- Written by Larry Hryshko
- Published on 06 August 2009
- Cambridge Audio 840 Series CD Player, Stereo Preamplifier, and Stereo Power Amplifier
- Page 2: Design Features of the Cambridge Audio 840 Series
- Page 3: Set up of the Cambridge Audio 840 Series
- Page 4: Cambridge Audio 840 Series in Use
- Page 5: Conclusions About the Cambridge Audio 840 Series
- All Pages
One of the many things I love about music is that it can turn me into a blithering idiot. A number of songs grab me emotionally and send shivers up my spine, an effect that's greatly magnified on a really nice system. This all started as a kid, when listening to Clarence Carter's "Patches", R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana wants me", or Wayne Newton's "Daddy, don't you walk so fast" on 45's could bring me close to tears. I'm not suggesting that these songs will do it for you, and no, I didn't use any of them for this evaluation, but I'm sure that many of you know what I mean. My shivery choices for this evaluation were "My beloved wife" from Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily CD and Elton John's "Indian Sunset" from the "Madman Across the Water" CD. Yep, the chills were there. Both of these artists sing with such passion and emotion in these songs that I'm turned into a sopping floor puddle. The Cambridge trio captured every subtle crack in Natalie's voice and perfectly conveyed the sadness and despair in Elton's tale. The "chill factor" provided by the Cambridge trio is near the best I have ever heard.
Next, I listened to a number of recordings that I'm intimately familiar with and that I know to be well recorded and produced. "Slow body poppin" from Billy Cobham's Warning CD delivers some gut-slamming bass and searing guitar despite its unassuming title. Again, perfect instrument placement and pop was delivered to the Genesis. I kept cranking the dial until I feared for my speakers, but I had no reason to believe that the Cambridge lacked more throttle than I was willing to deliver. I then moved to Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin's Harlequin CD, which was a drug used by many audio shops to hook potential customers back in its day. The first time I heard the title track, it felt like I was getting repetitive glaucoma tests. When this didn't happen with the Cambridge, I was a little disappointed………..until I remembered to take off my glasses. There it was. Eye-popping mid bass and Ivan Lins' stunning vocals, all delivered perfectly through the Genesis.
With Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes", the soundstage was the largest I have ever heard my KEFs deliver. They have never performed better and truly disappeared in this massive barrage of sound extending from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Here, this song left me giddy with fondness as to how stunningly three dimensional a good two channel set-up can be. Go Frankie! Finally, I tried to stay within Cambridge's Class A volume range with Dire Straits "Love Over Gold" CD and Roger Waters "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking" CD using the Proac Tablettes. Both of these recordings have great depth and imaging, although the latter can be brutally sibilant on lower quality gear. Pure late night pleasure that sounded as dramatic and vibrant as I've heard on systems costing five times this price. Even though I've nearly worn the pits and bits off of these CDs, the Cambridge trio offers them up sounding almost brand new. Overkill amplification for the Tablettes, to be sure, but they certainly matched well with this system and I've never met a speaker that didn't respond well to high quality signals and amplification.
Even after a lot of listening with the Cambridge, it is still really hard to find adjectives and superlatives that truly encapsulate the great qualities of this system. No matter what I threw in the tray, bass was incredibly well controlled over a wide range of listening volumes, ranging from loud to louder to loudest. At any sane volume level, there was never a hint that I was approaching the amplifier's thermal control or clipping limits. Just tight killer bass. The separation of instruments and vocals was steadfast throughout and there was a very wide sense of space in all dimensions. However, it's my description of the top-end where I know I will fail the most at conveying the true beauty of these components. It was neither bright nor glaring, but everything is there. It is certainly not what I would call warm or curtailed, but, but, but……….it revealed new content in recordings that I've probably listened to over a hundred times on several dozen different systems. So let's go with strident without being harsh, piercing but clean. I don't exactly know which member of the 840 trio should get the credit, but as a package, this system is an absolute knockout.