Cambridge Audio Azur 751R - The Importance Of Being Earnest (Part 1)

5/30/2013 11:29:58 AM

Cambridge Audio’s new range-topping AV receiver is content to leave home networking to its rivals and concentrate solely on its AV performance.

Designed in the UK at Cambridge Audio’s rather slick new London-based offices and Cambridge technology lab, the Azur 751R is the latest evolution of the company’s flagship AV receiver. And, far from following the Japanese herd, the 751R is a bit, well, different. Eccentric, even.

For starters, this must be the only AVR currently on the market that does not have any networking features. No Wi-Fi, no Ethernet, no internet radio, no network streaming and therefore no remote control app. What the 751R sets out to do is be the very best-sounding AVR, for both music and movies, for the money (a not inconsiderable $2,400). To these ends, Cambridge Audio has gone to some serious lengths to get the 751R sounding spectacular, including a Toroidal power supply the size of an electricity substation, discrete amplifiers and near noiseless cooling.

The Azur 75IR is big and heavy – but good-looking, too

Audiophile refinery doesn’t stop there either. The chassis has been designed to reduce vibration MicroPhony and feel uber-solid when you pick it up. Meanwhile, at the heart of the 751R you will find a pair of top-spec Texas Instruments 32-bit processors. Unlike any other AV receiver I can think of, the 751R up-samples all incoming audio signals to 192 kHz/24-bit before applying any DSP and outputting them to the DACs for each channel. Upscampling has been a feature of the high-end digital hi-fi scene for some time and can deliver a much more organic and analogue-like sound (purists should note that with stereo inputs you can elect to bypass this processing).

Each channel is then routed to Cambridge Audio’s discrete power amplifier modules that deliver a claimed 120W-per-channel with all channels driven. In two-channel mode the Toroidal transformer supplies only the active channels, meaning the power output supposedly increases to 200W-per-channel.

If you have evolved your music collection to PC or have high-res audio files in your collection the 751R has a very neat solution for that, too. On the back panel is an asynchronous USB input for direct connection to your PC. While some USB DAC makers have basic plug-and-play firmware built into the DAC, Cambridge Audio has gone a step further and developed its own USB Class 2.0 drivers that sync with the input to reduce jitter and improve sound quality. You will have to download these onto your source PC, but the results, particularly using ASIO mode, more that justify the agro. I’d argue it sets the standard for AV receivers at this price point.

Built for purpose

If this is all starting to sound a bit too Hi-Fi, be assured that this is definitely a home cinema receiver. Integrated decoding for the high-res Dolby and DTS movie sound formats, the option of height channels, an Anchor Bay 1080p video Scaler and Audyssey 2EQ are all on board. The latter handles the auto setup routine and can be run with or without applying any room correction. Once set, options also include Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume for those who don’t always listen at 100dB SPLs. There is a basic second-zone setup with a neat credit card-style remote supplied for the second room – this is, of course, a seven-channel amp.

The main handset is accompanied by a second Zone 2 remote

The main handset is accompanied by a second Zone 2 remote

That is pretty much it for features, though – a far cry from the flexibility and gadgetry of the Denons, Yamahas and Onkyos at the same price point. The feature frugality extends to the onscreen interface, which remains block white text menus on a blue background rather than overlaying video on screen. A full color GUI with explanations of each feature, it isn’t. And, given the plethora of buttons on the

Rather cluttered fascia and the familiar sparse Cambridge Audio remote control, you will need to keep the manual close at hand.

Setup simplicity

It’s worth running the full Audyssey EQ setup mode as this measures your room from three different seating locations and can smooth out bumps in your room’s acoustics. However, given the results of the EQ in the Stevenson house, I would then nip straight back into the menus and turn the Audyssey EQ to ‘off’.

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