Cambridge Audio's New 851 Series
The 851A uses Cambridge’s proprietary “class-XD” design, said to combine class-A performance with class-B efficiency, to deliver 120Wpc. It uses two custom-designed toroidal transformers, one for the power amp section and one for the preamp section; offers seven RCA inputs and two XLR inputs; and features Cambridge’s attractive, easy to read “Double-Film Super-Twisted Nematic” display. With its acoustically damped metal chassis and brushed aluminum front panel, the 851A showed impressive fit and finish.
I referred to the 851C as a “CD player” above, but Cambridge would rather have you think of it as a DAC and digital preamp that just so happens to also play CDsyou know, if the occasion should arise. Like so many of today’s products, the 851C is a lesson in versatility, a reflection of how we listen and relate to our music. It uses Cambridge’s specially built, CD-only S3 CD servo drive, meant for optimum data retrieval. Used as a DAC, the 851C is compatible with resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz via its driverless USB input, but, when used with a supplemental Cambridge Audio driver (available free from Cambridge’s website), the 851C handles 24-bit/192kHz data. And because the 851C also offers digital volume and channel balance functions, it can be directly connected to a power amplifier or powered loudspeakers, and used as the heart of a system based solely on digital sources such as a computer, network streamer, or iPod dock.
Cambridge seems to have thought of everything.
Because, in my opinion, a hi-fi demo can accurately reflect the heart of a brand and, sadly, because so many hi-fi demos are not as good as they should befar too many fall short in terms of professionalism, preparedness, detail, or are otherwise disrespectful to the music, the listeners, and the product at handI think it’s important to also note that Cambridge’s international sales manager, Adam Shaw-Cotterill, provided an outstanding example of the opposite: a demo that was interesting, informative, well prepared, and showed a deep respect and true enthusiasm not only for the product but also for Cambridge’s customer.