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Cambridge 851C CD/DAC/Pre - Anyone else getting one? (Impressions to follow)

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

Been a Cambridge fan for awhile mainly based on their cheap price/performance phono pres but I wrote a check a few days ago for the new 851C unit. 

 

http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/summary.php?PID=889&Title=Azur+851C+Upsampling+DAC%2C+CD+Player+and+Digital+Pre-amplifier

 

24/192 DAC (from all inputs), CD Player, and Digital Preamp. Lots of input option as well as both balanced and unbalanced outs. Looks like a great unit. Initial reviews seem very positive.

 

http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/assets/documents/HFC_851_June2012.pdf

 

I'll be considering the new integrated unit as well if I like what I hear and see from the new player. I've been looking for a good integrated for some time now.

post #2 of 37
Thread Starter 

First Impressions (At about 36 Hours)

 

So this thing has been running in while I'm at work off an on for the last week or so. Right on the box Cambridge said '36 hours for optimum performance). This first write up will be less about the sound and more about just the general things I've noticed while using it. 

 

First of all...the USB input. I had to fiddle with it a little bit on my Macs to get it to work. It wasn't a driver issue but it seems my unit was set to USB 1.0 out of the box (which means a cap of 24/96). You'll have to go into the player's menu and change it to 2.0 to get your full 24/192 (native) playback. Once I got it working though there've been no issues. Another thing I noticed once I got it working right is it takes control of your computers volume (as I think most proper DACs should). No adjust from the computer at all. Lastly (and somewhat annoyingly) it doesn't lock on to 24/176.4. It will push anything of that sort to 24/192. It's only annoying to my OCD brain as it doesn't seem to actually cause sound problems. 

 

This second part is really just going to be me gushing about how much I like the look and feel of this unit. It weighs 25.5 pounds and screams build quality. The brushed look just looks great and the remote has the same substantial fit and finish. There are LEDs but they're small and do just what they need to do without 'getting in the way'. Also, when I was initially reading about this unit I saw them talking about the display. How clear it was and what not. I just kind of wrote it off as marketing crap and expected a plain ol' typical CD player display. Boy was I wrong. They said you could read it from across the room and you absolutely can. It's stunningly clear and if you'd like it can be toned down or even disabled for 'stealth' listening. It displays the sample rate when in USB mode (a nice touch) and will even read tag data from a CD if it's included (the only one of mine I've seen work so far is the Union Station CD 'New Favorite'). Bottom like, it's a very well built and well operating unit so far.

 

Now for a little something about the sound. Since I still have my Calyx 24/192 DAC I decided to have a little fun and use the Cambridge as a transport and the Calyx as a DAC. I expected to find the same thing I found with my SA8004 and that's that the Calyx's USB implementation was just flat out better than the Coax in. I'm surprised to say that's not the case. I heard much less of a difference between the USB and Coax with the 851C as a transport. Meaning that this unit has a better transport than my old SA8004. Good on ya Cambridge. 

 

Anyway, that's it for now. I'll post more after I do some serious A/Bing once my Line Router gets here.

-----


Edited by MorbidToaster - 7/27/12 at 7:18am
post #3 of 37
Your Calyx isn't that old. I'm interested in your comparison.

As a digital pre/player/dac, this thing has a nice pedigree. Balanced will be a nice option for those users.

Seems like the right piece for a digital front end. I suppose you could get an A/D converter for any analog sources

Looking forward to your initial & post burn in impressions.
post #4 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

Your Calyx isn't that old. I'm interested in your comparison.
As a digital pre/player/dac, this thing has a nice pedigree. Balanced will be a nice option for those users.
Seems like the right piece for a digital front end. I suppose you could get an A/D converter for any analog sources
Looking forward to your initial & post burn in impressions.

I'll be getting a line router for switching between this and my TT. Once the Calyx sells to fund the TT anyway.

I do really like the Calyx and I'm really not sure why I decided to give this Cambridge unit a shot...Just caught my eye and I figured why not since it's basically an even trade price wise.
post #5 of 37
Liking the looks of that 851A myself. Would be really interested in an impression if someone buys one.
post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevtt View Post

Liking the looks of that 851A myself. Would be really interested in an impression if someone buys one.

I'm considering one (as I said above) but a new TT is definitely coming first.
post #7 of 37

not very familiar with things like this, is there a price released for it?

post #8 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by caracara08 View Post

not very familiar with things like this, is there a price released for it?

$2000 standard but many dealers seem to be doing early adopter pricing at 1800. That's what I got mine at anyway.
post #9 of 37

Looks like a cool all-in-one unit. I'm surprised more companies aren't doing these - it seems like kind of a no-brainer.

 

Lots of DACs these days have pre-amp functionality (which is sometimes very well done, but not always). Lots of nicer CD players these days have digital inputs as well, which makes sense as there's a good DAC already in there anyway.

 

The 851C is just combining those all into one unit. Makes perfect sense when you think about it.

 

I hope it performs as well as you expect it to. Let us know!

post #10 of 37
Thread Starter 

First impressions posted. Not much on the sound yet, but more about the fit and finish. More to come once I get time to properly A/B.

post #11 of 37
I'm very interested in your impressions since I am currently using the SA8004 you upgraded from. This player has also caught my eye.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post

First impressions posted. Not much on the sound yet, but more about the fit and finish. More to come once I get time to properly A/B.
post #12 of 37
Thread Starter 

I couldn't hear a difference between my Calyx DAC (2k) vs the Cambridge (2k) which means they either both suck or they're both fairly priced. Pretty sure it's the latter. :D

 

As for the SA8004 I can tell you right now that the Cambridge has a better transport. I could tell a difference between CD and USB with the Calyx before (8004 as a transport) and preferred USB. Cambridge Coax vs USB on the Calyx I didn't hear a difference. 

 

As for build quality...Cambridge hands down. Much more substantial. No plastic anywhere (hardly any on the remote either). Balanced outs are a huge plus. Haven't used the preamp, but that's a plus too. The amount of ins it has is pretty insane, too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sid-Fi View Post

I'm very interested in your impressions since I am currently using the SA8004 you upgraded from. This player has also caught my eye.
post #13 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post

I couldn't hear a difference between my Calyx DAC (2k) vs the Cambridge (2k) which means they either both suck or they're both fairly priced. Pretty sure it's the latter. :D

 

As for the SA8004 I can tell you right now that the Cambridge has a better transport. I could tell a difference between CD and USB with the Calyx before (8004 as a transport) and preferred USB. Cambridge Coax vs USB on the Calyx I didn't hear a difference. 

 

As for build quality...Cambridge hands down. Much more substantial. No plastic anywhere (hardly any on the remote either). Balanced outs are a huge plus. Haven't used the preamp, but that's a plus too. The amount of ins it has is pretty insane, too.

 

 

That's good news as I just picked up an 840C to use as transport. I was considering the SA8004 or one of the other Marantz universal players, but the 840C just seemed like the better way to go. As a transport it should be very similar to your 851C (I hope). 

 

Had I needed an all-in-one unit I could totally see getting the 851C though. The only downside that I see - they market the 851A as a matching product, for a two box "do it all" system. But the 851A is an integrated rather than a pure amp, so you are kind of wasting the pre-amp section on the 851C. I'd like to see them release an "amp only" version of the 851A, using the same Class XD architecture. 

post #14 of 37
Thread Starter 

While that is true you really do get all you need plus some with the 2 boxes. It's really nice. 

 

I could see that second box on my shelf pretty soon.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post

 

That's good news as I just picked up an 840C to use as transport. I was considering the SA8004 or one of the other Marantz universal players, but the 840C just seemed like the better way to go. As a transport it should be very similar to your 851C (I hope). 

 

Had I needed an all-in-one unit I could totally see getting the 851C though. The only downside that I see - they market the 851A as a matching product, for a two box "do it all" system. But the 851A is an integrated rather than a pure amp, so you are kind of wasting the pre-amp section on the 851C. I'd like to see them release an "amp only" version of the 851A, using the same Class XD architecture. 

post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post

While that is true you really do get all you need plus some with the 2 boxes. It's really nice. 

 

I could see that second box on my shelf pretty soon.

 

 

The sad thing is, I suspect some people will overlook this stuff just because it is from a "common brand". You've got some exceptional gear out there from Cambridge, NAD, and others, which will probably be skipped by certain people in favor of more "esoteric" brands. Even if the stuff isn't as good as the Cambridge 851C, NAD M51, etc. 

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