Anyone else heard the Cambridge Audio 640P Stage?

I recently picked one of these up on somewhat of a whim. After running “hi-end” equipment for years (Musical Fidelity amplification, Von Schweikert speakers, Michell/Dynavector analog front end), I’ve suddenly become enamored with the plethora of high-quality “mid-fi” gear out there.

After reading opinions here and over at Audio Asylum on the Cambridge Audio gear I decided to set up a mid-fi system just to see what all the fuss was about. The fact that the 640A amp could be had for around $400 due to a “Version 2” being released this month only pushed me to satisfy my curiosity.

Associated gear I assembled:

NHT SB-3 Speakers
Cambridge Audio 640A Integrated Amplifier
Cambridge Audio 640P Phono-Stage
Rega P3 Turntable (no mods other than a Herbie’s mat)
Dynavector 10x5 Cartridge

I’ve had this set up in the bedroom for about 6 weeks now and feel everything is burned in pretty well. I’ve been just blown away at the clarity, dynamics, soundstaging, etc that this modest sub-$2k system provides. More than anything it’s just musical as hell and easy to listen to. The fact that the 640A seems to have no problem at all pushing the 86db SB-3’s to reasonable sound levels is a testimony to the build quality of this unpretentious integrated.

This weekend I dug out an old NAD PP-1 stage I had in storage, as well as the CI-Audio VPP-1 and Dynavector P-75 I use in other systems to see how the 640P compared. Here’s a rundown of what my ears tell me when compared to the Cambridge stage:

NAD PP-1: sounds like I put a wet blanket over my head compared to the 640P – just plain awful. Recessed highs, sloppy bass – never did much care for this phono amp…

CI-Audio VPP-1: more versatile than the 640P, but about on par sonically. Bass might be a tad punchier on the VPP-1 if I listen very closely but overall very similar sounding to 640P.

P-75: hmmmm, puzzling…. didn’t seem quite as dynamic and the highs seemed a bit more “laid back” when compared to the 640P. Not bad, but I expected the P-75 to blow the 640P away. I preferred the 640P in this system. When used in my main system in “PE” mode with a Dynavector 20xL this is one of the best sounding sub$1k phono stages I’ve ever heard. Perhaps it’s just a lack of synergy with the 640A amp or the P-75’s MM stage isn’t nearly as good as its MC section.

For the whopping $179 that the 640P runs, it’s a steal. When you consider its great build quality, discrete dual-mono design (no op-amps), and reasonable versatility it’s a tough one to beat.
A lot of Cambridge Audio designs are by Michael Creek. Sometimes they are almost the same as the Creek model which only has some higher quality parts and maybe a few more options than the Cambridge. Also the Creek's are mostly made in the UK; Cambridge are all made in China. They are different companies.

See are examples here.
Hi Sugarbrie - it's my understanding that Michael Creek hasn't had anything to do with Cambridge Audio in quite some time. Could be wrong though...

I'd be curious to hear the 640P compared to the newer Creek phono-stages. The specs from the 640P don't match any of the recent Creek designs though as far as I can tell:

Gain @ 1kHz: 39dB / 55dB
Nominal output: 300mV
Sensitivity for nominal output: 3.35mV / 0.5mV
THD 20Hz-20kHz: <0.007%
RIAA curve accuracy <+/-0.3dB 20Hz-50kHz
Signal to noise ratio (using Audio Precision RIAA-1 with grounded inputs) >85dB / 82dB
Crosstalk @ 20kHz >76dB / >72dB

BTW, Spearit Sound (where I purchased my 640P) has some great internal pics of the 640P and 540P (I was not impressed at all with the 540P...):
Say hello to Richard Moulding for me the next time you're in Spearit assuming it is the Northampton store. He knows me very very well (since the late 1970s when he opened his first audio store). But he does not know me as Sugarbrie. So it will make him wonder who I am. LOL!

Cambridge Audio is currently owned by Julian Richer of the Richer Sounds audio chain in the UK (similar to Tweeter in the US). He basically contracts designers from other audio companies in the UK, then contracts out production to asia. Not a bad combination to make good stuff at low prices.
I too have been extremely surprised at how well the 640p performs in my system compared to the NAD PP2 I was using and since sold on A'gon! Very good synergy in my system using the 640p with VPI-19jr table w/Goldring 1042.
My current main system:
Audio Refinement Complete Integrated
Rega Apollo CD player
Triangle Antal speakers

Will probably be using my TT less from now on because the Apollo is the closest digital player I have heard that comes closest to that "analog magic" without sacrificing detail or PRAT. Lot of buzz on the A.A. website. But the 640p is definitely an overachiever in the so called "budget" line of phono stages.
See for yourself (the guy who controls Cambridge Audio).
Just gone one in the mail yesterday ( $169.00 with free shipping to Canada!). Listened to it all night. Replaced a NAD PP-1 with the 640P. First impressions are that the 640 is in an entirely different league than the NAD with regards to all aspects of hifi and build quality. One thing at this point is the bass is a little lacking compared to the 3yr old PP-1. I'm sure this has more to do with the breaking in of the new 640P as well as the new output interconnect from the 640P to my preamp (Linn Kairn).

Side note: Anyone thinking of replacing a NAD PP-1/PP-2 should list it on ebay. People are buying these up like crazy. From my experience to hook to a PC for archiving albums to CD. I got over 100 bucks U.S. for my PP-1 which I never expected.
Hey Bunner100 -

The bass does tighten up a bit as the 640P burns in. Here's the thing though, the bass is never going to sound like with the NAD unit - and for good reason.

One of the main things that has always rendered the NAD PP-1 unlistenable to me is the bloated bass and lack of "sparkle" and "air" to the highs. The bass on the 640P is on par with the other units I mentioned (VPP-1 and P-75) and these units are getting it right - the NAD is the one getting it wrong.

Don't misunderstand me, for a long time the NAD unit was a fine unit in its price range. With sub-$200 units coming on the market like the 640P though I can't imagine plucking down money for any of the Pro-Ject, Music Hall, or NAD stages.

That's astounding with regard to your e-bay sale of the PP-1, may just have to dust mine off and list it!
Thanks for the info Sugarbrie - interesting and smart business model on Cambridge Audio's part.

The more I listen to this setup the more I like it - something I could certainly live with long term and would satisfy a wide range of budding audiophiles on a budget. It gives up far less than I ever thought it would when compared to my main system and, quite frankly, is a bit more musical.