Two weeks ago I took a look at the Cambridge Audio DUO Phono Preamp. Today, I’m following up with a look at the higher-end Cambridge CXA60, an integrated amplifier with a wealth of features. Retailing for a not-too-crazy $750, this spiffy amplifier supplies you with a solid audio nexus – but how does it sound?
Cambridge Audio CXA60 Integrated Amp Review
The first thing I notice about the Cambridge Audio CXA60 is how heavy it is. Not just solid-feeling, the CXA60 weighs a ton, giving the impression it will outlast time itself. The amplifier arrives in a heavy-duty cardboard box. In addition to the amp, you’ll also find a remote, power cables, and RCA cables – as well as some batteries for the remote and a quick-start guide.
A full manual is available on the Cambridge Audio Website. And, thank God for that, because this beast boasts a bounty of inputs and outputs, as well as some fine finishing touches that take the CXA60 from a good amp to a great amp.
On the front of the unit, you’ll find a standard MP3 line-in input, as well as a headphone out. There’s also a full control panel, allowing you to toggle between four analog sources, two speaker systems, three digital sources (including two TOSlink and one SPDIF), and a Bluetooth mode. For Bluetooth mode, the Cambridge Audio BT100 USB dongle ($79, sold separately) is required.
The front of the unit also sports four dials. Three recessed, spring-loaded dials pop out from the faceplate. These allow adjustment of balance, bass, and treble. Though these dials feel a little cheap, the volume dial feels premium in comparison. Seriously, folks – imagine a volume dial so buttery you could dip lobster in it. That’s what we’re talking about here. In fact, for the first few seconds of every listening session, I just sit at my desk playing with that dial. That’s some mighty fine mechanical finesse.
On the rear of the unit, you’ll find outputs for two speaker setups and four RCA inputs. There’s also digital inputs for the sources mentioned previously – two TOSlink and one SPDIF. An RCA serial bus allows stacking with other Cambridge Audio components. Dedicated ports for the Pre-Out and Sub-Out allow connections for an unbalanced power amp or subwoofer, respectively.
The top case features a grill through which you can view the circuit board and internals, while also accomplishing better airflow.
Cambridge Audio makes a mean amplifier. I was impressed by the DUO Phono Preamp I reviewed earlier this month. And my appetite was whetted when I heard MajorHiFi would be receiving the CXA60 for review. But nothing could have prepared me for the smooth, spatial sound of this model.
The CXA60 picks up on everything. It captures the soft, static-laden noise floor of my favorite classical concert recordings. But it also resolves the contrasting diction of the inimitable Wu-Tang Clan. Sound is precise and exacting, if a little unforgiving. But more than just the quantity of detail here is the quality aspect. There’s a real sense of space and depth to this sound, a mesmerizing sense of image, and a tantalizing glimpse at sound as a mental picture. Here every tiny note jumps out from a realm of sound. Paired with high-end speakers or a good pair of headphones (like the luscious new Grado GH4!), the CXA60 sounds phenomenal, delivering bulletproof fidelity at a fair price.
Cambridge Audio blows Marantz and NAD out of the water with the CXA60. For the price, you just can’t beat this machine for an integrated amplifier.
This amp features wide-reaching compatibility, a pristine sound profile, and heart-stopping design. As such, the Cambridge CXA60 stands on its own as an artistic accomplishment among amplifiers. But stacked up to its competition – well, as I’ve said, this baby has no competition.
Sure, you could waste your money on the Marantz HD-AMP1. If you need a USB port and don’t mind spending $1100 for a lower-quality build. But for everyone else I’ll continue to recommend the Cambridge CXA60 as a more sensible, no-brainer alternative.
With a competitive price of just $750, the Cambridge Audio CXA60 provides a competent integrated amplifier. Ideal for your Home Audiophile, stereo, and entertainment setups. And it does so without cutting corners or delivering sub-par sound. Indeed, if it weren’t so damn flexible, we’d still tell you to get it based on build and sound quality. Because the CXA60 is more than just an amp – this amp delivers a sonic reverie wrapped in English design and still remaining shockingly affordable.
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