Cambridge Audio is best known for its capable and often Award-winning range of electronics, but in recent years its reach has extended into the turntable market. The company currently makes two models, with the Alva TT being the range-topper. This new V2 variant marks a gentle but thoughtful evolution over the original we tested back in 2019.
Build & features
The headline changes for the Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 are a new tonearm with a detachable headshell, and the ability to toggle both the built-in phono stage and the Bluetooth module on and off. The new tonearm replaces the previous generation’s Rega-based design and makes it easier to change cartridges when required. The decision to make both the Bluetooth and phono stage switchable is a response to customer feedback about the previous generation. The rest of the Alva is unchanged, and none the worse for that.
This is a classy and well-built product that attempts to marry the performance of the purist offerings at this level – hello Rega Planar 6 – with a useful range of features that those designs usually ignore. The built-in phono stage is a big deal here. It instantly makes the Alva TT V2 a more versatile product than most others at this price and makes it easier to integrate the deck into a wider range of systems.
Type Direct drive
Speed change Electric
Phono stage? Yes
Bluetooth? Yes, aptX HD
Tonearm? Yes, detachable headshell
Cartridge included? Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 14 x 44 x 37cm
The Alva TT V2’s phono module is based on Cambridge’s excellent Duo, which bodes well given the glowing review it received when we tested it. Beyond that, the inclusion of a phono stage means one less box in the system and the resultant loss of a pair of interconnects – who would object to that?
The inclusion of aptX HD Bluetooth is important too. It opens the deck up for use with wireless headphones and speakers. While we appreciate that Bluetooth, even the aptX HD variety, won’t sound as good as a wired connection, it does allow the Alva TT V2 to be used with equipment and in locations that wouldn’t normally be practical. We think Cambridge Audio deserves praise for its far-sighted approach in specifying this deck.
Elsewhere we’re on familiar ground. This remains a direct drive deck at a price where most rivals are belt driven. While there are challenges in such a design it also gives potential advantages in terms of speed stability and quick start-up times. The platter is suitably hefty and is made of polyoxymethylene (an engineering plastic), while the solid plinth is reinforced with a smart aluminium top plate. Bar some soft feet there isn’t any obvious form of suspension, so it would make sense to position the Alva TT V2 on a rigid, low resonance support that’s placed well away from the speakers. A dedicated wall shelf would be a good move if your listening room has a suspended wooden floor.
The new arm feels precise in use and provides support for Cambridge’s high-output Alva MC moving coil cartridge. High output is a pretty vague term, so let’s put some numbers on it. The Alva MC is claimed to have an output of 2mV@1kHz, which is around four times as much as conventional but good moving coil alternatives such as Ortofon’s Award-winning Quintet Blue. A typical moving magnet would have around 5-6mV@1kHz output in comparison.
We use the Alva TT V2 in both our reference system of Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R2 phono stage, Burmester 088/911 Mk III amplifier and ATC SCM50 speakers, as well as a more price-compatible set-up of Naim SuperNait 3 and KEF LS50 Meta speakers, and it performs well.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. This deck isn’t a thrill machine. If you are after the last word in rhythmic drive and dynamic expression you will get more of that from the similarly-priced Rega Planar 6/Ania combination. It is not that the Cambridge deck is particularly flawed in these areas, more that it exhibits a degree of restraint that robs its sound of that final few degrees of excitement. Accept this and you will find much to like here.
This Cambridge Audio package sounds smooth and full-bodied. It has a considered way about presenting music that makes it easy to relax and get lost in the tunes. We listen to a wide range of music in our time with the Alva TT V2, taking in Beethoven’s 6th Symphony along the way to Michael Jackson’s Bad and Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, and the turntable makes the journey worthwhile. It digs up a good amount of detail and presents it in a cohesive and musically convincing manner. Dynamic punch is a little muted but there is a good degree of heft to the presentation and the ability to keep track of a multitude of musical strands without losing a grip on the whole. Pretty soon we find ourselves just enjoying the results.
Tonally, there is a degree of excess richness in the bass, something that reduces when we swap to our reference Cyrus phono stage – and just a hint of peakiness at the very top end, but none of it goes as far as to annoy. We’re pleased with the stability of the stereo image and the lack of confusion when the music gets busy.
The onboard phono stage is decent. It is relatively quiet and is capable of resolving a good amount of detail. That it doesn’t match the Cyrus Phono Signature’s bass tautness is entirely forgivable considering the Cyrus phono stage costs around as much as this entire Cambridge package, and that’s before you factor in the Cyrus’s outboard PSX-R2 power supply.
We are less forgiving of the Alva TT V2’s Bluetooth performance. It starts with Pairing, a process made frustrating due to the lack of a display on the deck, and continues with a performance that sounds mushy and (overly) compressed with our Mark Levinson No.5909 headphones. To make things worse, we get intermittent clicks that suggest the connection isn’t stable. We’re only a couple of metres away from the Alva TT V2, so distance isn’t the problem.
When we try to isolate the problem by using a pair of Apple AirPods Max, we find that there is a compatibility issue between them and the record player, which means the headphone’s volume control fails to work and the sound is set at maximum volume. Not good. Given that we’ve used the Apple headphones with many devices without issue we’re inclined to point the finger at the Cambridge deck. The company has plenty of experience in this area so we hope the fix is only a software upgrade away.
Potential Bluetooth issues aside, there is a lot to like here. The Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 is well-made and a pleasure to use, delivering a user experience that has plenty of appeal. There are certainly more entertaining decks at this level, but few that make the pleasure of listening to records so accessible.
- Sound 4
- Build 4
- Features 5
Read our review of the Rega Planar 6/Ania
Also consider the Clearaudio Concept MM