Cambridge Audio 640P phono stage review.
more of a initial impression really.
but yeah, finally landed a 640p to complete an all cambridge audio setup in the study. ive been thoroughly impressed with the British brand since i took the plunge with the entry level Azur 340 intergrated amplifier.. which i can honestly say is some serious bang for the buck.
its been some time since then and ive left the plucky little 340A for its brawnier sibling, the 640A. Cambridge’s much acclaimed DacMagic handles digital sources and now the 640P phono stage will round off the kit driving a pair of Focal 806V speakers.
The 640P arrived in usual Cambridge fashion. its nice to be presented with packaging that makes the unboxing feel like a somewhat special affair. Suffice to say, its packed well, complete with signature blue cloth protective cover. Its a handsome thing, clad in a sturdy case. It provides inputs for both MM and MC and a subsonic filter. Details and specs : http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/summary.php?PID=29&Title=Azur+640P+phono+stage
After moving some gear around to make space for the new arrival, i finally decided that the dacmagic and the 64op would sit side by side in blissful poetic analog and digital harmony atop the 640A amp… after connecting everything up, with crossed fingers, i fired her up. i couldnt wait to hear the beautiful music it promised. unfortunately,…. there was no music from the heavens, and angels did not cry tears of joy… the stylus wouldnt be caressing the vinyl just yet. it was going to be one of those days… i sighed, ripped off my shirt with an almighty roar and prepared to wrestle murphy into submission. apparently crossing my fingers wasn’t quite enough.
After turning everything on, i noticed there was a hum coming from the speakers… thought to myself, thats odd. wasnt there before. so, did the usual, double checked all connections etc.. still humming. huh? swapped in the AT peq3.. and no hum!! okay… swapped the 640p back into the loop and theres that hum again. and it was an audible hum. thought maybe the ground wasnt secure so i pulled out the 640p from atop the amp to tighten it and suddenly noticed the hum disappeared.. what? put it back and the hum appeared again. at which point i realised that the hum was caused by interference from the amp’s power supply… so, for prospective 640P owners, keep in mind that location matters. Once i moved it to above the tuner.. it was silent even with the volume cranked up way high. the 640p could very well be better shielded.
Right, with that sorted, i sat back to give it a listen. the gear: technics sl-1600mkII + Shure m97XE -> 640P -> cambridge 640A -> Focal 806V.
Right out of the box, listening to the boston pops rendition of the fiddler on the roof… it sounded rather bright. more so than with the dac magic (with digital sources) or the peq3. i did expect some idiosyncrasies to begin with, so let it slide for the duration. the treble was noticeably peaky and was harsh in instances. the 806vs are brutal speakers, which are on the bright side themselves and are terribly revealing of anything being fed to it. those mg-al inverted tweeters are a microscope to sonic flaws. at the onset, i figured the m97xe’s warm signature would perfectly complement the brash 806Vs. i figured (was hoping) that the 640p would settle down once run in for a while. Sound stage was noticeably improved, seemingly wider and instruments well defined with air around them (possibly due to the 640’s dual mono design?) compared to the peq3. if i wasnt doing a direct ABx, the improvements aren’t obviously blatant. thats a testament to just how good the peq3 is. still, the 640p is a definite step up though. as usual, its all very gear dependent. the improvements were much more noticeable when paired with the Focals but less so when paired with the silk domed and kevlar affair that is the cambridge s30 mini monitors which are more forgiving.
Compared to the yamaha cr-2020’s built in phono stage.. well, its a different kettle of fish all together. it may be just 20 year old caps,.. but its got a warmer, lush sound compared to the 640p’s pin point detailed sound, if i could put it in that way to make some sense out of it. i couldnt honestly tell you which one is better, i like them both in different ways.
three days on, the 640p has definitely settled down somewhat. its left powered on 24/7 thanks to the omission of a power switch. the peakiness in the treble has subsided and if im hearing it right, the bass has improved,… more extension, palpable and overall well rounded. separation is remarkable, more so than with the peq3. the set up is very transparent, easily disappearing, getting out of the way of the music. Without getting into specifics, let me just say that Randy Travis and Norah Jones played back beautifully, just as i hoped it would. If anything in the past few days, the overall presentation has taken on the inherent characteristics of the Focal 806Vs. i should expect more subtle changes over the days until it finally makes itself comfortable and right at home. Overall im pretty impressed with the 640P. apart from the initial rough going, its held up to its promises. Im pretty sure i felt an angels tear roll down the side of my cheek.
Edit: more ABx notes. PEQ3 vs 640P. same system as above. test album – dire straits self titled.