What is the Cambridge Audio CXUHD?
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.
Connections & Control
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.
Features & Specs
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.
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.
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.
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 Video Review
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.
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.
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.
- Universal disc support
- Impressive 4K upscaling
- Dolby Vision support
- Twin HDMI outputs
- Attractive design
- Decent build quality
- No streaming services
- No analogue outputs
- Buttons on remote too small
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.
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