Cambridge Audio's Azur 540D is a mid-priced DVD player with an upmarket specification. It's marketed as the perfect combo to the 540R AV receiver. Build quality is similarly high and available in silver and black brushed metal finishes to match with the AV receiver.

The second version improves on its original credentials, and internal refinements suggest that the 540D is a DVD player capable of delivering audiophile stereo sound quality.

As you'd expect, the features list now includes an HDMI output with upscaling options to 720p and 1080i formats for both PAL (50Hz) and NTSC (60Hz) images. Surprisingly, there's no 1080p upscaling, which is a bit of an omission given the number of large screens now sporting the capability.

Top gear

The 540D claims to be geared as much to music as to movies, but sadly its disc-spinning capabilities doesn't include high resolution DVD-A or SACD multi-channel music playback or even MP3 or WMA music file playback from CD-R/RWs. On the plus side, the 540D is able to play Region 1 DVDs straight from the box, and it's DiVX compatible.

Onscreen menus are basic and graphics look unsophisticated. Nevertheless, they provide all the necessary adjustments to get the 540D set up and tailored to your particular TV type.

There's a six-channel analogue audio output for those who want to use the 540D's built-in Dolby Digital decoder to upgrade an aged Pro-Logic surround amp, for example. Both optical and coaxial digital audio socketry are on hand for bitstream connections to regular digital surround amps.

An HDMI output socket provides digital video connection to compatible flatscreen TVs. For those with older TVs, analogue video socketry is available in component, RGB Scart, S-video and composite video forms.

The 540D is geared for the best picture quality via the HDMI output, and scenes from Casino Royale on DVD look impressively solid. There's barely any noise on show in 576p mode and details look amazingly sharp. Slight gains are visible when switching the upscaler to 1080i mode, and facial details look more enhanced, but colours are a little muted and pictures lack the depth of 576p mode.

We're not quite so impressed by the 540D's analogue video output and component signals look soft, losing subtle details and even more background depth.

Short circuit

Money has definitely been spent on audio circuitry, and the 540D puts in a strong performance with movie soundtracks from either the digital outputs or the player's own Dolby Digital decoder. It's musically adept too, and stereo CDs have impressive drive and good timing, and will do justice to any music collection.

The 540D is a specialist player at a respectable price. It handles DVDs and CDs with equal aplomb, but if you're seeking a more 'universal' model with music formats then you should look elsewhere.