Cambridge 851C vs Oppo 205

Ok, so I own both players and bought my 205 direct on the last run Oppo made and with all the praise everyone gave this player I set back and read all the post this deck received and kept my opinion silent because I had no idea how the Oppo stacked up so what the heck... I pulled the trigger and bought one.

Well I took some time to learn the Oppo and have spent time comparing it to my Cambridge. Whether you buy into the debate of aftermarket fuses or not I should note my 851C has two SR Black fuses so maybe that has elevated this player from its stock form. The Oppo has not been tweaked whatsoever but comparing both players they both used a Nordost Vishnu PC and WyWires Silver balanced IC direct to my preamp using their own DAC.

I’m just going to jump in and get right to the point; the Oppo is not a giant killer. Is the Oppo a well made, well package and a heavy player weight wise? Yes it is. I have not used the Oppo for video but only 2 channel audio which is what I’ve read so many here going on and on about. The Oppo does nothing wrong or does it have an offensive sound, if anything I will say it is on the softer side, maybe a little laid back. Now I’m not saying I’m not enjoying this machine but I do find it a little polite but that being said I don’t feel or hear it’s missing anything. In a way I find it’s a little slow and I don’t mean by timing but it lacks pace, not a lot of PRaT. 

The Oppo seems to be a little flat and closed in compared to the Cambridge. On fast or complex music the Oppo gets the notes out but seems as it’s working hard to keep up where the Cambridge doesn’t. The Cambridge has speed and extension and doesn’t soften things. From top to bottom the a Cambridge is much more refined and I feel I’m thinking less about what it’s doing whereas the Oppo I feel like it’s holding back.

Let’s get back to the Cambridge. The 851C has more of everything. The top end has air or more extension. I don’t find notes or instruments are fighting who’s first, it’s as if they have their own space and time and they’re cool with it. The bass is quicker and more extended, not bloated as the Oppo. The Oppo top end to me at least on my system is a little soft and between top to bottom I find it’s bass is it’s stonger point but it’s a little slow and notes hang a little too long, not much texture; the pluck of a bass is there but it’s more of a note where the Cambridge I feel a persons finger made it happen... there’s texture to it.

in short those that have purchased the Oppo did just fine and maybe on video it’s a beast. I’ve not tried it on video but will in due time. For those who feel they have bought a machine that is the holy grail and the last word in digital playback; well it’s not this deck, but maybe it’s the best you’ve heard and that’s fine. For those who didn’t get their email in to buy the last run before they stopped making this player don’t sweat it. Those who are on the fence thinking of paying 2 to 3x times what this player cost new, Don’t!

Well I bought the 205 so I could hear what all the fuss was. It’s a nice player and I have no regrets. My Cambridge has several, several thousands of hours on it where the Oppo maybe a couple hundred so maybe it still needs more time but I don’t think it will ever catch up to the Cambridge. The Cambridge plays only audio and cost more new than than the Oppo for good reason. Between the two, for two channel audio, the Cambridge is King. If I was on the fence sending the Oppo to ModWright to mod I’m not now. Sorry Dan.
I don’t know much about the Cambridge.  Does it play the same file formats as the Oppo?  Can it stream like the 205?  Is it a BDP, or, since it is an older player, DVD only?  And are you using it as a transport only, or are you using the DAC section of both players?
And an important question for me—can the Cambridge output the DSD layer of SACDs, as the Oppo can?
  I agree with you that I would not pay the current going rate for the Oppo.  However, if you want to sell it for what you paid, I’ll be the first in line.
I just looked up the Cambridge.  It’s just a CDP and a DAC.  No SACD capability and can’t be used as a streamer.  No video.  It also is listed at 25% higher price than the 205 was going for prior to being discontinued.
  Considering that it has about 25%of the functionality of the 205 and sells for 25% more, it damn well better sound better as a disc spinner.
Post removed 
Post removed 
Post removed 
Oh I don’t regret picking up a last run Oppo 205 at all. I was going nuts while waiting for it as I was hoping for 2 channel it bettered what I have. I will use it for video or maybe keep it in my system as on poorer recordings which there’s plenty off it takes the edge off of them where the Cambridge doesn’t. For what I paid for the 205 I’m very pleased with my purchase.

I dont have many (three) SACD’s that I purchased for this player and don’t see the need to buy more. As far as streaming goes I’m using a Bluesound Vault 2, but using the DAC in the Cambridge as it’s superior to the Vault. The DAC in the Vault is a little rolled off too, but it’s not bad.

Not sure I’d spend the money on a new 851C today but used most definitely if the price was right; not sure if they still make them which wouldn’t surprise me if they stopped. 

I should drag home a PS Audio DAC from my local dealer as I’d suspect that would be an upgrade as I know DACs have greatly improved over the last few years.

I’m not too motivated to open the 851C up to put the stock fuses back in but I bet this would narrow the gap so maybe I’ll open up the Oppo to see what can be done there. The fuses in the 851C definitely opened that player up from top to bottom.


For this novice that is considering a 851, could you tell me more about the SR Black fuses.

Thank you

The 851C with stock fuses is a fine player but swap out the fuses it really moved up in performance. I replaced both fuses. The top end became more extended with more openness less stress a blacker background or lower noise floor. Botttom end became maybe a little deeper but definitely more tight and refined. As is with the fuses and cables it just gets out of the way and does its job very well. The fuses were a huge transformation from the get go without burning them in. I’m not sure as some say there’s a burn in time on the fuses but regardless they made a nice improvement. Synergistic Research offers a 30 day money back trial so I did it and never looked back. Anyone who owns a 851C with stock fuses is missing out but it is dependent on how revealing ones system is.
Interesting post. I also got a 205 from the last run. Sent it to Ric at EVS for his mods. Came back sounding more open and quiet. The 205 sound did take a long play time to smooth out. Seemed like 100's of hours.

Kind of at a dead end now, as I want to have one player for for CD, SACD and video. Maybe I’ll go the route of adding a separate DAC some day.
I don't have a 205 but I do have a Modwright  BPD 83SE with the outboard tubed power supply.  The 6SN7's are the Psvane CV-181 and the 5AR4 is some huge Russian variant.  I had a Cambridge 851C and extensively compared the two sans preamp into a Cambridge 840W, a pair of Xindak XA8800 monoblocks (the big ones), and a 4 channel Jaton AV-AP5140.  Speakers were BG Corp 520DX, Meadowlark Hot Rod Herons, and Triangle Luna 260's.  Both players had stock fuses (as far as I know on the Oppo that is).   I'll keep it brief in saying that I kept the Oppo and let the Cambridge go.  The Cambridge was an all around fine player but the Modwright Oppo was slightly more detailed and certainly possessed a deeper, wetter soundstage, being more palpable.  I did prefer the Cambridge in the lower range being faster and more articulate.  I'm not criticizing the Cambridge at all; just saying that the 205 modified by Modwright should be a significant improvement though the additional cost with quality tubes is equivalent to buying another 851C so it should be quite a bit better.  
Nothing particularly newsworthy here.  The Oppos have usually not been considered high performing units, though they are the Swiss Army knives of digital audio; they do a lot of different things.

Proving that is the industry of audio mods which as grown up around the Oppos.  The mods sometimes costing more than the cost of the Oppo itself.

I've made my Oppo 105 work to a high level eventually by ignoring its DAC section and hooking it up to a high performing separate DAC.  IMO that was the most efficient way to go--and maintaining sale-ability should the need arise.  Could have done just as well with  103.  And with the 105 (or 103) comes the easy ripping of SACDs.
Agree I’m late to the party but I find it’s newswiorthy because I purchased one based on a lot of people claiming it’s the Dragon Slayer even in stock form which it’s not. It’s a good player and jack of all trades sure. Someone else here very recently posted about are the 205’s worth the silly prices people are asking? Nope. For what it sold for new it’s a great unit, but for $2K and up... no way. Before I spent a sizeable amount of money to modify one I’d look at an outboard DAC that has the possibility to be upgraded. Just my opinion here.
To improve your sound- probably very enjoyably - on both units - particularly the Oppo 205, simply “try” an Equitech 2Q or top line Furman or other serious power conditioner. I hope you’re pleasantly surprised. 
The Oppo 205 also benefits significantly with a simple upgrade you can do yourself. Replace the digital power supply (used for the digital section) with the “Oppomod” LPS - linear power supply that people with very refined systems indicate makes significant improvements. There’s a thread on it. 
I have read up on Oppomod and may consider that. Believe I read earlier the fuses on the stock PS board are fixed but the Oppomod board they have holders so I can change out fuses as well.

Running directly to wall receptacles with dedicated circuits with AQ outlets. Probably going to look into either PS Audio, Audioquest or Nordost for an outlet. We have fairly clean power so I don’t feel it is a rush but no doubt it will likely be a improvement. Again my 851C is plugged direct to the wall too.
Adg101. Even a $500 used MIT ISO HC might be good :)  I use it to good benefit