Here at MajorHiFi, we rarely stray into the world of analog sound. Everything is digital now anyway, right? Yet there exists a certain sub-set of the audio world dedicated to those individuals who still disdain digital. Enter the Cambridge Audio DUO Preamp – a perfect companion to moving-coil or moving-magnet turntables. But at $299, does this posh preamp pass muster?
Cambridge Audio DUO MC/MM Phono Preamp Review
The DUO is packaged in an unprepossessing cardboard box. Accompanied by two power cables and a user manual, the DUO doesn’t come with a ton of accessories.
However, once you remove the fabric pouch holding the preamp, you realize just what level of quality you’re dealing with.
It’s hard to believe that the same country that produced the MG B somehow also begot this preamp. In all of it’s machined aluminum glory, the DUO seems to exude an air of accomplishment. It’s a solid, lightweight piece of tech that just looks plain good.
On the front of the unit there’s a power button, an input-switch button, a volume knob, and a 1/4” stereo out port. Taking a look ’round the back of the unit, you’ll find a RCA inputs for MM or CM record players, as well as a ground. There’s also RCA outputs for an amp or speaker, and a port for the AC adapter. Dominating the center of the back panel is a channel adjustment knob for fine-tuning balance.
Setup and use remains fairly straightforward, with the Cambridge DUO feeling very plug-and-play. However, for those who aren’t so lucky, there is a full troubleshooting section in the manual that walks first-time users through a range of solutions for any problem they might encounter.
Everything I pipe through this preamp sounds velvety smooth. There’s a complimentary warmth to the sound that works wonders with my vinyl library.
With my go-to cans, the Grado RS1e, the sound is impressive even with that smidgen of low-end warmth. On bassy headphones like my DT 1770, this same warmth can seem a bit too much, though.
That being said, I would still rate the sound quality as fairly analytical. Pairing this preamp with a neutral headphone or a headphone with decent mid-high emphasis will yield phenomenal results.
Indeed, there’s a great deal of transparency and fidelity to this sound – revealing a rich and rewarding listening experience I just can’t tear myself away from.
For a phono preamp, the Cambridge DUO can seem a bit pricey at first glance. The ability to switch between MC and MM players, as well as the fantastic build and rich sound do much to recommend it, though. If you need cheap functionality, budget-minded phono preamps abound. Few of them will allow the use of headphones via the preamp alone, and none of them will deliver this grade of sound in such a robust and well-designed form factor.
With a solid price of $299, the Cambridge Audio DUO Phono Preamp will cost you a pretty penny. However, thanks to a capable sound and fantastic build, this machine delivers the goods…and then some. Few other options out there can match this kind of listening experience, which to put it mildly, is pretty amazing.
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