Initially the front facia also appears almost identical to the 651BD, with the disc tray in the centre and the display directly below it. The display itself uses a bright blue colour scheme, that is easy to read and informative, providing the user with all the pertinent information. Whilst the display is quite bright, it can be dimmed or turned off using an option in the menus. To the right of the display there are buttons for Open/Close, Play/Pause, Stop and Skip. On the far left of the front facia there is the Standby/On button and to the right of that there is the infrared receiver and a USB socket behind a rubber plug. Between the USB socket and the display is the filter select button which allows the user to choose between three different filters when using the 751BD's internal DACs. The addition of this filter select button, identical to the one found on Cambridge Audio's DacMagic Plus, is one of the major differences between the 751BD and the 651BD.
The 751BD's rear connections are laid out in a very similar fashion to the 651BD and are equally as impressive, offering two HDMI v1.4a outputs, a composite video and a component video output both of which use RCA connectors. There is a second USB socket, a LAN port (in case you don’t have a wireless router), a connector for the external IR sensor, a digital audio out using both optical and coaxial and an RS-232C connector for custom installers. One other addition is an e-SATA (external Serial ATA) port which allows for a faster connection when playing content from external sources. The 751BD also includes 7.1 analogue audio outputs via RCA connectors for those that will obviously want to take advantage of its superior DACs. Unlike the 651BD, the 751BD also includes dedicated analogue stereo outputs but strangely for an audiophile product they use RCA connectors rather than the XLR balanced connectors. At the rear of the chassis, you will also find the socket for the detachable 3-pin power cable.
The 751BD comes with the same remote control included with the 651BD and it remains something of a disappointment. Although reasonably heavy in the hand and comfortable to hold, the silver and black plastic casing gives it a slightly cheap look and feel. The big problem though is the layout and size of the rubber buttons, which are incredibly frustrating. All the buttons are tiny and the exact same size, laid out symmetrically either side of the navigation and enter buttons, which makes finding the button you want very difficult. The labelling is written on each button in tiny lettering, making it very hard to read and with no backlight the remote is almost impossible to use in the dark. Cambridge Audio really need to redesign their remote control to make it more intuitive and easier to use in darkened home cinemas.
For audio the set-up procedure is also fairly straightforward and largely depends on what kind of system the user has. If the users' receiver can decode high definition audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) then the 751BD can pass the audio as bit-stream via HDMI or if your receiver can't then the 751BD can decode them internally and pass the audio as PCM via HDMI. However anyone buying the 751BD will probably want to take advantage of its superior DACs and thus decode and convert internally and pass the audio via the 7.1 analogue outputs. If you have DVD-Audio or SACD discs the player can also pass their audio as PCM via HDMI or the analogue outputs and, in the case of SACD, the audio can be passed as bitstream using the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) codec - if your receiver can decode it. The same is true of HDCDs, which the 751BD can either decode internally or allow the receiver to decode. Obviously if you intend to just use HDMI then you would be better off buying the 651BD, the whole reason for getting the 751BD is to take advantage of the superior decoding, conversion and upscaling the player offers.
The menu system is well designed - it is intuitive, attractive and very responsive. When you first turn on the 751BD there is an Easy Setup Wizard that guides you through the basic setup of the player for settings such as the primary video output, the resolution, the aspect ratio and the audio settings. All the more detailed setup menus can be found by pressing Setup on the remote, even if a disc is playing, which means you don't have to leave playback mode to alter the settings. This flexibility is wonderful for comparing the impact of different options and makes any changes in settings much easier to detect. It is certainly an improvement on many other machines which force the user to stop a disc before entering the setup menu and then starting the disc again after the changes have been made; this can be especially time consuming with certain Blu-rays.
The Setup menu is broken down into six sub-menus - Playback Setup, Video Setup, Audio Format Setup, Audio Processing, Device Setup and Network Setup. Within Playback Setup are the controls for SACD and DVD-Audio playback as well as functions such as languages and parental control. The Audio Format Setup sub-menu allows the user to set the secondary audio used for commentaries etc. and whether the HDMI output will pass PCM or bitstream. In addition, you can set the optical or coaxial to pass either PCM or bitstream as well as choose if the DSD decoding for SACDs and any HDCD decoding for CDs is done in the player or passed directly to your receiver for decoding. Whichever combinations you choose, the 751BD is capable of passing audio up to 192kHz at 24-bit over 7.1 channels. The Audio Processing sub-menu is used for setting up the speaker configuration, distance and levels as well as the crossover frequency, for those that want to take full advantage of the 751BD and send the audio via the 7.1 analogue outputs. There is also a dynamic range control for smoothing the audio during low level listening.
The Video Setup sub-menu offers all of the controls related to the image including selecting which HDMI output is the Primary Output. There is a 3D Mode setting which is best left to Auto and you can also set the diagonal screen size of your 3D display. There is a control for the aspect ratio as well the TV system and since most modern displays can handle PAL, NTSC and 1080p24 content we would advise putting the setting on Multi-system. The default is PAL but this converts everything to 50Hz including 1080p24 content unless you have selected On in the 1080p24 Output menu. In this setting the default is Off but we would recommend the Auto setting and then the 751BD can automatically detect 1080p24 and pass it to your display. There are also a number of Display Options, the most useful of which is the Subtitle Shift which allows the user to move the subtitles up. This is a very handy function if you have a constant height setup with a 2.35:1 screen and the subtitles appear in the black bars on a particular disc, so if you watch a lot of subtitled movies you might consider buying the 751BD for this feature alone.
Within Video Setup there is also an HDMI Options sub-menu which allows the user to select the Colour Space for both HDMI1 and HDMI2. This setting defaults to Auto which allows the 751BD to select the colour space supported by the user’s display. There is also an option to select Deep Colour for both the HDMI1 and HDMI2 outputs which can transmit the video image at up to 12 bits per a channel as compared to the standard 8 bits per a channel. Since the discs are encoded at 8 bits per a channel we would recommend leaving this setting in its Off default position.
Finally within the Video Setup sub-menu there is a Picture Adjustment menu which includes Brightness, Contrast, Hue (Tint), Saturation (Colour), Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Colour Enhancement and Contrast Enhancement controls. These controls can be applied to either HDMI1, HDMI2 or the Analogue Video outputs and up to 3 different Picture Modes can be saved. Of course, if your display is correctly setup then you should leave the Brightness, Contrast, Hue and Saturation controls at their default setting of zero. We would also leave the Colour and Contrast Enhancement controls at their default setting of zero for similar reasons. Increasing the Sharpness control to 'sharpen' the image will only add ringing and other artefacts but reducing the sharpness control will slightly blur the image which could prove useful to hide compression artefacts on standard definition DVDs. The Noise Reduction control could also be used to reduce compression artefacts such as mosquito noise on standard definition DVDs. However, when it comes to a properly mastered Blu-ray, always make sure these settings are all set to zero because a pristine 1080p image just doesn’t need any additional processing.
The Device Setup sub-menu includes information about the latest firmware as well as the option to be notified of any new firmware upgrades. These upgrades can be done a number of ways, either via disc, USB or through your network (LAN or WiFi). There is also a control for the Remote Code in case the default setting interferes with other devices, as well as a control for HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). Finally there is the control for dimming or turning off the display as well as a menu for the persistent storage. 751BD has 1GB of internal storage but more can be added via USB. The 751BD supports a wide range of media and file formats which can be accessed via discs, USB or eSATA drives. The final menu page is Network Setup which is where you select your method of connecting to the internet (Wireless or LAN), setup the connection and select My Network and BD-Live Network Access. The 751BD comes with a WiFi dongle included, making it easy to connect the player to your wireless network.
There is a Home page on the 751BD which is fairly rudimentary but allows you to access Music, Photos and Movies via disc or USB, as well as access My Network. You can access the internet using the 751BD but your choices are fairly limited with just the option to access either Picasa or YouTube. You can also use the Home page to access the Setup menu but there is a dedicated button on the remote which is quicker. In terms of video formats, the 751BD supports MPEG2, MPEG2 HD, MPEG4, AVC, VC-1, XviD, VCD, AVCHD, MPEG ISO and JPEG and it will also support AVI and MKV files. In terms of audio files, the 751BD will support WMA, MP3 and AAC, as well as uncompressed WAV (16/44.1 and 24/96) and FLAC files (16/44.1, 24/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96 and 24/192).
The 751BD’s performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the 751BD also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) format as well as many of the more obscure variations. The 751BD also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, which was always clearly readable without any shredding. This was a superb performance by the 751BD and represents and represents a reference level of video processing in a player. We also tried Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs and the 751BD could play both, so clearly it is a multi-region DVD player out-of-the-box. There is also a setup disc included that needs to be used after any firmware updates.
Subjective Audio Tests
Of course, it is the analogue performance that will be of interest to anyone considering buying the 751BD and in this area it comes across more like a 7.1 version of Cambridge Audio's superb DacMagic Plus than a normal Blu-ray player. First of all, the 751BD offers three different filter functions: Linear Phase, Minimum Phase and Steep. All three are highly sophisticated audiophile topologies, optimised specifically for audio playback. Cambridge Audio encourage the user to experiment with these filters to determine which best suits their ears and equipment. The effects of these different filters can be subtle so it ultimately rests with the user to decide which they prefer. We found that in general the Line Phase seemed cleaner and more precise but possibly a little clinical. Conversely the Minimum Phase was slightly less precise and a bit looser, resulting in a warmer sound and Steep was more detailed but a little less precise with complex musical arrangements and soundtracks. If you so wished you could use different filters with different source discs and genres but as a rule we mostly used the Linear Phase filter, which offered precise timing and a responsive bass.
Thanks to the excellent components in the 751BD, the results were superb with the player delivering a phenomenal analogue audio performance. When it came to the actual listening tests the 751BD handled them with great assurance, delivering a neutral tone and detailed reproduction, regardless of which filter you chose. The dynamic range was excellent, with a clean delivery at both extremes and a well-composed midrange. The analogue stereo from CDs, HDCDs and SACDs was remarkable with a clearly defined soundstage and a wonderful amount of detail and clarity. The sounds were nicely focused within three dimensional space and there was a real sense of envelopment. With 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks the 751BD was equally assured and the additional speakers just added to the soundstage creating even more envelopment and greater focus. Sounds were perfectly positioned within the soundstage and there was a wonderful sense of detail and clarity. The frequency response and dynamic range were also impressive and the bass was smooth and controlled with a crossover at 80Hz. Overall this was an incredible performance and represented some of the best audio we have heard from a Blu-ray player at any price point.
Disc Load Times
- Universal playback (2D & 3D Blu-ray, DVD, SACD, DVD-A, CD)
- Reference video processing
- Reference audio performance
- Excellent build quality and quiet operation
- Very fast load and response times
- Easy to use with well designed menu system
- Two HDMI outputs
- 7.1 analogue audio output
- Dedicated stereo analogue output
- WiFi dongle included
- Remote control is poorly designed
- No XLR balanced stereo outputs
- Limited internet functionality
Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD 3D Blu-ray Disc Player Review
The 751BD shares the same solid and machined chassis as the 651BD, with the same dark charcoal colour scheme and brushed metal facia. The front buttons are also essentially the same as the 651BD but the addition of a button for selecting different filters hints at the audiophile potential within. The connections at the rear are also essentially the same as the 651BD with twin HDMI outputs, USB port, LAN socket, e-SATA port, RS232 interface, component video, digital audio and 7.1 analogue audio outputs. However, the 751BD also includes dedicated stereo analogue outputs although strangely, considering the 751BD's audiophile aspirations, these stereo outputs use RCA connectors rather than the superior XLR balanced outputs. Unfortunately the 751BD uses the same remote control as the 651BD and it remains as annoying as ever, with buttons that are too small and not intuitively positioned and no back light. Unlike the cheaper model, the 751BD does come with a WiFi dongle, which makes connecting the player to your wireless network easy.
When it comes to spinning discs the 751BD has exactly the video capabilities as its cheaper stablemate and proves to be equally as adept. First of all the player is genuinely universal, happily playing Blu-rays (2D and 3D), DVDs, SACDs, DVD-As and CDs. It is also multi-region for DVD playback but in case you're wondering the 751BD is Region B locked for Blu-ray playback. In terms of video quality the 751BD is a stellar performer, with Blu-rays looking fantastic and the 751BD producing a clean and unadulterated image. The Marvell QDEO video processing is equally impressive and results in some superb deinterlacing and scaling, with the player passing every test we threw at it. The video processing is so good in fact, that it might well give your old DVD collection a whole new lease of life. When it comes to video formats the 751BD is fairly comprehensive, supporting MPEG2, MPEG2 HD, MPEG4, AVC, VC-1, XviD, VCD, AVCHD, MPEG ISO and JPEG and it will also support AVI and MKV files.
Moving on to the audio side of things, this is where the 751BD really differentiates itself from the 651BD, incorporating the same DACs and upsampling technology found in Cambridge Audio's excellent DacMagic Plus. The result is a superb analogue audio performance, with a neutral tone and detailed reproduction. The dynamic range was excellent, with a clean delivery at both extremes and a well-composed midrange. The 751BD was capable of delivering an impressive stereo soundstage, with clarity and precise localisation. However, where the 751BD really excelled was with complex soundtracks, creating an immersive soundfield that remained cohesive. The result was an incredibly pleasing audio experience that delivered a very convincing performance that was hard to fault, regardless of whether you were listening to a Blu-ray, DVD, SACD, DVD-A or CD. Aside from the various physical media, the 751BD was equally as comprehensive when it came to audio files, supporting WMA, MP3 and AAC, as well as uncompressed WAV (16/44.1 and 24/96) and FLAC files (16/44.1, 24/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96 and 24/192).
The Cambridge Audio 751BD is a fantastic player that is genuinely universal and offers a near reference level of performance in terms of video and audio reproduction. For those that are just looking for a digital transport, the 651BD offers better value but for those that are seeking an analogue audiophile performance from a player at a fraction of the cost of most of the competition, then the 751BD should definitely be on your short list. Highly Recommended.
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.