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Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Stereo digital preamplifier/network player, optional Bluetooth® (Black)

MFR # C10545

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Stereo digital preamplifier/network player, optional Bluetooth® (Black)

MFR # C10545

24 reviews
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Works

Crutchfield customer from Charlotte, NC on 9/2/2019

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Instructions (online pdf & quick start guide) are not very helpful at all. Purchased this primarily for use with TIDAL but it's just a playback device. You will want manage your account via tablet or computer. Remote has such tiny characters that they almost become useless. The quality of the playback is very good however this is the first one I've used so I don't have much to compare it against. Sound doesn't sound bright or to have any notable characteristics. I would like to try other models but this is decent

Pros: Easy to hook up. Feels very well built

Cons: Words on remote are tiny, almost pointless. Instructions are all but worthless

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2 of 2 found this helpful

High quality streamer - Tidal pnp.

Crutchfield customer from Chapel Hill, NC on 6/15/2019

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Seamless integration into my hifi system. I would not have purchased it w/o Tidal support. Tidal sounds awesome !!

Pros: Nice size screen, ease of setup, supports Tidal

Cons:

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2 of 2 found this helpful

Fantastic source for playing music

Crutchfield customer from Indianapolis, IN on 6/3/2019

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Just to put in to perspective, I am using this unit with a fairly high-end audio system. What this music server does for low and medium grade MP3 music files is nothing short of amazing. They sound nearly CD-quality. After purchasing this unit I got a subscription to TIDAL's high resolution music service. I am even further amazed with the sound quality of the music I've been listening to from TIDAL. Everything sounds better than CD-quality. The build quality of the Cambridge Audio music server is very impressive also. Highly recommended to anyone who has a nice system and cares about audio quality.

Pros: While this is not an inexpensive unit, it is way less expensive than many competing products in this category.

Cons: The fact that it is made in China. I also realize that this is what keeps the price low, compared to competing products in this category.

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0 of 0 found this helpful

Great product

Crutchfield customer from Milton, GA on 4/22/2019

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Amazing! Absolutely stunning difference. Highly recommend. Setup issue with my Arcam, no sound with fiber or coax cable...Crutchfield support was able to confirm that Cambridge Audio 851n comes with active outputs by default which lead me to my Arcam manual and of course I had to turn on inputs and specify type of signal digital/analog. Very simple fix, but it took me a couple hours to figure it out....hopefully this review will help someone to do it faster.

Pros: Sound Build Quality

Cons: None

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0 of 0 found this helpful

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Dwayne R. from Elk Grove, CA on 1/23/2019

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BeeN looking for a media,steaming player for a long time and this media streaming player works great. Using harddrive, computer, cell phone or internet radio station. LOVE IT.

Pros:

Cons:

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0 of 1 found this helpful

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Wes from Boulder, CO on 1/16/2019

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I'm using it as a pre-amp. It produces clean, crisp sound. Setup was a breeze. Make all the proper connection (to the amp, the cd player, and the internet), and you're good to go. The controls on the front panel are very intuitive and easy to use. I particularly appreciate the network features. It quickly connects to countless different web radio stations, and it works flawlessly with ApplePlay. Oh, and it arrived on time. And the Crutchfield rep I talked to was extremely patient and helpful. She answered all my questions about whether this would be compatible with the rest of my system, and about what connects to what.

Pros: Clean sound, ease of setup, great features.

Cons: None

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3 of 3 found this helpful

Harsh sound quality

Peter from Weston, CT on 1/7/2019

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My first impression of the 851N was very positive, as it is very heavy and solidly-built, but the unit I received was defective and had a faint electrical hum that could be heard between songs. Aside from that though, the sound from the 851N seemed harsh to me. Some of my favorite music is from Ben Webster's later years, when he played mostly ballads on his tenor sax along with various piano and bass players. When listening to this music, the 851N seemed to move the piano & bass from the background to the foreground, and certain notes had a harsh, almost jarring quality to them. It was almost as if a microphone had been placed right inside the piano or up against the bass strings and amplified. I should say that I'm not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination. It may be that my ears are either too old or too uneducated to appreciate the sound from a higher quality DAC like the one on this unit. I do tend to like warmer-sounding music and CA is known for strictly accurate music reproduction, so that may have been a factor as well. There's also the possibility that whatever defect was causing the electrical hum also caused the harsh sound to the music. All I can definitively say is that the sound from the unit I received didn't really work for me. As others have said, the app that comes with this unit is clunky, but I've seen worse (like the HEOS app). In any event, I returned this unit and didn't get a replacement.

Pros: Solidly built.

Cons: Received a defective unit with an electrical hum. Harsh sound quality. Clunky app.

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4 of 7 found this helpful

Good Streamer. DAC may be overrated.

Crutchfield customer from Fairfax, VA on 1/6/2019

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The 851N is a good streamer but not quite the upgrade I was hoping for. I was hoping to improve sound quality over my Marantz SR 7008 AVR which also streams but this unit is mostly on par with the Marantz AVR purchased in 2015. It seems that the upsampling DAC may be overrated/marketed. The only discernable difference between the 851N and the Marantz AVR was streaming very low bit rate content (Pandora/128kbps). The 851 N brings up the quality nicely on Pandora which sounded better than the AVR alone or Pandora played through Sonos Connect. However, with Apple Music at 256 and Linn Jazz internet radio which streams at 320 kbps the Marantz AVR sounds equally as good even with DSP/enhancements turned off. Basically, all the content I played through the 851N sounded very good especially lossless files and I can recommend it as a high-quality streamer if you don't have one already. It's also a good-looking unit and seems to be a solid build. However, it may not be much of an upgrade in sound quality if you currently have a decent streamer. It didn't work for me as a pre-amp as my room definitely needs the ability to manage the bass from my speakers.

Pros: Sounds Good. Solid build. Nice screen.

Cons: Lack of technical support by telephone from Cambridge. Unreliable over Wi-Fi even with a good Wi-Fi signal. The unit would just stop playing in the middle of songs. Didn't work for me as pre-amp -- No tone controls. In pre-amp mode the volume control had a large degree of separation in the middle of the band making it hard to finely control listening volume. Poorly constructed app.

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4 of 4 found this helpful

Awesome Sounding Streamer

Blake from Atlanta, GA on 12/30/2018

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I have not owned many streamers. Been focused mostly on vinyl over the last couple of years. The last streamer I owned was a Blusound Node2. It was a perfectly capable device, and the UI was one of the better ones I have seen. That said, I felt a need to try and upgrade and boy am I glad I did. I first got the Cambridge Audio CXN. It was okay. The UI was definitely a downgrade from the Bluesound. The screen was a nice improvement from no screen. The sound seemed pretty much on par with the Bluesound. It sounded fine, but nothing about it made me think it was as good as my vinyl rig. So I decided to try one more upgrade and exchanged the CXN for the 851n. That's when the magic happened. I'm not good at the audiophile adjectives but I'll do my best. The 851n is absolutely more musical, colorful, detailed, with better bass response. The larger screen and substantially better build is significant. The UI, since it is the same as the CXN, could stand to improve. Frankly though, I am willing to suffer through the clunky UI due to the amazing sonic improvements. Honestly I had little to no expectation that the upgrade from the CXN to the 851n would be substantial. WRONG! Do yourself a favor if you are in the market for a streamer. If the 851n is possibly in reach of your budget, get it. I'm not saying don't get a Bluesound or CXN, but I highly recommend making the reach to the 851n if you can.

Pros: Amazing sound Great build Balanced outputs

Cons: The CA App could be much better

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9 of 11 found this helpful

Great sound with very small complaints

BMB from Chicago, IL on 11/6/2018

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Would give it 4.5 stars if I could. Using it as a stand-alone network streamer. Impressive DAC with deep, smooth, dynamic sound. Spotify connect and streaming through iPhone is exceptional. Screen is gorgeous. Only negatives are the app (which is terrible) and the fact that you can't turn the unit on/off along with the receiver to which it's connected (if it's not also Cambridge). Also, the build quality is very good, but there are small issues: screen is slightly crooked within the casing and factory stickers were applied with so much force that they slightly marked the face of the unit. Most people wouldn't care, but audiophiles appreciate perfection. Bottom line, if you're looking for amazing sound from an easy streaming device, this unit is for you.

Pros: Sound quality, connectivity

Cons: App, power on/off non-compatibility, small build issues

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5 of 5 found this helpful

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Will from Goleta, CA on 10/28/2018

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Product was defective, left channel fizzing and popping, totally unusable. Crutchfield super responsive and sending a replacement, great service, hope the Azure is better 2nd time around, from what I could hear over the feedback it sounds very promising but obviously the initial impression is disappointing.

Pros: Great potential Substantial feel Looks great

Cons: Defective, needed to be returned

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2 of 9 found this helpful

Does just about everything and sound is transparent!!

Michael from Eagleville Pa. on 4/8/2018

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I've had this unit for about 2 years and just saw it was receiving a firmware update ( now I get tidal and can search through individual songs on my attached hard drive ).Futures it originally didn't have. Thumbs up! I have all my music in two folders on my attached hard drive , one folder for artists alphabetically and one folder of hundreds of individual songs that the Cambridge can run through in random mode. I found I could add and make pre programmed stations from Pandora even though it wasn't listed in capabilities of the units manual when I originally purchased it. This thing does everything I was looking for and as for sound.. Its transparent top to bottom with a large substantial soundstage with depth and good deep bass. This unit has been in my second system for some time and I'm so happy with it I don't see getting rid of it any time in the future. That's unusual for a picky audiophile like myself.

Pros: Streams all sorts of on line music services and I can hook up a mass storage device ( don't need a computer ) Sound stage is deep wide and transparent if your other equipment is up to it.

Cons: Zero

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6 of 6 found this helpful

Excellent Network Streamer!

John from Phoenix, AZ on 4/3/2018

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The Cambridge 851N is a nearly perfect network streamer for all your digital music files. The only shortcoming so far, has been that the app is fairly clunky. It is difficult to navigate an expansive library of media, due to the lack of search functionality. The audio quality coming from the device competes at a level of true audiophile quality. I have heard much more expensive streamers (Linn), and the 851N is neck and neck with them IMHO. Great Job Cambridge! I look forward to enjoying the sweet tunes out of this streamer for years to come!

Pros: Superb sound quality!

Cons: The Cambridge Connect App.

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4 of 5 found this helpful

Audiophile sound quality for your digital music collection

Craig from Mystic, CT on 1/22/2017

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Seamlessly streams hi res audio via wifi from NAS drives. Superb DAC, excellent build quality, but most importantly, superior sound from digital files. Truly the best option I've found to bring my extensive FLAC, ALAC and MP3 library to life my living room.

Pros: Ease of use, seamless integration with most digital audio formats including DSD and outstanding sound quality.

Cons: WiFi infrequently drops out and requires reboot.

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3 of 3 found this helpful

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Stephanie from Memphis, TN on 1/10/2017

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I really like this thing as a network streaming player. It's a good way to modulate the volume from my CD player and TV into my McIntosh MC152. All good there. However, there is no way to connect a turntable to this unit. There are no analog inputs and the digital USB inputs do not know what to do with the output from a USB turntable. I have been in touch with Cambridge tech support on this matter and they informed me that USB turntables are designed to work with computers and will not work with the Azur 851N. I don't think I am being dense here in that I think the 851N IS a computer. I am giving this three stars for this reason. I would give it 4 stars if they had thought through the vinyl use case.

Pros: Good network streaming

Cons: no analog or ubiquitous digital input

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13 of 35 found this helpful

Wonderful Network Streamer

Sherry A. from Las Cruces, NM on 9/29/2016

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The Cambridge Audio Azur 851n Network Streamer is another high quality product offered by Cambridge Audio. I purchased it to replace my "on its' last legs" Squeezebox Touch. The Azur 851n is well made, aesthetically nice looking, flexible, and also has a gorgeous screen for displaying album artwork. There are numerous inputs that can be re-named as well as a variety of input types. I am using it with a wired Ethernet network cable and it immediately found my various NAS drives containing my music. The sound quality is very nuanced, quiet passages maintain their richness and louder passage sounds full and rich with no harshness. I am using it with a Cambridge Audio 851a integrated amplifier, a set of Martin Logan Motion 15 speakers and another set of Bose 301 speakers. All of this equipment seems to be very well matched, tonally, with each other. Digital and high resolution music sounds full, rich, and warm. The Cambridge Audio Connect app is a bit quirky and needs some work, but it has gotten easier with time.

Pros: very well made; flexible inputs that can be re-named; finds network storage drives quickly; it is easily set up - it took about 5 minutes to be up and running; lots of Internet music stations to choose from and Spotify sounds fabulous streaming from the 851n; firmware updates are seamlessly integrated into the system

Cons: A very minor issue, but the Connect app needs a bit of work;

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10 of 10 found this helpful

Could not be happier with the Azur 851N

Michael from New York, NY on 8/25/2016

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The Azur 851N is a revelation. The quality of the sound is crystal clear and even compressed media sound much more lifelike. My high resolution recordings give the sense that you're in the auditorium listening, live, to the music being played. Expensive, but worth it if you're serious about your music. My only quibble isn't with the unit but with the App on my iPhone. Sometimes, while the music is playing, the app says it isn't connected to the unit. If Cambridge can work that problem out, there's nothing to touch this Azur 851N.

Pros: Sound Ease of setup Ease of playing music from all sources

Cons: Cambridge App is spotty, buggy.

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10 of 12 found this helpful

good product

Vinit from Englewood, CO on 6/22/2016

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I cant find fault with this unit other than the ipad app which is touchy. Wireless connectivity is not great so best results would obtained with a wired connection.

Pros: great design, robust unit.

Cons:

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3 of 3 found this helpful

Great sound, great build quality ...you can't go wrong

vic w. from reston, VA on 3/24/2016

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This is priced at a point where the consumer may think it is expensive. But compare this unit to other brands and models that cost much more, and it is either their equal or very close. This is physically very well built, solid but beautifully made with attention to detail. The fit and finish are excellent and the parts inside are well above average (it's heavier than most, btw). As a sign of serving the interests of audiophiles, the 851N includes balanced and unbalanced (RCA) interconnect outputs, Ethernet in, multiple digital inputs, digital outputs and USB in. It also has a wifi dongle and two additional USB ports for local media. In terms of attention to detail and usability, Cambridge Audio is one of the few audio gear houses that make it easier for the audiophile who is peering from the front over the top to read the back connections by both a right-side up and also upside down L/R and Left/Right for the ports you are most likely to change. Apparently, they are audiophiles too ;-) The 851N will serve you in multiple roles, as an Internet streamer or as a DAC or pre-amp. I recommend Ethernet for connectivity, and high quality interconnects for input to an external amplifier. The user interface is probably an 8/10, which is great in my view because most complicated audio gear is between a 4 and a 6... ugh. Few audio houses are very good at usability and human factors. Works great with a Plex media server on a separate computer, or for Internet radio

Pros: Build quality. Price. Sound quality. Usability. Appearance. Reliability. Flexibility in different roles or functions in your overall system.

Cons: None except it is a bit pricy, but frankly with this: You get what you pay for (excellence).

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15 of 15 found this helpful

Absolutely No Regrets!

JLA from White Plains, NY on 2/10/2016

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Cambridge Audio 851N brochure states "The Azur 851N is a network player designed to draw every last drop of performance from every digital audio source imaginable." They are not kidding. You can easily determine if it's a 160 kbps MP3 or a 256 kbps AAC or a 1,411 kbps AIFF or a 96/24 FLAC file. As the music file resolution gets higher, the sound that comes out of my speakers becomes more lifelike, you hear more details, it has a wider soundstage, and a there is a greater sense of three dimensional space. I am not using it as a digital preamp; simply as a music server and streamer attached via AES/EBU to my preamp. Temporarily attached an external hard drive to one of the USB inputs in the back while I work on setting up a NAS device. Spotify is spot on! ;-) Apple Play is touch and go. I have encountered some drops in music playing but I am not sure if this is caused by an ISP/router issue.

Pros: Colored screen. Rotary input knob. Lots of digital inputs. You don't need a computer to play your digital music files. You can access any radio station in the world that broadcasts on the Internet.

Cons: Audio Connect app is horrible. It's basically just creates a list. You can add to and delete from the queue but you can not sort by any means. You need to go flip through hundreds of songs to find the particular song you want. I am hoping that there will be an update to this app.

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6 of 6 found this helpful

Excellent Player - ergonomics improving

A. Hofer from New JerseyIP on 12/16/2015

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This is my second Cambridge Player - I have the Stream Magic 2 in another location. This sounds beautiful in my system (Adcom GFA-5802 Power Amp, Thiel 3.6 Speakers), as good as my Sony Reference CD player. A wired LAN connection makes a really big difference to speed and ease of use. CA's apps (iOS) still need work. The Stream Magic app has good features but is buggy and inconsistent, sometimes loading the wrong menus or just going blank. The Connect app has been improved to be more reliable, but pretty barebones. For instance, you can't search internet radio stations, connect to streaming services, or search the server libraries via Cambridge Connect - whereas you can with the buggier stream magic app, albeit with a few duplicate refreshes. Preamp volume is controlled in the digital domain, so no analog inputs.

Pros: Excellent sounding DAC, very solid piece of equipment. Everything apart from the apps is excellent, which is why I have two Cambridge players.

Cons: iOS applications are much closer, but still need work and feature consolidation. Direct interface tedious, browser interface doesn't do much and could/should easily constitute another, more full-featured way to address the player. NO third-party app integration.

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7 of 8 found this helpful

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N Network Streamer and DAC (Part II)

Peter S. from Anchorage, Alaska on 12/15/2015

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The 851N itself is a nice piece. Casework is impressive & it feels heavier than most for this type of unit. More inputs than I'll ever need (though analog inputs would've been nice to route output from a phono stage through the 851N). It has two pairs of analog outputs as well as digital outputs in case you want to use an external DAC or do other processing before sending the signal to your amp. Another "would've been nice" is headphone output. Setup is friendly enough. Great display, particularly with color album art shown, though not really necessary if controlling with a tablet. I haven't tried the Cambridge Audio "Connect" app here. I did try it with my SM6 & found it lacking. Fortunately, the 851N can use any UPnP based app in order to play files from my network. I highly recommend the Android BubbleUPnP control app. It is worth getting a dedicated Android tablet in order to use BubbleUPnP - it will improve the experience greatly. Pre-amp mode is nice as I have a pre-amp without remote control (I'm all flea watt tube based). I don't think the 851N adds gain. The volume contol is strictly an attenuator, so a regular preamp, or integrated amp, is still required if you need the additional gain. Finally, I have the BT100 bluetooth receiver & often play Pandora or Amazon Music on my tablet & send to the 851N over bluetooth in apt-x mode (I believe this is the highest resoultion bluetooth mode currently available). Even Pandora, at 128kbps, is remarkable.

Pros: Sound quality, connectivity options, quality of materials and fit and finish, sound quality, preamp mode, remote control, sound quality!

Cons: Could use a headphone out and analog in.

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10 of 10 found this helpful

Cambridge Azur 851(N)(E)(W)

M Wood from Texas on 10/24/2015

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Replaced my '70's receiver with the Cambridge Audio 851 (W & E) series of equipment using XLR cables and RTI A7 speakers. I have a large collection of vinyl, CD, and reel, and insist on quality sound. Although the raw dynamic power of the new system doesn't match the old system, the quantum leap in distortion control and clarity is far superior - unbelievably so. The 851N adds (1) a digital streaming music source, (2) a replacement for my reel-to-reel long play needs, and (3) an up-sampler to improve the quality of my digitized recordings. I'm not disappointed. It takes time to get the best quality interface with components, computer, WiFi and drivers - but the flexibility is there and the Cambridge Audio website is helpful. I haven't had any functional issues with either the units or the App. The 851N has issues reading all of the conglomeration of file types on my server, but I'm isolating those and fixing them. The improvement to digital source does come with a degradation of raw dynamic power. I wound up connecting my sources to both the 851N and the 851E. If I'm looking for raw noise - go directly to the E. If I want a more quality sound, route through the N first. The 851N is great machine. The extra price comes with a lot of quality engineering, tools, and thought to help you enjoy your collection to the fullest.

Pros: Quality sound and sound improvement from all sources. Fun! Flexible design.

Cons: None

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3 of 5 found this helpful

CAMBRIDGE 851N

ED from California on 9/10/2015

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Still new. Maybe 9-Hr.'s playing time. But it's musical, Almost tube Sonics. Great features. Note I use the Digital out to my Aryer preamp. That disables the 851N remote from controlling it's volume. No big issue. Keeps me from staying in my Lazy boy all night. Buy a 851N you'll agree..

Pros: Many

Cons: Using Digital RCA out. REMOTE volume not able to be controlled..

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9 of 13 found this helpful

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