Cambridge Audio CXA61 review – Generation game


4 years after the CXA60, Cambridge Audio launches its smarter successor and it’s been well worth the wait, says David Vivian. Learn our Cambridge Audio CXA61 evaluate.

Cambridge Audio CXA61 review

In contrast to the fabled goes-to-11 guitar amp of Spinal Faucet’s Nigel Tufnel, Cambridge Audio’s CXA61 built-in amp in all probability isn’t ‘one louder’ than the CXA60 it replaces. Because the ‘60′ in the superseded model’s title references its 60W-per-channel output, a +1 on the spec sheet to match the brand new title might have been a playful nod to followers of the well-known rockumentary. However no, the great spherical determine stays. Sorry Nigel.

The corporate’s advertising and marketing materials boasts of “limitless reserves of power, ready to maximise the dynamic potential of any loudspeakers and able to play at any volume level without stress or distortion”. Possibly it’s the hyperbole that’s been turned as much as 11. However there’s no denying the CXA60


PRODUCT Cambridge Audio CXA61


TYPE Built-in amplifier

WEIGHT 8.3kg

DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 430 x 115 x 341mm


• Quoted energy output: 2x 60W (8ohm)

• 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256- succesful DAC

• Inputs: 4x stereo analogue RCAs; 2x digital optical; 1x digital coaxial; 1x USB-B port

• Bluetooth aptX HD

DISTRIBUTOR Audio Partnership PLC

TELEPHONE 0207 9402200


was a solidly constructed and featured price range amp with an engagingly energetic and entertaining sound and ripe for a spot of even handed evolving. If the claimed 60W a aspect isn’t fairly your thought of limitless, there’s at all times the 80W-per-channel CXA81 – which builds on the estimable abilities of its CXA80 predecessor.

In addition to dropping the CXA60’s removed from redundant steadiness and tone controls and having no extra energy underneath the lid, the brand new mannequin’s £ worth initially seems to be slightly steep, however issue within the integral Bluetooth aptX HD (beforehand a BT100 add-on dongle, and never 24-bit/48kHz HD), the raft of upgraded inner parts to soup up the sound – together with the next high quality on-board DAC – and the brand new ticket begins to look much more cheap. The amp feels substantial and really effectively completed and, someway, the circuit symmetry instructed by the dead-centre siting of its massive, neatly dressed toroidal transformer appears extra satisfyingly upmarket than the same old offset association.

Tougher to see with out unscrewing the duvet is the ESS Sabre ES9010 K2M DAC chipset, which replaces the CXA60’s Wolfson 8740 and is suitable with 32-bit/384kHz PCM information and as much as DSD256 knowledge streams. To go alongside the coaxial and digital optical inputs on the rear, the CXA61 additionally will get a USB-B port – accepting as much as 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 digital information from Mac or PC. As earlier than, basic connectivity consists of 4 line-level RCA inputs and a 3.5mm jack on the entrance. There’s no phono stage, although.

Cambridge says its aim with the CXA61 was to additional put the squeeze on distortion and colouration. To this finish the analogue boards have had a going over with optimised op-amps and capacitor values, whereas the amount pot has been revised to minimise crosstalk.

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Sound high quality

When you appreciated the way in which the CXA60 sounded you’ll love the CXA61. The ebullient, front-foot enthusiasm of the older amp hasn’t modified, however is now delivered with even larger readability, pace and rhythmic snap. A lot in order that extra care and experimentation are wanted with partnering package. My preliminary setup contains an Audiolab 6000CDT CD transport (HFC 447) feeding the CXA61’s inner digital converter and an exterior Chord Electronics Hugo 2 DAC (HFC 428), with the amp’s speaker terminals working brief lengths of Nordost Purple Daybreak speaker cable to a pair of Russell Okay Purple 50 standmounts (HFC 422) positioned on Slate Audio stands.

With the Chord DAC within the loop and the ensemble pulling laborious in the identical course, the upshot – whereas typically breathtakingly insightful and detailed – is so mercilessly ‘on it’ the flood of research appears relentless, particularly enjoying recordings endowed with supercharged manufacturing values reminiscent of Caravan Palace’s Leena or the meticulous jazz fusion of Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber all through the album Eleven.

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Cambridge Audio CXA61 review

1 Digital coaxial enter

2 2x digital optical inputs

Three 4x RCA stereo inputs

Four RCA stereo preamp output

5 Subwoofer output

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The CXA61’s closest worth rival is the Cyrus ONE (HFC 420), which retails at £ however is broadly obtainable for round £  lower than that, lumping it with the obvious decrease priced rivals such because the Rega Brio (HFC 446) and Audiolab 6000A (HFC 446). The Cyrus is way much less spectacular trying than the Cambridge, however packs loads into its slim chassis, together with a good phono stage and a powerful 100W per channel of Class D energy. Its sound high quality is shaded by each the Rega and Audiolab, which battle to dwell with the CXA61.

Altering the crisp and energetic Audiolab transport for Cambridge Audio’s softer and hotter sounding CXC and standing down the Chord DAC for the CXA61’s inner ESS Sabre brings an virtually magical transformation, dialling down the element retrieval and dimensionality of the soundstage to a noticeable diploma however making the sound much less starkly

Heat and wealthy tonal steadiness is anchored by impressively deep, taut and tuneful bass

resolute and slightly extra cuddly within the course of. There appears little doubt the amp’s exceptional transparency and ahead presentation dovetails very effectively with in-house ancillaries, injecting some welcome life and sparkle into the efficiency of the laid again Alva TT turntable (HFC 453) with its optimised built-in phono stage/custom-made MC cartridge. The best way weight, power and the dwell venue environment come collectively enjoying Marcus Miller’s uber-funky Journey Lure is an all-but tangible deal with with the advantageous synergy actually bringing out the perfect in each turntable and amp.

That mentioned, the CXA61 can also be ok in the correct setting to point out what the good Hugo 2 DAC is able to and gutsy sufficient to manage a severe pair of floorstanders. My closing setup, reinstating the Chord and changing the heroic Purple 50 with Focal’s three-way Chora 826 floorstander (HFC 457) procures an appealingly heat and wealthy tonal steadiness and real sense of scale anchored by deep, taut and tuneful bass. Sara Bareilles singing Michael McDonald’s I Can Let Go Now together with her slow-burning depth is an virtually palpable presence within the listening room. But, with famous person jazz drummer Dave Weckl setting a fierce tempo on Ha Ha Lodge from Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber’s aforementioned Eleven, there’s scant shortfall within the great readability, pace, solidity and noisefloor­sweeping low-level element the amp additionally exhibited with the Russell Okay standmount. The CXA61 won’t be the smoothest or most romantic sounding sub-£ built-in amp in the marketplace, but it surely by no means fails to have interaction and its repertoire is excellent.

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If the outdated CXA60 was a close-but-no- cigar built-in, its successor may effectively have hit the jackpot at its worth level. It isn’t good and desires care with partnering tools if its inherent enthusiasm and eagerness to entertain is to be sympathetically framed. However, if not fairly limitless, the CXA61 is potent past its 60W and, given suitably proficient help, a terrific amplifier, full cease

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Complete Rating

There are alternate options that undercut the CXA61, however few can match its all-round capacity


  • Open, energetic and entertaining sonics
  • DAC
  • construct


  • Wants care partnering
  • no built-in phono stage
Consumer Score: Be the primary one!

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