The 740A is the latest in Cambridge Audio’s Azur series of integrated amplifiers. The engineers somehow remained true to Cambridge's audiophile roots, developing a transparent-sounding and powerful design that still manages to squeeze in a generous helping of convenience-oriented features at a reasonable price.
The amp not only delivers 100 watts into 8 ohm speakers, it can also supply 150 watts with 4 ohm-rated speakers. I liked that the large white LCD front panel display, which can easily be custom configured to my unique application. For example, I named input 1 “CD,” input 2 “Sirius,” input 3 “XM,” and so on. That's really cool!
Audiophile design-touches abound: the circuitry is cradled in an acoustically dampened chassis, the high precision silicon gate volume/ balance control works in 1dB steps over most of its range. The amplifier uses two pairs of extremely high current output transistors per channel, while a massive toroidal power transformer takes up the lion's share of space on the right side of the chassis.
Although the Azur 740 doesn’t have a built-in phono section, Cambridge offers two outboard phono preamps: the 540P ($99) for moving magnet cartridges and the 640P ($189), which is compatible with moving magnet and moving coil cartridges and offers a subsonic filter.
The Azur 740A is fully provisioned for multi-room use with Cambridge Audio’s Incognito keypads or Incognito active speakers. If you have an iPod, you might want to pick up Cambridge’s iPod dock, and luckily enough, the Azur 740’s remote is set up to control many iPod functions.
Tip: My review sample looked sharp in black, but I think the silver version is even more elegant.
It’s open, clear, fast, and beautifully detailed. The Azur 740A’s unfailing resolution brought out the best in every recording I played.
Jazz guitarist Larry Coryell’s high octane Traffic SACD [Chesky] got things off to a rousing start. Coryell was clearly having a blast getting in touch with his rock roots with a blistering stab at Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression,’ and his band mates, bassist Victor Bailey and drummer Lenny White, definitely came to play. This is the sort of recording that wants to be played loud, and the Azur 740A didn’t hold anything back. Dynamic sock was first rate, but I was also thrilled with lowlevel detailing and the amp’s ability to reveal the subtleties of the recording venue’s acoustics and ambiance.
OK, but the Coryell SACD is an audiophile recording and it’s supposed to sound great, so I went for something, shall we say, a little less pristine—a guilty pleasure of 1970s production excess, the Electric Light Orchestra’s Greatest Hits [CBS]. Wow, The Azur 740A worked its magic on the sweeping string arrangements, but wait a sec, I had forgotten ELO was propelled by a killer rhythm section, and Jeff Lynne’s hooky melodies and ferocious guitar antics were so entertaining I had to play the whole CD again. The Azur 740A was so darn musical I had to work extra hard to focus on sound quality. And when I did I learned it got most things right—bass, midrange, and top end are perfectly balanced—and the sound is as clean as a whistle.