Cambridge Audio has redesigned its CXA Series, and the results have been phenomenal . And that’s most apparent on the CXA-81, our pick as the best stereo amplifier in the £750-£1500 price category.
While the design may seem familiar, on the inside Cambridge Audio’s engineers have upgraded most of the op-amps in the signal path, as well as many of the capacitors.
This amp also houses a superior DAC and improved USB input that supports even higher-quality sampling rates. There’s also an aptX HD Bluetooth receiver alongside a selection of analogue and digital inputs.
The CXA81 also has outputs for a pre-amp and subwoofer, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and space for two pairs of speakers. There’s certainly no denying the level of functionality on offer.
There are many Cambridge Audio sonic hallmarks here, but it’s also clear there has been progress in every regard.
From the opening bars of whatever piece of music we select, we’re greeted with the same powerful yet punchy, dynamic and detailed presentation.
The amp delivers tricky rhythms with confidence, snapping in time and expertly locking into a groove.
An expressive midrange deals out melodies with space, while still sounding completely at one with the rest of the sonic spectrum.
This Cambridge is powerful and weighty in the low end, while the treble is open and clear without sharpness or rough edges.
What really shines through though is a level of clarity that leaves rivals behind. And that’s not easy to do at this price point.
The Cambridge Audio CXA81 sets a new benchmark for thousand-pound stereo amplifiers, which makes it a deserving 2019 Award-winner.