System really feels dialed in now. I think each component is at its upper limit: for any stepwise improvement I think I’d have to start over.  I’d call it a good solid mid-fi system.

had all my CDs ripped to flac files and the only discs I spin these days are SACDs, with DSD output into the AV8802a for processing. Flac files and a few hi-Rez downloads are on a 10TB hard drive feeding into the Cambridge 851N.  It all works flawlessly and has never sounded better. The Cambridge Command app could use a more engaging user interface, though. Very pleased with the AV8802a as preamp. I use it with television with my stereo system, it allows me to use my older Cambridge blue ray player as a transport for SACD, and the Audessey XT32 pro system is the first room correction system that makes a positive difference. And for critical listening I use direct mode.  I have Spotify but will be moving to a higher res service. 

It all seems well balanced and allows me to focus on music (for now) not equipment upgrades.

Room Details

Dimensions: 30’ × 30’  X large
Ceiling: 9’

Components Toggle details

    • Cambridge Audio Azur BD650
    Used primarily as a transport for SACDs and for the occasional movie or concert videos. DSD via Nordost Blue Heaven HDMI to the AV8802a for decoding. Fantastic sound quality!
    • Cambridge Audio 851N
    A great component. I use it to play hi rez files from a 10 TB hard drive, streaming, internet radio, and a DAC for the occasional CD (had all of my CDs ripped to flac.)
    • AudioQuest Carbon USB 3.0
    Replaced the stock cable from my hard disk to the streamer. Major sound improvement—resolution, timbre, soundstage.
    • Nordost Heimdall Frey XLR interconnects
    I use the Frey’s from the Cambridge 851N to the Marantz and from the Marantz to the monoblocks. I had RCA versions but switched to XLR after using a Heimdall II XLR—clearly better sound that the FreyRCAs but Frey I XLRs were pretty much the same sound as the Heimdall IIs at a better price point.
    • Marantz AV 8802a
    Added an AVR primarily because we added a television to the mix. Still strictly 2 channel. Upgraded from the AV 8801—improvement is sound quality was noticeable. Sounds better through this than using the Cambridge 851N as a digital preamp—though that sounds excellent as well.  The Audessey MultiEQ is a huge improvement over the earlier version in the 8801, by the way.
    • Bel Canto Design ref 500M
    Effortless. I leave them on all the time. They hardly even get warm. I switched to these after several non class D amps and never looked back. I think this pairs well with the Marantz sound.
    • Nordost Vishnu Power Cables
    Upgraded fron Shiva to Vishnu.  I have Vishnus power cables for the Marantz AV8802a and Cambridge 650BD and the Cambridge 851N. In the CD player, Vishnu added bass and a little more detail over the Shiva, which was very, very good in its own right.  Remarkable, really, I'm hearing more space around the instruments. I don't quite believe how the upgrade to the power cable made such a difference. With the Bel Canto monoblocks, I didn’t hear any improvement so I stuck with the stock cables. 

    • DALI Mentor 6
    Great floorstanders. These do everything I expect from a speaker. Really opened up the the switch to Morrow SP-5 bi-wired.
    • Morrow Audio SP-5 speaker cables
    Replaced my long-standing Acoustic Zen Cable’s after listening to Morrows in friends system also with Bel Canto monoblocks. Decided to give Morrow a try primarily because  of their flexibility. I’ve always used big ole snakes for speaker cables and was pleasantly surprised at the Morrow sound given the flexible and small nature of the cable. These are the new series—all copper. Also, for the first time I went bi-wired and this really opened things up!

Comments 2

I used the 851N as a preamp until recently. we moved house, and in the new set up, I added a TV and wanted to run the sound thru the stereo. I picked up a used Marantz AV8801 and now use it as a preamp.  When changing between preamp—no preamp, I would say there was a slight difference in sound but both sounded good. The 851N gave a balanced and probably more accurate sound, the Marantz gave up some highs and lows but presented a slightly more midrange. I preferred (Slightly) the Marantz on vocals and strings but the 851N on woodwinds and horns. Having said that, the system does sound much better now 1. A much better room with much better acoustics and 2. The audyssey multi eq in the Marantz really balanced the room and the sound.  Especially the bass. Overall I’d do it again but not purely for the preamp sound but for the other benefits. I hope to update my virtual system soon. By the way, I’ve used “lesser” EQs in my second system and have never been impressed.


Hi, are you using 851N as a preamp controlling volume with it?
Hook it up directly to the Bel canto amps?


Displaying all 2 posts