Exciting news today from Cambridge Audio, the classic British audio brand that’s been tickling audiophile ears for half a century. Last month we looked at the gorgeous Cambridge Audio Edge, which at $5,000 or so for the power amp and streaming preamp, may be a little out of some people’s financial reach.
This month Cambridge Audio has announced the brand new AX series, which has been designed and engineered in the UK and strikes the perfect note between performance and affordability.
The new AX range consists of two CD players, two integrated amplifiers and two stereo receivers, all competitively priced. The AX range takes its design and innovation cues from Cambridge Audio’s more expensive CX range and the upmarket Edge system. Cambridge Audio likes to dubs its products as having “Great British Sound”, which it describes as “a pure, unfiltered audio experience reflecting the artist’s intentions – nothing added, nothing taken away”.
The two CD players and the two integrated amplifiers will be available from Cambridge Audio and Amazon from mid-June 2019, while the two AX receivers will be available from July 2019 onwards.
The AXC25 CD player features one stereo analog RCA output, a remote control and is available in Lunar Grey as well as a plain Black finish. The AXC25 is aimed at the entry-level market and is ideal for anyone who doesn’t want the option of upgrading to an external DAC. It will retail at a very reasonable £229.
The second Cambridge Audio CD player is the AXC35, which retails at £299/$349.99. As well as having the analog RCA output of the AXC25, this model adds the option of a coaxial digital output for connecting up to a high-end streamer or external DAC, and using the unit as a straightforward CD transport mechanism. Both models offer gapless playback and the added ability to play home recorded CD-R, CD-RW and CD-ROM discs with MP3 and WMA files encoded on them.
The two integrated amplifiers in the new AX range are the AXA25 and the AXA35. As their model number suggests, the AXA25 delivers a power output of 25W per channel into 8Ω, while the AXA35 serves up a slightly more muscular 35W per channel into 8Ω.
The AXA25 integrated stereo amplifier sells for £229 and has four analog RCA inputs, a single RCA output for recording purposes and a USB port with 5V 500mA of power for powering an optional Bluetooth receiver. There’s also a 3.5mm auxiliary stereo input on the front panel. Strangely, there doesn’t appear to be a headphone socket, so if quiet listening at night is your thing, you may prefer to opt for the AXA35.
The AXA35 offers additional connectivity, features and 35W of output. It’s supplied with remote control and white display screen, a phono stage input for playing vinyl, and a full-size 6.3mm headphone output. It retails at £299/$349.99 and both models are available in Lunar Gray or Black finishes.
The two final pieces in the AX product range are a couple of stereo receivers. The AXR85, at £349/$399.99, and the AXR100 at £449/$499.99. The AXR85 stereo receiver delivers 85W and is capable of driving two stereo speaker zones, and offers three analog RCA inputs, a phono stage input, recording, and subwoofer outputs, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and a 6.3mm headphone output on the front panel. It includes an FM/AM tuner plus built-in Bluetooth receiver for wireless streaming from a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Sitting at the top of the AX range is the AXR100 stereo receiver, which is very similar to the AXR85 but with the addition of two optical digital inputs as well as a coaxial option, plus a power output of 100W.
Comment: This new entry-level AX range from Cambridge Audio brings solid old-school hi-fi to the wider public at a sensible price. It’s interesting to note that the base model amplifier has no headphone socket, while the entry-level CD player has no coaxial or digital output. It’s tempting to assume these two fairly vital specifications have been omitted to encourage buyers to opt for the slightly more expensive models. As far as the two receivers go, I’m surprised there’s no DAB/DAB+ option as the future for AM and FM broadcasting in Cambridge Audio’s UK home market is far from certain. Those minor criticisms aside, this range looks like a solid offering for audiophiles on a budget who want to build a sound system with pedigree and a possibility to upgrade in the future.