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Cambridge Audio 840C...some thoughts and comparisons

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
I have had the extreme fortune of borrowing a dealers 840C for the past few days and comparing it to my PrimaLuna ProLogue Eight CDP ($2500) and an Audio Research CD7 ($9000). Both the 840C and the CD7 were reviewed in the same issue of the absolute sound and given rave reviews at their price points. My interest in comparing it to my ProLogue piqued when Robert Harley exclaimed it to be the best CDP under $5000. The rest of my system consists of a Ray Samuels B-52 and balanced Sennheiser HD-650's or balanced Ultrasone Edition 9's. I compared the Cambridge and PrimaLuna CDP's via their single-ended outputs, only switching to the 840C's balanced outputs at the end of the comparison.

First, it was extremely difficult to tell the difference between the 840C and the ProLogue. I had to go back and forth many times just to perceive even the most significant differences. This told me that spending the extra $1000 on the ProLogue is not worth it in terms of sound quality, especially since, for the most part, the 840C was slightly better sounding to my ears.

In the comparison, both of the CDP's were extremely smooth, detailed, and had that "listen to all day" factor. The biggest differences were a slightly brighter tone quality to the 840C, along with more snap and punchiness, especially on plucked strings or percussion. There was also a slight but definite increase in instumental separation and depth of soundstage when using the 840C.

Switching to the balanced outputs on the 840C did not have a hugely significant impact on the sound quality, but there was a minor positive impact on soundstage depth and low level ambience. If an owner was relegated to just the single ended outputs, they would not be missing much in terms of the players performance.

As for comparison to the Audio Research CD7, well, the 840C is very good but no giant killer. As opposed to the almost imperceivable differences between the ProLogue and the 840C, the differences with the CD7 were incredibly stark. A huge sense of space, 3D palpability of vocals and instruments, just simply much more REAL via the CD7. It is funny to me that the CD7 uses relatively pedestrian DAC's, not even bothering to upsample, yet sounds soooooo much better. My only conclusion is that the analog output stage is the main determining factor in SQ of CDP's and not the digital wizardry (or hocus pocus). Hmmmm....

With that said, I am in need of a CDP for the office and the 840C is a terrific piece of kit. As I do listen all day, a player this involving yet easy on the ears is a godsend, not to mention a terrific value. I don't think the dealer is going to get this one back.

P.S. After letting the 840C cook for a few more days, it is sounding even better. I believe it now has about 150-200 hours of playing time, and the differences between it and the Audio Research CD7 are lessening. With both being run balanced via silver Kimber Kable interconnects, the sound is slightly warm, detailed yet never edgy, punchy, and organic. The CD7 still outpoints the 840C in terms of spaciousness and 3D rendering of images (akin to a good vinyl rig), but when listening to the 840C I am in no way immediately itching to return to the CD7. To me that says a lot, especially when considering the vast price differential. Oh, and by the way, I did buy the 840C. That is the strongest form of recommendation I can give.
post #2 of 56
Yes, the CD7 has a great sound, but it didn't quite catch me. I guess I prefer a solid-state output stage.
post #3 of 56
The Hi-Fi Choice review of this player said the following:

"Bass is truly excellent, deep, powerful, tuneful, rhythmic and controlled, and extreme treble is crystalline and pure."

Do you agree? I am looking for a player at this price point that can deliver the bass to my K-701's via my WOO WA6. Is this it?
post #4 of 56
Hey, thanks for the impressions. I've always sort of been interested in Cambridge Audio CDPs, so it's always nice to hear something new about em.

Where will you put the 840C in your system? Aux system?
post #5 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by No Deal View Post
The Hi-Fi Choice review of this player said the following:

"Bass is truly excellent, deep, powerful, tuneful, rhythmic and controlled, and extreme treble is crystalline and pure."

Do you agree? I am looking for a player at this price point that can deliver the bass to my K-701's via my WOO WA6. Is this it?
I 100% agree. The bass is not exaggerated, but "cut from the whole cloth" with the rest of the spectrum. Tight, punchy, and tuneful. Certainly not "bass, bass all over the place." I am impressed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclejr View Post
Hey, thanks for the impressions. I've always sort of been interested in Cambridge Audio CDPs, so it's always nice to hear something new about em.

Where will you put the 840C in your system? Aux system?
I have the 840C at work hooked up to a Cary Audio SLI-80 F1 tube amplifier. This amp also makes for a wonderful headphone amp. For headphones I am using JVC DX-1000's and a few others.

I put the 840C into the system for the first time this morning. Feeling some Christmas spirit, I put on Christopher Parkening and Kathleen Battle "Pleasures of Their Company" CD which I have listened to countless times on other headphone and speaker systems. For the first time I noticed TREMENDOUS hall ambience and that Parkening was sometimes humming along Battle during the songs. When I first heard this, I had to take off the headphones to see if someone was trying to talk to me. I actually did that a number of times, until I realized that it was the CD with the subtle background vocals. Spooky yet wonderful.
post #6 of 56
Thanks for the feedback.
post #7 of 56
Oops wrong thread!
post #8 of 56
I really can't wait to get this unit. I just bought interconnects and a power cable for it, now I need the actual unit.
post #9 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4N6 View Post
My only conclusion is that the analog output stage is the main determining factor in SQ of CDP's and not the digital wizardry (or hocus pocus). Hmmmm....
Not quite. Both are important. You want a good output to send to the analog stage, and a good analog stage to pass it. Unfortunately, the analog stage on much of what's out there isn't particularly superlative. For an op-amp based analog stage design, Cambridge did a good job on the I/V. However, they did use the OPA2134 on the rest of the output stage which, while still a pretty decent chip, was not necessarily the best choice. Op-amps are relatively cheap to change, though. I do wish they'd used single channel chips instead, since then some of the really great ones could have been used (this would have taken up more boardspace, though, which may have been a major concern).
post #10 of 56
I forget where I've read it (probably here at head-fi), but some users say that the SQ is different when you play a CD on the 840c vs. using the 840c as a DAC fed from your computer. Why is this (assuming that the computer is playing lossless files)? It was my understanding that reading from the computer or CD uses the same circuitry in the 840c, but this is where I'm probably wrong.
post #11 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mher6 View Post
I forget where I've read it (probably here at head-fi), but some users say that the SQ is different when you play a CD on the 840c vs. using the 840c as a DAC fed from your computer. Why is this (assuming that the computer is playing lossless files)? It was my understanding that reading from the computer or CD uses the same circuitry in the 840c, but this is where I'm probably wrong.
That was probably me.

I'm using digi-out of an Edirol ua-1ex connected to the 840c via an optical>toslink cable. There's a few extra connections there compared to having the cd in the 840c, so I suspect something is being lost in the connections. Either that or something was lost during the ripping process. The differences are subtle, like a very slight loss of spaciousness, weight and dynamics.
post #12 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjapixie View Post
That was probably me.

I'm using digi-out of an Edirol ua-1ex connected to the 840c via an optical>toslink cable. There's a few extra connections there compared to having the cd in the 840c, so I suspect something is being lost in the connections. Either that or something was lost during the ripping process. The differences are subtle, like a very slight loss of spaciousness, weight and dynamics.
If you have tried securely ripping with EAC set up properly, then you shouldnt be losing anything in the ripping process (it WILL let you know if you CD isnt in good condition ;p). Having said that, there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with your ripper if its the cause of you hearing audible differences.

However, I can see optical and USB both affecting the audio due to jitter, and over larger distances both USB and optical start to lose signal.
post #13 of 56
I definitely need a new DAC, and it is definitely going to be the 840c. The analog out on my ESI Juli@ sounds a lot more natural than the DAC inside the Opera. The bass presence is less, but the clarity of low frequency notes is much more realistic. The music just sounds more spatial and natural through the Juli@'s analog stage. The Opera's DAC may have a slightly higher level of detail in the mids and highs but it really lacks in transparency and depth of image.
post #14 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by IPodPJ View Post
I definitely need a new DAC, and it is definitely going to be the 840c. The analog out on my ESI Juli@ sounds a lot more natural than the DAC inside the Opera. The bass presence is less, but the clarity of low frequency notes is much more realistic. The music just sounds more spatial and natural through the Juli@'s analog stage. The Opera's DAC may have a slightly higher level of detail in the mids and highs but it really lacks in transparency and depth of image.
I'm surprised the Opera's Dac is worse then the Juli@'s. I have the Juli@ on my desktop comp which I rarely use now as it's very noisy, and the 840c totally blows it away.
post #15 of 56
I currently own McIntosh MCD201 and Rega Apollo. I am thinking to add another CD player in the $1,000 - $1,500 range to my systems. Does anyone have an idea of comparing these two to 840c? I am actually staisfied with Apollo given its price. Is 840c significantly better?
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