This week Cambridge Audio finally lifted the lid on its Evo CD, a product it has been teasing for over two years, with it originally having been soft-unveiled in April 2021 when the Evo 75 and Evo 150 were launched.
Eager to see if it is worth the wait, we headed down to Cambridge Audio’s London HQ to have an initial play with the CD player in the company’s listening room. Here’s what we found out.
Pricing and availability
The Evo CD retails for £999 in the UK, $1199 in the US and AU$1999 in Australia.
That's slightly higher than the figures Cambridge originally quoted – £799 / $950 / AU$1600 – when it was initially mentioned at the Evo 75 and Evo 150 launch. But the British company explained that this is due to changes to the cost of parts, extended supply chain issues and general market conditions.
The Evo CD went on sale on 16 May in "select" territories, with a wider role out to other markets, including the UK, following on 18th May.
The Evo CD is one of the more niche products we have seen this year. Why? Because unlike every other CD player we have tested and recommended, this one only works with the company's Evo 75 and Evo 150 streaming systems. That's right – this is a bespoke CD spinner for the Evo family, and only the Evo family. So if you don’t have one of these excellent just-add-speakers systems and are happy with your current amp/DAC setup, the Evo CD player is not for you.
A Cambridge Audio representative at our hands-on session explained that this decision was to ensure the company could offer the best sound quality possible for the price, and because the Evo CD has been tailor-made to work with the firm’s StreamMagic streaming platform – a cool feature that, among other things, lets you see the playing CD's album artwork on the Evo 75 or 150’s colour screen. During our demo the feature worked straight away: the album info for every CD – including those from some 2010s emo bands we didn’t even know people still listened to – appeared the moment the disc was inserted.
And in case you were wondering why Cambridge didn't just put a CD transport into the Evo systems, the company confirmed that there was no space in either's chassis, and it would require a lot of design and engineering work. So there you have it: don't go expecting a CD-playing Evo system anytime soon.
The company rep on hand described the Evo CD as a “button and a tray” and, having seen it up close, we can confirm this description is accurate.
Visually the box is fairly nondescript and, measuring 317 x 89 x 352mm, pretty compact too. Those dimensions put it roughly the same size as the Evo 75 we saw it used with. The unit feels solidly built and is actually incredibly minimalist. Aside from its wooden swappable side panels, it didn’t have any discerning features to catch the eye – which is a good thing in our minds.
Under the hood, the Evo CD player has all of the core functionality you'd expect from a CD player these days. This includes support for multi-format playback and gapless playback. CD-DA, CD-R and CD-RW discs are also supported. Cambridge also lists the Evo CD as having a low 20W max power consumption (0.5W on standby).
The Cambridge Audio rep also amusingly noted that the Evo CD’s custom-made S5 Servo is “a plus two” upgrade on the Servo 3 used on many older products. It should offer better error correction, faster disc detection and improved detail retrieval.
As is typical during this kind of hands-on session, we only had a very limited listening session with the Evo CD. The Evo CD was paired with an Evo 75 and a pair of PMC OB1, speakers that are more expensive than those we’d expect owners of an Evo CD and Evo 75 set-up to own.
Playing Foals album What Went Down, the combo performed very nicely. The title track held a pleasing amount of detail, despite its fuzz-heavy bass and guitar parts, which have a tendency to overpower the more subtle parts of the song on many of the cheaper systems we’ve heard it on. Even during the heaviest and busiest elements of the album, the singer's vocals came through with focus and a pleasing amount of space and clarity from the cacophony behind.
As you can read in detail in our Cambridge Audio Evo 75 review, the streaming system's sonic character is wonderfully open and articulate, with an entertaining dose of punch – and, reassuringly, the Evo CD didn't seem to veer from that sonic signature. As you might expect from two products tuned to go with one another, the Evo pairing sounded at ease, and thankfully appeared to prioritise entertainment as much as insight, as the Evo 75 did when streaming.
While the Evo CD is undeniably a very niche product aimed specifically at Evo 75 and Evo 150 owners, it's hard to deny it is a very cool-looking piece of kit – and a perfect accessory for those looking to add CD playback to their Evo system's repertoire. After all, CD transports aren't as easy to come across nowadays as they once were.
Some may take the “button and a tray” description of its aesthetic as a negative, but we love the simplicity of the design and are seriously impressed with how well it worked, visually and sonically, with the Evo 75 during our modest time with it.
We’ll be curious to see how many Cambridge Audio Evo system owners jump at the opportunity to get one, and perhaps it will even spur some to hop onto the all-in-one Evo bandwagon now that it is truly CD-inclusive.
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