Cambridge Azur 640H... too good to be true?

extremelydodgy

Active Member
I've been looking at the specs for this beastie and frankly speaking, it seems too good to be true. What is 'the real deal' about this component? Thanks.
 

extremelydodgy

Active Member
I did before I posted. That was a while back, and the complainant in question doesn't quite seem to know what he's doing and I wonder if anyone else has experience.
 

r21442

Member
Extreme - the HF Choice & WHF reviews were published this week. Both were largely positive although like the vast majority of reviews of this kind of equipment it can be difficult to classify exactly what is the review about. Nothing comes to the fore. Its easier with conventional equipment - sound quality can be paramount as the reference point. There are few direct competitors. All the offerings are different enough in delivery and presentation (of the system, not the sound!) as to make comparison difficult. This is why I'm having difficulty choosing. At least the reviews do draw some conclusion as to the comparable quality of the output.

I think I'm veering away from the CA primarily because of potential HD and fan noise and having to fire up the monitor for ideal navigation. These will annoy the wife.

I think I'm heading for the Sonos to win partner approval. The main potential issue with it is being stuck with the zoneplayer analogue out only. While most of my target zones will not need audiophile quality I don't want any old after splashing dosh to commit to a system. I've a couple of zones I will want better than average quality so if the ZP pre-amp & convertor are dodgy there is no way around it even with good amp & spkrs. I'm in touch with my local dealer trying to get a decent demo. I'm offering to bring the equipment but he's a bit dismissive. We'll get there. The Sonos community is excellent drawing as it does from a bigger pool of tech literate Americans. Only problem is finding any that care enough about the sound. No slur but they are more interested in capability, versatility. The Sonos support too, at least in the US, sounds almost Quad like in their desire to help - some stories almost unbelievable that they can make money.

Anyway, good luck to anyone going for this system. It would be good to hear some adopters with their ongoing experiences since there has only been 'return to RS' types on the other 640H threads.
 

Kendalbeefcake

Active Member
I do hope you're not refering to me, extremelydodgy.. I can still kick your a***, even in cyberspace!

;-)
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
As with many consumer items, a large quantity of 640H's have now been sold and most owners seem pretty happy. There are by the same token some less happy owners, some of whom have posted here. A lot of the email traffic we have received thus far has been networking queries.
The units are not completely silent in use so this needs to be taken into consideration. As other threads have shown, ask the unit to do too many tasks at once and it will hang or crash. This is release software and you can expect it to be augmented as upgrades are tested and released.
Ed
 

extremelydodgy

Active Member
Thanks for the responses guys. If I do buy it, it'll be wired to a Sony plasma for the display so no problems there (in fact an asset) and I suppose I'll have to see which gives better results... either digital to the Elgar Plus or straight through to the Mark Levinson 32. I was just very intrigued by the combination of what it did, which is almost like a dream come true as far as I'm concerned. Of course, assumption and reality are very different things :p I suppose I could just take a punt on it without finding out more, but I've wasted an increasing amount on dross/indifferent audio gear recently and I'd rather not throw any more cash down the toilet. I'm presuming that the sound quality doesn't suck and as such I'm far more interested in the usability, stability and implementation.


By 'not completely silent', could you draw any real-life parallels? System noise is a MAJOR issue.


Is there anywhere in London I could get a demo?
 

r21442

Member
Dodgy,

I think its only available at Richer Sounds. All the guys in the various other threads that took it back never came on saying that was an issue. I guess so far as you agree that up front with RS there should be no issue and you can sample for yourself. Be sure to report back. There is a lack of satisfied customers coming on here.
 
M

mvaldes

Guest
Here is another customer that is not satisfied of the 640H
1.- Noise
If you use the Standby button, the Hard Drive never turn off and it's so noisy that It's impossible to use it in a standard room.
When ripping a CD the noise is so high that first time I heard it, I was so impressed that I thought it was damaged.
The only way to have some "silence" is to use the power off button on the back......That's unacceptable in a such high level product
2.- Dangerous !!!!
Have you ever ripped a CD with "enhanced" content ? PLS.....DO NOT DO IT
Or you will destroy your loudspeakers. Yes, because the 640 can't distinguish Audio track from Data track and it's so "smart" that will append any data track to the latest Audio track of the AUDIO CD. Guess what you will ear when you will paly back this last track from the HDD.....
3.- Slow
The response of the remote comand is sooooo slow that you will lose your patience very soon
What to say about the AUDIOFILE software of wich CA is so proud ? IT's even slower than the remote controller!!!! But it's also very limited. If you want to delete a track from a playlist or just add a song or any other very basic action became a nightmare
4.- Support
This is the most funny side
Have you ever send a message to the "dedicated" support that CA have for the 640H ?
NO answer. And when they answer, they still have no answer.....


Hey ED, you should have just received another email from me. How many now ? I've lost the count....
This time I've sent that email to several magazine and to the Italian importer
I'm not expecting any action from you. I know you will not care about this complain. I'm just a "customer"

But let me tell you some simple step to eliminate any noise:
1.- It's wrong to use a standard HDD on an AV device. You must use an Heavy Duty HDD. Standard HDD are noisy and not developed to be used 24/7
2.- It's wrong to use a fan in a AV device. Have you ever heard of "Heat Pipe"? Of course it cost few buck more than a fan, but the "drawback" is: SILENCE. NO Noise
3.- Give some more penny to your software designer. They will came up with a very smart routine that will turn off the spin motor of the HDD when not used and, will turn it on on demand, when the host need some data
4.- Maybe these software guy can also found a good solution to avoid ripping into the Hard drive the multimedia content of any Audio CD. This will be also a very smart solution. Don't you ?

To all the 640H user
DON'T ACCEPT THIS DEVICE. SEND IT BACK
CA can't sell you a so high priced device, and then use you as beta tester.
But the worse aspect is that if you try to ask them some solution they will not care and will not answer you

Michele
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
I can't comment on the noise as i happy live with a upgraded sky+ box in my bedroom (the fan never goes off).

However, i have had lots of experience with mediaplayers from the first creativelabs one to the latest and greatest ipods and the sonos system. The number one issue i have had with the poorer ones is speed, the more tracks you put on the more important this becomes. Most demo's i have had at hifi shops only ever have one of two cd's on their systems, which isn't really a fair test of the system. You do not want to spend half an hour looking for a track or even a minute. I love the ipod / itunes system (browser bar).

I haven't had a chance to use the 640H yet, but i as a word of warning, make sure you check this out before you purchase, as it will really bug you.

Another common issue with some of the poorer ones has been the lack of the ability to choose the next track while the current one continues to play. However i haven't experienced this problem in a while.

Also, check out the 2second delay problem. Get a dance album that is mixed and burn it to the system. The cd should play without any gaps between the track, some mediaplayers don't, which for certain cd's can be really irritating (depending on your music taste i guess, i have very few cd's where this is an issue).

Lastly, again l don't know about the 640h, but most of these systems don't support purchased itunes or WMA tracks, if you have many of these it might be worth looking elsewhere.

If none of these are a problem (and the sound is good or atleast it has a decent digital output stage) then it sounds like a cracker to me.
 
A

audioman56

Guest
This unit is a great idea in principle BUT-

Its far too expensive given the problems I have experience and the tacky finish!

IT crashes regularly

It is too slow on far too many functions , such as downloading files

The sheer Noise of it when running or on standby. Mine is in a cabinet and so getting to the switch at the rear is difficult

I will definatly be asking for a refund
 

r21442

Member
Sorry to crow guys but after year+ of research I installed my Sonos bundle last night. It is as good as its reputation so far. Not many products get me to smile...and her indoor is pleased too. Only slight criticism so far is volume that the 50W ZP100 can get to is not that great. Checking out more speakers tomorrow. Also, just announced is the $349 ZP80 ampless version coming in Spring - with digital out so can add own amp or plug into AV receiver.

Sorry to say but the cagey responses form CA gave the 'body language' of not being entirely comfortable with the product themselves. Of course magazine reviewers seldom live with the products for any time or is in their interests to follow up with bad news stories. That is where these forums come in handy.

The Sonos has just had yet another s/w release and is beta testing the next - an inexorable drive for improvement I find refreshing - and for free! The Sonos forums might be biased as vast majority are users but there is nobody on there slagging the player. NOBODY - the worst you hear are squabbles over what feature is not been added yet in the s/w.

To top it all I can now go buy a NAS raid drive, stick it in a cupboard or cellar, not need my PC to access the music and all players are silent. Did I mention the fit and finish are georgeous? Even the packaging is good!

I am hard to please. Sorry if I sound cheesy about this. If you are considering CA then consider the Sonos. Tons more flexibility and a sorted product with a large network of support. Yes its best if you are PC literate and it might cost a little bit more per node initially but I bet it lasts and if, like me, you have lots of nodes its right up there.

Finally good luck to CA. Want to see UK coys survive but need to do better.

Sorry Ed / Tons.
 

r21442

Member
Meant to add, for the PC illiterate Sonos falls down a bit by not recommending or guiding the CD ripping process, selecting format, album artwork etc. To a casual observer all the various encoding formats are a fuzz and many think that the sound will be the quality of an internet radion station. Sonos plays many lossless formats i.e. the digital signal is not theoretically degraded from source. That said the existing zoneplayers have DACs and I'm not yet making any claims for sound quality on the very limited low volume listening so far. I'm settling down to do that over the coming weeks and might report back. Suffice to say I did some research before buying and the new ZP80 announcement swung it for me - I can add my own DACs & amplification.
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
Damn you, you have just cost me yet more money on hifi upgrades. I really really want that sonos with the digital output. The remote for the sonos is just so amazing.

p.s. does the sonos support 802.11g wireless mode, because if not it won't have enough band width to playback lossless tracks. The old squeezeboxes downgraded the lossless files to 320k mp3's before playing them, because they didn't support 802.11g
 

johndon

Well-known Member
The Sonos uses it's own wireless mesh network - can't say I've noticed any problems with sound quality with mine :thumbsup:

John
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
Should be okay, but connecting it to a dac will be telling
 

r21442

Member
Stevos, yes g is supported - in fact the target - Sonos do not recommend super g or any of the flavours of 108Mb/s. The max zones is 32 and nothing said about whether they are playing same or different. Its a bold claim though not sure anyone would test that - maybe that is in best / wired network?

Some consolation for the CA purchasers out there. My 2nd zoneplayer wireless function went kaput today on 2nd day of ownership! Difference is the US helpline available on freephone. Short discussion. Sent the guy a diagnostic from my PC. Had it in seconds, confirmed my appraisal and initiated a replacement unit there and then. No trailing back to Richer Sounds for me. Just like the thing with me crowing about Sonos last night!
 

sylvester

Standard Member
just to add to the 640h / sonos / squeezebox debate. Anybody looked at or bought the hifidelio.

Looks like a German bit of kit, and probably engineered to a better spec and tested to death. Web site states that there is no fan.
http://www.hifi-wifi.co.uk
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
looking at the specs you would be forced into buying the pro version, as it has a digital output and can rip at 320k.

Any ideas of prices
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
Slightly pricey. I have purchased a Yamaha MusicCast system (the older model) and that only cost me £800 off ebay.

Haven't decided whether to keep it or not yet, but if i do i will need to upgrade the harddrive to a 250gb version, so i can use the uncompressed option.
 

extremelydodgy

Active Member
Not into the Sonos for various reasons. But it's really hard to pick something that's usable. Right now I have an HTPC running j.River Media Center going into my DAC, but sometimes things crash and so forth... I just want it simple. Flip on a switch, get frontend on the telly, navigate, play. Oh well... will have to keep on looking, or give up and and buy that Roku Photobridge.
 

denony

Active Member
Hi there,

Audiofile programs and Windows CE (used for 640H operations) are stored on the hard drive. Like other Windows systems (XP, 2000), OS files can be damaged easily and we need a restore CD to reinstall 640H programs (eg. Windows CE + Audiofile program) properly.

There is no protection on 640H. :( Type http://<your_640H_IP_address> (ex: http://192.168.1.100) in your Internet browser and 640H will display the Windows CE Networking configuration page. There is no private password to protect the configuration. If some parameters are updated then 640 will be out of order (Audifile programs can be deleted !!! ). This is why we need a Restore CD : to restore all parameters, all program to their default values

Do you know where we can buy a restore CD or download an ISO file of it ?
Do you know where we can download a upgrade of the system (if available) ?

I'm really worry because there is no restore CD and the box (like all other computers in the world) and 640 is a computer.

Thank you

Denony
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
Denony,
It is possible in these circumstances to issue a restore CD that resets the factory settings. We do not advise that anyone alter the function settings of the 640H, there are no beneficial reasons for doing so and there is a high chance of the unit being adversely affected. There will also be added password protection in a future software update. Please bear in mind that there are several different ways of using the 640H many of which do not require any form of networking so many users will never go anywhere near this screen - as such we don't supply full resets because it isn't often required.
 
J

JJF

Guest
Dear prospective or current 640H owners!

I have read thru this thread and regret not picking up faster on some comments made earlier, particularly from mvaldes who I appreciate put his confidence in Cambridge Audio and shelled out £599 of his hard-earned cash but more recently chose to return it for various reasons.

I will not pretend that at this moment in time the product is absolutely perfect, however to put things into context we have sold many thousands of 640H's and the vast majority of owners are happy with their purchase. We also have several 5-Star reviews under our belt from magazine critics who are usually hard to please. I also want to make it clear how much we do care about our customers and I invite owners to drop me a note at any time (by all means use the "Send a Private Message" feature on this forum) or contact our Tech Support team via our website.

There have been some issues with some customers particularly over stability, connectivity and noise. Since launch we have been working hard to improve our firmware to eliminate these issues and this firmware is on schedule for testing during the first 2 weeks of Feb after which we expect to release it to all 640H owners who regsistered their product on our website.

The new firmware includes the following improvements:-
• The hard drive is now told to stop after a given period of inactivity.
• There is a new, faster USB driver.
• Several areas of the database have been tidied up and improved so to make the 640H faster and easier to navigate.
• As a result of these changes and other improvements unit stability is considerably improved.

We are aware of occasional enhanced CD’s that cause playback problems and we are working on this issue. As the bug listed above does not affect all enhanced CD’s, tracking down the exact cause of it is not as easy as is implied. If you are using compressed audio on the 640H it is worth pointing out that music compressed elsewhere (such as on iTunes or WMP) can be imported to the 640H without this happening.

I am sorry that our support desk did not respond instantly to mvaldes concerns however I would respectfully point out that in this case emails were sent to us on Christmas day and we responded on 28th Dec. I appreciate that we could do even better than this but please give us a chance! Our Tech Support team do genuinely care.

Other speculative suggestions have been made such as us using cheap Hard Drives in our 640H as a way of meeting our price target. Actually we do not, the drives we use are only Hitachi AV-quality drives and not cheaper alternatives that have been offered to us. The noise that some customers have experienced is not down to this part and will be considerably improved by the forthcoming firmware update.

We are committed to delivering customer satisfaction and I welcome approaches directly from 640H owners who would like to help us by Beta testing firmware further updates prior to release.

Yours sincerely,
James Johnson-Flint
Chief Executive, Cambridge Audio Ltd.
 

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