Four years ago, Cambridge Audio (opens in new tab) dominated the sub-£500 market for hi-fi electronics.
The company’s most recent efforts have been solid rather than spectacular, however, now is as good a time as any for a new CD player (and matching amp) to take centre stage.
Attractive design and great finish
Stacked together, the 651C CD and partnering 651A amp make an attractive pairing (although we always recommend placing kit on a dedicated rack – and that’s how we tested this twosome).
For the money, build quality and finish are excellent, with solid, chunky fascias on both components and wrap-around metal covers adding the finishing touches.
The 651C has a large dot-matrix display on the front, and its high level of contrast makes it nice and easy to read.
Like the company’s DacMagic, the 651C provides three different audio filters to help tweak the sound. Inside, you’ll find a toroidal power supply, a completely new DAC design, and a CD transport fitted with extra bracing to help maximise the amount of data being read off your discs.
Impressively engaging performance
One of the perks of having multiple components from the same company is being able to use a single remote control. The Azur wand is nice to use, if a little long in the hand, while the circular D-pad is springy and responsive, and lets you play, skip tracks and alter the volume.
The 651C delivers music in a wonderfully open and spacious way. Spin Beyoncé’s Baby Boy and the roomy soundstage affords the weighty bassline and zingy strings plenty of space to breathe.
There’s a good degree of fine detail served up too,while rhythmically the player simply laps up the pace of this highly charged track.
However, switch to something more demanding in terms of subtlety and finesse, and the 651C doesn’t quite hit the same standards. With Diana Krall’s I’m An Errand Girl For Rhythm, timing gets a little out of kilter and you don’t get a sense of the dynamic highs and lows of her vocal or the fervent piano-playing.
The track sounds a touch flat compared with close rivals such as the Marantz CD6004.
There’s plenty of appeal to this matching pair. They look the part and work well together to produce a grand sound that isn’t short on scale.
They’re not the most sophisticated sounding machines and bass can get a bit tubby, but on the whole, this pairing is a covetable enough set-up.