Cambridge Audio CXA61 Integrated Amp and Alva Duo Phono Preamp: Assessment



As a budding audiophile, I have normally wondered what would be the finest component to improve in my procedure Turntable? Amplifier? Speakers? Though any variations made have the potential to enhance a system, I think that some of the best bang for your buck can arrive from variations to your amplifier and preamplifier. What has confident me? Testing out Cambridge Audio’s Alva Duo Phono Preamp and the Cambridge Audio CXA61 Built-in Amplifier.

Listening to information is my major format so investing in a improved-good quality built-in amplifier with a higher-high-quality MM phono stage, or exterior phono preamp has been on my up grade listing for the earlier number of a long time. 

There are so lots of which is wonderful for people today receiving into vinyl for the very first time, but that does not mean that you can randomly pick out just one and anticipate to attain good effects. 

As I have found out from my have listening experiences and from discussions with my colleagues right here, there can be huge distinctions in sound high quality involving $250 and $1,000 and it’s much more about cartridge/preamp compatibility than just how a device sounds.

We have some great choices in that rate array which you can come across below.

Most phono preamps are designed for both MM by yourself, or MM/MC cartridges, and I had by no means specified that a lot thing to consider to the variations amongst them and how a perfectly engineered phono preamp can extract a ton a lot more musical details from entry-degree cartridges. 

I have experienced the chance to pay attention to a couple of highly-priced phono cartridges and I lean in direction of applying those people amongst $250-$400 with a greater-high quality phono preamp to be pretty sincere. Like most persons, I would alternatively shell out the dollars on much more information. 

Cambridge Audio Alva Duo Phono Preamp Angle
Cambridge Audio Alva Duo Phono Preamp

The Cambridge Audio Alva Duo raised the bar for me, and I suspect that a large amount of persons with a identical system underneath $2,500 would obtain it quite appealing. 

Retailing for $349 USD, the Alva Duo definitely packs a punch in phrases of its functions and sound top quality It supports each moving magnet and relocating coil cartridges, with individual inputs for just about every. It also sports activities a 6.35mm headphone jack.

Cambridge Audio did not add this as some low-cost toss-in the committed headphone amplifier has sufficient ability for a good deal of headphones (most likely not greater impedance planar magnetic ones) and seems pretty fantastic.

The rear panel also consists of a harmony regulate dial (a little something I have not viewed on a phono preamp just before), and I liked that Cambridge Audio labels all the things with the print upside down as properly so that you can see exactly where you are inserting your interconnects from higher than if operating in tight corners on a rack. A one grounding submit exists in-between both sets of inputs. 

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The MM part delivers 39.5 dB of achieve, and MC cartridge consumers have 60 dB of attain as well there is no way to adjust the loading or impedance for MC carts which is set to 100 Ohms. 

MM cartridges from Ortofon, Grado, Nagaoka, and Audio-Technica with 3.5mV or larger will be very good possibilities for the Alva Duo. 

Cambridge Audio Alva Duo Phono Preamp Front
Front: Cambridge Audio Alva Duo Phono Preamp


As quickly as I additional the Alva Duo to my existing procedure – Denon DP-300F turntable Pro-Ject turntable with Ortofon 2M Silver MM cartridge, Insignia NS-R2001 receiver, and Bowers & Wilkins 686 speakers – the variation in sound quality was simple. Two issues stood out the most – the bass reaction and degree of detail. The very low stop of my procedure has hardly ever been specifically solid or obvious, but the Alva Duo modified that in an fast. I could suddenly truly feel the bass but also listen to it far more distinctly as well. Bass notes experienced a ton additional definition and increased pace. 

Listening to a array of new music from Neil Young to Radiohead to Muddy Waters, the soundstage opened up substantially. It felt like peeling again the levels of an onion — I could hear so many a lot more levels of songs for the initially time like minor bits of percussion and ambient thrives that formerly have been not there. 

Cambridge Audio Alva Duo Phono Preamp Rear
Rear: Cambridge Audio Alva Duo Phono Preamp

Overall, I felt the Alva Duo supplied a more balanced seem, incorporating a fantastic deal of heat to my method. I pay attention to a great deal of acoustic music and like to hear the definition in those devices and voices that are normally brighter. The Alva Duo provides me that amount of depth retrieval without having sacrificing any midrange resolution or very low-close punch. 

Introducing the compact Alva Duo to your program is one of the best techniques to up grade at an inexpensive price. I remarkably endorse it to any person on the lookout to make a initially update to their procedure. If you are all set to acquire issues up a notch more, adding an integrated amplifier to your set up can do just that. 

Enter the Cambridge CXA61

Cambridge Audio CXA61 Integrated Amplifier Front
Cambridge Audio CXA61

Interestingly, the CXA61 is an built-in amp with out a phono phase a phono preamp like the Alva Duo is important to link a turntable. For everyone who primarily listens to vinyl (myself incorporated), it is a slight drawback to have to have a separate phono stage, nevertheless it can be argued that this integrated amplifier will probably be utilised with improved quality loudspeakers and turntable and the possible purchaser will already be taking into consideration a better-good quality external phono preamp. 

The significantly less highly-priced Cambridge Audio AXA35 that we currently reviewed does appear with its individual MM phono preamp for fewer than $450 the CXA61 has a lot extra electrical power and a myriad of electronic inputs that are not portion of the considerably less pricey product. 

Established-up of the CXA61 was a breeze. All I wanted to grab was a conventional RCA cable. Immediately after a little bit of time acquainting myself with the inputs, I was completely ready to go. The only matter I wish would have been provided was the full user guide, although a quick Google look for introduced me a electronic copy in no time. 

I’ve been carefully amazed with the adaptability the CXA61 delivers through its connections and attributes. From an analog perspective, there are 4 stereo RCA inputs and a 3.5mm DAP player enter on the front panel. 

On the electronic facet, there is a direct USB input alongside with coaxial and two optical electronic inputs. Bluetooth aptX High definition is also crafted-in, giving the capability to stream music wirelessly at the best feasible high quality which is still lossy for people who just signed up for Apple Songs with lossless and lossless hi-res audio. The inside DAC supports different bit/sample rates relying on the electronic enter utilized. 

Cambridge Audio CXA61 Integrated Amplifier Rear
Rear: Cambridge Audio CXA61 Built-in Amplifier

USB supports up to 32-little bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 documents. The Optical Toslink input (Roku Box, older legacy CD players) supports up to 32-bit/96kHz PCM. 

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I was expecting (and hoping for) a great deal of energy, and the Cambridge amplifier did not disappoint. The Cambridge Audio CXA61 delivers 60 watts/channel into 8 ohms and was created to play with incredibly small degrees of distortion at any volume. 

I uncovered this to be overwhelmingly genuine as I experimented with all types of music at several quantity concentrations. The amp is amazingly responsive, sounding equally superb at reduced and substantial volumes. Some high-finish products seems relatively “mid-fi” at lessen quantity degrees but I observed the CXA61 to be very participating in this way. 

Cambridge Audio CXA61 Integrated Amplifier Front

Just one omission on the CXA61 is tone controls. As another person who has only ever identified amplifiers with tone controls, I was relatively frustrated that Cambridge Audio CXA61 did not consist of them. The more I listened to the amplifier, the increased my appreciation for its tonal harmony and I started off to recognize the voicing and presentation of the amplifier and why they have been in the end not important. 

The addition of the CXA61 only served to greatly enhance the imaging and enlarged soundstage that I listened to from the Alva Duo. Listening to Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz, the new music felt so alive. The dynamics ended up captured so properly, and I could experience the swell of the huge band as while it were being participating in proper in entrance of me. 

There is yet again no sacrificing on the reduced conclude or depth below the bass reaction is commanding with a rich tonal harmony that worked extremely very well with my Bowers & Wilkins speakers. It was a ton of pleasurable to listen to my extended-time period speakers audio that substantially larger and participating with the Cambridge Audio CXA61 I discovered myself listening to some albums in a pretty distinctive way as I understood just how significantly musical information and facts I was missing with my prior amplifier. 

$1,099 is not an economical improve for most men and women but the Cambridge Audio CXA61 is surely a excellent entry-stage into high-conclusion integrated amplifiers. It is developed to a extremely significant normal, effortless to use, and it can be utilised as the hub of an outstanding sounding stereo that would be a huge phase up for most people. 

In the context of most significant-end systems out there in 2022, the Cambridge Audio CXA61 is a wonderful value as nicely. It is not with no some fierce competitors from Rega, Naim, Arcam, Rogue Audio and Croft – but it’s one thing that I could reside with incredibly effortlessly. 

Highly proposed. 

Where by to invest in:

Cambridge Audio CXA61 – $1,099 at Amazon

Cambridge Audio Alva Duo – $349 at Amazon

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