Cambridge Audio's New 851 Series

Cambridge Audio introduced their new flagship 851A integrated amplifier and 851C CD player ($1999 each).

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 CDs—you 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 be—far too many fall short in terms of professionalism, preparedness, detail, or are otherwise disrespectful to the music, the listeners, and the product at hand—I 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.

NATIONAL12's picture

I have recently purchased this product and would like to comment,however before i make my comments as i am not very computer savvy i would like to see this post appear on forum.

NATIONAL12's picture

I have now spent a week listening to this and would like to make the following comments.

Firstly my end listening is done on Quad 2805 L/S and  Sennheiser HD 800 headphones.

I find that as a DAC its the best i have ever heard,i will be first to admit that i have not heard all high end dacs but i have heard a number.

Now  i only listen to classical music and some jazz so i cannot comment on other forms of music.

As a cd player i have a few reservations,on tricky discs it appears worse tham most,no doubt this is not a fault of player but of sloppy standards by usually independent labels,i did most of my listening using an Audionet Art V2 as a transport(20 kilo) and 851 as a dac.

I am delighted with my purchase and would reccommend it to anyone as a good long term investment for the enjoyment of your music.