Cambridge Audio Azur 640R A/V Receiver Page 3
The Short Form
|Price $1,400 / audioplusservices.com / 800-663-9352|
|Though this receiver is short on the latest features, its elegant simplicity conceals top-flight audio performance.|
|•Outstanding sound and power •3 HDMI inputs •Simple operation and elegant looks|
|•No video-scaling or one-cable HDMI option •A few crossover/delay setup restrictions •A-BUS only for multiroom audio - no RCA outputs|
|•6-source/6-zone system •Expandable to 30 listening zones •60-watt per channel amplifier •Four different control options •Modular, card-based architecture •XM, Sirius, AM/FM, or all three •iPod integration •GXR2: 17.4 x 5.8 x 18 in; 54 lb|
|The 640R consistently delivered expected behavior and declined to snap fuses, smoke circuit boards, or require resetting, despite the usual abuse. Its stereo power could almost sneak by on a "150 watts x 2" model, and it did indeed deliver in excess of its full rated power with five channels driven - and very nearly with seven. It also set new receiver benchmarks for PCM-stereo (and Dolby) linearity at -90 dB (perfect!), real-world S/N ratio, and "excess noise." Full Lab Results|
I encountered a few oddities, such as the receiver's inability to set different delays between left and right front or surround speakers or to set center or surround-back distances greater than the for fronts or surrounds, but these won't trouble most setups. Only a single crossover frequency is assignable for all speakers; it forbids "large" center with "small" L/R, but it's otherwise very flexible, being adjustable by 10-Hz increments from 40 to 150 Hz, plus 200 Hz. The 640R's dual-zone multiroom function is also unusual, in that it lacks the traditional RCA or speaker outputs for the secondary zones and instead uses Cambridge's Incognito connectivity, a version of the A-BUS system that sends audio and composite video via RJ-45 cabling to in-wall keypad/amplifiers in your remote rooms.
MUSIC AND MOVIES As I expected, straight-through video remained pristine through the 640R. While (as noted) the receiver doesn't upscale any signals, it does cross-convert from the S-video or composite inputs to the component-video output (not to HDMI). But image quality suffers noticeably, so it'd be best to make both S-video and component connections to the monitor if you regularly use any S-video sources. Both HDMI and component signals looked perfectly unaffected by their journeys through the Cambridge receiver.
I was not surprised that audio quality was of the same high order. This is a very fine-performing audio component, with ample, pristine power and outstanding surround decoding and processing. Stereo listening via moderate-sensitivity, high-end compact monitors yielded honestly high-end results (at least, from audiophile-grade recordings), with the clarity, transient precision, and textural transparency I expect of a top-flight system.
I confirmed the excellence of the 640R's amplifier with a handful of favorite multichannel DVD-Audio and SACD recordings, among them a newly discovered Naxos album of little-known "theater music" from 20th-century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This proved a delightful surprise both sonically (outstanding clarity and simple, un-hyped surround perspective) and musically (who ever dreamed Shostakovich wrote an entrance for slide guitar? Not I!). I was rewarded with the striking clarity of timbre on solo instruments and the defined, three-dimensional texture of massed strings and woodwinds that only fully transparent playback offers.