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Audio Partnership Plc
Gallery Court, Hankey Place, London SE1 4BB United Kingdom
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Cambridge Audio

Too many people think all there is to Cambridge Audio is the ‘house brand’ of retailer Richer Sounds, but there’s a lot more to the company than that: outside the UK it’s sold across the world, from North America to South Africa, and from Brazil to Australia; its London headquarters even has its own music venue on-site; its products range from earbuds to high-end hi-fi separates; and its history goes all the way back to 1968.

Born in Cambridge

Started in Cambridge – of course – by a group of university friends, the company launched with its P40 amplifier, the first amp to use a toroidal transformer for superior performance, and now almost ubiquitous across the hi-fi world. Nothing if not ambitious, within three years Cambridge Audio was making the huge R50 transmission line speakers, and in the mid 1980s launched both the C75/A75 pre/power amplifier and then its CD1 CD player, the world’s first two-box CD player, with the transport and control sections in one box, and the digital electronics in the other, and using three DACs and a trio of transformers.

In 1992 the brand was offloaded by then-owner Verity, at the same time as it was disposing of its Mission and Wharfedale business to IAG, and after a short period of being owned by Richer Sounds, Cambridge Audio was bought by the newly-formed Audio Partnership, led by James Johnson-Flint with Julian Richer as an investor. The company launched the highly affordable A1 amplifier, and set about building a complete in-house digital and analogue engineering team. One of the first fruits of this was the original DacMagic digital-to-analogue converter, which proved a huge sales success with buyers wanting to upgrade CD players, and the end of the 1990s saw the arrival of the V500 Dolby Digital decoder for home cinema systems, which would lead to AV receivers as well as DVD and Blu-ray players.

Affordable high-end

At the beginning of the 2000s Cambridge rolled out its Azur series, with three amps, three CD players and a DAB radio tuner, later adding its Azur 840 series as a first step towards an ‘affordable high-end’ offering. That’s become the hallmark of the brand: innovative audio technology, such as its XD amplification, designed to offer Class A sound quality with the efficiency of Class AB, and its own Adaptive Time Filtering (ATF) to up-sample digital signals for more accurate digital to analogue conversion.

Those technologies, and the development resource behind them, have informed the company’s continuous development, launching the CX series in 2015, establishing a major presence in the network audio market with the StreamMagic products, and expanding into Bluetooth speakers, earbuds and even turntables. And to celebrate its 50th anniversary it took another leap, into the serious high-end market, with its acclaimed Edge series of amplifiers and streamer.

British to the core

These days the company, which can claim to be the longest-established hi-fi brand still in British ownership, pre-dating the likes of Linn, Rega and Naim, can offer amplifiers from under £300 to twenty times that, and has a huge range of products to fill just about any requirement. As current MD Stuart George, who’s been with the company for more than quarter of a century, puts it, ‘You’ve got to bring together sound quality, usability and convenience and it's got to fit in with people's lifestyles.’

Product reviews

Cambridge Audio MXN10: "Because you want great-sounding access to music streaming services, internet radio and the likes of BBC Sounds without binning off your existing system and starting again."

Cambridge Audio Evo150: "This compact, ultra-stylish network amplifier does everything almost anyone could ask of a hi-fi system"

Alva TTv2: "If you enjoy listening to records but have little time for the fiddly and time consuming foibles of some turntables, the Cambridge Audio offers sparkling performance with fit and forget levels of convenience"

Cambridge Audio CXN v2: "As a combination of audio performance, robust build quality and straightforward value for money, the CXN v2 is almost impossible to lay a glove on"