It’s been a while since we’ve held a Cambridge integrated amplifier in our hands. So we had no expectations when we pressed play.
What immediately stands out about the Cambridge is its open presentation. Voices come forward very prominently. Especially when we use the built-in Sabre dac (we play from the Ambre to the Mutec MC3+ USB reclocker and then optically into the Cambridge). When we go from the Pavane analog to the Cambridge, we hear a little more calmness. Which makes sense, given the class of the converter. This shows that the Cambridge amplifier is quite transparent and that the ‘up-frontness’ is mainly in the digital part. It is up to you to decide what you like.
In terms of detail we can only say: hats off. We do not miss anything in the overall presentation. The various layers in the music are easy to follow and in live recordings space and acoustics can be determined. It is actually quite bizarre that this level is achievable at this price point.
Looking at imaging and focusing, we must again conclude that the CXA61 does a very good job. The image is stable and large enough to go along with the music. The Focals disappear nicely when the music allows it. Don’t forget that we connected a pair of Focal Sopras of almost 9000 euros per pair to this amplifier. They let us hear everything: including the mistakes that an amplifier makes. In short: excellent performance!
As we have previously reported, we also listened to the Arcam SA10. Other models you can think of: Marantz PM7000 series, Denon PMA1600NE, Cyrus ONE, Rega BRIO… Some have a dac, some don’t. The Arcam has almost an equal feature set with analog and digital in.
The Arcam SA10 offers 2 x 50 watts. Slightly less than the Cambridge. The Arcam also uses an ESS chip: the 9016K2M. A slightly fancier model. The reproduction differences are mainly in the midrange, we noticed. The Arcam is a bit calmer in that area. This is also audible in the samples. Which one is better, is mainly taste and the combination with the speakers if you ask us.