any thoughts on cambridge azur cd 540/640?

there is a good deal of buzz about these players outside audiogon. Any reason there hasn't been a peep about them here? Hear they are using Wolfson DAC chips and converting to 24/192. I've seen the 640 listed for $449 at spearit sound. At this price, can't understand the silence. Fact is i haven't heard them myself and would like some input from the gonner ears.
In the January issue of What Hi Fi (British press), they reviewed the combination of the CA Azur 640C cd player and the matching 640A Azur integrated amplifier. The verdict was that the 2 CA units, along with the Monitor Audio Bronze 2 speakers, at GBP 700 (approximately USD 1200) represented the best system value under GBP 1000 (approximately USD 1700).

Audio Advisor carries the Azur 640C cd player for $500 and felt that the 640 was worth the extra $150 over the 540C, because the ... "640C is distinguished by a premium Wolfson WM8740 DAC which gives the 640C a leading edge in bringing out the subtlest musical details from an exceptionally quiet background."

Check out ...

I was tempted to take a look, but quite frankly I am pretty happy with my Music Hall CD 25, and I reasoned that their performances are probably pretty equal overall.

Regards, Rich

I have heard the 640 last week, in the home of my friend who carries them, and sells for prices more like the Spearit Sound pricetag. The player lists for $529.

He also carries Music Hall and Shanling, and the new Cambridge 640 is supplanting the $2000 Shanling in his personal systems. He feels it simply sounds better. That alone should speak volumes here, considering the esteem in which the Shanling is held.

I didn't know the Wolfson DAC was in the 540, is this true? He usually only has the better Cambridge player, as he feels the more expensive ones are still about as cheap as an audiophile player gets.

Please take my opinions on the 640 with the following grains of salt:
1) My tastes and experiences are mine, and may not agree with yours
2) I was not able to A/B the player against any other, although I am quite familiar with this system using the Shanling T100 in it. I would have liked to have directly compared it to the Music Hall MMF25, which he is unsure at this time which is superior
3) I arrived almost unannounced to his home, and the player was dead cold. My friend and I both agree with the statement Dan D'Agostino told him, "A CD player must be on for at least 2 days before it sounds best."

I found the player to be a significant step up from the previous Cambridge D300/D500/D500SE generation of players.

First, the build quality. Anyone here who knows me knows I miss no opportunity to badmouth the quality of the 3 D500SEs I went through(all bought from another, local dealer). They were simply awful. After problems with the third one, I went in another direction.

The new players must be built by another company altogether. My friend has his theories, but I don't yet agree with him as to who is making the new machines. They weigh twice as much, at least, and while that doesn't say everything, the fit and finish and feel takes two to three steps forward. It very well may be a better built player than the Music Hall. In fact, at a $529 list price, I have not encountered a better built machine.

On to the sonics. The reason it was not warmed up is that my friend has found the previous generations of Cambridge players to burn out their displays prematurely. So, he is in the habit of not keeping his on. With that in mind, the sonics of the player left him disappointed, and with the feeling that the player must be kept on at all times(like any other digital gear), and if the displays have a problem, he wants to find it out sooner rather than later.

Personally, I found the sonics to be quite good indeed. Compared to the darkness, lack of speed, loss of resolution, and lack of refinement of the Cambridge D500SE, the new 640 makes serious strides in each category. I found the old player also quite rolled off, which was also not a problem with the new machine. It was a nice sounding player. It's pace seemed right to me. Much more ready to take on real audiophile players than in the past. It seemed to easily fit in to the $1200 playing field, whereas the older machines competed up to maybe $750 - $800.

Was it the best digital I have heard? No, not by a longshot. On the negative side, it didn't have the great low frequency response of the best players, but I don't know too many sub $2000 players that do. It didn't seem to have an analog kind of sound, which will disappoint those who seek that. And, the flow of the music was not the best I have encountered.

I will say that the player sounded better after playing even five short minutes, waking up nicely.

Does it surpass the Shanling? To my friend, who is honest to a fault, yes. How about the Music Hall? That one, he is not sure about. And, neither am I, as I was not able to A/B them. I will say that the two players now seem more alike to me than I believed possible. Although, in my experience the Music Hall sounds better, I need to compare them on a level playing field. I am taking the assertions that the Wolfon DAC has something to offer to us audiophiles at face value.

Hope others are able to also review and submit feedback on their impressions on the new Cambridge players as well.
I agree with Trelja's comments on the D500SE IF he was using the stock power cord with the D500SE. I found a power cord upgrade made all the difference in the world when I demo'd a D500SE. The stock cord they give you is the worst piece of crap I've seen. Does not even fit snug at all into the IEC socket. I got very good results with a Blue Circle BC61 which can be had new for around $80. Everything Tralja mentions poorly was much improved once the cord was replaced.

If they give you the same type cord with the new player, the first thing you do when you open the box is toss it in the trash..

I actually felt the original D500 was better. It had a 20-bit DAC instead of the 24-bit in the SE, but the 20-bit DAC was of higher quality..

Ask the guys at the Spearit Northampton store what they think. They'll give you an honest answer. I've known Richard Moulding the manager for over 25 years. He is a real straight shooter.. (The mystery for Richard is I doubt he knows me by my screen name !!)
Sugarbrie, while I definitely agree with your assessment of the Cambridge D500SE with the stock cord, my statements were of the player with an upgraded cord.

I consider it a mandatory upgrade on any CD player, and tried two very different sounding power cords on the Cambridge. One of them improved things a good bit, but its lack of shielding introduced some big time noise into my system. Careful placement and cable routing helped out, but the player NEVER achieved a level which came close to the Music Hall MMF25. And, as I said, the new Cambridge player is simply head and shoulder better than the old one.

I respect your comments on the D500 sounding better than the D500SE, and would like the opportunity to compare them,
I thought the D500 sounds more natural than the D500SE. I was able to demo both when the SE came out. HiFi Choice had similar comments, when the SE came out...

Since the Music Hall generally sold for 1/3 more, it should (and does) sounds better... They did a nice job with it.

I still use a CD-6 in my work office. It is still my favorite Cambridge, not including the new ones that I have not heard. Pretty nice for an office system, so it is a keeper until it breaks. There are some very inexpensive tweeks that even make the old CD-4 sound really good.

I always like trying budget audiophile gear. It is easy to just spend mega-bucks. It is fun when they get it right on the cheap.
A follow up to my earlier remarks on the Cambridge 640C CD player...

I have now heard this player warmed up, in a warmed up system. My conclusions are more or less what they were in the past, that the new player represents a serious step up in terms of build and sound quality from the D500SE that I once(or thrice?) owned.

However, the player is not in the same ballpark as the Music Hall MMF25 CD player - the player I consider the benchmark for a budget player today, and a fine player in any regard. I would say build quality are not so different, but the Music Hall is just flat out more musical. The Music Hall does a much better job at the flow of the music, the frequency extremes, the midrange, and most of all, refinement.

I can think of no area where the Cambridge competes with the Music Hall sonically.

As the price differential between the two players is $70, the no brainer recommendation is the Music Hall MMF 25. However, I would like to say that I respect the job that Cambridge has accomplised with the 640C, a true improvement over the D500SE - 3 steps up in quality, 2 in sonics, and a recommended player nonetheless.