Cambridge 851N DAC vs CXA81 DAC?

I’m curious if anyone has opinions on the two different DACs used in these two devices:

  • CXA81 uses a single ESS Sabre ES9016K2M DAC
  • 851N uses Twin Analog Devices AD1955 24-bit DACs

In my current setup, the 851N is connected via ethernet and I’m feeding it with Roon (and a handful of streaming radio stations directly on the device) and decoding on the 851, then connecting it to the CXA81 via balanced analog outputs. I love it; the combo sounds excellent (although the 81 is still new and a bit hot so I’m assuming it will open up and smooth out a bit after a few more days of usage). In this config the 81 is only handling analog inputs: the 851 DAC for streaming, the turntable (via a Parasound Z preamp), and a tape deck. As an integrated amp it’s probably a bit of an overkill but it’s nice to have options down the road, and it’s powering a pair of Polk LSi9s which love the extra power.

Eventually I’ll be adding a CXC CD transport to the mix and it’s got me thinking which DAC I should be using in the system: The 851N Analog Devices or the A81s ESS Sabre. I haven’t done my own test, that’s planned for some serious time over the holidays, but curious on general thoughts about these two DACs. I’d like to use the same DAC for all decoding so the CXC would either go into the 851 in the current config or it would go into the 81 and I’d move the 851 to transport so the 81 handles all DAC’ing.

And on the off change that anyone else is running this same Cambridge stack and has had success getting the 851 and the 81 to properly communicate over the control bus please let me know. The separate powering up/down is bugging me and the sleep timeout on the 81 is aggressive. Not a huge deal, just something that’s sticking with me.