Cambridge Audio CXA81 and Spendor A4

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SuperSonicDevice

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Sep 13, 2020
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Hi guys,

my sound system is a combination of a CXA81 and Spendor A4.
I purchased the set around 1,5 years back and used it almost daily ever since. (For listening to music but also for watching movies with my sound system or playing games.)
I am playing my music mainly on Qobuz or if somethings not available there with whatever other source I have like soundcloud or youtube.
I play the music on my laptop which is connected via bluetooth which already delivers a great sound experience.
The interesting thing is that this comparably simple setup is completely user friendly and at least for me I do not see any reason to by a e.g. a streamer from the same line in Cambridge Audio.

I came across the setup by more ore less accidently noticing how greatly they were appreciated in basically every review that was done on both the components.
So I was very curious to listen to them live and how they would sound combined.
I listened to the CXA81 at a show room in combination with a different speaker. (Don't remember the model.)
Later on I was also able to listen to the Spendors but never was able to hear both in combination.

I was pretty convinced by both but was unsure how they would match especially for a small room.
So I still decided to pair them and I was convinced by the system from the beginning since it produces a really incredible sound stage and depth if positioned correctly. (At least for me it is astonishing.)
It took me many attempts and different runs to find what i consider as a quite optimal position and orientation of the speakers. (There might be a better one out there, but who knows. :))

In the beginning I was still a bit disappointed with the performance when playing some lesser quality songs, since the performance was just missing some depth and the sound stage was not that great.
I heard many things about running in etc. with all the pros and cons but I have to say only NOW after around 1,5 years I would say the system is really run in well.
The performance got better and better during the whole time, which I would have never expected.
The same songs from the same source that sounded flat and just not really alive in the beginning are just having a great crispness to them now, with well positioned instruments opening up a great sound stage. (Setup and speaker position has not changed for many, many months now.)
Noticing this increase of performance over such a long time really kind of blew my mind. (I mean the base was already impressing. :))

I saved for many years to afford this set up and I have to say it is literally worth every penny since whenever I turn this thing on it just puts a smile on your face. You just cant get used to the quality this thing delivers. :-D The only ones who are not happy are my neighbours. :p
So guys just wanted to let you know about my experience with the system and that at least in this case it was worth the risk of matching a system that you never heard in combination before.

If any one of you have experience with the same setup or the single components I would be really interest to hear your reviews on their performance.

One other thing I noticed is that when playing music over bluetooth it sounds WAY better then when playing it via USB audio using the Cambridge Audio ASIO driver and a relatively short (3 m) usb audio cable for around 30 €.
THe music played via cable just misses a lot of depth and warmness and does not bring across the emotion of the music well, I hope you can understand what I mean by this description. :)
Since USB audio supports bit perfect quality and higher quality than bluetooth I am still confused with this phenomenon and not sure what might go wrong there.
(I heard that a good USB cable can cost several 100 €, so maybe this is the problem here. But going by the performance the system delivers via bluetooth already I do not have much motivation to spend that amount of money on a cable that in the end is less easy to connect than bluetooth. :))
I am pretty sure that I run my Qobuz via the ASIO driver correctly, since I can pick the output option in the lower end of the Qobuz app.
Any of you have experienced something similar or can tell me if the cable might be the issue?

So as my last words for this post: Hats of to these two masterpieces of british sound engineering. I am amazed what quality of sound you get for (honestly still quite a lot) of money nowadays. :)

Cheers
 

Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
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I am glad you are enjoying your excellent amp and speakers!
My only comment is a personal opinion…. only using Bluetooth is a bit like buying a Ferrari and never getting out of first gear…..🙁
There is no way a Bluetooth connection is better than a wired USB one in terms of technical quality… BUT I suspect it is a question of the type of sound that you are used to hearing.
Nothing wrong as long as you are enjoying the music!
 
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GoodVibes

Well-known member
Jan 31, 2021
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Hi there, I have the CXA 81 & I own Wharfedale Evo 4.2’ and Kef LS50 (originals). Both sound great in my set up.

As time has gone by I have been noticing subtle differences & I have also questioned the quality of the USB connection. When I listen to music via optical cable to my TV, via CD player or Bluetooth, the sound seems a little more spacious, a little more cleaner and I enjoy the presentation more. CD sounding better is understandable as it is a separate component with its own DAC. The one that surprised me the most was the USB connection as it should be better than Bluetooth. Now that I have read someone else has experienced this, I am going to do some more in depth testing. I would be interested to know if any others have experienced this.

I have tried several USB cables and noticed no change to the sound and based on some more scientific tests I have read about, expensive USB’s offer no improvement to sound.
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
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Hi there, I have the CXA 81 & I own Wharfedale Evo 4.2’ and Kef LS50 (originals). Both sound great in my set up.

As time has gone by I have been noticing subtle differences & I have also questioned the quality of the USB connection. When I listen to music via optical cable to my TV, via CD player or Bluetooth, the sound seems a little more spacious, a little more cleaner and I enjoy the presentation more. CD sounding better is understandable as it is a separate component with its own DAC. The one that surprised me the most was the USB connection as it should be better than Bluetooth. Now that I have read someone else has experienced this, I am going to do some more in depth testing. I would be interested to know if any others have experienced this.

I have tried several USB cables and noticed no change to the sound and based on some more scientific tests I have read about, expensive USB’s offer no improvement to sound.
Hi,
People claiming USB cables can make a difference of well designed DAC's or other, are imagining it. The fanciful theories that they create without any evidence is laughable.

It reminds me of the song, the foot bone is connected to the shin bone, the shin bone is connected to the knee bone, the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone.... etc. and hence USB cables will introduce noise from the SMPS power supply, through the USB cable and inject noise into the DAC analogue circuitry.

Some of the people who "support" this fantastical theory sell foo goods. So maybe you can see why there is discussion on this subject continually being prompted.

Regards,
Shadders.
 

GoodVibes

Well-known member
Jan 31, 2021
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Hi,
People claiming USB cables can make a difference of well designed DAC's or other, are imagining it. The fanciful theories that they create without any evidence is laughable.

It reminds me of the song, the foot bone is connected to the shin bone, the shin bone is connected to the knee bone, the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone.... etc. and hence USB cables will introduce noise from the SMPS power supply, through the USB cable and inject noise into the DAC analogue circuitry.

Some of the people who "support" this fantastical theory sell foo goods. So maybe you can see why there is discussion on this subject continually being prompted.

Regards,
Shadders.
No disputing that from my end. I am questioning how good the quality of sound is when connected to the CXA’s DAC via USB. On paper it looks like a good DAC but no I have another user has noticed something I had begun to also notice I am going to do some listening tests. When I get the luxury of time lol
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
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No disputing that from my end. I am questioning how good the quality of sound is when connected to the CXA’s DAC via USB. On paper it looks like a good DAC but no I have another user has noticed something I had begun to also notice I am going to do some listening tests. When I get the luxury of time lol
Hi,
That is the point, now you "know" there is a difference, you can hear the difference. But none exists, unless there is a fault.

If you could not hear the difference before, then it did not exist.

Regards,
Shadders.
 

GoodVibes

Well-known member
Jan 31, 2021
38
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Hi,
That is the point, now you "know" there is a difference, you can hear the difference. But none exists, unless there is a fault.

If you could not hear the difference before, then it did not exist.

Regards,
Shadders.
That is not the case, I had already noticed a difference myself before I read this post. Do you have a CXA 81?
 

12th Monkey

Moderator
Aug 31, 2015
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It's interesting that there has been a thread about lack of traffic, and which alludes to the fact that new posters seldom become regulars. This seems small wonder when side-tracking into entrenched cable debate happens so frequently.

Next time a new OP appears from someone who is enthusiastic about their system etc, maybe we ought to give a moment's pause to consider whether we look like a group worth joining...
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
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That is not the case, I had already noticed a difference myself before I read this post. Do you have a CXA 81?
Hi,
Sorry, misread your post. I don't have a CXA81.

There is no difference, as bits are bits. Any other connection to the CXA81 such as electrical (coax) SPDIF would cause an issue too.

Regards,
Shadders.
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
256
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It's interesting that there has been a thread about lack of traffic, and which alludes to the fact that new posters seldom become regulars. This seems small wonder when side-tracking into entrenched cable debate happens so frequently.

Next time a new OP appears from someone who is enthusiastic about their system etc, maybe we ought to give a moment's pause to consider whether we look like a group worth joining...
Hi,
The cable debates here are ok, and nothing to worry about. The previous incarnation of this forum had such debates. There was a lack of moderation, but then, it allowed the forum to remain an engaging place.

I have said this before to another person via PM, i do not think that moderators should be contributors. On another forum the moderation power goes to their heads, their view of hifi must prevail, and shilling is a problem. On yet another forum, the owners views dominate.

With this forum, there are no trade members, and this means all views that challenge foo manufacturers are allowed.

Regards,
Shadders.
 
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manicm

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May 1, 2008
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Hi,
Sorry, misread your post. I don't have a CXA81.

There is no difference, as bits are bits. Any other connection to the CXA81 such as electrical (coax) SPDIF would cause an issue too.

Regards,
Shadders.
You don’t have his system , you haven’t listened to it, can you please bring a halt to your condescension, patronisation, and haughtiness, please be respectful and behave.
 
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Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
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Hi,
The cable debates here are ok, and nothing to worry about. The previous incarnation of this forum had such debates. There was a lack of moderation, but then, it allowed the forum to remain an engaging place.

I have said this before to another person via PM, i do not think that moderators should be contributors. On another forum the moderation power goes to their heads, their view of hifi must prevail, and shilling is a problem. On yet another forum, the owners views dominate.

With this forum, there are no trade members, and this means all views that challenge foo manufacturers are allowed.

Regards,
Shadders.
Except those constantly asserting ‘bits are bits’ , no such thing as electrical interference and no opinion is accepted unless done with a ‘double blind’ test…….just gets so boring! Like some kind of HiFi Puritanism!
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
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Except those constantly asserting ‘bits are bits’ , no such thing as electrical interference and no opinion is accepted unless done with a ‘double blind’ test…….just gets so boring! Like some kind of HiFi Puritanism!
Hi,
Bits truly are bits, and DBT's are used to discern if there is a difference.

Electrical interference exists, but the claims by those whose describe the mechanism is laughable.

Other opinions are allowed.

Regards,
Shadders.
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
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Yet he wasn’t talking about cables….
Hi,
So what ?

A USB interface requires a USB cable. Bits are bits. Any slight difference is imagined, else if there was interference, then it would affect any of the bits (if that is the mechanism), and when a MSB is affected, pops and clicks will be heard.

When you design your own equipment, you know that the differences are not real, unless there are design issues. Following the manufacturers (semiconductors) application note ensures a well design piece of equipment that does not suffer from such interference (if it exists) issues.

Regards,
Shadders.
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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Hi,
So what ?

A USB interface requires a USB cable. Bits are bits. Any slight difference is imagined, else if there was interference, then it would affect any of the bits (if that is the mechanism), and when a MSB is affected, pops and clicks will be heard.

When you design your own equipment, you know that the differences are not real, unless there are design issues. Following the manufacturers (semiconductors) application note ensures a well design piece of equipment that does not suffer from such interference (if it exists) issues.

Regards,
Shadders.
I rest my case, you’re like an obdurate child.
 

Dom

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Aug 6, 2011
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Sorry, ah well. Bluetooth could sound different with different profiles, but probably all sounds the same too.


Ok, so after reading the OP's findings the only thing I can add is that there are differences.
USB uses packets of data and the clock timing is done via the end point. The other uses the devices protocal to send and recieve data and clocking is done there.
 
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Gray

Well-known member
...please be respectful and behave.
I have to say that Shadders has never been anything less than respectful.
Cable non-believers can certainly appear to be blunt, their clear-cut opinions go against those of others - but their opinions are no less valid. Yes cable debates get tedious, but, unless they get personal, nobody should be silenced (and cable debates will, necessarily, often be part of unrelated threads).
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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I have to say that Shadders has never been anything less than respectful.
Cable non-believers can certainly appear to be blunt, their clear-cut opinions go against those of others - but their opinions are no less valid. Yes cable debates get tedious, but, unless they get personal, nobody should be silenced (and cable debates will, necessarily, often be part of unrelated threads).
I will repeat guys this thread was not about cables, and it’s a laughable but sad shame that the likes of you and shadders deem fit to hijack it to please your superior noses.
 
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