Cambridge Audio Azur 650R 7.1 A/V Receiver Reviewed

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Next, I loaded up the album In Between Dreams (Brushfire Records) by Jack Johnson. During "Good People" I was again impressed with the vocal quality that the 650R is capable of reproducing. His voice was open, clear and richly textured. As he sung in the center of the stage, my attention was drawn by the occasional cymbal crash and by just how far its image was thrown outside of my right speaker. My first thought was, receivers aren't supposed to image this well, but this one did. After the initial cymbal strike, it exhibited excellent decay and seemed to hang in space far longer than it should. The snare drum cracked a steady rhythm and maintained composure and accuracy even at very high volume levels. My will to turn the loud knob higher gave out well before the Cambridge Audio receiver did.

Finally, I cued up "One" from Metallica's And Justice for All (Elektra) album. The track builds slowly from a beautiful melodic lone guitar sequence from Kirk Hammett to an all out attack on the senses. Lars' trademark double bass pedals were no problem for the 650R to keep up with even during a screaming solo from Hammett. This speaks to the 650R's ability to dump large amounts of current for powerful bass notes while also keeping extremely fast guitar notes clear, separated and non-distorted. Throughout the track James Hetfields vocals were angry and rough as they properly should be. All musicians were clearly placed around the soundstage. The 650R was as happy playing acoustic ballads, as it was pounding thrash metal.

Very pleased with the 2.1 channel performance I decided to test the 650R with some movie content and played The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment) on Blu-ray through the Cambridge Audio 650BD. The film places the viewer directly in the action as you follow an explosive ordinance disposal team through battle torn Iraq. As to be expected with such a storyline there was no shortage of explosions, all of which were recreated with startling power and force. What was not expected from the film was just how terrifying the quiet passages were, which always seemed to preceded the explosions. The 650Rs processing of the DTS 5.1 HD soundtrack created an environment, which immersed me in the action and even placed me in the bomb suit. For example, the everyday sound of a boot scraping across gravel took on new meaning as it marked the distance shrinking between the technician and the explosive. An unexpected flurry of rifle fire in the distance, as the ordinance technician is about to touch a bomb was enough to rattle my nerves. The explosions were actually a bit too much for my wife in the adjacent room, so I was happy to be able to add up to ten decibels of attenuation to the LFE channel from the remote. The 650R performed flawlessly during the playback allowing me to focus on the screen, and get lost in the story.

Competition and Comparison
The A/V receiver market is one of the quickest moving segments in the A/V marketplace today. New products are released almost weekly as manufacturers try to keep current and relevant. If you are considering a receiver with streaming ability and energy efficiency you may want to consider the Sherwood R-904N Netboxx. If you split your preferences equally between sound quality and high-tech features you may want to consider the Onkyo TX-SR706. On the high end of the spectrum you might also consider the ultra-high end $2,000 Marantz SR8002. To learn more about A/V receivers please check the AV Receiver section.

The Downside
At the time of this review, the Cambridge Audio 650R is lacking a few very popular features, which nearly all of its competitors have at this price point. A glaring example is the lack of room correction which when implemented properly can provide significant improvements in terms of sound quality.

I was disappointed to see a receiver ship with a known firmware problem with something as crucial as the setup function. I imagine consumers who found the same issue were even more disappointed than I was after making the purchase.

However, Cambridge Audio has since addressed the issue with the new firmware update.

Conclusion
The Cambridge Audio 650R 7.1 A/V receiver was boldly claimed to be the best sounding receiver ever. In my experience, it may very well be an accurate statement. Its nearly limitless amount of power coupled with true musicality made it a music lovers dream. Its two-channel performance is much closer to a high-end integrated amp than it is a traditional receiver. Couple that fact with the excellent theater surround processing, video switching and stunning build quality and it makes for a very compelling product. If you are the type of consumer who places audio performance over bells and whistles, then you must consider the Cambridge Audio 650R and be prepared to redefine your expectations of a receiver.

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.

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HTR Product Rating for Cambridge Audio Azur 650R 7.1 A/V Receiver

Criteria Rating

Performance

4.5

Value

4.5

Overall

4.5

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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