Cambridge Audio Sonata DR30/CD30 review

A decent, impressive system. But the performance, at the money, doesn't hit the musical heights Tested at £550.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A decent, impressive system. But the performance, at the money, doesn't hit the musical heights


  • +

    Compact dimensions

  • +

    decent build

  • +

    reasonable detail and sonic insight


  • -

    Lacking fluidity and dynamics

  • -

    concept and styling a bit 'old-school'

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In this world of iPods, wireless gadgets and streamed media, traditional hi-fi manufacturers have tried a variety of ways to offer the consumer a blend of style and substance.

Cambridge Audio's new Sonata range represents one such attempt – to create 'miniature' audio components, which offer the compact dimensions of a micro while retaining the sonic sophistication of hi-fi separates.

The two-box combination on test includes the £350 CD30 CD player, plus the £200 DR30 stereo receiver. This 2.1 receiver is the hub of the Sonata range – which also includes the 1080p-upscaling DV30 DVD player – and delivers 40W per channel, has both DAB and FM tuners and usefully comes with a bespoke iPod dock.

To be clear about what CA means by 'mini' separates: both these units measure 27x28.5x6.7cm, making them considerably more compact than full-sized rivals.

Separates vs micro-system?
Of course, at this price it's not just full-sized separates that'll compete for your attention against the Sonatas. One-box micros from Denon, Marantz and Arcam (depending on budget) call out for consideration, too – not to mention shrunken separates from the likes of TEAC.

There's a sense that this system is a little last-generation in relation to current trends, as if, in this particular case, the company's cutting edge is a little blunt.

In any case, the argument for buying separate hi-fi components (against getting an all-in-one) has always been that separates should sound better. Does that prove to be the case this time?

Good but flawed sonic delivery
Tonally, the Sonata system achieves a good balance, with impressive amounts of midrange detail. Testing its refined credentials with Beethoven's Complete String Quartets, it responds with instrumental insight and rhythmic vigour.

But while the Sonata units make a decent fist of things, neither earns five stars. There's a constrained quality, marginally lacking in dynamics and fluidity, that left us wanting more.

Then consider that you can buy a micro like Marantz's M-CR502 for less, and you've got a system whose stature will stay within the parameters set by its modest dimensions.

See all our five-star micro system reviews

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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