Cambridge Audio CXA81 Best Review In 2021

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Cambridge Audio cxa81 is the best proof of just how far the world of amplifiers has gone. The company recently revamped its highly accepted CX series hi-fi components, the CX series 2. 

Along this line, we have the audio CXA81 Integrated Stereo Amplifier, which happens to be one of the coolest amps I have ever seen. And I must admit, Cambridge audio cxa81 does not disappoint when it comes to offering the best technology when it comes to high-end amplifiers.

And in this article, I am privileged to give my best review of this incredible hi-fi system.

About the Cambridge CXA81

I always get nostalgic when talking about Cambridge Audio cxa81 products. If you are looking for the best quality, this is one of the more reputable manufacturers. 

After the Great Fire of London, cut through St Paul’s Cathedral in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren commended that ‘architecture is eternal.” This is to mean a construction made by the hands of a great architect will last forever, as seen through the rebuild.

Cambridge audio cxa81 may have just found the ingredients for similar magnificent constructions. With the CX series amplifier, the company has provided a solution that may last many years to come.

CXA81’s predecessor was not the best in the market, yet it was better than many competitors. This is one of the reasons that got me interested in audio CXA81.

Overview

The amplifier comes with the following features:

· Class AB functionality with 80-watts-per-channel power output. The 80-watts-per channel is more than enough.

· Left and right channels are separated for the best sound-staging. The staging quality depends upon the left and right channels.

· Balance XLR inputs ensure low-noise interference.

· DAC, USB, and Coaxial inputs ensure incredible connectivity. A high-quality USB audio is compatible with both Mac and PC.

If you are seriously looking for the best stereo amplifier, it may be the right time to stop. There is nothing this beast will do for you.

The construction 

One of the most outstanding aspects of this integrated amp is its construction. From the first look, it is to notice that, just like its stablemate, CXA61 appears to be reluctant about any radical changes.

I mean, there is not much that seems different from the outside. Although the Lunar Grey chassis and the missing balance and tone buttons from the front could be something to go with. 

They are the only tweaks you will obviously notice.

The basic analog circuits have not been altered. Nevertheless, the firm’s engineers have done some upgrades on most of the op-amps in the signal path. Also, the capacitors in the pre and power amplifier stations have been challenged. As you may already have imagined, there is so much performance-wise.

It is easy that the inputs have also been upgraded. Inside is a superior ESS Sabre ES9016K2M DAC and improved USB input. Now you can play audio music of up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 quality files.  The ess sabre ES9016K2M is so superior that it has enhanced the performance of other functions as well.

Don’t worry about direct streaming anymore. The integrated amp features an aptX HD Bluetooth receiver that connects with any compatible device of 24-bit/84kHz or anything else under this. 

The previous options came with a separate dongle, which cost more.  

Features 

The Cambridge Audio CXA81 does not come with what I can call the best build in the industry. But this did not matter much once I got to witness the reverse side, I enjoyed the healthy complement of physical connections and digital sources.

One thing that Cambridge audio music really understands is listening to the needs of their customers. For instance, the improved USB connection is one of the things no one would have expected. But the input is there and offers better connectivity than what you can get with many products at this price range.

The analog side does not disappoint either. This is one amplifier you can use with most of your audio music needs and feel satisfied. It comes with four RCA ins and a balanced XLR. In this case, the company thought it fine to remove the phono input.  

I don’t understand why they did this, considering how much some of us still enjoy the vintage sounds. However, the company has a few outboard phono stages, like the Alva models that provide incredible companionship for the amp. I have one, which I simply connected a turntable and enjoyed its sounds.

Looking at the S/PDIF coaxial inputs on the CXA81, I was glad they gave it a boost. Now I can handle files of up to 24bit/192kHz. It also comes with a pair of Toslink optical connections that take it up to 96kHz. 

I have seen many other front panel amplifiers at this price, and none match such digital input. Even its main rival, the Award-winning Rega Elex-R, is a bit short on this. 

All the front panel outputs have been included with the most relevant considerations. The amp comes with both pre-amp and subwoofer outputs for increased performance. If you are one like me who enjoys these connections, then you have everything to smile about.

Playing on my headphones is always fun when I am alone. And the amplifier just made sure I did not miss out on this by providing a 3.5mm headphone jack. The 3.5mm headphone jack works brilliantly.

As if that is not enough, it comes with space for two pairs of speakers. I tried playing the speakers separately and in unison, and it worked well on both accounts.

The fact that you have to attach a separate Bluetooth dongle is perhaps the biggest limitation with this device. I found it marginally annoying. Its forerunner, the CX80, does come with these features. 

The CXA60 also had its time, winning several What Hi-Fi? Awards. I was a bit disappointed that its bigger brother failed to harness its extra power. It would have been really cool to see the power translated as cohesive or expressive performance for this new product.

Again, Cambridge audio music has failed to add such power in the CXA81. I think there are just too many hallmarks with the CX that are comparable to the tuning of the former iteration. Anyway, progress is great regarding this time round.

Sound 

I have been a great fan of music since my childhood, which is why I can tell quality sound from anywhere. So, when I opened the CXA81, I was relieved to hear the same powerful yet punchy presentation. 

The dynamic and astonishingly detailed tunes that emerged from the amplifier were everything I hoped for and more. Having used many other amps from the manufacturers, I had no doubt I would get even better performance. 

They say people know you by the kind of music you listen to. And the amp made sure this was clear to my neighbor and everyone else who came near me.  

The first thing that hits you is the confidence in the amp. I mean, the hammering out the staccato rhythmic pattern was incredibly satisfying. I could feel the assured conviction the company has invested in the product. It snaps just at the right time and allows the expert handling of loud as well as low sounding melodies flow freely. 

The full-bodied and expressive midrange offers sounds that are given space soar, but they continue sounding like part of the whole music. 

You should be sure to enjoy the overall richness and balance of this amplifier. This powerful and steady amplifier may be low-end, yet lean and agile enough to produce market-standard bass lines. The treble features plenty of room, without too much sharpness or rough edges, 

I noticed the sound from the CXA81 might be a bit forward. But this did not bother me much, considering how sympathetic it is to more minimal, somber recordings.

I tried connecting it to a solo piano work and discovered just how caring it was. I have never been too impressed with many amps, but this one made me feel like there was something special I can always get from even the low-end amps.

All the features described above are all good in any amp. But what matters most is the sound clarity. For me, the CXA81 is a real winner.

I have listened to the Rega Elex-R in comparison to the CAX81 and confirmed the Cambridge audio music is superior. It makes the Rega seem a little bit cloudy.

Let me step back a little. Beating this talented Rega amp is pretty easy, and Cambridge audio music has proven this time and again. However, offering a more polished, insightful, and even more mature performance is something totally different. 

What the CXA81 will do for you

The amplifier is equipped with a Class AB amp section that drives speakers from 4 ohms, delivering 120W per channel RMS, and 80W-per-channel into 8ohms. In other words, it comes with gusto you want to drive the best speakers on the market to their full potential. The synergy of this combination is just lovable.

The Bluetooth section is one of the best soundings. I have used many integrated amps, and this one just got me thinking about how much I have been missing. I compared it to my Audiolab’s 6000A reference unit, and it did not disappoint. 

The USB was much more spacious, too, compared to the sound from the input. It was more in-depth, though not immediately noticeable.

This is a plug-and-play amplifier. It is this simplicity that makes it suitable even for new audiophiles. And since it has no muss, no muss, and offers good sound, even experienced users will find it useful.

 It comes with tons of inputs and outputs, making it very flexible. One set of balanced XLR and 4RCA offers everything you need for analog connectivity. The digital side is also well equipped.

The amp is Roon Tested, meaning Cambridge audio music worked with Roon to make sure it can receive a bit-perfect signal from the software. There are many other cool things it can do because of this.

What it will not do

As much as the Cambridge Audio CXA81 is a great amplifier, several things will not do. This is to say; you should not expect to give you everything.

It does not have a lot of fine-tuning functions here, which many users may not appreciate. It does not have a screen, no menus, and no tone controls. For those who know their amps, there are some of the best features in modern products.

It does not have DAC filter settings either. But this is not so bad since they are rarely used anyway.

Best options

If you think there are one or two things the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier fails to deliver, there are a few options to consider. But Audiolabs’ 6000A would be the most suitable one, apart from the Rega Elex-R, of course.  

Buying guide

Before buying any Cambridge Audio product, it would be better to look at the following questions.

Are Cambridge Audio amps any good?

Cambridge Audio is one of the biggest amp manufacturers on the market. They give direct competition to Rega and AudioLab, especially on the lower end options. Their amps are, therefore, very good.

Some of the company’s amps have won several What Hi-Fi? Awards, making them highly competitive. Besides, they sound very well.

Who makes Cambridge Audio?

Cambridge Audio is a big company that manufactures the Cambridge Audio amplifier. It is a well-recognized brand because they made the first audiophile-oriented amplifier. 

What Hi-Fi Best amplifiers?

There are very many Hi-Fi amplifiers on the market today. This is why it can be a bit overwhelming to choose, especially if you are new in the industry.

However, there are few things to look out for that will help you choose the right product.

  • Your needs. What do you want in a hi-fi? Each one of us has different needs. So, do you want just something simple, or a high-end amplifier with everything that makes a great amp? 
  • Brand. It may not seem much, but picking the right manufacturer can be key to getting the best hi-fi. With so many brands today, you want to be careful.
  • Features. Look at both the analog and digital connections, which define how you will be using your amplifier.
  • Sound quality. It is a sound that sends you to a hi-fi system. The best system should not have any questionable sounds.

Conclusion

Cambridge Audio is, without a doubt, one of the best. For this reason, their CXA81 will give you the service you need in an amp. 

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