kHz
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz -20kHz - 1dB
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: >90dB ‘A’ weighted
  • Max. Power Consumption: 1400w
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 150 (inc feet) x 430 x 420 (inc volume knob and speaker terminals) mm
  • (5.9 x 16.9 x 16.5 inches)
  • Weight: 15kg (33lbs)
  • MSRP $1,799

rating criteria

Cambridge Audio recently released their top of the line Azur 650R receiver. This receiver provided the starting point for the system selection. While I considered using the Azur 540R instead, as discussed below, ultimately the decision was to go with the newest product which provided the most up-to-date codec support in the line. The unfortunate downside of being a boutique manufacturer, however, is their up-to-date models are often a generation behind the consumer brands. In this case, though, there is little lost. The system is not configured to take advantage of the height or width channels generated by the most recent iterations from Dolby or Audyssey. The 650R does support the Dolby True HD, DTS-HD Master Audio and of course LPCM. The revision of HDMI supported is 1.3c, which means 3D, 4K, Ethernet and audio return are absent. I would wager this is not a list of features whose absence our readers would lament. The tradeoff is audio performance now versus future proofing against what may in the end be a gimmick. The 650R packs a massive toroidal transformer which alone likely weighs more than most of the mass market receivers. Cambridge Audio also designed a unique cooling system dubbed the X-tract for the receiver. A ducted assembly runs down the center of the receiver with a draft induced by a large, low RPM fan mounted on the rear of the unit. In operation, the fan is barely audible from the front of the unit.

The video switching found in the 650R is similar in philosophy to the auto setup. Specifically, it is designed to make your life easier without getting in the way. The video processing is restricted to transcoding the various inputs, but performs no processing or up-conversion. In other words, a 480i analog signal will be transcoded to the HDMI output, but it will remain a 480i signal. I actually find this a refreshing approach to video processing. All the inputs are first digitized using an Analog Devices ADV7401. The digital signal is then output using a Silicon Image SIL9134 transmitter. An analog signal is concurrently provided using an Analog Devices ADV7322, which converts the digital signal back into analog. The HDMI inputs are handled with a pair of Silicon Image chips (SIL9185/SIL9135). My display uses Gennum VXP processing, so it is a pretty short list of video processors that can do a better job. I would rather every component in the chain not have onboard video processing because the marketing department has a bullet point quota to meet.

The 650R provides a capable assortment of inputs and outputs. I know it is incredibly difficult for a manufacturer to shed legacy connections, but it would be nice to see one of these days. I could forgo one (or all) of the S-Video inputs for an additional HDMI input. Similarly, I would give up any and all of the analog video outputs for an additional HDMI output. My primary display is a front projector, so there are times where I do not need an 80” wide display and can make do with a normal size display. I would think at this price point, the additional output would be well received. Lastly, while the 650R provides the token front panel connections, an HDMI input on the front panel would be welcome, especially with the proliferation of HD camcorders.