Cambridge Audio Azur 851N

Fellow audiophiles,

Does anyone have any experience with Azur851N? How good it sounds? I have had Olive 4HD and Sonos in my HT setup and looking for a better sound. I do fair amount of streaming off Spotify and Amazon and got lot of music stored on my FAT32 USB drive. Azur851N looks very promising (atleast on paper). I will be pairing this unit with a Classe SSP800 and B&W 803's. Any comments or feedback is greatly appreciated.
Abc875d5 dd7e 46b7 9d49 3e8463938063lalitk
there is a new review of the 851N in HIFI WORLD
I think you need to define what better means. I may think something is better, but you may hate it. Also, you don't list an amp. It would be helpful to know what it is.

I'm assuming that your goal is to get better 2 channel sound for music. If that's the case, the SSP 800 is most likely a bottleneck. At the very least, you should try to bypass it and listen using equipment you already have. I'm not too familiar with the Olive, but if it has a volume control of its own, plug it directly into your amp. If you can do this, I think its an experiment you'll find well worth your time.
Neither Spotify nor Amazon offer good quality streaming sound, with low bit rates...
I figured as much. But that's the future and seems the most cost effective way to listen to new and old songs.
I own a Classe CA-2200 amp. My goal is to get better dynamics out of digital music. The sound from Olive and Sonos is pretty dull and flat on most music. I may try some hi-res (DSD) downloads in near future. But for now, it's pretty much Spotify and Amazon.

Do you own a Azur or any other digital music player?

Thank you for your feedback.
I stream Tidal through a Sonos and outboard DAC and the sound is way better than Spotify
I do fair amount of streaming off Spotify and Amazon and got lot of music stored on my FAT32 USB drive.
Keep in mind that FAT32 is not a robust file system. For example, although it is unlikely you could lose all of the data on the drive if power were to drop out at the wrong instant while the drive is in use, and cause the file table to be corrupted.

Which makes it doubly important to have your music files well backed up, preferably on two additional drives, and with one of them preferably stored at a different location.

Also, if whatever the drive is connected to can work with a more robust file system, such as NTFS which can be used by Windows or an Ext3 or Ext4 file system which can be used by Linux, I would consider reformatting the drive to the more robust file system and then restoring the data to it from backups.

-- Al
"07-14-15: Lalitk
I own a Classe CA-2200 amp. My goal is to get better dynamics out of digital music. The sound from Olive and Sonos is pretty dull and flat on most music. I may try some hi-res (DSD) downloads in near future. But for now, it's pretty much Spotify and Amazon."

That's not a format issue, its an analog one. The analog section of the dac is what you need to look at for dynamics. A good example of what I'm talking about, is to compare a couple of CD players that I have. One is an Arcam 33. Its a nice, easy to listen to player, but the dynamics are just OK. My Wadia 302, on the other hand, has really good dynamics. Almost on par with vinyl.

I wouldn't recommend a Wadia for you because the company has issues. But I would definitely recommend Ayre. They make some of the most dynamic digital products you can get. Also, try your system without the preamp like I recommended in my last post. Having the right preamp in your system, will also have a big effect on dynamics.
Thank you all for your feedback, much appreciated.
Follow up to my thread... I decided to keep Azur 851N after direct comparison with Classe CP-800. The Azur was hooked up to SSP-800 (balance input) and SSP-800 / CP-800 daisy chained in digital bypass mode.

After a weekend of listening, I could not discern any differences, both DAC's produced music with absolute clarity and poise. I used Tidal HIFI streaming services with AirPlay.

IMHO, Azur851N is a groundbreaking component, given its asking price. If you're in market for a DAC/Network player with Apple AirPlay, you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing unit. I am keeping mine and returning CP-800 to my dealer.
I'm thinking of getting cambridge azur 851n vs oppo 105d for audio streaming and hooked it to my audio  research reference 5se and ARC ds450 amp. 

Do guys see or experience any issues with these set up? As far as i know the 851n has a built in DAC so no need to get a separate dac right?

any inputs/alternative please

This is an old question but I added an Cambridge Audio 851N to my system about a month ago and  what an improvement. I replaced my Jolida Glass Fx DAC with the 851n. I use it as a preamp with my Jolida vacuum tube amp in bypass mode. The results are astounding. I have a few terabytes of digital music including many hi-res files [DSD-DSF] that playback via 851n the 24-192 +playback is amazing. Note the blue tooth dongle is optional 100.00 I declined it sofar no problem I use WiFi. I thought for the 1799.00 cost it should be included.
While it should be included, Bluetooth audio is so compromised I'm fine without it. The BEST it can do is 16/44.1. It can play back hi-res straight off my computer without much fuss and DSF/DSD playback straight from USB flash drives, etc. Using the digital preamp mode is fantastic, finally brought my system up to date! 
Cambridge for the money is excellent! The British know their electronics! I have a 851N! Works Well!
I have an 851N. And am completely happy with it.  I also use it as a preamp-- I had a Nuforce mcp 18a  but could not tell the difference. I have Bel Canto 500m mono blocks with Dali Mentor 6 speakers.  Also use a Marantz SA 8004 as cd transport.  Couldn't be happier with the 851N as streamer (FAT 32 USB). Sound is excellent, whether as steamer, DAC, or Spotify. 320 bit internet radio also very good sounding. I had a Marantz streamer but returned it because of a buggy user interface. The Cambridge interface has been flawless. 
@tomaswv, Can you stream Tidal Hi-Fi on 851N? I know the streamer has a built-in support for Spotify.  
I have not tried. To my knowledge there has not been a firmware upgrade for Tidal, but of course there may be other ways to get it. I keep thinking Spotify will add a high Rez service, and haven't really explored Tidal or other services. Been buying high Rez downloads now and then, but quite happy with red book and streaming off of my hard drive.  I use Spotify mostly to check out new things or carch up on bands I missed along the way. 
You can get Tidal through Apple  air play. The  dual Analog devises 1955 dacs 
are very music ,with the Swiss Anagram Technologies receiver  top shelf 
and everything upsampled 24-368 truly puts noise way out of the audio band.
100s of digital audio radio stations  wifi  which sounds better then blue tooth.
your hard drive plugged in sounds great very good detail and natural warmth 
not bright  sounding others like benchmark 3 a bit better leading edge but does not have the musicality in depth of image .the supplies to the Mytech Brooklyn dac .theysound good  but if you want a bit morgrip and body without being syrupy warm Analog devises has been a class leading designer in the U.S
for years. One more thing almost 18 lbs, big internal Torroid transformer ,and power supply for digital. the Sony was good but older technology 
it does have a built in hard drive . He external drive is easy to remove ,and replace with solid state drive or any  Nas drives.
Only via AirPlay or with any computer attached.

For those who enjoy the convenience of Bluetooth, you can play media straight from a WiFi connected smart phone or tablet, which @audioman58 pointed out above.

It may be off-topic, but I enjoy my 851N so much so that I recommended the CXR-120 receiver to a colleague. The setup was difficult and the user interface is nothing like the 851N’s. I had recommended it to another friend but revoked my recommendation based on this experience. This happened before he got around to purchasing it (phew!).
I have had the 851N for about 18 months and it's also my DAC. I was very disappointed for a while because Cambridge told me, fairly recently, they had no plans for Tidal integration.  I have been using a HEOS Link for Tidal. Then I saw this on the Cambridge website :

I have been thinking hard about getting a Bluesound  Node 2 until I saw this. The 851N should be a better solution with it's large power supply and integrated design.  Hope it comes soon and hope the app gets a major upgrade.
I have had an 851N for more than a year now. Love it sounds great. Cambridge Audio has announced a firmware update to enable streaming Tidal very soon, in the next few months
I have just purchased this model, sounds good but.......despite being told otherwise can anyone tell be if its possible to fast forward/reverse or shuttle during the playback of a media file. It doesn't seem so via a USB stick/drive but what about with network storage??? for anyone wondering why you might want such a thing I assume you dont listen to 40 minute movements of classical music.

I recently bought a cambridge cxn v1 for $600,inventory clearance down from $900. Same internals as 851N at Crutchfied for $1600, more xlr, optical, & coax connects on 851N. There is no detailed manual from cambridge, very hard to get detailed info. I suspect the dac in both only works thru usb in, not optical or coax in.Published reviews have been none existent. Cambridge only has email support ion USA so answers are long coming. I use jriver, playing cd files copied to hard drive, optical out to cxn then coax out to Gungnir. Sound out is ok, probably because of gungnir dac. as a noob with Jriver, there is little instruction to clearly and easily get jriver settings correct. So Ive got some learning & reading to do. Cambridge said tidal is coming by software update between april 4 and 18, 2018, but Il believe it when it happens. Both microrendu and sotm 200 are Lan in to usb out renderers, so at least cambridge handles more connections in & out. Hans B gave positive reviews for cxn.
Today my 851N and the Cambridge app updated to Tidal ready. Won't have a chance to listen until the weekend. Looking forward to it. I have high hopes . Should sound better than streaming Tidal through my HEOS Link.
treebeard1 - Would like to know your opinion of the sound quality of Tidal via the 851N.  Also, how is the Cambridge Connect interface with Tidal?  Can you set any options for Tidal using the Connect app?

Hi everyone. I have just bought the CXN v2, the sound quality is good ,but not as impressive as I had expected. I had been comparing it against the very cheap Chromecast Audio and the difference, at least to my ears, was very subtle. Has anyone had/owned/ both the CXN and the 851N and could offer comparison impressions ? I am still able to rerurn the CXN. Any respomse much appreciated!Thanks a lot,

The Cxn should sound better than a Chromecast if it isnt audibile then i would question the resolution of the system.

The Camb 851n is better the Lumin D2 is better then the Cambridge.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Thanks for replying. I have a new system, still running everything in: Marantz pm6006, Dali Zensor 5 and the CXN. I also use the DT 880 600ohm with a headphone amp iFi iCan. It might just be the system needs to settle in and so do my aging ears need to get accustomed to the new sound.
Would you say an upgrade to the Cambridge 851 would make a difference in this system?
This is what I noticed about streaming Tidal via the 851N vs the HEOS Link.  I found the 851N to be more detailed and open.  A little better imaging, but my room is challenged for imaging anyway.  It seemed a bit brighter, but that's probably just the extra detail I'm hearing.  Overall, I will be leaving the HEOS Link out of the signal path.  Since the 851N has coaxial and optical outs, I can also pipe the music upstairs to my Halo Integrated and have both systems in sync. 

Regarding the app, it's pretty basic.  Hopefully they will work more on making it look and feel a little more current and modern.  It is utilitarian though.  It's hard to compare between two streamers by switching back and forth because I had to keep starting the 851N songs over after switching to another input.

One issue I have had is dropouts.  I have hardwired the cat 6 cable so I should not get dropouts streaming redbook FLAC. I noticed once my phone was updating several apps at the time.  I have 24 mb/sec bandwidth so that should be plenty to do both. 

I also think there may be more breaking in that needs to be done.  I'm sure new circuitry is being used and it may make a subtle difference at first.  Overall, I glad to take my HEOS streamer out of the signal path.

My system page is not updated, so I'll list it here for reference:
851N streamer/DAC
LTA MicroZotl 2
Halo A21,
Tekton DI
Duelund DCA16GA speaker wire

Thanks for the update treebeard1.  Keep us updated as the 851N burns in and you become comfortable with feature set.  One thing I would like to know though is the performance of the Internet Radio.  How's it sound?  I'm in the Detroit area - where there really are few classical and jazz stations. I think I would really take advantage of Internet Radio - if the sound was acceptable.
I don’t listen to internet radio much. I just tested it out and I see a couple presets from my local area were still present and working. However, it was a mess when I tried to browse for stations. First, there is a list of countries to browse from and the US is not one of them. If I browse by genre I get the usual suspects, classic rock, 70s hits, 60s hits, etc. Some worked and some didn’t.

Overall, I would not base your buying decision on the 851N radio streaming capability. Just install TuneIn Radio on your phone, use the 851N bluetooth (which is quite good), and be done with it. I don’t know why they bother with curating their own stations. It’s already been done much better by others.

FWIW, I did listen to streamed stations at 128 kbps and sounded very good.
Has anyone tried to use balanced out instead of rca to preamp? Any sound difference?
Balanced will always be 3dB better than unbalanced. No more, no less
On some devices, 6dB better. Or so they say.
Do u get Tidal on the 851N by upgrading through the unit menu?
kw6, just do a firmware update and the tidal functionality will be added.

851n owners, which streamer dacs have you directly compared the 851n against and what were results?

Doc above says it’s better than LUMIN D2. 
Anyone ever compare 851n against bel canto  Mytek?  Teac?  Bryston?

interested in 851n for second system but I have a hunch a replacement might be coming soon as 851n pretty long in tooth 
Thanks dfairc777a!😀
Hey guys! I just updated 851N firmware but don't see Tidal in my inputs. I just see Spotify. Thanks!
I figured it out! Had to use Cambridge connect app!😁
Sorry this has taken so long to post. I have just completed a comparison between the DSD Jr and 851N. I purchased the DSD Jr last spring and have been doing comparisons since. I have been reluctant to sell the 851N because, for 1/3 the price, it was pretty even with the DSD Jr.

Initially I preferred the 851N, which seemed to have a little more PRAT with a bit more detail. The DSD Jr. was a little more natural sounding to my ears. Then I upgraded the DSD Jr. to Windom and upgraded my power supply of my LTA MicroZOTL2 from the basic switching PS to the LPS+ and the DSD Jr. excelled.

Here is a summary of the qualities of each:

  • Excellent PRAT (pace, rhythm, and timing)
  • More detail (initially)
  • A little compressed on complex passages but imaged well on less complex material
  • Can be bright depending on the rest of your system
  • Slightly louder
  • Aesthetically more pleasing (to my eyes)
  • Large video display

  • Increased detail without added brightness or digital glare as my equipment was upgraded
  • More natural/organic sounding
  • Better imaging after upgrades
  • Solid build
  • Octave coming
  • Free software updates
  • MQA

Overall, the 851N is an excellent streamer/DAC and I think it’s a steal, especially used. Remember, I am comparing the 851N to a DAC that costs three times as much. The DSD Jr. just has too much else going for it, like Octave, software updates, MQA and the ability to perform better as my system upgrades.

With all this said, I must disclose I am finally selling my 851N. I hope that doesn’t mar these opinions because I truly have enjoyed it. The 851N would make an excellent entry level or second system streamer/DAC. The 851N has the same DAC internals as the stand-alone Cambridge 851D.

Hope this helps.

Thanks, Ken!  That is super helpful - really appreciate it.  I would not have expected the 851n to be so competitive with the DS Jr.  Enjoy the music, and cheers!
hi folks trying to buy  azur 851n from audiogon and use it in uk . but back panel shows only 120 or 100v switching.any idea how to make it 240v without modification or internal switching possible. opinions needed
@mallikh67I would contact Cambridge Audio. It might be best to find a unit in the UK.
Some Cambridge units have toggle switch on back to switch between 240 and 120. Edge W amp has it for example but instructions say don’t touch it. Not sure if 851n has that