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Cambridge Audio CXUHD Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review

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A decent player that struggles to justify its price tag

by Steve Withers Nov 28, 2017 at 7:34 AM

  • SRP: £700.00

    What is the Cambridge Audio CXUHD?

    The Cambridge Audio CXUHD is the first Ultra HD Blu-ray player from the British manufacturer and if you're familiar with their previous disc spinners, you'll know that they share the same DNA as players from Oppo. That's not a bad thing, the Oppo UDP-203 and UDP-205 are the best 4K Blu-ray machines currently available, with just about every box ticked. Since the CXUHD uses the same platform it shares the same features such as universal disc playback and Dolby Vision support. Unlike the Oppo players the CXUHD has no analogue outputs, which Cambridge Audio claim improves the digital picture and sound quality, and they also claim to have 'professionally calibrated' the video settings. We're dubious about both those claims so we will, as always, be fully testing the audio and video output of this machine. We also don't think these 'extra features' justify a price tag of £700 as at the time of writing (November 2017), which is more than the Oppo UDP-203. So does Cambridge Audio's CXUHD offer a better picture and sound compared to the competition and does it justify its higher price tag? Let's find out...

    Editor's Note: During our testing of the CXUHD we discovered serious issues with the video output and reported them to Cambridge Audio. We have left the review as originally written but have added sections in bold which relate to the fixes that Cambridge Audio have implemented.

    Design

    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Design
    In terms of its overall design the CXUHD is very similar to the UDP-203 but there are some minor cosmetic differences. On both players the display is identical and located in the centre of the front panel with the disc tray directly above, the power button is on the far left and the eject button is just to the right of the display. The location of the rest of the buttons are slightly different, with the play/pause button just to the right of the eject button and the skip forwards and backwards buttons just to the left of the display. The power button is illuminated but none of the others are, which can make them hard to find in the dark, and unlike the Oppo there's no stop button on the front panel, nor is there a USB port.
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Design
    The CXUHD uses a fairly simple but attractive design with a black brushed metal finish and curved corners on the aluminium front panel. The centrally mounted display is well designed and informative but it can be dimmed or turned off if necessary. The Cambridge Audio sits on a large lip at the front and two large feet at the rear, which provide solid support and good isolation. The build quality is excellent and overall the player has a well engineered feel that is reflected in the balanced laser optical disc loader. This drive mechanism, which is smooth and quiet in operation, enables fast loading and provides error detection and correction. The CXUHD measures 430 x 312 x 82mm (WxDxH), which is almost identical to Oppo, and weighs in at 5kg, which is actually slightly heavier than the Oppo.

    The CXUHD has a simple but attractive design and is well made and nicely engineered

    Connections & Control

    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Connections & Control
    All the connections are at the rear and here, with one notable exception that we'll come to in a minute, the layout is identical to the UDP-203. So you get two HDMI outputs, the first of which is HDMI 2.0a with support for HDCP 2.2 and HDR, and the second is HDMI 1.4 and is an audio only output that offers the choice of running video and audio separately or, as is more likely, connecting the CXUHD to an AV processor, receiver or soundbar that doesn't support HDCP 2.2 and HDR. There is also an additional HDMI input, allowing you to connect other devices and use the Cambridge Audio as a video processor. Finally there are two USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, digital audio outputs using both optical and coaxial connectors, in and out triggers and an RS-232C serial port for custom installers.

    What you won't find on the CXUHD are any analogue outputs and that's because Cambridge Audio have removed them along with any Digital-to-Analogue Converters (DACs) – there's just a metal box covering where the outputs are located on the UDP-203 which appears to simply be cosmetic. The company claims that uniquely for an Ultra HD Blu-ray player they have designed out all the internal DACs and their associated digital circuits, thus decreasing interference to the digital signal which significantly reduces noise and improves the picture and sound quality. We're dubious of these claims of improved picture and sound quality over a digital signal and the CXUHD certainly isn't the only UHD Blu-ray player to have no analogue outputs or DACs, the Sony UBP-X800 only has digital outputs for example.
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Connections & Control
    Aside from the basic controls on the front panel of the player itself, all the main setup and control is done via the provided remote. This controller is essentially the same as the ones included with Cambridge Audio's regular Blu-ray players, aside from the addition of an HDR button, and it's quite nicely designed with a soft rubber back and a black brushed metal effect on the front, which matches the player itself. The remote is comfortable to hold, easy to use with one hand and, importantly, it includes a backlight that illuminates the buttons very effectively. The overall layout of the buttons is reasonably simple, with the navigation and playback buttons in a central circle and various other buttons located above and below these central controls. However, as with previous Cambridge Audio remotes, we do find the majority of the buttons to be a bit small and since they're all the same size and shape it can be hard to tell one from another. We also found the layout of the navigation and playback buttons to be less than intuitive sometimes, so overall it took a while to get used to the remote, but every control you need is there somewhere.

    The CXUHD has a decent set of digital outputs and the remote has an effective backlight

    Features & Specs

    The CXUHD essentially has the same features found on Oppo's players, so it uses the quad-core Mediatek MTK8591 chipset which is a specially designed 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder SoC (System-on-Chip) intended to deliver a superior performance. That means the CXUHD supports 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at a resolution of 3840 x 2160, as well as other 4K media files such as HEVC, H.264, VP9 4K and Hi10P.

    The CXUHD is flexible in terms of its setup and allows you to select either 8-, 10- or 12-bit video depth and you can also turn HDR off and output at Rec.709 or strip the HDR metadata and output at Rec.2020. The CXUHD also supports High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour Gamut in the form of HDR10 and Dolby Vision, with the latter available right out of the box, so no waiting for firmware updates.

    The CXUHD is a universal disc player so it can also play regular Blu-rays (both 2D and 3D), as well as DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD and CD. The Cambridge Audio supports both stereo and multi-channel high resolution audio content and for SACD, users can select whether to output the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) signal in its native format or convert it into PCM.
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Features & Specs
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Features & Specs

    The CXUHD will support all the main audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, which it can internally decode and pass via HDMI if necessary. It can also pass these soundtracks as bitstream, which means you can enjoy immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D – assuming your AV receiver or processor is able to decode them.

    The CXUHD has built-in 802.11ac WiFi, a Gigabit Ethernet connection and two USB 3.0 ports and is capable of playing a range of video, music and image files from connected devices or your own home network. It supports the majority of media formats including JPEG, AVCHD, MP3, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC and WAV files. However there are no third party apps on the CXUHD, so no Netflix, Amazon or YouTube.

    The home user interface has a single static image which, unlike the Oppo, doesn't change as you move through the seven different page options – BD, Music, Photos, Movies, Network, Setup and Favourites. The menus are identical to the Oppo players, which is good news because they are flexible, comprehensive and intuitive to use, making setup very straightforward.

    There's a decent set of features, including Dolby Vision, but no DACs or analogue outputs

    Performance

    If you've read any disc player reviews on AVForums you will know that we have always maintained that, as long as a player isn't doing anything it shouldn't, then the output from one model will be identical to the output from any other over HDMI. This should seem logical because it's a digital disc which is encoded using ones and zeroes, so as long as the player is correctly outputting those ones and zeroes to the display exactly as they are on the disc, then one player must be identical to another regardless of price. Any reported difference is thus due to the placebo effect, bad setup or simple ignorance on the part of the reviewer.

    Of course the important phrase in that previous paragraph is "as long as a player isn't doing anything it shouldn't" but sadly that isn't always the case. We have seen a number of Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray players that include modes that manipulate the output, creating an image that is not consistent with what is on the disc. Thankfully, until now at least, these players have always included at least one mode that outputs what is on the disc in an unmolested form that reflects how the disc was actually encoded. So as long as you know which mode to select, you can still see the content on the disc exactly as the director intended.
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Performance
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Performance


    How do we know what the director intended? Well all video content, whether it is for broadcast, DVD, Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray uses a set of agreed industry standards. So for TV, DVD and Blu-ray those standards are based on the D65 colour temperature for white and the Rec. 709 colour space, whilst for Ultra HD it's still D65 but the colour gamut is now Rec. 2020. All the disc player needs to do is output what is encoded on the disc precisely and let the display handle the signal correctly. If the display has been calibrated to these industry standards, then what you are seeing is exactly what the content creators want you to see.

    Which brings us to the Cambridge Audio CXUHD. According to the company, a team of engineers has 'professionally calibrated' the video settings on the CXUHD. These engineers apply video test signals and change the colour gamut, white balance and dynamic range of the output using a Sony broadcast monitor. Cambridge Audio use their own opinion and that of a number of industry professionals to decide what the image should look like. If true, this approach goes against everything that we believe in here at AVForums and is clearly not what the director intended.

    We could accept this approach if it were a selectable picture mode and there was also the option to choose a direct mode that outputs exactly what is on the disc in an unmolested form. However the CXUHD has no such mode, everything it outputs has been 'calibrated' by Cambridge Audio's engineers and as such is not what the content creator's intended. The question is, just how much manipulation is going on? This can be very difficult to establish simply by looking at an image, even on a calibrated display, but unlike most review sites we are capable of objectively testing a player's video output.
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD


    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Video Review

    We started by measuring a calibrated LG B7 directly, before running our Murideo pattern generator through the CXUHD's HDMI input and connecting the player's main HDMI output to the B7. We then ran the exact same tests again, before connecting an Oppo UDP-203 up in the same manner and testing that for comparison purposes. However, we didn't want to just use the pattern generator and the HDMI input, we also wanted to check how the player was outputting an actual Blu-ray disc. So we used a calibration Blu-ray to run the same greyscale and gamut tests for both the CXUHD and the UDP-203.sem.

    The results were identical whether through the HDMI input or directly from a Blu-ray and revealed some serious issues. The first set of graphs are the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut as measured directly off the LG B7. The second set of graphs are measured from the Oppo UDP-203, whilst the third set are from the CXUHD. As you can see the greyscale and gamma measurements directly from the B7 and the UDP-203 are identical, as we would expect. However, whilst the greyscale is largely untouched by the CXUHD, the gamma is clearly being manipulated.

    The situation was worse when we measured the Rec. 709 colour space. The B7 and Oppo graphs are both showing Rec. 709 exactly, with accurate tracking across all the saturation points for the primary and secondary colours. However the CXUHD is very different with over-saturation in blue and yellow and the hue of magenta heavily skewed towards blue and the hue of both green and red skewed towards yellow. This raised an important question – was this part of Cambridge Audio's 'calibration' process or was there something wrong with the player.
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD


    We have reviewed disc players in the past where there has been undefeatable backdoor processing, usually noise reduction of some sort, but this is the first time we had experienced the gamma and colour gamut being manipulated in such a dramatic and negative fashion, so before publishing the review we contacted Cambridge Audio to find out if the results from our measurements were their actual intention or a fault of some sort. As soon as Cambridge Audio saw the graphs they knew they had a problem and set about investigating the cause. They discovered that there was a faulty batch of units that were running an incorrect firmware (CXUHD-46-0811) and thus they set about correcting the problem. We were impressed with the speed with which Cambridge Audio addressed the issue and once fixed they sent us the original player we reviewed running the latest firmware (CXUHD-46-2411) and a brand new unopened unit.

    The original player with the new firmware worked perfectly in testing using both our Murideo pattern generator and a test Blu-ray, delivering the graphs shown below with no manipulation of the signal. The new unopened unit was running the older firmware and was still adversely affecting the signal in initial testing, however after the over-the-air update to the new firmware, that player was also outputting its video signal correctly and we are satisfied that Cambridge Audio has fixed the problem in a timely fashion. However we would encourage all existing and new owners of the CXUHD to update their firmware immediately. We feel that the company's claim of 'professionally calibrating' the video settings is more a case of marketing hyperbole than an actual benefit because we can confirm that the output of the players matched the industry standards exactly, as we would expect from any player.

    In a statement Cambridge Audio said: "AVForums recently made Cambridge Audio aware of an issue with the colour balance on a review sample of our new CXUHD 4K Blu-ray player.

    This initially caused some surprise because the product has reviewed particularly well - even when subjected to strict measurement – in a number of markets, including the UK and customer reaction has been particularly positive.

    Having exhaustively investigated this issue we can confirm that the CXUHD is manufactured in batches and it is our opinion that one batch was given an earlier development version of the firmware. The simple solution to this mistake is to offer a new over-the-air firmware upgrade and we ask all owners to connect their products to the internet and allow the automatic process to take place.

    We are very grateful to AVForums for all their help with identifying this problem and the professional and fair manner with which they responded to the issue. We would also like to praise the quality of their intensive reviews process.

    Cambridge Audio is committed to offering the consumer a superior ownership experience and we are convinced, that once updated, the CXUHD will continue to prove to be an exceptional product." – Dominic Baker – Technical Director.

    Cambridge Audio CXUHD
    Cambridge Audio CXUHD

    As for the rest of the performance, the CXUHD did do an excellent job of showing native 4K content and upscaling lower resolution content to 4K, which it did so without introducing artefacts or any more unwanted processing. The CXUHD was effective at deinterlacing standard definition content as well and it could playback a number of media file types without any issues. The HDMI input means that you can also use the CXUHD as a video processor, although given the manipulation of the image you might not want make use of that feature.

    In terms of its audio performance the CXUHD was an excellent digital transport, although we couldn't see or hear any difference in terms of noise when comparing it to the UDP-203, despite the lack of any DACs or analogue outputs on the CXUHD. This does just seem like Cambridge Audio are simply trying to make a positive out of a negative and certainly doesn't justify a higher price tag. We do find it slightly ironic that the company is claiming that they are keeping the digital audio output as pure as possible, whilst doing the exact opposite to the video output.

    We tested a number of different audio formats including multichannel PCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA soundtracks from Blu-rays and Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks from DVDs. We also listened to Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D immersive audio soundtracks and the CXUHD handled them all with ease. The same was true when it came to multichannel audio from SACD and DVD-Audio discs as well as two channel audio from SACDs and CDs. The player was able to detect all the different discs and audio formats and played each one back without issue.

    The original player revealed an issue in terms of its video output that Cambridge Audio have now corrected via a firmware update

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Universal disc support
    • Impressive 4K upscaling
    • Dolby Vision support
    • Twin HDMI outputs
    • Attractive design
    • Decent build quality

    Cons

    • No streaming services
    • No analogue outputs
    • Buttons on remote too small
    • Expensive
    You own this Total 3
    You want this Total 3
    You had this Total 0

    Cambridge Audio CXUHD Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review

    Should I buy one?

    We would never be able to recommend a disc player that deliberately manipulated the image but thankfully our initial concerns were allayed by the impressive speed and efficiency in which Cambridge Audio dealt with the problems we discovered. We are now happy that the CXUHD is outputting the image exactly as it should be and that whatever Cambridge Audio actually mean by 'professionally calibrating' the video settings, it isn't adversely affecting the picture accuracy. As a result it's an impressive player, with a decent level of build quality, a great feature set and an excellent overall performance. However we struggle to understand why it is so expensive and we don't believe the loss of DACs and analogue outputs makes any difference to the sound quality, nor is it unique to the CXUHD. There's certainly nothing wrong with the Cambridge Audio CXUHD but it's hard to recommend it when there are players equally as good available for less.

    What are my alternatives?

    That depends on what you want and how much you're prepared to spend. If you want Dolby Vision support and aren't interested in analogue outputs then you can get the LG UP970. It isn't the most solid of players and the features are fairly basic but it will only set you back £249 making it the cheapest way to get Dolby Vision support. Alternatively if you're not bothered about Dolby Vision or analogue outputs but you do want universal playback, then the Sony UBP-X800 is a great choice. It's nicely designed, very well made and has a decent selection of extras, plus it only costs £289. However the obvious choice is the Oppo UDP-203 which you can pick up for £649. The Oppo has all the same features at the CXUHD, including Dolby Vision and universal playback, plus it has 2-channel and 7.1-channel analogue outputs – making it the best player currently available.

    MORE: Read All 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Reviews



    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £700.00

    The Rundown

    Picture Quality

    9

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    8

    Ease Of Use

    9

    Build Quality

    8

    Value For Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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