It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Cambridge Audio’s hi-fi offerings. Time and time again their products impress with their exemplary build quality, extensive though logical features, exceptional sound quality and a value for money that is unheard of at the price. The 651P, reviewed in 2014, was no different. Part of the Azur 651 range and Cambridge’s flagship phono stage, the 651P was a staggeringly good MM / MC phono stage for a modest £120 outlay.
Following the introduction of Cambridge AUdio’s CX range which replaces the 651 series as well as the Stream Magic and AVR lines, two new phono stages, the CP1 and CP2, were introduced. They replace the 551P and 651P stages respectively, and are largely similar in terms of features and design albeit with a jump in price to £100 and £150 for the CP1 and CP2 respectively.
The purpose of a phono stage, sometimes known as a phono preamplifier, is to amplify the minute signal generated by a phono cartridge to a line level signal. It also performs RIAA equalisation on the signal from the cartridge, reversing an equalisation curve applied to the music when a record is cut. The CP1 is a moving magnet only stage, while the CP2 supports both moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges. The CP2 also implements a switchable subsonic filter, while both models feature a balance control allowing the relative levels of the left / right channels to be adjusted to compensate for channel imbalance within the cartridge itself.
Both units feature class A gain stages and discrete transistor input circuits as opposed to the integrated circuits used in most similarly priced preamplifiers. Both models feature passive RIAA equalisation, though a few component changes including multi-parallel capacitors allow the CP2 to achieve a RIAA accuracy of 0.3dB at 20hz-50kHz as opposed to the CP1’s <+/-0.65dB 25hz-20kHz.
MM cartridge loading on both units is fixed at 47K ohm, 220PF. The CP2’s moving coil input is fixed at 100 ohms, 220PF. As with the 651P, I would like to see the ability to adjust the MC loading resistance and capacitance values. While the fixed loading value at 100 ohms is the recommended for many cartridges, the 220PF capacitance value means the best performance may not be realised from some cartridges that the CP2 would otherwise be more than capable of handling.
The units aren’t unlike their predecessors in appearance, sporting an all metal casework with a thick aluminium front panel and a wrap-around top cover. The styling has been updated however to include a front plinth spanning the length of the units and designed to match the new CX components.
Build quality is excellent, the only minor flaw being a small amount of flexing in the terminals at the rear. The units are light (0.8KG and 0.9KG for the CP1 and CP2 respectively), though the casework is solid with no flexing or resonance.
Sound wise I have no complaints. My first test involved running the CP2 on its moving magnet setting with a cartridge connected and the turntable properly grounded. Turning up the amplifier allowed me to assess the idle noise of the CP2, or more accurately the lack of idle noise. Both on the MM and MC inputs, the CP2 produces less idle noise than a Rega Aria and every other phono stage on hand. Less noise equals more music, so that’s a huge plus in my book
And the positives continue. The CP2 renders vinyl with its characteristic warmth intact. Stereo separation is excellent, and there’s no evident distortion even when running a moving magnet cartridge with a healthy 5MV output. The moving coil stage is a little noisier than the moving magnet stage, but it offers greater dynamics and is more involving than the latter which favours detail and is over all a more relaxed sound.
In summary, another remarkable effort from Cambridge Audio. The CP2 is an excellent phono stage for the money. It’s well made and aesthetically pleasing with a sound to match. It needs a fully adjustable MC section to truly better the competition, but even as it is it’s one of the best in its class. Highly recommended.