Comments: While there is much to like in the Azur 650R, I should point out three minor shortcomings that need to be addressed.
First, the Cambridge provides only three HDMI inputs (and none on the front panel). At this price point, I would expect more HDMI inputs—especially in light of the many HDMI-equipped source components one might want to connect to the receiver (e.g., Blu-ray players, network media players, cable boxes, DVRs, and so on).
Second, while the 650R does offer the CAMCAS automated speaker setup system, it does not provide a room/speaker EQ system—a feature that is welcome and expected on receivers in this price class. While purists may frown on using room EQ systems, the fact is that large number of serious enthusiasts enjoy and use them on a daily basis (and remember, EQ systems can easily be bypassed or turned off should purists wish to do so).
Third, the Cambridge support high resolution multichannel PCM, but does not support direct DSD bitstreams (the native format for SACD discs). This omission does not seem consonant with the 650R’s “audiophile’s first” mission profile—especially in light of the fact that Cambridge itself offers a Blu-ray universal player that can output DSD bitstreams.
The Azur 650R setup menu is refreshingly straightforward to use, and it is also well-documented in the receiver’s user manual. A simple one-touch button puts the menu list onscreen (or turns it off again), and menu options are easy to follow from that point forward.
The CAMCAS automated speaker setup system is easy to use and much less complicated than most elaborate room EQ systems tend to be. Again, note that CAMCAS sets speaker levels and distances, but provides no means for detecting or compensating for room/speaker response anomalies.
The 650R remote control is not backlit, but is otherwise a functional delight. One point that I appreciated, and that I think many enthusiasts will applaud, is that most control buttons offer single functions that are relatively unambiguous—this in contrast to multi-function, context sensitive buttons that invoke different (and often perplexing) functions at different times.
One potential drawback I noted is that the remote provides no mechanism for making on-the-fly channel level trim adjustments. Since this is a function many serious listeners might need/want to use from time to time, I hope Cambridge addresses the requirement in future models.
The 650R provides clean, simple, noise-free video switching functions and format-to-format transcoding that works as expected (but without providing additional scaling or other video processing functions).
The 650R sounds more like a good high-end integrated amplifier or preamp/power amp combo than it does like a traditional AVR. Here’s what I mean by that comment. If you know and love fine two-channel audio components then you might find, as I sometimes have, that most AVRs (good though they may be) sound a little bit veiled or just slightly compressed—almost as though they are “homogenizing” the sound of fine music recordings to some degree. But not so the Cambridge 650R; it is not only reasonably powerful but rich in sonic finesse, detail, and resolution so that you tend to hear much deeper into recordings than you typically would with most AVRs—even quite expensive ones.
In doing reviews of AVRs for The Perfect Vision, I typically make a point of comparing the analog sound of a good universal player vs. the sound of the same player feeding identical digital data to the receiver for the receiver to decode. Frankly, many receivers tend to blur or at least minimize distinctions in such player vs. receiver comparisons, but with the 650R exactly the opposite was the case. While its surround sound decoders performed well with no apparent glitches and its DAC’s sounded good-to-very-good, high quality audio-oriented disc players (e.g., the Oppo BDP-83 SE) sounded spectacularly good through the Cambridge Audio, bringing much of their full sonic potential to bear. When fed by high quality analog audio source components, then, the Cambridge will reward you with wide, deep, richly detailed soundstages and a big, wide-open sound overall. This is what truly sets the 650R apart.
While the Cambridge’s digital front end may sound slightly brighter and bit more sharp-edged that today’s nicer audio-oriented disc players, it certainly is no slouch, as it seems to specialize in information retrieval. In practice this means that when you play movie soundtracks through the 650R you may find the overall sound seems more nuanced and noticeably more “complete” than when listening through competing AVRs. If your speakers are up to the task, surround sound imaging through the Cambridge is especially good, so that you’ll hear a smoother, better integrated and more continuous wraparound circle of sound from your system than you may be used to.