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Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

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

15 Reviews | 9 questions - 24 answers

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Item # 779851NS

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Our take on the Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Every Cambridge Audio component we've heard has impressed us, and that goes double for their high-performance Azur series. The versatile 851N gives today's audiophiles easy access to their favorite digital music sources. It handles the most popular digital file formats and gives them all a sonic upgrade, from lossy sources like MP3s and Spotify®, to your CD collection, to high-res music files downloaded from HDtracks. Add an optional BT-100 Bluetooth® dongle, and stream music from any compatible smartphone or tablet.

Let your digital music take flight

Every Cambridge Audio component we've heard has impressed us, and that goes double for their high-performance Azur series. The versatile 851N gives today's audiophiles easy access to their favorite digital music sources. It handles the most popular digital file formats and gives them all a sonic upgrade, from lossy sources like MP3s and Spotify®, to your CD collection, to high-res music files downloaded from HDtracks. Add an optional BT-100 Bluetooth® dongle, and stream music from any compatible smartphone or tablet.

Think of the 851N as three components in one. First, it's a digital preamp with an assortment of connections for handling your digital gear. Plus, it's a network player ready to stream your favorite audio sources using either a wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi® connection. And, of course, it's a high-performance DAC with state-of-the-art audio processing to improve the listening experience for all digital formats. While CD-quality or better sources will sound startlingly real, it's a real eye-opener to hear how good a 320kbps Spotify® stream can sound (premium subscription required).

Advanced upsampling and DACs for clean, clear sound from every source

Cambridge's sophisticated Adapted Time Filter 2 technology upsamples all incoming digital audio to a 24-bit/384kHz signal to resolve extremely fine detail. That happens for all incoming audio data — whether it's from an Internet radio stream, a lossless FLAC file on a USB flash drive, or a connected component like a CD transport. This system performs interpolation and data buffering, and re-clocks the audio signal to almost completely eliminate "jitter" — timing errors in the music signal that can add harshness, compromise clarity and cause instruments and voices to sound less distinct. The upsampled audio signal is then fed through twin Analog Devices 24-bit DACs, for clean, detailed, noise-free sound and outstanding stereo imaging with every source.

The 851N also includes some cool adjustments that will appeal to hands-on audiophiles. A choice of digital filter settings lets you tweak and fine-tune the DAC's sound to match your system and room. A phase inversion switch lets you correct for out-of-phase recordings or amplifiers that invert phase. And an incoming sample rate indicator verifies the original source quality. Underlying all this sophisticated circuitry is a fully shielded toroidal transformer anchored to an acoustically damped, all-metal chassis for gobs of steady, quiet current and a vanishingly low noise floor.

All the right connections for your digital audio gear

Cambridge Audio Azur 851 N back panel

The Azur 851N offers an assortment of inputs for all your digital sound sources, plus built-in Wi-Fi for music streaming and downloads. Connect to your amplifier using the RCA or balanced XLR audio outputs.

The 851N offers plenty of connections, so you can use its outstanding audio processing and D-to-A conversion to enjoy incredible sound from all your digital audio sources. You get two digital inputs with your choice of optical or coaxial connections. Coaxial connections work with many CD/DVD players, and they're ideal for a Sonos® Connect player. The optical inputs are there for your HDTV, Apple TV®, or game console. Along with these common inputs there's a balanced digital XLR input that provides an ultra-low-noise connection when used with a compatible high-end CD transport. 

Cambridge's free control app

A free app lets you use your tablet or smartphone to select digital music files or switch audio inputs.

Use your Apple® or Android™ device as the controller

While the 851N includes a backlit remote control, and features a large, easy-to-grab control knob on the front for navigating through your music options, you'll have more fun if you get your smartphone or tablet into the act. Cambridge offers a free control app for your favorite Apple or Android device, which integrates all your music choices into a single simple interface. From the music stored on your home network devices, to thousands of Internet radio stations, to streaming services like Spotify®, this app puts everything at your fingertips.

Product Highlights:

    • stereo preamp/network player with built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC)
    • digital inputs let you connect sources like a computer, disc player, media streamer, or TV and enjoy superior sound
    • connects to your home network via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi® for music streaming and downloads
    • supports Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay®
    • plays PCM digital audio sources up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • twin Analog Devices AD1955 24-bit digital-to-analog converters in dual differential mode for precise stereo imaging
    • Anagram Technologies Adapted Time Filtering 2 (ATF2) 24-bit/384kHz audio up-sampling with jitter reduction for resolving fine detail
    • asynchronous USB technology for reduced timing jitter and better sound
    • large toroidal power transformer for clean, stable power
    • all-metal chassis with brushed aluminum front panel to minimize vibration-induced distortion
    • color LCD displays track/artist info and album art
    • illuminated remote control
    • free downloadable apps for iOS® and Android™ let you use a compatible smartphone or tablet as a remote control
    • Ethernet port for wired connection to a home network
    • Bluetooth ready — accepts optional BT-100 Bluetooth dongle for wireless audio streaming from a mobile phone, tablet, or computer
    • stereo balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA preamp outputs for connecting an amplifier
    • Toslink optical digital audio (2 in, 1 out) — supports files up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • coaxial digital audio (2 in, 1 out) — supports files up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • balanced AES/EBU digital XLR (1 in, 1 out) — supports files up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • USB input (Type B) for connecting a Mac or Windows® computer — supports files up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • 3 USB inputs (Type A) for connecting a thumb drive, the supplied Wi-Fi antenna, or the optional BT-100 Bluetooth receiver (1 front, 2 rear) — supports files up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • If connecting to a TV, please make sure you can select "PCM" output in its audio menu — this DAC cannot decode multichannel Dolby® Digital signals
    • total harmonic distortion: less than 0.0006% @ 1000 Hz
    • signal-to-noise ratio: 110 dB
    • 17"W x 4-1/2"H x 14-3/4"D
    • weight: 17.9 lbs.
    • warranty: 3 years
    • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

    What's in the Box:

    • Network audio player
    • 69" AC power cord
    • USB-WiFi dongle w/ WLAN antenna
    • Remote control (RC-8/SM)
    • 3 "AAA" batteries
    • 38" Mono-RCA cable
    • Quick Start Guide
    • Important Safety Instructions
    • Spotify brochure
    • "Thank You" card

    Featured Video

    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.

    Craig, Mystic, CT


    Cambridge Audio Azur 851N Reviews

    Average Customer Review(s):

    (15 Reviews)

    Great sound with very small complaints

    BMB from Chicago, IL on 11/6/2018

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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

    Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

    Will from Goleta, CA on 10/28/2018

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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

    Does just about everything and sound is transparent!!

    Michael from Eagleville Pa. on 4/8/2018

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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

    Excellent Network Streamer!

    John from Phoenix, AZ on 4/3/2018

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.

    Audiophile sound quality for your digital music collection

    Craig from Mystic, CT on 1/22/2017

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.

    Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

    Stephanie from Memphis, TN on 1/10/2017

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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

    Wonderful Network Streamer

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

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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;

    Could not be happier with the Azur 851N

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

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.

    good product

    Vinit from Englewood, CO on 6/22/2016

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.


    Great sound, great build quality can't go wrong

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

    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).

    Absolutely No Regrets!

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

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.

    Excellent Player - ergonomics improving

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

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.

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

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

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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.

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

    M Wood from Texas on 10/24/2015

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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


    ED from California on 9/10/2015

    Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

    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..


    Hands-on research

    Features and Specs

    Signal to Noise Ratio 110
    THD 0.0006%
    Number of Inputs
    USB Connections Type-B, Type-A (3)
    Ethernet Connections 1
    Phono Inputs None
    Preamp Outputs 4
    Network Streaming Services Internet Radio, Spotify, Tidal
    Bluetooth Optional
    AirPlay Compatible Yes
    Width (inches) 16-15/16
    Height (inches) 4-9/16
    Depth (inches) 16-1/16
    Weight (pounds) 17.9
    Parts Warranty 3 Years
    Labor Warranty 3 Years

    Product Research

    Variety of Sources
    Audio Section
    Remote Control

    Variety of Sources

    Wired or Wireless Network Connectivity: The Cambridge Audio azur 851N network audio player offers a wired (Ethernet) or wireless (WiFi dongle) connection to your home network for access to Internet Radio, select online music services, AirPlay, and music libraries stored on your computer.

    • Ethernet (LAN) Jack: The azur 851N network music player is fitted with an Ethernet (R-J45) port to connect directly to your home's network hub. Only connect the LAN port of the player to an Ethernet port that supports 10BASE-T or 100BASE-TX.
    • WiFi Dongle/Antenna: The 851N network audio player includes a USB-WiFi dongle/WLAN aerial antenna which plugs into the player's rear-panel USB port. This USB-WiFi dongle/antenna wirelessly connects the player to your home network. The 851N supports 802.11 b/g/n (in 2.4GHz only) with WEP, WPA, WPA2 encryption. The unit has a wireless range of 30-98'.
    Note: It is not recommended to use a WiFi connection for music files above 16 bits, 44.1/48kHz (if lossless/uncompressed).

    Online Music Services: The Cambridge Audio 851N lets you access Internet Radio, Spotify Connect and Tidal (Tidal will require a future firmware update). Access to Internet Radio and Spotify Connect requires the free Cambridge Connect App for Apple iOS (7.1+) and Android (OS 4.0+) devices.

    • Internet Radio: The Cambridge Audio 851N gives you access to over 20,000 internet radio stations from around the world; all sorted by Location, Language, and Genre.
    • Spotify Connect: The 851N also incorporates Spotify Connect. If you subscribe to Spotify Premium , you can play all of your Spotify music and playlists, plus control the 851N with the Spotify Connect app on your Apple iOS or Android device.
    • Tidal (future firmware update): TIDAL will be available via a future firmware update scheduled of early 2018. TIDAL is a global streaming service that offers over 30 million songs in high-fidelity CD sound quality. TIDAL has two pricing tiers; either $9.99 or $19.99 a month. Both pricing levels allow you to access TIDAL's entire music library. The $19.99 tier has the added benefit of high-fidelity sound at CD-level quality.

    AirPlay Compatible: The Cambridge Audio 851N network audio player is compatible with Apple's AirPlay technology. With AirPlay, the 851N can connect wirelessly to any AirPlay-enabled Apple device. This allows you to stream music wirelessly from your iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, or your computer's (Mac or PC) iTunes library; via your WiFi network.

    • iTunes Streaming: The 851N network audio player is able to stream audio from your computer's iTunes account via AirPlay technology. When connected to the same network as a computer running iTunes, the 851N can appear as an output option in the pop-up menu at the bottom of the iTunes window. You can then browse your iTunes collection on your computer & stream music to the Cambridge Audio network audio player. You will need a Mac or Windows-based PC running iTunes (10.2.2 or later) connected to the same network as the 851N.
    • Apple Device Streaming: AirPlay also lets you wirelessly stream music and music apps stored on your iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad to the Cambridge Audio 851N. You will need an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad (running iOS 4.3.3 or later) connected to the same network as the 851N.
    • Apple Remote App: Using the Apple Remote App (free download from iTunes) on your iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad and your wireless home network, you don't even need to be in the same room as the components or your computer to play, pause, skip, and stop the songs in your iTunes music library. You will even see the iTunes music information, including your track titles & artist info on your Apple device. You will need an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad (running iOS 7.0 or later) connected to the same wireless network as the 851N.

    UPnP Compatible: The Cambridge Audio 851N network audio player is a UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) AV Client. Being a UPnP Client means the it can connect to UPnP AV servers on a network and browse and playback their music content. A connection to the internet is not strictly needed for this. The azur 851N just needs to be able to connect to the server to access its content. Most operating systems and/or music playback software now feature UPnP server facilities built-in. This allow you to share the music on the computer's hard-drive with Clients, such as the 851N. Your music library can include digital music located anywhere on your home network such as shared folders on your own computer (Windows or Mac), shared folders on another computer on your network, or music stored on a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device on your network. Using UPnP, the 851N network player can connect to these devices and play back, or 'stream' non-DRM music files via the network to your home entertainment system. UPnP connection supports up to 24-bit/192kHz and Gapless playback.

    Note: Not all servers support serving of all audio formats. Always make sure the server you choose also supports your formats of choice. For example, Windows Media Server does not currently serve FLAC format.

    USB Ports: The Cambridge Audio 851N network audio player is fitted with three USB type-A ports (1 front/2 rear) to connect a USB flash  memory device or portable USB hard drive, and a rear-panel USB type-B port to connect your Windows or Mac computer.

    • Triple USB (Type-A) Ports: The Cambridge Audio 851N features three USB (type-A) inputs for music playback from a USB flash memory device or portable hard drive (up to 24-bit/192kHz). One USB port is on the front-panel, while the other two are on the rear-panel. Your USB device must be formatted in FAT32 or NTFS format with non-DRM music files. The 851N cannot supply greater than 500mA from the USB socket, itself. Good practice is to create folders for Artists within which you should have sub folders for each Album which then contain the tracks for that Album. Libraries with thousands of tracks in one folder will progressively slow down the unit's media browsing.
    • Asynchronous USB (Type-B) Input:  A rear-panel asynchronous USB (type-B) port enables the azur 851N to be connected to your Windows PC or Mac computer for playback of music files up to 24-bit/192kHz. The 851N will act as a very high-quality DAC/sound-card with very low jitter for your computer, offering genuine Hi-Fi-quality playback from your stored music and Internet radio. The 851N is both USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) and USB 1.1 (Full-speed) USB port compatible. It will also work with the new USB 3.0 ports where the PC will simply treat the 851N as if it were a USB 2.0 or 1.1 device.
      • PC Compatible: With the azur 851N switched to USB Audio 1.0 (this is the default setting), the 851N will work with the native Windows XP, Vista or 7 Audio 1.0 driver (no need to load any new driver) and accept audio up to 24-bit/96kHz. With the azur 851N switched to USB Audio 2.0, the 851N needs the Cambridge Audio USB Audio 2.0 Driver to be loaded and can then accept up to 24-bit/192kHz (and support ASIO and WASAPI Exclusive, if required).
      • Mac Compatible: No extra drivers are required to connect your Mac computer. With the azur 851N switched to USB Audio 1.1,  the 851N will work with the native Mac OS-X 10.5 (Leopard) or above Audio 1.0 driver and accept audio up to 24/96kHz. With the azur 851N switched to USB Audio 2.0, the 851N works with the native Mac OS-X 10.5 (Leopard) or above Audio 2.0 driver and can accept audio up to 24/192kHz.
    Note: Click here to download the Cambridge Audio USE Audio 2.0 Driver.

    Supported Audio Formats: Cambridge Audio's 851N network audio player supports many of the most popular formats via Network, UPnP, and USB connection. Supported codecs include MP3 (16-320kbps), WMA (32-320kbps), AAC (16-320kbps), WAV (16/24-bit; 32-192kHz), FLAC (16/24-bit; 32-192kHz), ALAC (16/24-bit: 32-192kHz), AIFF (16/24-bit; 32-192kHz), and Ogg Vorbis (32-320kbps).

    Note: The azur 851N does not support WMA pro, WMA lossless, RAW, AU, or other music file types not mentioned.

    DSD Audio: The 851N will only support DSD x64 (AKA DSD64 or 64FS) via DoP (DSD over PCM). However this is only possible via USB connection to a computer, using Class 2 USB Audio mode.

    Digital Inputs: The Cambridge Audio 851N's two optical (toslink) digital inputs and two coaxial (RCA) digital inputs allow it to act as a high quality upsampling Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) to improve the sound from other devices, such as set top boxes, games consoles, or disc players. The optical and coaxial digital connections support up to 24-bit/192kHz, 2ch PCM audio.

    Optional Bluetooth Adapter: Simply plug in the Cambridge Audio BT100 Bluetooth Audio Receiver (779BT100, sold separately) into the network audio player's rear-panel USB (type-A) port for wireless music streaming from many of today's most popular Bluetooth supporting devices; such as Apple iPod/iPhone/iPad, Android smartphone/tablet, Windows Phone/PC, Mac computer/laptop, and more. The BT100 even supports the high-quality Bluetooth aptX CODEC, so you can stream audiophile quality music from your Bluetooth-enabled Android (OS 4.0+) device to the Cambridge Azur 851N.

    Audio Section

    Audiophile Performance: The Cambridge Audio azur 851N network audio player provides audiophile performance for outstanding reproduction of your streaming music files. The 851N incorporates twin Analog Devices (AD1955) 24-Bit DACs with bit-perfect signal path and jitter suppression, as well as Cambridge's advanced ATF2 upsampling technology and Dual Differential Earth Balanced Filter Topology for all sources.

    • Twin Analog Devices (AD1955) 24-Bit DACs: The azur 851N uses twin premium Analog Devices DACs in "dual differential" mode for excellent stereo imaging. Each stereo channel process information separately for greater accuracy and imaging. Since each channel has its own DAC to process information, completely separate and symmetrical analog filter circuitry can be implemented. This implementation allows both the left- and right-channel circuitry to operate identically, ensuring the 851N delivers fantastic sound-staging and stereo-imaging properties.
    • ATF2 Upsampling Technology: The 851N utilizes an asynchronous up-sampling process called "Adaptive Time Filtering 2nd Generation" that intelligently interpolates (converts) incoming audio data from 16-24 bits (at any standard sampling frequency between 32-96kHz) to 24-bit/384kHz for dramatically improved musical reproduction. ATF2 will enhance the audio clarity, richness, and dynamic range of your compressed music.
    • Dual Differential Virtual Earth Balanced Filter Topology: The 851Nuses Cambridge Audio's proprietary Dual Differential Virtual Earth Balanced filter topology, configured as a low-order two-pole liner-phase Bessel filter, in order to take advantage of the achieved high-sampling rate. As a result your music will have extreme linearity with greater dynamic range.
    • Bit-Perfect Signal Path w/ Jitter Suppression: Music stored on computers and other hard drives inherently suffers from jitter, so the 851Nimplements a host of enhancements such as bit-perfect signal path and jitter suppression to vastly improve the quality of digital music playback. Total correlated jitter is less than 200ps.

    All-Metal Chassis & Toroidal Transformer: The 851N network audio player has an all-metal construction to ensure all components are completely isolated for the very best possible performance. The 851N also uses a large toroidal transformer to deliver perfect, low distortion power for all your music.

    Digital Pre-Amplifier: By using a digital pre-amplifier, the audio signal remains in the digital domain for much longer, compared to a traditional analog integrated or pre-amplifier. Because the audio signal remains digital, and is only converted to analog at the very last minute, it is far less susceptible to analog signal deterioration. This means that the sound you hear is as close as possible to the original recording.

    DSP Controlled Volume: The 851N's digital pre-amplifier uses a powerful 32-bit Blackfin DSP (Digital Signal Processor). Most digital preamplifiers use "bit reduction" to adjust the level of the volume output, however this results in much lower sound quality because digital information is being cut out of the original audio signal. Instead, the 851N's digital pre-amplifier uses the Blackfin DSP to control the level of the volume output, meaning that the entire digital signal remains fully intact for the best possible sound.

    Balanced & Unbalanced Outputs: The Cambridge Audio 851N features both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) audio outputs to connect to a wide variety of home stereo receivers and amplifiers. The 851N features true balanced XLR analog audio outputs to connect high-end home receivers and amplifiers. XLR is a higher-quality output that can reject noise and interference with equipment with balanced inputs. The 851N also features an unbalanced stereo analog RCA audio output for connecting your stereo receiver or amplifier. The unbalanced and balanced outputs are simultaneously active.

    Digital Outputs: The 851N features three rear-panel digital outputs; there is an optical (toslink) digital output, coaxial (RCA) digital output, and XLR (AES/EBU) digital output. These digital outputs allow pass-through of the selected digital source (no up-sampling performed). These outputs loop or pass-through unprocessed digital audio from the selected digital input. All three digital outputs are always active and can be used to connect and run equipment at the same time.

    Ground/Lift Switch: When Grounded, the 851N is connected to the earth connection of the PC directly. When Lifted the ground connection is made via a network designed to break any hum loops that may be caused by the source equipment. The Grounded setting is recommended, unless audible hum is experienced.

    Remote Control

    IR Remote: The Cambridge Audio 851N includes a slim-line IR remote control for wireless operation of the network audio player. The IR remote also operates other Cambridge Audio devices, like Azur series integrated amps and AV receivers.

    Cambridge Connect App: The free Cambridge Connect App for Apple iOS (7.1+) and Android (OS 4.0+) gives you full control of the 851N network audio player; including power on/off, source selection, and volume up/down. The Cambridge Connect App also gives you access and control over UPnP servers and NAS drives connected to the same WiFi network, Internet Radio from across the world, select online music services, USB media device plugged into the player, music stored on your Apple iOS or Android device, and Bluetooth audio (requires BT100 adapter). The free app also features a high-resolution display for album art and track information.

    Front-Panel LCD: The network audio player's front-panel color LCD displays album art and song/artist information. You can adjust the front-panel LCD's brightness level.

    Remote Connections: The Cambridge Audio 851N is fitted with the following custom remote connections.

    • RS232C Port: The RS-232C port is to be used in conjunction with an external controller to control the operation of the unit by using an external device.
    • IR Emitter In (3.5mm): 3.5mm minijack input that enables modulated IR commands from multiroom or IR repeater systems to be received by the 851N.
    • Control Bus In/Out (RCA): The Control Bus RCA input enables un-modulated commands from multiroom systems or other components to be received by the 851N.  The Control Bus RCA output provides control bus output commands for further downstream units. This can be useful if using the iPhone app to control the volume on a Cambridge Audio amplifier.

    Firmware/Software Updates: The Cambridge Audio azur 851N will offer firmware/software updates through its wired (Ethernet) or wireless (WiFi) connection.

    Our Product Research Team

    At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

    Staff Reviews

    Product reviews from the Crutchfield Labs

    What are the Labs?
    Q & A

    Customer Q&A

    Crutchfield asked  
    Why did you buy this?

    I already own the Cambridge Audio 851A and 851C components. This and the Excellent reviews on the 851N were the drivers in my decision. [ John  Nov 17, 2018 ]
    best product in media players [ Gary  Apr 07, 2017 ]
    Specs and recommendation from advisor. Sound quality. Great reviews (not at Crutchfield) [ Armando  May 18, 2018 ]
    Excellent reviews and good build for an unbeatable price [ Alexander  Jul 20, 2017 ]
    i have a prior version of the same player in another location. Spotify connect works well, although the iOS app has been spotty. Nice DAC and pretty easy access to a music library I put on a HD and made available locally. [ Andrew  Dec 14, 2015 ]

    9 questions already asked

    Yes. But had some noise with some spinning hard drives. [ James  Mar 28, 2018 ]
    Yes it will. [ Vinit  Mar 27, 2018 ]
    Absolutely. You can also make a playlist on a hard drive and it will play the playlist. [ Robert  Mar 27, 2018 ]
    You could output Tiidal from a PC or MAC or phone into the 851N. Cambridge has a downloadable utility to help PC's output better audio (ASIO) which is standard on MAC. Phone will play over Bluetooth if you order the Optional Bluetooth. Tidal is not a built in feature the way Spotify is built in. Also, for Spotify you need to be a premium member. [ Lee  Sep 07, 2017 ]
    Tidal is not even mentioned in any of the user manuals. I don't have a Tidal subscription so I can't even test it. I tried looking for an answer in the Cambridge Audio website to no avail. Maybe you can ask Cambridge Audio support directly? [ Antonio  Sep 07, 2017 ]
    No! Just spotify [ Dan  Sep 06, 2017 ]
    The Cambridge Audio 851N includes a slim-line IR remote control for wireless operation of the network audio player. The free Cambridge Connect App for Apple iOS (7.1+) and Android (OS 4.0+) also gives you full control of the 851N network audio player; including power on/off, source selection, and volume up/down from your Apple or Android device. I hope that helps! My Bio: [ Larry  Aug 23, 2016 ]  Staff
    No it doesn't. In the digital pre-amp mode, you can only adjust volume and balance. It does have audio filters, but I've never used them since I don't use the 851N as a pre-amp [ Mark  Jul 23, 2016 ]
    There are none. Only volume controls and only if you are using it as a digital preamplifier. If you are using it as a streamer, volume, bass and treble are controlled by your amplifier. I have no regrets purchasing this component! [ Antonio  Jul 23, 2016 ]
    Hi Victor You must the use your amp controls to modify the sound output However some players on your computer or ipad devices may also allow to modify the sound input to your 851N [ Alexander  Jul 23, 2016 ]
    There are no bass and treble controls. Those are on the power amp. [ Michael  Jul 23, 2016 ]
    HI, no you can't. But you can easily hook it up to an outside recorder, and it works well. It's a beautiful unit. There's probably 50-60,000 radio stations from all over the world in any genre you can imagine and even a few you probably can't. The sound is excellent. However, its all live and you can't listen to things that may still be available after it has been aired. There are occasional podcasts you can listen to but it may not be on the programs you want. The stations are fixed and fine-tuned. If you're into quality it is a very good unit and I definitely would recommend it. hjh [ HENRIK  Sep 29, 2015 ]
    No, this is strictly a streaming device. Files may be stored on your computer or NAS or you can use a streaming service such as Spotify [ ANEET  Sep 29, 2015 ]
    No. [ GEROLD A  Sep 29, 2015 ]
    No dedicated subwoofer out. It does have two pairs of outputs though. One pair is single ended (RCA), the other balanced (XLR). Both are simultaneously active. You can have one go to your pre or amp, the other to your sub. If neither your amp or sub have XLR connections, you can use adapter cables or even a splitter for the RCA outputs. While this gives you an output to subs, the signal will be full range, ie, no bass management. But most subs let you control low pass, gain, at its own amp. [ Peter  Dec 11, 2015 ]
    I forwarded your question to an Advisor and they responded with the following: There isn't a subwoofer output on this preamplifier. If you would like to discuss further you can contact an Advisor directly by phone (1-800-324-9695) or online chat. [ Krissy  Jul 09, 2015 ]  Staff
    The 851N is capable of displaying the CD picture/cover art only if the CD sends the metadata. Cambridge Audio has details about this in their tech support sectiion. [ Lee  Oct 11, 2017 ]
    You can't play a CD directly on this player. However, if you mean playing a music file burned off a CD, it will not show the CD cover when you're playing the file. I've had to make sure that there are picture files of the CD cover in the same directory where the music files are residing. Then the cover will show when you're playing any file in the directory. [ Antonio  Oct 11, 2017 ]
    Unfortunately it will not display cover art directly from a cd player but it will from streaming Itunes or if you copy the music from a cd to a flash card or a storage drive like an external hard drive and copy and paste the cover from the internet or any picture into the same folder it will appear when playing something from that folder. just plug the external drive to the usb. and it reads JPEG I think . also streaming services like pandora show the cover art [ michael  Oct 10, 2017 ]
    Only if the metadata is contained in what is sent from the CD. You can go to Cambridge Audio site foe additional technical details. [ Lee  Oct 10, 2017 ]
    No you cannot browse through Spotify with the 851N, you still need phone/tablet or computer. The good thing is that you can use them as a remote control through the Cambridge audio app [ Alexander  Dec 14, 2016 ]
    The 851N and the device running the Spotify app should be on the same network. Alternatively, you can save a Spotify Playlist as a preset on the 851N. Once a playlist is playing on the 851N, use the front panel interface and select [Set Preset]. Choose the preset station you want to assign the playlist. [ Antonio  Dec 13, 2016 ]
    Yes, Spotify is native to the 851N, you can select the player in the Spotify APP when using a PC, MAC, tablet or Phone. [ Vinit  Dec 13, 2016 ]