Cambridge Audio Azur 540R V3 review

Cambridge Audio tries to stay ahead of the curve

Our Verdict

The new version of the acclaimed six-channel receiver adds HDMI and performance tweaks to an already successful mix

For

  • Impressive features list Punchy sound Decent HD connectivity

Against

  • Basic-looking menus Sound can be too bright

This is the second revision in the Azur 540R's short lifespan and demonstrates Cambridge Audio's speedy response to the competitive home entertainment market.

Externally, version three looks no different from its predecessors and the compact, yet solidly built, receiver is available in smart sliver or retro black brushed-metal finishes.

Internally, the 540R V3 has undergone a considerable makeover. The amplifier stages have been redesigned and repositioned to reduce interference for smoother performance. And HDMI socketry has also been incorporated (two in, one out), allowing you to route a compatible DVD player and Sky HD set-top box through the receiver for synchronised picture and sound switching.

Set of six

The 540R V3 crams a lot in to its compact dimensions. Each of the six amplifier channels is rated at 80W, and Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES decoders handle 6.1-channel material as well as incorporating decoders for 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks and processing stereo material using Dolby Pro-Logic IIx and Neo:6 surround formats.

If sacrifices have had to be made, it only shows in the onscreen menus. The graphics look rather basic but the extensive options offer some of the most comprehensive adjustments to get the receiver set up to your specific requirements.

Advanced Bass management options allow you to trim level and crossover for individual decoding/processing formats, while the Bass Augment option sends bass to large front speakers and the subwoofer simultaneously.

Connectivity is respectable given the limited space on the 540R V3's back plate, and there are five analogue audio inputs along with three digital inputs using either optical or coaxial inputs. Six-channel inputs provide hookup to SACD and DVD-Audio connections and there's an eight-channel pre-amp output too. Video connectivity covers all the bases but there's no upconversion.

The 540R V3 packs quite a punch for its compact dimensions. 5.1 and 6.1 soundtracks have plenty of energy and drive and it's adept with both sub/sat and full-size speaker systems. Surround sound is as good as its predecessors and the opening sequence to The Fellowship of the Ring is full of atmosphere, and the receiver does a great job of steering the soundtrack and controlling its powerful bass levels.

Circuit training

Audio circuitry enhancements help to ensure that the 540R V3 is as adept with dynamic movie soundtracks as with stereo or multi-channel music and musical material has good energy and drive. Our only criticisms concern a slightly brighter sound that wasn't quite so prevalent on previous versions and a tendency to harden up and become less involving at higher volume levels.

The inclusion of HDMI socketry provides the Cambridge Audio 540R V3 AV receiver with more flexibility than its predecessors. Sound performance is still strong, but the price rise and fairly entry-level facilities weaken its position as a rival to big brand models.