Cambridge Audio CXUHD Review: A 4K Blu-ray player ticks nearly all the boxes Review

What is the Cambridge Audio CXUHD?

The Cambridge Audio CXUHD is a high-end 4K Blu-ray player with Dolby Vision HDR and "universal" disc playback. It uses the same MediaTek chipset that made Oppo 4K Blu-ray players so popular with AV fans. In fact, with Oppo recently calling its AV business, the CXUHD is arguably the only premium Blu-ray 4K game in the city. . So here we hope it will live up to its price of £ 699.

Cambridge Audio CXUHD – Design and construction

Although not as robustly metallic and rugged as the soon to disappear £ 650 Oppo UDP-203, the Cambridge Audio CXUHD however looks and feels appropriately premium. It is much higher and feels much more substantial than your standard Blu-ray 4K deck. Clearly there is an abundance of metal in its construction, too.

It's also nice to see how your fascia follows the look of other Cambridge Audio products, especially because the charming Union Jack logo never gets old.

Cambridge Audio has put its own DNA on the CXUHD, but it is clearly built on the same hardware and software platform as the popular Oppo players. As such, I had to ask Cambridge if he was affected by Oppo when he left the AV hardware business. A spokesperson assured me that the CXUHD can be sold for at least another full year, and that it will continue to receive service and firmware support much further.

Although there are some hardware similarities between the Cambridge Audio CXUHD and the Oppo & # 39; s 4K BD covers, your remote control is completely different, not in a good way, however. Its button design is awful, especially the way in which the disc navigation buttons appear in a confusing concentric circle arrangement. The buttons are also too small and badly labeled. As a result, despite being backlit, it was a struggle to use in a dark room.

Cambridge Audio CXUHD – Features

While the Cambridge Audio CXUHD shares many features with the Oppo 203, it has at least a couple of key differences.

First, where you find analog multi-channel audio outputs on 203, there is only one black metal cover on the CXUHD. This is quite fair since the platform no longer contains any digital or analog audio electronics.

This may seem somewhat peculiar to Cambridge Audio with a player that costs more than the Oppo 203. However, the brand is inflexible. There is a performance reason to make this change. The Cambridge Audio Technical Director, Dominic Baker, explains:

& # 39; The removal of the DACs and all the high-speed clocks associated with them reduces video noise and a smoother picture.

The connections that CXUHD includes include a pair of HDMI outputs (one for video, one for audio) and one HDMI Video input. This HDMI input allows you to run external sources through CXUHD video processing.

There are also coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, and a pair of USB ports for multimedia playback. The custom installers will appreciate the RS-232C port and activate the input / output ports to integrate the platform into a home theater control system.

Another key area where the Cambridge Audio CXUHD differs from the Oppo platforms is in its approach to video. Cambridge Audio states that its platform has been professionally calibrated to optimize the dynamic range between white and black along with the delivery of natural colors and film fluency.

This can raise eyebrows in certain AV circles. After all, some AV purists will say that all a 4K Blu-ray player should do is create a pure, "intact" image. The kind of purity that Cambridge Audio claims to pursue by eliminating the audio DACs of the CXUHD.

Personally, I've been here long enough to believe that the focus of all I want is zero and zero & # 39; for digital video it can be too simplistic. . That said, Cambridge seems to claim that its work makes the output of the image more representative of what HDR is actually doing. It's not just about creating images that Cambridge engineers recognize look good!

The other main features of CXUHD are less controversial. Starting with its compatibility with DVD-Audio and SACD discs, it seems that the upcoming Panasonic UB820 UB820 and UB9000 premium Blu-ray covers will not offer.

It also offers playback of the premium Dolby Vision HDR format, with its additional dynamics & data to help TVs deliver optimized images.

 Cambridge Audio CXUHD

Thanks to the seemingly endless update capability of its MediaTek chip, meanwhile, it is already a formidable beast when it comes to media file support. Among the playable options are Hi10P, HEVC, H.264, VP9 4K, JPEG, MP4, DivX, MKV, MP3, AVCHD and the high quality FLAC and WAV formats. Format support can also continue to expand if Cambridge Audio continues to work with MediaTek to add new features now that Oppo has left the hardware market.

However, there are some notable things that the Cambridge Audio CXUHD does not do. First, there is currently no mention of support for the new HDR10 + format. Designed to deliver dynamic HDR performance without paying Dolby for Dolby Vision, the first 4K Blu-ray encoded in HDR10 + will arrive later this year.

Second, like the Oppo players (but unlike most conventional decks), the CXUHD does not carry "smart" applications or functions. Therefore, there is no Netflix or Amazon Video streaming, for example. On the other hand, you are probably using this player with a high-end 4K TV that already offers applications.

Cambridge Audio CXUHD – Configuration

For the most part, the CXUHD is best used in its original state version. However, there are a couple of configurations that some users may want to touch up.

First, make sure that the audio is being broadcast in the correct format for your system. Then, verify that the HDR output is set to Auto if you have a Dolby Vision compatible TV.

If you see lip sync errors, check the impressively flexible audio delay feature of the CXUHD.

Finally, you may feel the urge to push the noise reduction option to a point from its neutral start position.

Cambridge Audio CXUHD – Performance

Whatever your thoughts on the philosophical issues surrounding the Cambridge calibration of CXUHD images, it has made a difference. Whether you like it or not, that difference can be a matter of taste.

On the positive side, the CXUHD images seem a bit more dynamic than those of the Oppo players. The dark areas look slightly darker, while the brighter areas look a little brighter.

Then, when comparing the same Deadpool 4K Blu-ray sequence side by side in the CXUHD and an Oppo 205, where the bad boy Francis delivers a shipment of weapons to a sneaky guy that just landed in a helicopter, the white tent area in the background seems a bit brighter in the CXUHD, while the blackness of the helicopter seems a little deeper.

[19659003] This slightly more dynamic aspect does not only affect the brightness extremes of the image either. There is a lighter shade of light in Francis's brown pants, and the dark top of the henchman standing to his right.

Without seeing the transfer of Deadpool running on its original mastering monitor, I could not say for sure whether the Oppo or Cambridge Audio CXUHD provides the most authentic image. But I can certainly imagine many users preferring the slightly heavier aspect of the CXUHD.

The bad news is that the CXUHD images look louder than the Oppo covers, as well as a high-end UBP-X1000ES. for 19659003] For example, if you freeze the frame at Deadpool in 4 minutes, 51 seconds, there are a few more points on the blue door of the car between the two henchmen on the right than on Oppo covers. The same problem appears in the rear lights of the vehicle towards the left half. Francis's face has a slightly more durable expression.

If you look at the roof of the car in the center of the image, meanwhile, there is a slight horizontal line / grinding effect on the CXUHD that you do not see on Sony models. But this effect is present in the Oppos, although a little less obvious.

These different noise problems may mean that the image fluctuates between looking a little sharper than the Oppo images and looking a little softer.

It is not clear if this additional noise is due to the Cambridge Audio calibration of the output image. Possible electrical balance problems related to the removal of the Cambridge audio board could also be involved. But the noise is there, although only very subtly most of the time. Hence my mention of noise reduction in the Configuration section.

At this point, I must emphasize that we are still talking about a very impressive image performance of the Cambridge Audio CXUHD. In addition to the slightly more pronounced dynamic range, the colors look incredibly rich and refined, but also natural and balanced.

The black levels are tinted, without breaking the details. In fact, sometimes they select fractionally more shadow details than Oppo covers. In this sense, the CXUHD image is more reminiscent of the Panasonic UB900 player. The images look stable and solid, without the effect of marginal pulsation in monotonous areas or with slight faults of movement in some "conventional" covers.

The CXUHD is a powerful improver of non-4K discs. Add details with sensitivity and cleanliness, without adding or exaggerating the origin noise. The movement still looks clean and cinematic with enhanced images as well.

For me, the Panasonic UB900 does a little better work to improve the sub-4K images. However, the CXUHD is on par with the Oppo covers in this aspect, and that is more than enough. This is especially the case if you are also a fan of the slightly enhanced dynamism of the CXUHD images.

As for the sound quality of the CXUHD, it is excellent so far. Regardless of whether you are playing SACD, DVD-Audio, CD, Blu-ray 4K movie soundtracks or multimedia audio files, the sound of the CXUHD is pristinely clean, detailed and neutral. I also did not hear any synchronization or distortion problems.

Removing analog audio outputs for (supposedly) increasing the quality of the image may seem like a strange decision for a typically audio-centric brand such as Cambridge Audio. While some audiophiles can lose the slightly warmer and more open sound that high-spec analog audio outputs can produce, the CXUHD can not be accused of not delivering the digital sound goods in an impressive way.

Why buy a Cambridge Audio CXUHD?

The Cambridge Audio CXUHD is a high-end 4K Blu-ray player in every inch. It is not a "mindless clone" of the Oppo 203, despite clearly sharing a large amount of heritage. The elimination of the analog audio electronics and the calibration of its video output results in a palpably different image.

The differences are not all positive, however, it could be said that it makes its cost increase on the Oppo 203 a bit difficult to justify. Or at least that was the case before Oppo recently removed the hardware plug. It is expected that the final stocks of Oppo will be sold out for the summer, while Cambridge Audio promises a supply of at least a year, the premium space of Blu-ray players of 4K could be very open for the CXUHD for a few months.

Panasonic's only potential players in the soup could be the future players of Panasonic's UB820 and UB9000. Although, although they will support HDR10 + and Dolby Vision, they will not play SACD or DVD-Audio discs.

Verdict

The Cambridge Audio CXUHD offers high quality image and sound from the world's best AV video and audio sources. However, its unique approach to video playback offers mixed results, and it is unfortunate that it is more expensive than the Oppo 203, but its luck will surely benefit from the imminent demise of that Oppo deck.