CES 2015: Cambridge Audio 851N

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As the dust settles on another year in sunny Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) has delivered an avalanche of new technology for us to look forward to over the coming months. Amongst those ready to launch new gear are Cambridge Audio. The London based brand have an exciting new range of products, the CX series, due in March, and we’ll be previewing those (as well as getting our grubby mits on a few test samples!) during the next few weeks.

In the meantime, though, the company has also announced a new flagship network streamer, the 851N. Built to match the rest of their high-end 851 range, this new streamer is looking to be a real heavyweight in this new, hotly contested arena.

Having had plenty of practise on their multi-award winning ‘Stream Magic‘ players, Cambridge look to have a fairly good idea of how to go about bettering themselves on this new range. For starters, building in a 4.3″ TFT screen, allowing album artwork to be shown – and generally making navigation a lot easier – is a huge help. And it’s not only artwork that can be displayed, all of the relevant info, from track listings to file sizes, and bit-rates are available, and in full colour, too!

Capable not only of streaming music across your home network into a compatible amplifier, the 851N‘s onboard Digital-to-Analogue Converter (DAC) offers a wealth of digital inputs for getting the best out of other components that may be getting a bit long in the tooth. The 851N is packing two Optical inputs, two Digital Coaxial, an AES/EBU (XLR type) connection, and FIVE USB inputs. That kind of spec should leave nobody feeling short when trying to get the most out of a modern Hi-Fi system.

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Also available in black

All of the above inputs are capable of 24/192kHz bit-rates natively, and Cambridge‘s own Adaptive Time Filtering (ATF2) technology is then able to up-sample this to 24-bit/384kHz, all but eliminating nasty ‘jitter’ from the digital signal. Twin AD1955 DAC chips are used in mono mode, allowing one to process the right hand channel, and one to process the left. Having used a similar configuration on their 851C CD player, Cambridge‘s engineers are well-familiar with the benefits this type of layout can bring about musically.

Far from being a fad these days, Spotify has established itself as a colossus amongst subscription-based music services. Spotify Connect‘s inclusion here, then, was almost a given. Allowing use of a tablet, phone or laptop to access the users Spotify account through an app, then streaming the information into the 851N‘s top-of-the-range audio processing should make for brilliant results! Apple’s Airplay is included for direct streaming from an ‘i’ device, another common but welcome feature. If you’re anything like us, the inbuilt Internet Radio capability will also be a massive plus.

Finally, no stone has been left unturned when it comes to the audio formats that the 851N is able to play, offering ALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, OGG Vorbis (phew!) and keeping even the most cutting-edge digital devotee happy in the process.

Author: Chris, Liverpool store

We’ll have more in the way of pricing info and release dates in the coming weeks, so keep tuned to the Tech Blog.