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Cambridge Audio Duo Phono Stage Review (Updated)

Rate this phono stage:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 4 2.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 10 6.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 62 41.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 74 49.3%

  • Total voters
    150

Digby

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One thing worth mentioning is this unit has very high output levels. That is fine if using an analogue amp, but with loud 45rpm 12" records, it was clipping my RME Babyface input. Only on units where you can adjust for very low input (lower than standard levels) can you avoid this, if you play loudly cut 45rpm 12" records.
 

AudioSceptic

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I don’t think so, but I’m new to this? My Preamp is right next to my TT.

Cartridge > 3ft Technics stock cables > Phono Preamp 47kohm > 40ft Canare > Pre/Pro.
As far as the FR of the cartridge is concerned, the wiring between the cartridge and the phono preamp, plus the preamp's input loading, are what matter. The phono preamp outputs line level and the Canare cables will have (only) the same effect on that as they would on any other line level source.
 

andrewskaterrr

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As far as the FR of the cartridge is concerned, the wiring between the cartridge and the phono preamp, plus the preamp's input loading, are what matter. The phono preamp outputs line level and the Canare cables will have (only) the same effect on that as they would on any other line level source.
Ok that was my understanding as well.
 

Jaimo

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I think you should get this and buy me a beer with the money saved. It's a great wee unit.

I have the ART Precision Phono and have to say that I have no real issues with this on my Technics SL100C with stock AT VM95C MM cartridge.

I listen to vinyl only occasionally nowadays and I am tempted to hook up my DL103R and Softone SUT into the ART, I’m not sure that this will be a significant step up from the existing configuration.

I do have a question however - will a Solo phono amp fed from my Softone SUT and Denon DL103R improve on the AT/Art combo?
 

Digby

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I do have a question however - will a Solo phono amp fed from my Softone SUT and Denon DL103R improve on the AT/Art combo?
I found the Solo to sound indistinguishable from the Duo. It seemed to have better bass than the ART, however there was something interesting/good about the treble on the ART. I stuck with the Solo in the end, but it really is six of one, half a dozen of the other with this comparison.
 

Cwopete5

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The funny thing is, I've owned the Cambridge Audio Duo Phono Stage and sold it. I bought it based on the first ASR review but found it less than dynamic. Ironically, I am currently listening to a Darlington Labs MM5 and find it much more satisfying. I don't sit there listening and worrying about its SINAD or THD, it just sounds good.
IMG_5884.jpeg
 

CT Man

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This idea might solve my issue of not having a line-in on the DMP-A6 to connect a phono stage to. It had occurred to me, but it didn't see the point of converting analogue to digital and then reconverting it back to analogue.

My wife would actually prefer to have the turntable on a different piece of furniture; 5 meters away from where audio equipment is. So this might actually tick that box too.



This sounds pretty involved; lol. We don't have any amazon devices, so want to keep it as "clean" as possible.
It's less involved to use than it sounds. The Adcom preamp works as an RCA switch for its sources without powering it on. I only need to turn on the Adcom for the turntable, just as you'd do with a standalone phono preamp. The Amazon Link automatically switches to whatever input has an active signal. The WiiM Pro automatically plays the Amazon Link wifi output. So, all I need to do is turn on my main system amp and play a CD , or select an analog source on the Adcom. The only user difference from a direct connection to my main system is having sources in a different room.

But I agree it makes more sense if you already have the Amazon Link, or have other reasons to buy one. Maybe they'll be available at a good price used someday soon.

BTW the tuner sounds much better than the typical low bit rates on internet radio, which especially kills classical music. I still pick up CDs directly from musicians at jazz clubs. I have a large LP and CD collection from the 70s, 80s, 90s that fills in what isn't available, or what is suddenly dropped, from Qobuz. I'm getting closer to 100% streaming, but not quite there yet.
 

LTig

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Stumbled upon a used Duo today at the local dealer and couldn't resist. Mint condition without original box for €120 was a no brainer. It replaces my (excellent I dare say) DIY MC phono stage which consists of two 1U 19" housings and still has no subsonic filter:facepalm:

Well, what can I say? Dead silent and great sound (same as my DIY preamp). Science works, and I can lay my DIY preamp at rest.

Sitting here for hours playing records from the past bringing back memories of my youth almost forgotten.
 

TheBatsEar

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Stumbled upon a used Duo today at the local dealer and couldn't resist. Mint condition without original box for €120 was a no brainer.
Sweet price indeed. :cool:
 

LTig

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Stumbled upon a used Duo today at the local dealer and couldn't resist. Mint condition without original box for €120 was a no brainer. It replaces my (excellent I dare say) DIY MC phono stage which consists of two 1U 19" housings and still has no subsonic filter:facepalm:

Well, what can I say? Dead silent and great sound (same as my DIY preamp). Science works, and I can lay my DIY preamp at rest. [..]
Tried the headphone output with Sennheiser HD800, AKG K371bt (via cable) and Truthear X Trinacle Zero Red. Great sound and certainly loud enough (HD800 volume at 3:00, K371bt and Zero Red at 12: 00) even with high dynamic range recordings (just playing Pink Floyd's Wish you were here). More SPL will be bad for your hearing anyway, so for most headphones the amp suffices.

IMV as long as the cartridge matches its inputs this phono preamp is all you'll ever need.
 

abdo123

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Those who are looking to buy one in Europe, I’m offering one for sale:

 

egellings

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This is an updated review of the Cambridge Audio Duo phono preamplifier. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $349.
View attachment 301088
The Duo has a solid build and is attractive to boot for its price. Back panel shows independent sets of inputs for moving magnet and coil cartridges:

View attachment 301089

I like the inclusion of balance control and built-in power supply.

The original version was tested very early on when I had gotten into phono stage testing. My protocols have evolved since then making it hard to compare those measurements to current phono stage reviews.

Cambridge Audio Duo Measurements
It was challenging to reduce ground loops in both channels. After some messing around, I got close to optimal on both channels:
View attachment 301090
This lands the Duo essentially at the top of the class:

View attachment 301091

We still have that odd spikes around 19 kHz. Moving coil input naturally has lower SINAD due to much higher gain:
View attachment 301093

Distortion is vanishingly low when measured without noise:
View attachment 301094

RIAA equalization is essentially perfect in both modes:
View attachment 301095

Headroom could be a bit better:
View attachment 301096

Fortunately the same performance remains up to 10 kHz:
View attachment 301097

Conclusions
While the cost has gone up $50, the Duo is still reasonably priced for a solid package both physically and electronically. The only miss is with respect to overload due to output maxing out at 10.5 volts. Otherwise we have excellent frequency response and state of the art in distortion in a phono stage.

My excellent recommendation rating for Cambridge Audio Duo remains.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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I think that that level of overload won't be a problem, since that's way more than a line stage or a power amp would ever need to get to full power.
 

ivanj

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I run the official +4dB Harman Curve from JBL, and have 4x PB-1000 Pro subs, 2 of which are on either side of the Turn Table shelf. While I don't think I hear any rumble with my current MP-4 which does not have a HPF, I still would like a HPF to make sure. My in room response reaches @13hz @-6dB but is on a fast slope down after that.
Have you considered moving your turntable/phono stage to another room, or eschew vinyl altogether? Sorry to be so direct.
 

andrewskaterrr

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Have you considered moving your turntable/phono stage to another room, or eschew vinyl altogether? Sorry to be so direct.
No room to put it in another room, and that would be awkward. Also I rarely play vinyl and it’s only for fun. If I want serious music playback I’ll play digital. I haven’t had any rumble issues though so that’s good.
 

wemist01

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Any reason the Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2 USB isn't listed on the SINAD chart? It was measured above 80 for MM.
 
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