Billed by its creators as an unashamedly audiophile Blu-ray player, Cambridge Audio’s Azur 751BD is equipped with the sort of mind-boggling build quality and electronics you’d expect from an £800 deck. It’s aimed at those who want the best possible movie experience no matter the cost, but it’s not afraid to throw in a few features that some high-end brands would snootily dismiss as gimmicks. This 3D-ready machine one of three players in the company’s current range, alongside the lower-specced but cheaper 651BD and last year’s 650BD.
Let’s start with the build quality, which is right up there with the very best Blu-ray players. Unpacking the player from the box is your first indication that it’s a cut above the usual budget fare – it’s delicately wrapped in a blue sleeve with all the accessories neatly arranged in boxes around it.
Pull it out and revel in the deck’s substantial, luxurious construction (it weighs a hefty 5kg) bolstered by the all-metal, 85mm-high casing and the brushed aluminium front panel. All of the electronics are housed in a new acoustically damped chassis with dual-layer damped feet, which should help keep excessive resonance at bay.
Although the deck’s design doesn’t dazzle in the same way as a Marantz or Philips player, the flat brushed aluminium fascia oozes sophistication and it’s perfectly matched to Cambridge Audio’s AV receivers. The front panel is far from minimal, covered in buttons, logos and a busy blue-lit display panel. A USB port is also found there, covered up by a thick rubber dust cap, and when you eject the disc tray it glides forward silently, another indication of the deck’s quality.
There’s also a button on the front that lets you toggle between three anti-alias filter settings (linear, steep and minimum), which allow you to gently fine-tune the audio output.
The rear panel offers a comprehensive selection of sockets, the most important of which are the two HDMI v1.4 outputs, allowing you to send audio signals to an AV receiver and 3D pictures to a TV simultaneously – which is a real godsend if your receiver lacks 3D-capable HDMI v1.4 inputs. And if your amp has no HDMIs at all you can take advantage of the 7.1-channel analogue outputs.
They’re joined by component, composite, optical and coaxial digital audio and analogue stereo outputs, as well as an Ethernet port and a second USB port designed to house the supplied USB wireless LAN adapter (WD650-BD-N, which also comes with an extension cable) or a USB storage device for media playback if you prefer.
There’s also an IR emitter input, an RS-232C port and, unusually, an eSata port that lets you connect a compatible hard-disk drive and play back digital media, which completes a generous set of sockets.