Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD Blu-ray Player Page 2
Once you get past the remote control, the Azur 650BD scores well for ease of use. Whereas the menus on the matching Azur 650R AVR aren’t much better than they would be if they’d been scratched into a stone tablet, the Azur 650BD’s menus are things of beauty. They’re in high resolution in a nicely readable font and are laid out very intuitively. Options abound, including setting up the player’s output resolution, which ranges from 480i to 1080p. Or you can set the player to bypassing its internal processing and directly output the source according to its resolution. There’s also a Pure Audio mode that shuts down all of the video circuitry for best performance with DVD-Audios and SACDs (or CDs). In my listening, it made a very small difference in terms of openness and depth when I put the player in Pure Audio mode. But if you’re trying to eke out the best performance, this is the way to go.
Fast and Furious (Performance)
Read our Video Test Bench below for more information, but the Azur 650BD is based on the same OEM kit from Mediatek that OPPO uses in its BDP-80 universal Blu-ray Disc player. In addition to being so universal, Cambridge pitches the Azur 650BD as having super-fast loading and access times. I can’t say that I have a timetable of all the BD players out there, and I may be influenced by the somewhat longer wait times that my Sony PS3 provides, but I do think the Azur 650BD is an impressive quickie. With the Star Trek Blu-ray Disc, the Azur 650BD beat the PS3 by a full 21 seconds starting from the closing of the drawer to the time video was on the screen. It bested the PS3 by 14 seconds with Pan’s Labyrinth and 12 seconds with U-571. These times were anywhere from half to two-thirds the time it took the PS3 to begin play on a Blu-ray Disc. I suspect that when you’re lying on your deathbed, taking your last few labored breaths, you won’t say, “Geesh, I wish I’d bought a faster Blu-ray player and saved those 20 seconds of my life… aaaaarghhh.” When you’re sitting in your theater with your family waiting for a disc to play, it’s amazing how impatient people can be. The Azur 650BD doesn’t start the movie instantaneously, but it gets you there faster than a lot of players.
Once you get those Blu-ray Discs spinning, you’ll like what you see. Over HDMI, both the picture quality and audio performance are as stellar as we’ve come to expect from Blu-ray. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies visually. It’s filled with rich color and plenty of detail in the dark, brooding scenes. The audio on the Band of Brothers Blu-ray Discs was also spectacular. However, the Azur 650BD doesn’t fare quite as well with standard DVDs if you elect to use the video processing in the player rather than passing the DVD’s 480i on to your display for deinterlacing and upconversion. The most visible problems are noise in the image and lots of jaggies. Whereas with Blu-ray Discs, the Azur 650BD ranks up there with the other players I’ve used, its performance is a little above average with DVDs.
As I briefly noted previously, performance with SACD and DVD-Audio discs was excellent, especially in Pure Audio mode. CD playback was equally enjoyable, with a slight emphasis on the top end. Overall, the 650BD is a very musical player. It has great performance with both music and movie soundtracks.
What’s All This, Then?
If all you own are used DVDs you bought on eBay, or if streamng Netflix movies are all you care to watch, the Azur 650BD is definitely not your machine. But if you’re looking for an overall great performer that’ll handle your obsession for audio as well as video, there are precious few other players out there that can handle the range of available source material as well as the Azur 650BD can—and do it for this kind of money. I’m not ready to replace my PS3 (my kids would kill me if I did), but if I were, the Azur 650BD would definitely be on my short list.