Skip to main content

Cambridge Audio Edge A review

This integrated amplifier sets sky-high standards Tested at £4499 / $6000 / AU$9999

Cambridge Audio Edge A review
(Image: © Cambridge Audio)

Our Verdict

At this price, we can’t think of a more complete alternative than the Edge A. Cambridge has done a terrific job

For

  • Superb all-round presentation
  • Lots of insight and drama
  • Excellent build and finish
  • Good feature list

Against

  • Runs warm
  • Needs plenty of rack space

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

At this price, we can’t think of a more complete alternative than the Edge A. Cambridge has done a terrific job

Pros

  • + Superb all-round presentation
  • + Lots of insight and drama
  • + Excellent build and finish
  • + Good feature list

Cons

  • - Runs warm
  • - Needs plenty of rack space

What does Cambridge Audio do to celebrate its 50th birthday? It makes a high-end integrated amplifier like the Edge A, alongside a similarly ambitious streaming preamp and matching power amp.

We’ve already covered the excellent Edge NQ streamer (£3499) and Edge W power amp (£2499), but this integrated had eluded us until now. We’re glad we managed to get hold of it as the Edge A turns out to be a superb performer.

If the idea of Cambridge Audio making a £4500 integrated amplifier surprises you, it shouldn’t. The company was founded on premium products and, in the mid-1980s, built one of the most expensive CD players on the market, the two-box CD1 – it cost £1500 at a time when most premium machines sold for a third of that.

Within a decade, budget hi-fi formed the bulk of the company’s output and it remained that way for quite a while. But recent years have seen a determined move upmarket again. We’re now used to the company turning out class-leading premium electronics, such as the Award-winning CXA81 (£999) amplifier and Azur 851N (£1199) music streamer.

Features

Cambridge Audio Edge A features

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

Capable as these products are, the Edge series is far more ambitious, as the price suggests. Cambridge could have gone for a stripped-out purist design for the Edge A, but that just isn’t the company’s style. It wanted to deliver high performance with practicality, and this integrated manages just that.

Apart from a phono stage, this unit packs in just about every feature we could reasonably expect. There are three analogue line-level inputs, including a balanced XLR option, alongside a quartet of digital connections.

It’s pretty standard to see the digital trio of USB, optical and coax, but we’re pleasantly surprised to find an HDMI ARC socket too. Cambridge recognises that some people use their stereo system to make their television sound better, and this is a neat way of making that happen.

Cambridge Audio Edge A tech specs

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

Power output (8ohms) 100W

Frequency response 80kHz

Audio file support Up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM, or DSD256

Bluetooth version 4.1

Max power 1000W

Dimensions (hwd) 15 x 46 x 40.5cm

Weight 24.4kg

As expected, the digital inputs can cope with most types of signals. The USB (type B) will support up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256, for example. The coax is compatible with 24-bit/192kHz and the optical, as usual, takes that down to 24-bit/96kHz – all pretty standard numbers at this level.

We’re pleased to find that the company has also included aptX HD Bluetooth. It can carry signals up to 24-bit/48kHz, but this remains a convenience rather than a quality option, as the tech’s maximum bit rate of 576kbs shows. As a comparison, a CD has a bitrate of 1411kbs.

Still, aptX HD remains the most capable form of Bluetooth currently available and we’re happy that Cambridge’s engineers rejected the lesser options.

If the Edge A’s 100W per channel power output into 8ohms isn’t enough for you there are both single-ended and balanced preamp line outs so that you can add outboard muscle. The company’s hugely capable Edge W power amp would be the obvious choice.

Considering that the A’s power output doubles as speaker impedance halves, we can’t imagine too many people needing the extra amp, unless they have a large listening room or particularly inefficient speakers. There’s also a 6.3mm headphone connection on the front panel, which mutes the speaker and preamp outputs when connected.

Look on the Edge A’s back panel and you’ll find an RS232 connector for home install situations as well as a comms link that synchronises the Edge components to power on and off together.

You’ll also find a handy switch for an auto power-off function, so that if your amplifier doesn’t receive a signal for 20 minutes it drops to standby.

Take a look inside the amplifier, and it’s clear that Cambridge’s engineers have obsessed over the internals. For example, there are two toroidal mains transformers but they’re positioned in such a way that one cancels out any stray magnetic fields generated by the other – simple yet clever.

Elsewhere, the engineers have actively avoided capacitors in the signal path. Doing this reduces distortion and improves signal integrity. There are other unusual touches, such as the way the biasing on the output transistors is handled. Cambridge does it in a way that is claimed to offer many advantages of traditional Class A operation but without the high power consumption and heat generation. The result is something that falls between Class A and the usual Class A/B in terms of those drawbacks.

Build

Cambridge Audio Edge A features

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

The company has done a fabulous job of the casework. This amplifier’s design is impressively slick and a world away from some of the more utilitarian-looking high-end rivals we see.

We love the curved corners and the way the top plate fits into place without the fixings being obvious. The main control dial mechanism is a work of art with its central volume control and outer knurled input selector ring. The input selector works with wonderful precision, but sadly the volume control feels a little vague in comparison. This is something we noticed on the Edge NQ streaming preamp too.

Still, when it comes to casework solidity, finish quality and attention to detail we haven’t come across an alternative that does better. Cambridge has even made the remote handset classier than the norm. The handset provided is nice to hold, simple to use and looks smart. We can’t ask for much more than that.

Any product at this level deserves a top-class system, We use an Audio Research CD9 SE CD player alongside a Roksan Xerxes/Artemiz/van Den Hul Frog record-playing package as our sources. The Cambridge doesn’t have a phono stage, so we put Roksan’s M-series Phono SE into service instead. Over the test period we connect a range of speakers to the Edge but stick with ATC’s SCM20s the longest, though ProAc’s Response D2Rs also work very well.

We’re big fans of Audiovector’s R1 Arretés standmounters, but despite on-paper compatibility, this pairing never quite sounds comfortable. Compared to other combinations, this one lacks dynamic subtlety, which is a surprise as we’ve heard the R1s sound excellent with other amplifiers. It just goes to show that there’s no alternative to actually listening when system matching.

The headphone output is tested with Beyerdynamic’s T1s and Grado RS1s. As expected, the amp has no trouble working with either.

Sound

Cambridge Audio Edge A sound

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

Once up and running, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Edge A is a truly complete amplifier for the money. Play the likes of Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator OST and it generates a sound of huge scale and authority. The Edge is a composed performer; one that refuses to sound ruffled even when we listen to The Battle at high volumes.

The Cambridge proves impressively capable with this piece – huge dynamic swings are rendered with plenty of attack and it digs up a ton of detail that’s all organised into a musically cohesive whole. This amp can track low-level instrumental strands with ease thanks to a level of clarity and control that’s hard to better for the price.

Tonally, the Edge is nicely balanced. It’s got a slightly fuller and smoother balance than would be considered wholly neutral but it's not so far skewed as to be an issue. In fact, the balance chosen makes this amp relatively kind to poorer quality recordings, while allowing it to be transparent enough with those that are better.

Stereo imaging is nicely expansive. This integrated renders an expansive sound stage and populates it with well-defined and focused instruments. There’s a pleasing amount of stability here, and the amp locks sounds in place even when the music becomes demanding.

We switch to Nick Cave’s rambunctious Babe, I’m On Fire and the Cambridge is right at home. It’s an enthusiastic listen with plenty of rhythmic drive and punch. The production is as dense as they come yet the Cambridge maintains just the right amount of control without diluting the track’s frantic feel. That’s a neat trick most rivals can’t manage.

Turn the volume up and the Edge A creates a wonderful wall of sound that makes it virtually impossible not to get engrossed in the track. We play a great deal of music from the hauntingly beautiful Found Songs by Olafur Arnalds through Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes set and Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring and at no point does the Edge A sound unconvincing. 

Cambridge Audio Edge A sound

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

It has enough in the way of resolution, tonal accuracy and stereo imaging to please those that like to analyse their recordings. Equally, if you just want to sit back (or get up and dance), given appropriate music and a suitably talented system, that’s exactly what this amplifier will allow you to do.

The story remains positive when we listen to the amp’s digital module. It’s a good-sounding DAC circuit that’s broadly equivalent to the better sounding outboard converters around the £1000 mark. We lose a bit of clarity and precision when compared to a class-leader such as the Chord Qutest, but by general standards, it’s a detailed and musically involving performance.

We try the headphone output and are pleased to report that it’s a good one. There may not be quite the expressiveness we hear through the speaker outputs, but there’s still enough in the way of insight and dynamic nuance to keep us listening.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a fit-and-forget integrated amplifier, we can’t think of anything at this level that sounds better. Add the impressive build, smart styling and ample feature count into the equation and there’s no denying that Cambridge Audio has come up with a winner here.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 5

MORE:

Best stereo amplifiers 2020

Read our Rega Aethos review

What Hi-Fi?

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 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.


Read more about how we test

  • Sliced Bread
    Can this amplifier be re-reviewed as Cambridge Audio / Richer Sounds have increased the price by a thousand pounds.

    The review price was £4499, but now it is £5499.

    Richer Sounds are listing it as 5 Star WHF product but I’m not sure if that is now correct since the price hike. If it is then fair enough, but I think it worth WHF’s time to re-review based on this significant price rise.
    Reply
  • nopiano
    That’s an interesting point, and highlights the value of the review stating the price at the time. The question is really what amp at around £5,000 is a good rival. A Hegel H390 maybe?
    Reply
  • Sliced Bread
    nopiano said:
    That’s an interesting point, and highlights the value of the review stating the price at the time. The question is really what amp at around £5,000 is a good rival. A Hegel H390 maybe?
    Yes exactly. If it’s still good value then no worries, but such a big price difference can change everything.
    Reply
  • Sliced Bread
    Cambridge audio has just released a mono block for the Edge.
    It’ll be interesting to see if the price of that jumps too after the magazines review it.
    Reply
  • ti33er
    Anyone here own the CAMBRIDGE AUDIO EDGE A ?

    Just wondering if all of us Owners have the Remote Control Volume issue; whereby clicking volume Up or Down, the decibels increase three-fourfold what they should ?

    It’s only evident with the Infrared as with ARC via HDMI, the volume adjustments behaves as one would expect, just one notch at a time

    This is a very frustrating bug when watching things at night, can hardly hear the voices and with one click of the official Remote volume and it’s borderline shouting; waking the household

    For such a steamingly expensive product, one would expect such a basic bug to be addressed by CA....they don’t seem to be that interested in fixing this however (they did fix the ARC sound glitching at least - sent a D-SUB Serial programming cable and firmware; thanks for that)!

    Thanks
    Reply
  • Sliced Bread
    ti33er said:
    Anyone here own the CAMBRIDGE AUDIO EDGE A ?

    Just wondering if all of us Owners have the Remote Control Volume issue; whereby clicking volume Up or Down, the decibels increase three-fourfold what they should ?

    It’s only evident with the Infrared as with ARC via HDMI, the volume adjustments behaves as one would expect, just one notch at a time

    This is a very frustrating bug when watching things at night, can hardly hear the voices and with one click of the official Remote volume and it’s borderline shouting; waking the household

    For such a steamingly expensive product, one would expect such a basic bug to be addressed by CA....they don’t seem to be that interested in fixing this however (they did fix the ARC sound glitching at least - sent a D-SUB Serial programming cable and firmware; thanks for that)!

    Thanks
    Sorry bud, afraid not.

    Out of curiosity how do you find the amp sonically?
    Reply
  • ti33er
    Hi Sliced-Bread

    The Amp stage itself measures very well according to AudioScienceReview ...however their ESS Sabre DAC implementation is ‘linear’ and a touch sibilant to my ears (it’s not this warm ‘Class-A’ Sound being touted, so you may need to get a Subwoofer that can fatten up the bottom end; or get warm Speakers, either way they could have added tone controls (or an EQ App option of some sort) in my opinion...I’ve got a Nobsound 6J2 in-line with an MDAC that adjust Bass/Treble with now and sounds a bit more musical adding Bass - I know of few people that would leave a graphic equaliser with variable bands all at zero, when presented with these options... ;-)

    I do like still like it though, looks sexy enough and okay with my B&W 805D3 speakers...but definitely need a Subwoofer to warm things up a tad in my case.

    The Remote Control Volume issue is frustrating ; they need to fix this with a firmware update.

    Also USB Streamers which are extremely common nowadays, like my ProJect S2 Ultra (and Zidoo Z9X in USB mode)...when booting up, the EDGE-A does not Mute before locking on and oscillating noise is heard; also if the Streamer goes into Standby, the oscillating noise happens again until one intervenes (which may even cause damage as it gets louder and higher like generic microphone feedback)!

    I’ve let Support know but was told it’s only for a laptop that USB input and need the Driver ...but my MDAC does not suffer from this and it’s 8 year old technology, personally I find this poor show for such an expensive flagship product range
    Reply
  • Sliced Bread
    ti33er said:
    Hi Sliced-Bread

    The Amp stage itself measures very well according to AudioScienceReview ...however their ESS Sabre DAC implementation is ‘linear’ and a touch sibilant to my ears (it’s not this warm ‘Class-A’ Sound being touted, so you may need to get a Subwoofer that can fatten up the bottom end; or get warm Speakers, either way they could have added tone controls (or an EQ App option of some sort) in my opinion...I’ve got a Nobsound 6J2 in-line with an MDAC that adjust Bass/Treble with now and sounds a bit more musical adding Bass - I know of few people that would leave a graphic equaliser with variable bands all at zero, when presented with these options... ;-)

    I do like still like it though, looks sexy enough and okay with my B&W 805D3 speakers...but definitely need a Subwoofer to warm things up a tad in my case.

    The Remote Control Volume issue is frustrating ; they need to fix this with a firmware update.

    Also USB Streamers which are extremely common nowadays, like my ProJect S2 Ultra (and Zidoo Z9X in USB mode)...when booting up, the EDGE-A does not Mute before locking on and oscillating noise is heard; also if the Streamer goes into Standby, the oscillating noise happens again until one intervenes (which may even cause damage as it gets louder and higher like generic microphone feedback)!

    I’ve let Support know but was told it’s only for a laptop that USB input and need the Driver ...but my MDAC does not suffer from this and it’s 8 year old technology, personally I find this poor show for such an expensive flagship product range
    Thank you for the feedback. It’s always good to get some insight from real users. Tbh I will likely skip the amp due to the price rise. I was seriously considering it but the price hike has put me off.
    It is interesting that you mention a sub as I found adding a Rel S3 SHO did the same for my b&w cm8’s.
    Btw those 805’s you have are beautiful speakers ;)
    Reply
  • ti33er
    The NAD M33 is probably better to be honest...the only thing I don’t like about the NAD is that it digitises Analogue Inputs, so if you want to get away from the internal DAC, your stuck with it there...but some may argue it’s ‘perfect’ with negligible THD and gives DIRAC EQ options, so why would you want to
    Reply
  • Moree Spingato
    Hegel H390 was mentioned as competition above. No way, that’s in a different league. Among the best money can buy if you can swing that. I’d put Arcam, Pass Labs, and Macintosh in that category — their higher end stuff anyway. Hegel is a no brainer of a purchase. Although one has to admit the CA Edge does look sexy.
    Reply