Cambridge Audio Azur 640R A/V Receiver Page 2

It's also strikingly handsome. Our sample's near-white etched-aluminum fascia was a quiet but chic departure from the usual black, with Cambridge's signature wavy side panels (black is also available). Of course, most $1,400 receivers these days include a long list of features: robotic auto-setup, automatic room EQ, video scaling to 1080i or 1080p, cross-conversion to component-video and HDMI, HDMI 1.1 or later to get PCM/bitstream digital audio from an HDMI-cable connection, onscreen feedback when selecting modes and functions, a multicomponent universal remote control - and usually more.

You won't find any of this stuff on the Cambridge. Setup is strictly manual, its HDMI connection is version 1.0 (you need SPDIF bitstream connections for audio), there's no scaling of lesser video to the high-definition signal formats, and the supplied remote operates the 640R alone.

What you will find, however, is high-quality 100 watts x 7 channels power (atypically, rated with all channels driven simultaneously) in an unusually compact receiver, thanks to a convection-tunnel cooling layout Cambridge claims keeps the fan off except under extreme stress (my experience bore this out). There's a simple, largely self-explanatory onscreen setup menu and three HDMI inputs that simply switch incoming signals (up to 1080p) to your display. For multiroom operation, there are also A-BUS outputs for two additional rooms/zones. And that's about it. Depending on your perspective, this makes for a receiver that's either refreshingly simple and usable or ridiculously under-equipped.

Either way, given the dearth of fancy extras, high performance is paramount and should make the 640R an attractive proposition for the vast majority of real-world users who, I imagine, use their systems thus: 1) insert disc in DVD player; 2) press Play; 3) adjust volume. If you approach the Cambridge this way, it's a peach.

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