Cambridge Audio Duo Phono Stage and Headphone Amp Preview

Little box, big, ballsy sound.

That’s the first thing you notice about the Cambridge Audio DUO Moving Coil/Moving Magnet Preamplifier with integrated Headphone Amplifier.

The second is the immediacy and resolution to the reproduction. With a weight and full-bodied presentation to piano and guitar, realistic tone, timbre and real meaty depth to percussion that belies it’s budget-conscious pricing.

The detail of mouth movement in relation to a trumpet’s embouchure in Miles Davis’ case on ’Round About Midnight (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Mono, mastered by Krieg Wunderlich and Shawn R. Britton from the original master tape, limited edition) was a standout experience and left me wanting more from this mighty mite as I flipped the LP.

I’ve not had a turntable hooked up for some time at the house, it’s been DACs and more DACs, streamers and servers and ones and zeros, but the time came to get analog and bust out the $299 USD Cambridge DUO and get some hours on it for a full review so before I hooked it up I decided not to use the Thales TTT-Slim II turntable and JSD cartridge I had on hand (and originally thought I’d use with it) as that is a $15K+ USD combo and seemed a bit overkill.

Instead I reached out to local dealer Igor Kivritsky at Hi-fi Centre in Vancouver who very kindly loaned me a Rega Planar3 fitted with an RB330 tonearm and Exact moving-magnet cartridge because in my mind a $1,100 USD turntable/cartridge combo seemed to better represent the demographic who would be looking to buy the DUO as an addition to a more modest system.

As I first said about the DUO when I received it a few months ago:

“Short signal paths and a compact design are seductive engineering/design cues for those who may have minimal space – a situation more and more big-city urbanites are finding themselves in these days as density rises and apartment footprints shrink – but it’s those short signal pathways that usually best serve the attention to detail that delicate electro-acoustic signals from a cartridge’s stylus need to sound their best.”

That still holds true for me as I do think that it is more the urban apartment dweller who Cambridge is marketing the DUO for and those short signal paths do indeed seem to be extracting prodigious amounts of groove information through the bouncy, juicy Exact cartridge.

With, initially, a pair of decidedly upscale $3,995 USD Audeze LCD-4z planar-magnetic over-ear headphones jacked into the DUO’s 6.3mm (1/4-inch) output, drive and dynamics were powerful with excellent instrument and stereo spatial separation that placed a recording’s players on a wide, deep 3D-soundstage with a large presence region for vocals which focused between my ears and well behind my eyes. I plan on using a number of different headphones with the DUO, but in the end will focus the upcoming review with only one pair of cans.

This is a punchy, classy phono stage and head amp that has an unreasonably black noise floor allowing tons of detail through for something in this price range and one I’m looking forward to spending many a night with as I rediscover my somewhat deep vinyl collection.

Full review to come.

Specifications

  • MAX POWER CONSUMPTION – 10W
  • CARTRIDGE SUPPORT – Moving Magnet | Moving Coil
  • GAIN @ 1KHZ – MM: 39dB | MC: 60dB
  • NOMINAL OUTPUT – 300mV
  • SENSITIVITY FOR NOMINAL OUTPUT – MM: 3.35mV | MC: 305uV
  • EQUIVALENT INPUT NOISE (A-WEIGHTED) – MM: ~0.09uV | MC: ~0.08uV
  • RIAA CURVE ACCURACY – +/- 0.3dB 30Hz-50Hz
  • SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO GROUNDED INPUTS REF. 1V OUTPUT – (20HZ-20KHZ BW)
  • MM: >90dB | MC: >70dB
  • THD+N 1KHZ (20-20KHZ BW) – MM: <0.0025% | MC: <0.20%
  • INPUT IMPEDANCE – MM: 47k Ohms | MC: 100 Ohms
  • INPUT CAPACITANCE – 100pF
  • OVERLOAD MARGIN – >30dB
  • CROSSTALK @ 10KHZ – MM: >85dB | MC: 75dB
  • DIMENSIONS (H X W X D) – 48 x 215 x 159 mm (1.9 x 8.5 x 6.2")
  • WEIGHT – 0.95kg (2.1lbs)

COMPANY INFO
Cambridge Audio
Audio Partnership Plc Gallery Court, Hankey Place, London SE1 4BB UK
info@cambridgeaudio.com

COMMENTS
DaveinSM's picture

This is a great idea. I’d be surprised if they didn’t sell a lot of these. And for those urban apartment dwellers who want an all-in-one, front end only, compact private headphone listening setup, why not a Trio? Throw a USB DAC in this same box and you can listen to all your vinyl, plus digital audio files, Spotify, Pandora, satellite radio, etc from your laptop.

Simply Nobody's picture

May be Rafe could also review VPI Nomad (now V2 version) turntable with built in phono stage and headphone output? :-) .............

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