The purpose of audiophile equipment is always the same: to reproduce music as accurately as possible without introducing any sound that wasn't there to begin with. Cambridge Audio has long taken this mission seriously with their highly regarded amplifiers. Their Azur 851E preamp moves them one large step closer to this ideal. Every aspect of this preamp's construction is designed for accurate playback with an absolute minimum of distortion and noise.
Old and new features
Some of the 851E's features will look familiar to audiophiles, such as the oversized toroidal transformer, balanced XLR connections, and the all-metal chassis. But there are some interesting developments that add to this preamp's impeccable performance. A new solid-state volume controller offers precise linear control while not introducing distortion into the analog source signal. This not only keeps the signal pure, it also offers more accurate balance between the left and right channels at low volumes.
Building a better preamp stage
Another key reason for this preamp's clean sound is the proprietary Terrapin amplification stage. Rather than use standard op-amp chips, Cambridge Audio developed their own amp circuit that offers improved stereo separation and imaging at low volume levels. The Terrapin circuitry also employs an impedance buffering module, which separates the incoming source signal from the amplifier stage. This buffer minimizes the effect that varying output impedances among connected sources can have on an amplifier's performance. That means you can connect up to eight source components to the 851E while maintaining its sonic clarity and astonishingly low distortion.
A few more perks
While purity of sound is the purpose of the 851E, Cambridge Audio managed to sneak in a few cool features without compromising Job #1. There's a front-panel display which allows you to customize the names of your source components. There's also a subwoofer output with selectable full-range or as a 200 Hz low-pass operation for flexible bass management. In addition to the many connections for source components, the 851E offers advanced control features and connections like 12-volt trigger and IR jacks. Of course, the easiest way to achieve seamless integration is to pair this preamp with Cambridge Audio's Azur 851W power amp, for a dynamic duo that will scale sonic heights without breaking a sweat.