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There wasn't much wrong with the original 640c CD player, but now Cambridge has made it even better!
But don't just take our word for it!
Reproduced from What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, October 2005
"The best budget CD players ever?
WHAT IS CAMBRIDGE Audio playing at? The original 540C and 640C are superb CD players in their own right, so why risk turning them into a couple of turkeys by releasing new versions?
But we shouldn't fear the worst from a manufacturer that's on a roll like Cambridge Audio. It has revitalised and virtually reinvented these two models, kept the budget pricing, and produced a couple of outstanding new CD players.
Embarrassing more expensive kit
The 540C now performs on a higher level than the original. This disc-spinner is capable of unravelling tracks and revealing an excellent level of detail - it delivers music in an energetic and dynamic manner that gets your sonic juices flowing. The spacious and open sound allows the vocals and instruments in Radiohead's High And Dry to sound clear and uncluttered. As far as £200 CD players go, there's no doubt the 540C has lifted the bar to a new level that the competition can't match.
However, if you've got an extra 50 quid spare, it's worth checking out the 640C V2.0. It's such an accomplished player, that even some designs costing almost twice as much will struggle to cope with this calibre of performance.
Detail levels are exceptional for the money. So, too, are the quantity of dynamics and drive on offer, not to mention the muscle this player can flexes. Spinning Naughty By Nature's classic Uptown Anthem highlights the player's solid and authoritative character. The risqu vocals sound solid, full-bodied and natural. The punchy bassline is focused, direct and rhythm-driven, making an immensely pleasurable listen.
So how come they sound so good? Each player has slid under the surgeon's knife for a bit of expert tweakery. Aesthetically, the main chassis is identical to the original, highlighting the Azur's sturdy build and attractive styling. The front display can now be dimmed, Cambridge claiming this helps reduce electrical interference, so improving sound.
The most welcome external -transformation has occurred with the new 'Navigator' remote control. Gone are the miniscule operationing buttons of the older remote, to be replaced by a more thumb-friendly navigational button. It's a far more responsive and user-friendly design - manufacturers of more expensive players could certainly learn a thing or two from it.
So what's under the bonnet?
The 540C features a new toroidal transformer, a single, upgraded 24-bit/192kHz DAC from Wolfson Micro-electronics and also uses a new filter design to reduce unwanted noise and distortion. The 640C makes use of similar filtering, plus the new transformer, but also boasts not one, but two of the new Wolfson DACs - one for each channel. Normally the preserve of more expensive machines, these dual DACs have been arranged in a symmetrical formation: Cambridge claims this helps improve soundstaging and stereo -imaging and, after hearing it in action, it's difficult to argue. If we could give these players six stars we would. Each one offers so much quality for the money that if you're entering the budget hi-fi sector or just want an affordable upgrade, it's difficult to look past the V2 540C and 640C as recommendations.
CAMBRIDGE AUDIO AZUR 540C V2 -
Energetic, lively delivery; great levels of detail; excellent remote
The 640C is only £50 more but nothing really
Budget kit has probably never looked or sounded better than this updated 540C
CAMBRIDGE AUDIO AZUR 640C V2 -
Amazing solidity and focus; excellent rhythmic ability; sounds natural and realistic
Nothing - it's worth every penny.
If you can scrape together that extra £50 you'll find it money well spent - the 640C is a stellar performer."
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