Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD 3D Blu-ray Player


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,299 At A Glance: Reference-quality audio and video • HDMI and digital audio inputs • Built-in 192 kHz audio upsampling

They say that imitation is the ultimate form of flattery; I say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. In the last few years, we’ve seen a few high-end Blu-ray players use the popular Oppo Digtal Blu-ray player as the core of their design, with at least one manufacturer having even taken it as far as dropping a complete Oppo BDP-83SE chassis into a different cabinet with a new faceplate and charging $3,000 more for it (only to be exposed later).

With the Azur 752BD, Cambridge Audio utilizes only the core video components and transport, which adds its own analog audio section and execution. So while my review unit did look suspiciously like a hybrid of Oppo’s latest BDP-103 and BDP-105, it only shares Oppo’s video section and connection features. And honestly, who could even think to fault them for that? With full Blu-ray 3D playback, scaling up to 4K, both digital video and audio inputs, and its own integrated volume control, this player takes a completely new approach to what a Blu-ray player can do.

The Azur 752BD is a great-looking player from every angle. The front panel is constructed from a thick piece of aluminum, and the complementing case features a nice design touch with Cambridge Audio’s logo molded into the top panel. Everything about the construction speaks to a high-end design, and nothing feels cheap. I loved the laser-etched logos on the front panel, a feature rarely seen on components at this price. The Azur 752BD features a USB- and MHL (mobile high definition link)-compatible HDMI input on the front panel. MHL allows you to hook up portable electronics like some of the latest cell phones and streaming sticks and delivers video and audio to the player. The Azur 752BD also features Cambridge Audio’s signature filter switch that toggles the custom digital filter modes. This has been a trademark of Cambridge Audio’s Blu-ray and CD players for some years now, and I’ll talk more about these later.

The back panel features some of the most exciting features to come from a Blu-ray player anywhere near this price point. It has a pair of HDMI outputs for 3D or multiple display support, and takes a two-prong approach to video processing. The core is the Mediatek decoding chip, which provides deinterlacing duties for any interlaced signal and provides the onscreen display graphics. If you’re using HDMI 1, the player then couples a Marvell video processing chip for scaling and video-enhancement features, including scaling up to 4K. Both outputs support 3D playback, but only HDMI 1 offers some of the more advanced video processing features.

Connectivity is a key feature for the Azur 752BD. You’ll find a pair of USB 2.0 inputs for connecting USB drives or memory sticks for audio and video playback, or you can use one with the included Wi-Fi dongle for Internet connectivity. The player can also connect to your home network via an Ethernet connection for full playback of compatible video and audio files it finds on your network. The Azur 752BD supports most of the popular playback files on the market today, including FLAC lossless audio sampled up to 192/24. It also supports WMA, WAV, and MP3 files and AVC, MPEG4 HD, and MKV on the video side.

The true highlights on the back panel are the HDMI and digital audio inputs. The Azur 752BD takes its role as a Blu-ray player much further than most and includes switching of not only two HDMI sources but also two digital audio sources with its coaxial and TosLink digital connections. This lets you take advantage of the Azur’s outstanding video processing for other sources, such as cable boxes, game consoles, or other streaming devices. But it also gives you the option of connecting other audio components via one of its digital audio connections to take advantage of its custom audio board and digital filters. Since the Azur 752BD features its own volume control, it can be connected directly to a two-channel or multichannel amplifier and act as a digital preamplifier for your other sources. This takes Blu-ray players into a completely new level of features that could replace some of the other components in your system. For audio outputs, the Azur 752BD offers both a 7.1-channel and a dedicated two-channel output. The 752BD doesn’t offer any analog video outputs except for a composite video out that can be used for diagnostics with the setup menu only. An IR remote input and RS-232 input are also featured for remote systems.

Getting Started
Setting up the Azur 752BD was a snap. It’s no secret that I’ve been a proud owner of Oppo’s designs for years now, and the setup menus are nearly identical. After power-up, you’re greeted with Cambridge Audio’s home menu that lets you select from a variety of options, including disc playback, external sources, or the player’s setup menus. There is also streaming support for Picasa and YouTube. If you need more, you can get just about any online service you want these days with an add-on media streamer costing less than $100, or by adding the Roku Stick to the 752BD’s MHL-equipped HDMI port.

The included remote is also designed by Cambridge. It has a very sleek look with backlit buttons and a very nice stand to hold the remote when not in use. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the button layout. Most of the main controls are in an outer circle around the menu buttons, which makes it easy to hit the wrong one. In my first go-around with the 752BD, I also noticed that the IR signal was weak, to the point where it required absolute perfect aim at the IR receiver on the front of the player to get it to work. A replacement remote from Cambridge exhibited more normal behavior.

Setup menus include full customization of both the audio and video playback. On the audio side, the Azur has options for both HDMI and analog audio outputs with full bass management and time-alignment available for the latter. The 752BD is a true universal player with support for high-resolution audio formats including DVD-Audio and SACD. Because of the Azur’s internal upconversion to 192 kilohertz for all audio signals, SACD is available in PCM form only, with no option for direct DSD playback regardless of which output you use. Like most players today, the Azur can be updated using a variety of means. You can update it using a network connection, USB stick, or via a CD. No firmware updates were issued during my time with the player.

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Cambridge Audio
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COMMENTS
BrolicBeast's picture

I've been wondering who the first Oppo competitor to include HDMI inputs would be. Cambridge Audio should come as no surprise, as their Azur universal players have been going toe to toe with Oppo's higher-end offerings for years. I will say this about the company though--Cambridge Audio's DACMagic is the only DAC that corrects the delay that my Integra DHC-80.3 introduces to my Sonos' zoneplayer signal (my old 80.2 also added a delay in direct mode.) My Oppo BDP-105's DACs can't even get rid of this delay. Cambridge knows how to do DAC technology well. (I, also, found the inclusion of the filters to be somewhat dubious, as I haven't been able to hear any differences in the 3 DACMagic filters).

Great review, Kris.

Kris Deering's picture
What do you mean by "delay in the zoneplayer signal"?? The Cambridge video section is built by Oppo, the whole player is built on their platform. The only part that Cambridge is largely responsible for is the audio board. So in this case are you taking the digital output of the zone player and feeding it to the Cambridge? What type of delay? I have a zone player here at home and could test for this on both players (CA and Oppo 105).
BrolicBeast's picture

I left a key part out of my original comment, actually....the delay in the zone player signal was caused by my Integra processor (even in direct mode, so direct isn't really direct), and only the DAC in the Cambridge DacMagic can correct it. My living room theater has a zone player and the adjacent kitchen has an S5 (now called the Play 5) so any loss of synch is very apparent. I first discovered the issue with my 80.2 (my previous Denon 4310 introduced no zone player delay) and the issue was reproduced on the AVS Integra 80.2 thread by another person...

I say all that to say that the Cambridge DAC is the only outboard DAC that corrected this issue (the issue was also present in the 80.3), as even the Oppo's DACs in my old 95 and current 105 did nothing for the delay..... Cambridge's DAC clocks (do those determine the purity of signal?) do the trick.

If you have an Integra DHC 80.2/3, try passing the zone player signal through it with a standalone somos device playing in the same room and the Integra system will have a delay. Try routing through the Oppo to the ingra, and the delay will still be there. But if you route the signal through this Cambridge 752, and If the Cambridge players DACS are at least as good as those in the DACMagic, then the 752 goes above and beyond in this regard.

Kris Deering's picture
That doesn't sound surprising. All the electronics for the Sonos are within the Play5, whereas with your zone player they have to be processed by whatever your Integra is doing (DSP, bass management, etc). Have you tried to put your Integra in Pure Direct to see if that alleviates the issue? You may be doing the same thing with the DAC Magic as the Integra may be in a pure direct mode for its analog inputs. I have a zone player and a few Play5s and Play3s but I never run them simultaneously like this. They are all in completely different rooms so time delay is never an issue.
BrolicBeast's picture

Oh yes, pure direct was one of the first things I tried...I dug up the thread below where the issue was first reported: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1275837/the-official-integra-dhc-80-2-pre-pro-...

and user SPLawren replicated it here: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1275837/the-official-integra-dhc-80-2-pre-pro-...

And then I found the Cambridge: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1275837/the-official-integra-dhc-80-2-pre-pro-...

I too have Sonos devices all throughout the house--upstairs, the stairway itself (in-wall speakers), and downstairs. It's a rare situation for one's theater to be right next to the kitchen.

amenda8998's picture

wow~~$1024, expensive! maybe i should continue my totalmedia. I have used it for almost 2 years and never had any problem. it plays blu ray on pc(arcsoft.com/topics/media-player/windows-blu-ray-player.html) smoothly. when i bought it, to my surprise, it can change region code, thus i'm never worried about relaxing myself when on business. It's an easy to use and professional blu ray player software(arcsoft.com/totalmedia-theatre/) for windows; including Windows 8. of course, it fully integrates with Windows Media Center too. beyond your surprise, it's also a 3d video player(arcsoft.com/topics/media-player/how-to-play-3d.html).

Daniel Lindstrom's picture

Nice sales pitch for Totalmedia there. But in terms of picture and sound quality it doesn't stand a chance against a really good BD-player like the 752BD.

Daniel Lindstrom's picture

I actually have a delay problem when I connect a SONOS Connect through my 752BD coaxial input. It's even worse if I go through the optical input on the 751BD. Is it really the same DAC in the 752BD as in the Dac Magic?

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