Cambridge Audio recently wowed us with the 751BD, a premium Blu-ray player that not only boasts astonishing build quality and performance but also throws in a bunch of hi-tech features that high-end brands normally overlook. The 651BD is a more affordable version of the 751BD with a few of the luxuries taken away, but at around £500 it’s still a significant investment – let’s find out it it’s justified.
You certainly get your money’s worth as far as design and connections are concerned. Like its bigger brother, the 651BD’s build quality is exemplary. The deck’s bodywork is a super-sturdy wrap-around metal casing manacled to a low resonance, acoustically damped chassis. In other words, vibration take a hike.
It’s gorgeous too. The fascia is a thick, brushed charcoal-grey affair, with only a smattering of buttonry and a USB port plugged up with a rubber dust cap. The display panel blazes bright blue, giving pertinent information in full words, plus the central disc tray slides out smoothly and purposefully. It’s one of the best-made Blu-ray players we’ve encountered at this price.
Even the most demanding socketry needs are catered for on the rear panel. Stars of the show are the two HDMI v1.4 outputs, which is a thoughtful touch – people who haven’t yet upgraded their AV amp to one with HDMI v1.4 inputs can’t enjoy 3D images and HD audio at the same time, but with two outputs you can send pictures and audio bitstreams separately.
Other sockets include a full set of 7.1-channel analogue outputs – another lifesaver if you’re amp is of a pre-HDMI vintage – and a port for an e-Sata external hard-drive, which allows you to play digital media. A second USB port is also found on the rear, providing another means of playing back digital content from HDDs and flash drives. You don’t even have to use this port for BD Live storage, as there’s 1GB of memory built right in.
Rounding up the rest of the sockets, we find component, optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, plus an Ethernet port, RS-232 and an IR emitter input. The Ethernet port is crucial if you want to access BD Live content or the uPnP streaming feature, as the deck sadly doesn’t support a Wi-Fi dongle, which is disappointing at this price.