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What DAC for the Cambridge Audio 851A

jonathanstromstedt

New member
Oct 29, 2017
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Hi again!

Yes, i thought that I was settling for the CXA60, but the deal on the 851A might be even sweeter this Friday in Sweden. I may be able to get the 851A for around 700 Pounds new.

I ll be pairing with Dali zensor 7 in a purpose built room 8m by 5m with 2.5m ceiling. Speakers a bit over 2 m seperared. I listen to everything and enjoy spacious sound, separation, deep and voluminous bass, a forward presentation, a deep 3D soundstage and trebles that reach behind me and that i do not need to seek out, and vocals that are also very present and in my face. I will be using optical cable from my PC/Cd player (source) to a DAC. Playing only cds.

So my question is: Since the 851A does not come with a DAC, i need to pair it with one. I have an optical cable that i can run from the motherboard to the DAC. Then i need a short RCA cable (right?) to connect to the amp. What DAC would you recommend? I understand that that DAC question is Pandoras box (one of my threads became a jousting lane for opinions lol - very interesting to read and learn!). I cannot afford an expensive one, but maybe a decent one that will complement and not limit the 851A? I can always upgrade later... There is a CAmbridge Magic 100 that i can get for 120 pounds. Good? Naaah...?

My thinking is as follows: if i invest in this amp, it may last me a couple of 'cycles'. Ie i can upgrade my speakers to Splendor or PMC in the future, and get a Chord DAC etc...but still keep the amp. What do you think? Or at least the resale value of the 851A might be pretty good is in 3 years ish i move on? Or maybe my thinking here is askew. Because in the future, as some of you have mentioned, if i want to upgrade, then i really want to double the quality-cost of my setup entirely. So in other words, sell it all, and move up in one go (thinking Moon, Vincent, Bladelius with Splendor, PMC, BW etc)...?

A few questions here, but this is a big ticket purchase for me in a hobby that i have been waiting a long time to finally totally get into...your help is really invaluable!

Kindly,

Jonathan
 

drummerman

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Jan 18, 2008
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If you get on with sound the 851 is a high end amplifier for entry level money if you get it for 700 quid.

I probably would look for something like a non-oversampling DAC with a pleasant 'warm' sound rather than one of the latest hyper revealing examples that measure impeccably but may exaggerate the already revealing often reported nature of the 851.

The speakers should play a large role in determining what you want from your system.

I would hold fire with an expensive DAC and live first with the amp for a while. Cheap Dac's are available from the likes of HifimeDiy to see you over.

My 2c's
 

Pedro

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May 31, 2016
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700 pounds is a steal. Is it new? That thing here costs around €1700 (dealers will do discounts).

Before getting a DAC (any DAC) I'd plug the PC directly to the amp and check how it sounds, if that's feasible. If going for a DAC there are some very cheap options around and that CA you mention seem perfectly up to the job to me too.
 
Q

QuestForThe13thNote

Guest
drummerman said:
If you get on with sound the 851 is a high end amplifier for entry level money if you get it for 700 quid.

I probably would look for something like a non-oversampling DAC with a pleasant 'warm' sound rather than one of the latest hyper revealing examples that measure impeccably but may exaggerate the already revealing often reported nature of the 851.

The speakers should play a large role in determining what you want from your system.

I would hold fire with an expensive DAC and live first with the amp for a while. Cheap Dac's are available from the likes of HifimeDiy to see you over.

My 2c's
id say you can’t really max out on detail in dacs at this kind of level, when pairing it with these two ca amps, it’s when you get to dacs like Hugo TT and power amps, the issue drummerman describes potentially becomes an issue depending on taste too. But that detail can be tempered by the smoothness of the speakers and their richness and refinement as they get better, not so steered for high frequencies, and you wouldn’t probably be using your speakers or amp with the tt anyway. I wouldn’t worry about the issue of it being oversamplimg, as the whole system comes into play in sq - speakers and amp and more marginally the source. Always a combo. Just get best budget dac on best specs you can get.

the cheap Cambridge Audio dac is very good and I think is balanced which is a good thing to think of if pairing it with a balanced amp. Using xlr connections. I had the Cambridge Audio dac Magic plus and it was very decent. That would be a good starting point. Not sure what amp you went for in the end?
 

jonathanstromstedt

New member
Oct 29, 2017
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well, in the end, the stated price for the 851a was too good to be true and turned out to be the price of the demo in the shop which was in a pretty terrible cosmetic shape. So i took the cxa60 which was an extra 2000 SEK off on black friday. Combo CXA60 with Dali Zensor 7, monoprice 14 gauge copper speaker wires and and optical cable to the PC CD source, is working out very nicely! Compared to what i have heard to date, i would call this mix 'fun, forward, entertaining, a full midrange sound, voluminous and detailed'. I would say that when pushed, the what hifi comment on the Dalis being less taught in the bass, maybe i heard that, in the sense that the sound gets quite roomy and less tight.

Thank you for all of your help and guidance. I will be back to take it to the next level, as in doubling everything as some of you have recommended. That will be exciting! I must say i like the look of the PMC speakers, and I did come across a Moon amp second hand bargain in Stockholm!

Jonathan
 

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