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The sound is energetic and dynamic. It is not on the level of the best price-matched dedicated CD players by Music Hall or Cyrus but these differences aren’t deal breakers. It appears that Redbook decks with dedicated transports draw out image shapes better to extract voices from their surroundings more. But this the Cambridge did nicely too to avoid any impression of missing anything.

Here enters SACD. As with HDCD releases before—consider King Crimson, Roxy Music and the First Impression Music discographies—it was apparent how higher source resolution resulted in greater smoothness and superior ‘embossing’ of soloists for better articulated imaging. This remained a very coherent sound with a still strong treble but everything was smoother and better integrated to eventually distinguish itself most with coherence.

This meant that music made sense. Its internal logical of what musicians and engineers had in mind became apparent. Of course those discs actually recorded and mixed in the DSD domain sounded best. I said it many times before. Any recording should be played back in the same form it was recorded in. Each conversion leaves traces. The best sound (recording-mixing-playback) comes from DSD-DSD-DSD, then A-A-DSD, then A-DSD-DSD and finally PCM-PCM-DSD. Those last pressings can sound surprisingly bad.

My obvious issue is that most the music that's of personal interest was created in the 50s when recording and mixing were analog. Another issue that a high percentage of what I listen to is Rock which in terms of SACD coverage is nowhere. Aside from a few exceptions like the Depeche Mode collection, most DSD editions like the discographies of Peter Gabriel or Genesis and Sting’s Sacred Love are poorly mastered and their CD counterparts from Japan are far superior. But I tried to make some diagnostics using the Cambridge as to why this might have happened.

In case of the Genesis and Calling All Stations the case is clear. The recording itself was done poorly. With Sting I think they had problems creating the multi-channel mix and matching it with the stereo down-mix which has many spatial counter-phase elements added. They simply forgot that this wasn’t Q-Sound which made the first three Sting discs so good and Roger Water’s Amused to Death a frequent guest in audiophile collections. Anyway, the Cambridge Audio played SACDs very resolved and fluent. As in players for comparable coin the upper midrange was still quite forward but here it served the greater good of dynamics, openness and spaciousness. Yes, this player makes it worthwhile to spend on SACDs.

That said, here we encounter the surprise I mentioned earlier. The machine plays SACDs, DVDs and BDs as well as files when the HDMI output connects to a TV or receiver, i.e. when the handshake occurs with another input. If not the disc spins, the counter counts but no sound. Perhaps I missed something, perhaps there is a simple solution but I did not find any and nobody could answer my question. So it meant using the machine in an audio system with some type of monitor. One could of course use Pure Audio mode to switch off display and screen but that’s a half measure only. The HDMI output itself is still live, only the screen gets blanked out.

But perhaps one could actually profit from a small monitor close the listening chair since the player nicely handles FLAC and WAV files up to 24/192. Though it can’t yet do gapless, the next firmware update should have addressed this. Hi-rez file playback resembled what I heard from SACD -  a much smoother sound than CD which confirmed the player’s innately good resolution.

And video? In a few short words since I was mostly focused on sonics, the picture from either BD or DVD was fantastic. Not long ago a picture of such saturated colors and detail was only available from expensive Denon or Arcam decks which were exceptional in that regard. The Cambridge does it here and now. Even video from HDD files was very good but my HDI Dune HD Max player does it far better still. The picture with the Dune is more precise, resolved and most of all more lit. I am not talking about brightness or contrast which can be set in the Cambridge but some kind of naturalness. The 751BD also cannot add subtitles when those are not included in the file to preclude my viewing of most serials.