Cambridge Audio has been designing and building audio equipment since the sixties. Despite growing in size and popularity it still maintains a lean team who work in-house to create the ultimate sound reproduction.
If you've not heard of Cambridge Audio before that might be because it is only sold in Richer Sounds. If you have heard of it that's probably because you know good audio brands and want your kit designed in the UK.
Designed in the UK
We visited the Cambridge Audio offices in London and were amazed to see just how far the production process goes in-house before being made. The top floor of the building is filed with engineers, each desk full of components, motherboards, transistors, soldering irons and testing equipment. We've been into tech offices before but this much in-house tinkering really impressed us.
Further into the floor we met software engineers, who are needed to make more modern Bluetooth-friendly hardware play nice with other devices. Then we stumbled across a huge 3D printer. We were told this is used to mock up shells, printing over night so equipment can be tested.
The end result is a perfect piece of kit where everyone involved in creating it is only few paces from each other. Cambridge Audio encompasses the best parts of collaborative start-up production with the scale of a mass-manufactured end product. The mass production part happens in China before being shipped to the UK ready for sale. The result is high quality sound at affordable prices.
Historic Cambridge Audio
The company started back in 1968 making amplifiers and tuners. These were known for impressively thin and attractive designs.
One of the products that really stood out for Cambridge Audio was the CD1 which was a dual-box CD player. This was followed by the CD2 that was also popular thanks to its 16-bit four times oversampling DAC. Sound quality was always the focus and, clearly, was what drew audiophiles to the kit.
Cambridge Audio did create tape decks, when they were a thing, but have always been strong in the amp arena. Despite the more affordable prices the top-end kit has often been challenged by the quality of Cambridge Audio gear.
Now the line includes CD players, integrated amplifiers, tuners, Blu-ray players, home theatre receivers, home music servers and Bluetooth speakers.
Cambridge Audio engineers
The staff creating the kit are often as important as the gear itself when it comes to sound. This is an area where Cambridge excels. Despite being a relatively small company it has one of the largest engineering teams in a UK Hi-Fi brand with dedicated specialist teams for electronic engineering, software development and for mechanical design engineering.
Dominic Baker, audio systems business director, says: "Many of our engineers are musicians (we even have a company band called Dynamic Range) and we are all regular concert goers. This deep interest in music pushes us to excel with our audio systems."
How does the company look forward?
According to Dominic Baker, Cambridge Audio, "as a relatively small and very focused company can react very quickly to [our] customers' needs and often [our] best ideas for products come from finding new solutions to how people want to enjoy their music."
He goes on to point out the engineers combined with location make for the ideal sound system building. "All of our engineers are specialists in their field but they all have the same combination of technical expertise and a total immersion in music – whether that’s enjoying live performance or actually playing music themselves. Being in London and so close to the music scene also pushes them to want to create exceptional audio systems, that sound authentic and precise and that can give an incredible performance quality – to satisfy even the most discerning of audiophiles."
He points out the engineering process is at the heart of perfecting sound and that's why it's a the centre of everything Cambridge Audio does. "We also build everything from the component level up, without compromise. Key elements such as transformers and CD transports have to be perfect, which is why off-the-shelf parts often aren’t good enough, and we design our own bespoke versions. Once these key pieces of architecture are in place, we carefully match them to a huge array of carefully selected ancillary components hand-selected by our engineers. Being finicky and fastidious is the only way to achieve the level of sound quality we strive for."