The Cambridge Audio Azur 540R is sold exclusively through Richer Sounds retail stores and online. Despite the affordable price it's good looking and solidly built, and delivers 80W to each of its six channels. The 540R's slim front panel looks smart. The brushed-metal fascia has a neat arrangement of buttons and basic controls, and there's a handy analogue audio and video input for connection to occasional sources.
Impressively, this slender amp offers six channels of amplification, and can cope with the increasingly popular Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES soundtracks. 5.1 soundtracks are also accommodated via Dolby Digital and DTS decoders, while Dolby Pro-Logic II processing will convert stereo sources (CDs and TV programmes) into realistic 5.1-channel surround sound.
Sockets on the back of the amp are respectable. The are five analogue audio ins (for VCR or cassette deck, for example), while four digital ins take care of connections to a DVD and CD player and a 5.1-channel in caters for an SACD or DVD-A player.
For pictures, component, S-video and composite video signals can be routed through the Cambridge from all your video sources, but there's no provision for converting S-video to component video, so you'll need to switch between video inputs on your TV to view images from the selected source.
Control of the amp is provided by an ultra-stylish remote handset. Speaker setup and settings can be accessed here, but are displayed on the front panel rather than on your TV - a minor inconvenience.
Video signals routed through the 540R show minor degradation, although connecting up this way does ensure that picture and sound are synchronised when selecting a source. For the best pictures we recommend bypassing the amp and connecting a DVD player directly to your TV.
Ideas above its station
When it comes to sound, the Cambridge delivers a performance to rival more costly home cinema amps. All areas of the frequency spectrum are expertly handled, without any over-emphasis or shortfall. The result is a superbly balanced sound, and the 540R ably handled the spectacular soundtrack of our The Day After Tomorrow DVD.
Placement and steering is key with any cinema amp, and the Cambridge expertly places effects behind the listener and moves sounds seamlessly around the room during our test movie's thunderous climatic change sequences.
The 540R's movie credentials are nigh-on impeccable, but what about music? The Azur doesn't disappoint. Joss Stone sounded wonderfully laid-back during our tests, her voice effortlessly caressing our eardrums. The Cambridge Audio Azur 540R is a straightforward home cinema amplifier, without the frills of some rivals. It produces an excellent performance with movies and music, and is great value for money.