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The listening session brought some surprises. One of those might require rewriting code in the player’s firmware. Related to SACD, I’ll cover it later. Obviously multi-taskers like the 751BD require setting our priorities during review and normal use. What to expect? The degree of complications given by so many different possible signal sources is large enough to elude basic comparisons.

Looking at it from the manufacture’s side the case seems simple – the Azur 751BD is foremost a Blu-ray and DVD video deck. The biggest R&D investments were made here and this is also how the unit is referenced - as Blu-ray disc player. But because the company itself is a classic hifi firm, audio must have followed right behind where technology investments couldn’t have been much smaller if that. Video is important to me since our entire family watches many movies and some concert DVDs. But personally the audio aspects are more important since we watch movies in stereo over a traditional hifi system with a file player and Blu-ray machine as video source. That’s how I approached the Cambridge then.

I think that most recordings in the collections of music lovers and audiophiles are still on CD except for systems built around a turntable. Thus CD became my starting point and their sound proved very mature. On timbre it reminded me what I get from my Ancient Audio Lektor Air. Resolution, differentiation, soundstage, imaging and such of course were rather inferior but taking into account the price of the Cambridge and not being a dedicated CD player, I confess that one deals here with an important discovery.

I well recall the sound of six such machines from my Audio review. They all were reasonably okay but amongst them the Azur 650BD was exceptional even though things still improved when the latter’s digital output fed an Arcam rDAC, one of my most important discoveries of the last two years.

To cut right to the chase today, with CD and high-resolution files the 751BD performed as well as the 650BD had then with Arcam's rDAC (but sans the latter's optional Pardo power supply). Then the newcomer adds HDCD support and far superior handling of SACD, more on which anon.

The sound of the 751BD on compact disc was very saturated and dense. Its tonal balance seemed shifted to the lower as well as upper frequencies. This however is not fully factual as the midrange itself had those palpable qualities as well. I’ll explain. The treble was strong and not shaded on any recording. But it also was very clean and free from most distortions which are usually associated with digital sound. Triangles and hi-hats were full and weighty which differentiated the 715BD from the DACMagic for example. The treble moved a little to the fore to be less integrated than on my Air player but not unpleasantly so, not annoying or mechanical. It was similar actually to the rDAC with external power supply.

The bass too was strong, with nicely developed tone, no voiced contouring and no unpleasant overdamping. Transients were slightly soft but when needed as on Roxy Music’s Flesh + Blood or Abraxas’ 99, it could deliver more dynamics and impact for qualities usually associated with large guitar amplifiers. It seemed however that the mid and upper bass were more fully developed than the first octave. This resulted in an attractive sound probably best suited to smaller speakers. With full-range speakers it won’t be problematic either as those will simply sound more energetic except that if a given system/room is known to be bass-heavy already, the Cambridge deck should be carefully auditioned for this.

Of course the midrange—timbre, energy and microdynamics—is most important and neglected by almost all DVD and now BD players whose sound, similar to so many USB DACs, is puny and boring due to weak resolution and lame dynamics. Moving up to an outboard DAC can solve some of these issues whilst creating potential new ones like choosing the right digital cable. With the Cambridge one does not encounter these problems.