It's long been a bugbear of ours that high-end hi-fi manufacturers don't give enough attention to the quality of build and design of their products. Remote controls are often overlooked, too. So Cambridge Audio deserves praise for producing the 840C, a product that feels solid and well built, and is fairly easy on the eye.
Turn to the back of the unit and there's actually a fair amount going on. As well as the standard analogue phono outputs, there are balanced XLRs, and coaxial and optical digital outputs and inputs. The inputs allow you to take advantage of the DACs and upsampling capability of the 840C, which can send out a 24-bit, 384kHz signal, as opposed to the usual 16-bit, 44.1kHz CD sampling rate.
Perhaps the most obvious presumed benefit of Cambridge Audio's ‘Q5 upsampling' technology would be an increase in detail resolution, and sure enough, said improvement is plain for all to hear.
Snap and crackle with rock Beethoven's Midnight Sonata is a good tester, and not only is the level of detail and inflection in the notes apparent, it's also noticeable how much extra background fuzz and crackle is deciphered and delivered by the 840C. While not always welcome, the faithful, revealing nature of the player can only be a good thing. Listening to Burial's white-noise-laden Dog Shelter, the detail is matched with a balanced tone and natural midrange.
So what's not to like?Well, not a great deal, but this deck does give ground to rivals in a couple of key areas. Radiohead's 15 Step isn't as surefooted as it could be, meaning the overall sound lacks a touch of cohesion. Skip a few tracks forward to All I Need and dynamics are also shown to be a touch lacklustre, the brooding bassline lacking tension and drama.
More after the break
If detail is your be-all and end-all, this Cambridge Audio player must be towards the top of your list. Should you rightly be looking for a more complete CD spinner, this lacks a little get-up-and-go due to shortfalls in timing and dynamics that we certainly can't ignore.