Many companies try to walk the line between affordability and high-end performance, with few ever really being able to deliver both equally well. Cambridge Audio is a company that has been rather successful at delivering products that perform better than their competitors at given price points. Their products typically offer excellent performance for the budget-minded audio enthusiast and serve as a gateway brand, eventually leading to other higher-end manufacturers. Cambridge hopes that the introduction of their Azur 840W power amplifier will keep those customers returning to their showroom by providing a true high-end product to inspire lust.
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The $2,699 840W is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of high-end styling. The amplifier chassis is very distinctive, utilizing a unique perforated chassis, which is as functional as it is stylish. The face is a bit of a letdown, however, featuring a blank slab of aluminum, although it does have a few status LEDs. The rear panel features several decidedly upscale items, such as a detachable power cord, dual binding posts for easy bi-wiring and balanced XLR inputs and outputs. The most surprising feature was the bridged mono switch. Flipping this switch changes the powerful 200-watt two-channel amplifier into a 500-watt beast of a mono-block. The amplifier is extremely well put-together and is a definite step up from other Cambridge components.
Internally, the Azur 840W utilizes a patented XD circuit design, which allows for Class-A operation at lower levels, then gracefully switches into enhanced Class-B operation up to its full 200-watt output. The claim is that greatly reduced distortion at the crossover point, compared to traditional A/B amplifiers. Technical assertions aside, I can say with certainty that this is one excellent-sounding amplifier.
The presentation of the 840W can best be described as transparent. It especially excelled at revealing micro-detail information, which was missing with lesser amplifiers. It did an excellent job of locking performers and instruments in their own space across the soundstage, which was both wide and deep. At lower volumes, well within the Class-A operation, music flowed with an extra bit of sweetness and texture. Turn the knob to the right and the 840W jumped to life, kicking out serious dynamics, especially in the bass region. In this particular system, however, I noticed a bit of harshness in the upper midrange region when the amp was pushed very hard. The 840W behaved almost as if it were two separate amplifiers, one for low-volume critical listening and one that was built to rock.
• The 840W is a powerful amplifier that can drive virtually any loudspeaker with authority. This is not simply a muscle amp, however, as it also has the ability to convey detail and nuance against a very quiet background.
• For those who crave even more than the 200 watts of power the 840 delivers, the amplifier can also be bridged into a mono configuration for a staggering 500 watts. If this isn't enough to drive your loudspeakers, you seriously need to reconsider your speaker selection.