Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Azur 340A amplifer: Budget audiophile sound

Cambridge Azur 340A
The Cambridge Audio philosophy can be summed up in a single word: Minimalist. The British company was founded in 1968 and made a name for themselves in the 1970s with their P40 and P50 amplifiers. Faced with intense competition from offshore manufacturers, the company chose to pursue a minimalistic approach. So, while Japanese manufacturers attempt to differentiate themselves by adding 1001 digital features to even the most mundane equipment, Cambridge Audio equipment is sparse and sounds great.

The Azur series is a wonderful example of the Cambridge approach. The Azur successfully brings audiophile sound to the masses by steering clear of unnecessary bells and whistles. The least expensive model is the Azur 340A, which offers surprising quality for under $250. It puts out 2 x 40W (8 Ohms) and offers six inputs. There are no DSP chips lurking behind the aluminum front panel. In fact, I was somewhat surprised to discover that the unit includes a "modern" remote control. One especially welcome feature is a dual speaker system that allows multi-room installation or bi-wiring. Apart from that nicety, there is a headphone jack and tone control bypass for cleaner sound.

To keep costs low Cambridge had to cut several corners, but they kept the sound as refined as possible. This is definitely not an amplifier that will shake the neighborhood, although its sound quality is excellent value for the money. A rather unfortunate omission is the lack of a phono-level input. If you're a vinyl buff, you'll have to invest in the separate $89 Azur 540P preamplifier module. Also, this is simply an integrated amp (preamp and power amp in a single box), so don't expect to find an AM/FM tuner on board (not really an issue for me, since 99% of my listening material is CD, vinyl or iPod these days).

If you need a bit more power, the Azur series offers five other amplifiers that range up to the 120W Azur 840A, which features "Class XD" bi-amplification technology that operates as a pure Class A amp at low volumes, shifting to Class B as increased output is required.

Cambridge Audio Azur 340A integrated amplifier details
Azur 340A review [Positive Feedback Online]


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