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Anthony’s Blog – September 2020

By Anthony's Blog

Cambridge Azur 851W: For Golden Ears In Their Golden Years

In less than 2 months I’ll turn 60 and, unlike the ageless Michael Fremer, I’ll need to start changing my lifestyle to reflect my years. I’ll contemplate clipping coupons, shopping on Wednesdays for the Senior Citizens Discount, joining AARP, moving to an “Over 55” community and referring to everyone as “Sonny” or “Kid.” And of course, the half-million-dollar stereo will have to go because at my age, I’ve been told I can no longer hear the difference.

I mention all of this because I recently purchased “Budget” amps for my shore house: not because I can’t hear, however, but because I CAN. The centerpiece of my shore house system is a Bespoke Audio passive preamp, which both Fremer and the dear departed Art Dudley reviewed—and loved—in Stereophile. Still, despite what Bespoke says about “Universal compatibility,” this passive didn’t like many of the amps, even some insanely expensive ones, with which I’ve partnered it. It’s worth the effort though, not just because this preamp has the potential to sound great—ultra pure and dead-nuts quiet—but because it is the single most beautiful high-end component I’ve ever owned. Visitors to my home routinely stare at it with lust and envy. I like that!

For the past couple of years, I’ve used the Bespoke with a few carefully chosen, very expensive amps and it sounded pretty damn fine, in part because I was driving an efficient pair of speakers. Recently, I changed to less sensitive loudspeakers and dynamics suffered, a point that was driven home when Tom Altobelli, President of Woodbridge Stereo, visited, looked admiringly at the preamp and asked about it. When I told him it was a passive he knowingly nodded “That explains it.” I immediately understood. And agreed.

So, here’s the part where my impending decrepitude comes in: I knew I needed a more compatible amp and if it were ten years ago, money wouldn’t have been an object but now, my miserly older self told me it was.  Which is how I wound up with a pair of Cambridge Audio Azur 851Ws.

Despite my newfound frugality, I actually hadn’t price-shopped the 851Ws, rather, I was searching for maximum input sensitivity and input impedance. At 0.775 mV and 38 kOhms (both figures for Bridged, Balanced Input) respectively, not to mention 500 Watts into 8 Ohms and 800 into 4, these are the most appropriately-spec-ed power amps in my rep portfolio. Then I looked at the price. At $1,699 MSRP each, they’re also the least expensive power amplifiers I sell, as well as the most versatile, offering both XLR and RCA inputs and outputs, two pairs of binding posts per channel, 12V triggers, remote control, switchable Stereo/Bridged/Biamped modes as well as switchable AC Voltage and a bunch of other goodies that make the 851W work in situations where most amps won’t.

I’m old enough to remember the hoopla surrounding the ADCOM GFA-555 when it debuted in the ‘80’s. Also 200 Watts Per Channel into 8 Ohms it became, for a decade, the benchmark for entry-level high end amplifiers. And yet, it couldn’t approach the 851W’s gorgeous aluminum casework, its connector complement and connection versatility, the discrete toroidal transformers for input and amplifier circuits…or its sound. The onset of old age has undoubtedly dulled my sonic memory but I don’t recall the 555 being nearly this refined, nor did it combine treble airiness and detail with a total lack of transistor grain the way the 851 does.

I spent much of last Friday installing the 851Ws, rebuilding my racks and rewiring my entire system to accommodate them. As I wrote earlier in this blog, these two amps—at under $3,400 MSRP per pair—replaced a vastly more expensive stereo amp (name withheld to protect the innocent) and outperformed it from the moment I turned them on. (Sensitivity and compatibility have something to do with this, but not everything.) When my girlfriend—a musically sensitive listener but not an audiophile (thank God!)—arrived in the afternoon, she had no idea that I’d changed gear but she immediately heard an improvement and asked why the system sounded so much better…why the little details that replicate reality were so much more present. She got it right away, without any coaching from me.

The next day, Tom Altobelli came over for dinner again and sitting at the table, back to the stereo, he noticed something different and asked me what had changed. Tom is a Cambridge Audio dealer and glancing at the 851Ws behind him, remarked “I just sold one to an old client and he loves it! Any idea why it’s so cheap?” Honestly, I have no idea how Cambridge does it but I’m happy they do and even happier I bought mine.

The Cambridge Azur 851W is certainly an ideal “Entry-level” amp for aspiring high-enders but, on a selfish note, it also seems the perfect amp for “Golden Ear” music lovers entering their Golden Years: they’re powerful enough to drive most any speaker, versatile enough to work in any system and, at $1,699 each, inexpensive enough to respect the retirement account. The only problem I can see is that, as these amps are built to last a lifetime, they’ll probably survive their aged owners. Choose your heirs wisely….


Sound & Vision: September ’20 Newsletter

By Newsletters

Hello Specialty Sound & Vision Dealers,

Please enjoy our latest newsletter…..


Leon: TcFIT Universal NOW SHIPPING!

Originally designed for Sonos ARC and BEAM as well as Playbar, Leon’s TcFIT Universal is the solution for bringing Leon Custom Quality to low-end soundbars.


Cambridge Audio: ALVA TT: NEW Lower MAP

Complete with Moving Coil cartridge, phono preamplifier, aptX HD Hi-Res Streaming and British-Made one-piece tonearm, Cambridge’s ALVA TT is a steal at $1,699. Starting October 1, MAP will be lowered to $1,199, making the ALVA one of the best buys in Analog! Ask us.

Anthony Buys Cambridge Amps: At $1,699 MSRP each and 500 Watts in mono, Cambridge Audio’s Azur 851W amps are an obscene bargain. Anthony bought a pair for his shore house and LOVES THEM! Expect a blog about these….


JL Audio: NEW Full Line Brochure

One of the most impressive pieces of marketing collateral in my experience, JL’s NEW 64 page Home Audio brochure is sales tool elevated to artwork.

Given its high production costs, we’re only shipping a small quantity so here’s a link to share with customers….

Wisdom Audio: ICS3 “Minimum Aperture” speaker and SUB1 “Snorkel Sub” shipping soon!!!

Arguably the two most exciting and universally saleable products in Wisdom history, the ICS3 Minimum Aperture” speaker and SUB1 “Snorkel Sub” are on their way and will ship in November! Demand is overwhelming and pre-orders are booming so please ask us for details.

Wisdom’s NEW Full-Line Brochure is here! Get your digital copy, below….




Cambridge Audio

  • Edge A Integrated Amplifier receives 5 star review from The Ear

  • AXr85 & AXR100 reviewed by


MOON by Simaudio

  • 860a v2 receives editor’s choice award from The Ear



  • Oscar Series Trio reviewed by Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity

  • Oscar Series Duo Reviewed by Enjoy the Music


JL Audio

  • Fathom f110 gets reviewed by Stereophile and Sound & Vision



  • EVO 400 get reviewed by The Absolute



  • Confidence 50 gets reviewed by Part-Time audiophile


Jorma Design Digital Cable



As always, SSV is here to support you! Please let us know how we can help!

Sounds & Vision: July ’20 Newsletter

By Newsletters

Hello Specialty Sound & Vision Dealers,

Please take a moment to check out our latest newsletter….


Pandemic/ What Pandemic?

In his masterpiece “The Waste Land,” T S Eliot wrote “April is the cruelest month….”. He was right: we hit a COVID-induced sales slump in April but business bounced back in May and sales grew again in June. .

Looks like people are investing in their homes and we’re actually ahead of 2019 in most categories, especially reasonably priced, two channel gear. Let’s talk about brands that might work for you.


LEON TcFIT Universal Shipping NOW!

Leon’s original TcFIT has been the most successful product in company history. Our new, “Universal” version is poised to reach an even greater audience! A new, adjustable frame (Patent Pending) enables TcFIT Universal to work with all SONOS soundbars, as well as other brands. The ability to custom-match virtually any television and soundbar is a unique and powerful advantage that no other audio company offer. Please contact us for details.


Cambridge Awards Keep Coming and Sales Keep Growing!

Cambridge’s value-packed AXA35 Integrated has just been named “Best Budget Integrated” by Gear Patrol while our AXR85 AM/FM Stereo Receiver (we’re one of the few companies that offer these) has been featured in the nationally syndicated “Sound Advice” newspaper column and praised by Journalist Don Lindich “…It’s very satisfying to own and use, and does an especially good job with FM radio. I have recommended the AXR85 to many people who have emailed me for recommendations, and everyone has been very pleased with their purchase.” Thanks Don!

Meanwhile, the CXA81 keeps generating positive reviews, including one from Anthony, who bought an ’81 for his shore house and LOVES it! Meanwhile, Analog Guru Michael Fremer (who has reviewed virtually every state-of-the-art turntable) was mightily impressed by our Alva Bluetooth Turntable and highly recommended it in his “Analog Planet” website.


JL Sales Skyrocket

JL Audio subwoofers might not boom but sales sure have! June sales were up approximately 30% versus 2019, which had previously been a June record.

Installer’s Note: JL Audio now offers a 100’ microphone extension cord, which facilitates DARO Calibration when the equipment rack isn’t near the subwoofer. Please order Model CAL-MIC-EXT, sku # 90488

Explore their powered subwoofers »


Dynaudio Architectural Scores Big!

Dynaudio’s Performance and Studio series of architectural speakers have been gaining widespread acceptance from NY Metro dealers, including some of the largest integrators in the territory. Sonics, build quality and a useful assortment of models have made Dynaudio Architectural a smashing success. Please ask us why.

Learn more here »


Thorens TD 1600 Series Is Here!

Founded in 1883, Thorens is the world’s oldest consumer electronics company and has quickly become one of SSV’s best-selling and fastest-growing product lines.. The company’s new TD 1600 and TD 1601 suspended-subchassis ‘tables evoke the heritage of the classic TD 160 series while delivering state-of-the-art performance. Highly recommended.


SBooster: The Ultimate Pandemic Purchase

What if you could transform the performance of ANY product with an outboard “Wall Wart” power supply? SBooster utilizes a massive toroidal transformer and a bank of high quality capacitors to generate pure 60Hz power, free of noise and voltage fluctuation, to massively upgrade any Turntable, DAC, Phono Preamp or other component that relies upon a dinky wall-wart. We’ve tried these on EAT Turntables, EAT and Simaudio Phono Preamps and the results we NOT subtle! At $399, this is a product that’s inexpensive enough to sell all your customers without an audition, and good enough that they’re sure to love it!

Visit Upscale Distribution for more »



As always, SSV is here to support you!

July’s SSV News…Get It While It’s Hot!

By Newsletters

Introducing Denise Ebanks 

Anthony is proud to announce SSV’s new Office Manager, Denise Ebanks.

Many of you have already spoken to Denise and she’s grown into her new position with surprising speed and skill. A veteran of the motion picture industry, Denise is responsible for the improved aesthetics of our email and Social Media communications. Her mastery of SSV Operations has empowered Anthony to spend more time supporting sales activities. Please join me in welcoming Denise to the SSV Team!

Leon: TcFIT for Sonos Arc Ships Friday!

While we await the NEW TcFIt Universal, Leon proudly offers the Modified Tonecase FIT for Sonos Arc.

Using “C” Bracket Adaptors enables the current-generation TcFIT to accommodate Arc. Depth is 4.85” (5.35 with Grill). Best of all, Modified TcFIT and TcFIT-OS (for TVs exceeding 75” in diameter) are offered at identical pricing to our standard models, $650 MSRP/750 MSRP (for OS)

JL Audio: Free Freight Ends Friday!

Just a heads up that JLA’s “free freight on any order” offer for HOME products will expire at the end of this month (Friday, 31 July 2020). Most dealers are reporting strong Summer business and JL Audio Sales in NY Metro continue to skyrocket. JL sacrificed to support its dealers during the “Lean Months” but as the crisis abates, it’s time to return to business as usual. Dealers with pending sales might want to place one last order by close of business Friday to save with JL’s “free freight” offer.

Trinnov: YouTube Reviews

On his YouTube Channel “Spare Change,” reviewer Shane Lee has posted a series of extremely informative videos, one of which features Trinnov USA Managing Director Jon Herron’s insights regarding future upgrades. Our Thanks to Robert Zohn and Value Electronics for connecting Trinnov with Shane! Here’s the link:

Marten: First Review of Oscar Trio

The first North American review of Marten’s Oscar Series has just been published in Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, and it’s a major triumph! Reviewer Piero Gabucci concludes: “…I always ask myself the same question; could I live with this speaker if it were my last and my answer with the Marten Oscar Trio; wholeheartedly yes! Highly recommended.” Please read the full review:

Thorens: Michael Fremer LOVES the TD 1601!

Hot off the press! In the July 15 edition of Analog Planet, vinyl avatar Michael Fremer raves about Thorens’ NEW TD 1601, calling its isolation “Perfect.”  One of the best sub-$10K turntables and a steal at the price! Read it here:


Good times or bad, SSV is always here to support you! Please let us know how we can help.