Features and Operation

By Danny Phillips



  • Recommended by TR
Cambridge Audio 651BD


Our Score:


The deck’s impressive construction continues under the bonnet, with an array of high-grade components. Most interesting is the Marvell DE2750 QDEO video scaler (for the primary HDMI output), a Mediatek MTK8530 video decoder and Cirrus Logic CS4382A eight-channel audio DACs (192kHz/24-bit).

Strangely, Cambridge Audio’s website makes no reference to it, but when hooked up the internet the 651BD can access YouTube videos through a dedicated web portal, as well as Picasa.

Cambridge Audio 651BD

It’s unlike any YouTube portal we’ve encountered before, using a simplified layout that allows you to search by keyword and then browse videos lined up in a row along the bottom of the screen. Featured videos start playing automatically when you fire it up, which is a bit annoying. It’s easy to follow but the sluggish cursor on the virtual keyboard makes it a chore to use. Picasa uses a straightforward layout, with bright, crisp menus.

You can also stream movies, music and photos from devices on your home network using uPnP, which works smoothly once the deck recognises your intended device (which took us a while achieve).

The 651DB supports 3D and 2D Blu-ray discs, as well as CD, DVD-Audio and SACD, which is sure to delight audiophiles. And with a Pure Audio Mode to quell any unwanted signal interference, this deck has some serious sonic credentials.

Of course it also decodes all of Blu-ray’s audio formats – Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio being the most important – and pipes them to an AV receiver as PCM or in bitstream form.

Cambridge Audio 651BD

Despite being a deck aimed at those in the know, the 651BD is surprisingly easy to use. The onscreen menus are excellent – clear, logical and attractive. Hit the Home button on the remote and a simple blue background appears with large white icons offering easy access to Movies, Music and Photos (whether on USB, network or disc), as well as the network, internet portal and setup menu.

Cambridge Audio 651BD

The setup menu is probably one of the best we’ve encountered – primarily because you can call it up and make changes while you’re watching a movie. It’s the same menu found on OPPO’s range of players (indeed, our nearby OPPO player kept reacting to the 651BD’s remote commands) which reveals some shared DNA – but that’s a good thing.

Cambridge Audio 651BD

Within the setup menu, you can adjust the picture using a decent range of parameters that includes noise reduction, colour and contrast enhancement, as well as brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and so forth. It’s not as detailed as some high-end players, but useful for basic tweaking. There are also speaker settings (levels, distance settings, size) and loads more – it leaves no stone unturned.

Cambridge Audio 651BD

The deck comes with an excellent remote, boasting heavyweight build quality, sturdy rubber buttons and an intuitive, uncluttered layout. The labelling is a little small, but otherwise it’s a superb zapper. An ‘Info’ button brings up banners at the top and bottom of the screen, displaying information about the disc being played – including audio/video format, video bitrate and frame rate. Another button provides quick access to a list of output resolutions. It can also be used to control volume and sources on Cambridge Audio AV receivers.

Cambridge Audio 651BD

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