Surround Sound Speaker Systems

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

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup of the system

Receiver

It is apparent that despite being a full featured A/V receiver, the 650R seems focused on minimizing the clutter presented to the user. This is both from an interface standpoint, and from the elimination of what have become largely superfluous listening modes. This extends to the setup of the receiver itself. While automatic setup incorporating room correction has become commonplace, Cambridge Audio elected to provide a straightforward setup process branded CAMCAS (Cambridge Audio Mic Controlled Auto Setup). The receiver detects correct polarity then proceeds to set the appropriate gain and distance of the speakers. The subwoofer is excluded from the automatic distance setting which is a realistic concession to the fact that a typical setup microphone located at a single location usually does a poor job of accurately locating the point source of low frequencies. The setup algorithms did an accurate job of detecting speaker distances to within 0.5 feet from my measurements. I did not check the gain setting separately, but will say from the listening tests that the settings did not seem out of line.

The remote supplied with the 650R follows the same minimalist design aesthetic. The buttons are well spaced, and respond positively to user input. The remote also has a nice heft owing to the metal face construction. It is not backlit, but I am not one to normally criticize remotes for inclusion or exclusion of this feature. I tend to remote-by-touch fairly quickly, and this is well designed for that style of use.

The 650R can assign any of the digital inputs to the source buttons. I used 3 sources with the Azur: PS3, digital satellite, and Mac Mini. All three sources were connected using the HDMI inputs, with the PS3 and digital satellite providing both audio and video through the HDMI connection. The Mac Mini audio was connected using one of the TOSLINK connections.

There are two minor quibbles I had with the 650R. During my testing period, one of my HDMI flex connectors failed. Due to the handshaking that occurs between the source, receiver and display it actually took a bit of troubleshooting to determine where the failure occurred. If the output is not responding appropriately, the 650R seemed to attempt re-initializing the entire chain starting at the source. Initially, this lead me to believe the fault existed between the source and the receiver. After running different iterations of cables between the different sources and receiver and display I determined the flex connector was the culprit. I will address the second quibble at the end of the Performance in Use section.

Speakers

The Aviano 8's were slightly toed-in, and placed approximately a foot from the front and two feet from the side walls. The Aviano 5 was placed about two feet off the ground, and a few inches from the front edge of a solid table. The Aviano 1 surrounds were placed slightly behind and 6" above the main seating area. The subwoofer was placed in the front left corner, adjacent to the left channel. The Aviano 7 was tuned using low frequency tracks provided by Mordaunt-Short to set the gain and notch filter. My listening exhibited significant room gain between 50-80 Hz, so the notch filter was set to reduce the spike in the subwoofer output. The process is certainly not automated, but is effective and reasonable for level of benefit achieved from the one-time exercise.

Mordaunt-Short states their speakers should go through a burn-in period in order to sound their best. Rather than subjecting my family to a day of white noise, I started using the system in day-to-day television watching. Rest assured, however, I will not be writing about my listening experiences with the Avianos and the Backyardigans.