Cambridge Audio’s Azur Launches Music Into the Sonic Stratosphere

In November 1969, West Germany launched the Azur, the country’s first scientific satellite, into space. At CES Cambridge Audio launched the Azur 851N, the company’s flagship upsampling network music player that takes any incoming audio signals up into the high-resolution stratosphere.

The 851N is as easy on the eyes as it is on the ears, with a thick brushed aluminum front panel offered in black and silver finishes and dual layer damped feet for enhanced resonance control. A bright, 4.3-inch color display offers easy viewing and browsing of album art, track info and configuration menus.

Sonically the player is ready to stream the highest of quality signals to your system, decoding ALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, and OGG Vorbis at resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. A USB Type B connection offers an asynchronous connection to a computer. The twin Analog Devices AD1955 24-bit DACs used in “dual differential” mode upsamples all incoming audio signals to 24-bit/384kHz output and an oversized, audiophile grade toroidal transformer delivers the highest quality sound.

The Azur is loaded on the connections front, able to serve as a high-end pre-amp by offering multiple digital inputs including AES/EBU, two S/PDIF coaxial and two Toslink optical. Outputs include balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analog and AES/EBU, coaxial and Toslink optical digital. Three additional USBs allow for connection of a Wi-Fi dongle or local storage. Whether connected via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, Azur supports Spotify Connect, 20,000 Internet radio stations, Airplay and UPnP for accessing local media.

A rear panel IR input offers easy connection to basic control systems, while an RS-232 connection supports additional automation systems. Of course, the easiest way to browse and select music is via the free Cambridge Connect App for iOS and Android. The Azur 851N will begin shipping in February for $1799. The 851N is pictured with the Azur 851W power amplifier.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
The remark, "...takes any incoming audio signals up into the high-resolution stratosphere" can be misleading if interpreted literally. When fed an ordinary source, the upconversion process does technically increase the information that's being reproduced at the output, but that information is interpolated from the existing material. No real information is added, because it does not exist in the source. The result is NOT the same as that from a source that's high res to begin with.

A similar potentially misleading situation exists in the video world. Our current 2k source material is upconverted to 4K when displayed on a 4K set, but the result is not true 4K. Pixels are added, and the pixel density is therefore finer, but there's no real, additional resolution.