CES 2012: Cambridge Audio boosts audiophile offering with new Azur 851 amplifier and DAC/CD player/preamplifier

On the way from Cambridge audio is a new flagship 851 series of stereo components.

Making their debut here at CES 2012 in Las Vegas, the Azur 851A integrated Class XD amplifier and 851C DAC/CD player/preamplifier will sell for £1200 apiece when they hit the shops in March.

Developed over two years at Cambridge Audio's London R&D centre, the pairing is said by the company to be the finest-sounding system it's ever created.

The Azur 851A develops Cambridge Audio's proprietary Class XD design, aimed at giving the refinement of Class A plus the power of Class AB, by uprating and retuning it to give even lower distortion at very high frequencies without adding heat.

The power amp section delivers 2x120W into 8ohms, or 200Wpc into 4ohms, using two pairs of very high current output transistors per channel, and twin rectifiers and separate transformer taps to allow the amplifier to operate in dual-mono mode.

Two toroidal transformers are used, one each for the preamp and power amp sections, the preamp transformer being completely isolated to avoid interference, and as well as two sets of balanced XLR inputs, the amp 851A also has seven line-ins on RCA phonos, with all inputs nameable on the large front-panel display.

The volume control is a fully balanced silicon gate design for accuracy of setting and channel levels, and the amplifier has both a comprehensive self-protection system and RS232 control for use in custom installations.

Finally, a new satin black 851 Series remote is provided, to match the brushed aluminium finish on the amplifier's front panel.

The Azur 851C, meanwhile, combines conventional CD player functions with a range of digital inputs and preamplifier functions giving level and channel balance control on its analogue outputs for direct connection to a power amplifier or active speakers.

It uses twin Analog Devices current-output DACs in dual differential mode, along with upsampling to 24-bit/384kHz using a 32-bit Black Fin digital signal processor.

As well as two conventional digital inputs, each offering the choice of optical or electrical connection, it has an AES/EBU digital input and output, plus a 24-bit/96kHz driverless asynchronous USB input, which can also handle 24-bit/192kHz files using a free Cambridge Audio driver on the connected PC.

There's a choice of three digital filters, and the same control and input-naming options offered by the 851A amplifier, and not forgetting CD quality, the player uses an S3 Custom CD Servo drive designed in-house by Cambridge Audio - this is a dedicated CD transport, rather than the 'universal' computer-use disc drives found in most modern CD players.

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.