Cambridge Audio CXA81 Review (2022)

Integrated amps are a combination of the functions of a pre-amp that includes tone controls, volume controls, input selection, and phono amp with a power amp in one unit. This removes the need to use a separate power amp and pre-amp and makes it a more convenient and cost-effective way of playback audio. 

Integrated amps are the best option when you’re looking for a cost-effective way of powering your speakers and can provide music and audio to a bigger room or more rooms. Nowadays, audio equipment has shifted from only using analog signals to using modern, digital devices so you don’t have to have a separate pre-amp. The Cambridge Audio CXA81 is one of the integrated amps that will improve your audio system’s sound quality for a better listening experience.

Cambridge Audio CXA81 Review and Breakdown

The CXA81 is an integrated amp that has been built to deliver authentic sound to any music you play. It features a new digital board including a cutting-edge digital to analog converter which can handle digital files that are 384 kHz/32 bit and produce every detail and nuance of the music. This amp can also deliver 80 watts of power per channel that will handle even the most demanding speakers with 4-8 ohms.

It has a large toroidal transformer with a low-noise current without distortions and a very beefy power supply which gives it massive power reserves so the speakers don’t have to strain to produce the best quality sound. The CXA81 also features 1 balanced audio input, 1 coaxial digital input, 4 RCA analog audio inputs, 2 digital inputs, Bluetooth, and a USB input. You’ll also get a subwoofer output and pre-amp outputs. The upgraded DAC will enable the support of many Hi-Res files and offer much better audio quality than the previous models.

What we liked
  • Bluetooth and USB inputs are great
  • Sturdy and well built
  • Amazing sound quality
  • Works well with most speakers
What we didn’t like
  • Doesn’t have a lot of fine-tuning features
  • No DAC filter settings

View price here

 

Cambridge Audio CXA81 Specifications

FeaturesSpecs
Channels2
Weight19.1 pounds
Power output80W to 8 ohms
Frequency response5 Hz – 60 kHz +/- 1 dB
Digital audio inputs1 USB audio, Bluetooth-integrated, 2 Toslink optical, 1 S/PDIF coaxial
Outputs3.5mm headphones, subwoofer output, speakers A+B, preamp output
Warranty3 years
Remote controlYes
Max. power consumption750W
AvailabilityCheck Price Here

Cambridge Audio CXA81 Features

Build and design

The CXA81 has a simple, clean look with an elegant front panel that includes a large volume control knob, an A/B speaker selection button, sources selection buttons, and a small headphone jack. However, there are no tone control buttons, but you still get a significant improvement in the sound quality. The front panel has a clean layout and minimizes button clutter.

Most of the inputs only need a button press, but the analog one input also has 2 actual potential sources. Each time you press the buttons, they change color from red to blue with red meaning balanced. The USB and Bluetooth inputs also change color with blue for Bluetooth and red for the USB. This amp also comes with a superior DAC and improved USB input that supports audio of up to 384 kHz/32-bit ad DSD256 quality files and also enhances the performance of other functions. The aptX HD built-in Bluetooth receiver will allow you to stream directly from any compatible device of 24 bits/84 kHz.

Inputs

The CXA81 has improved your audio listening experience with an improved USB connection to provide better connectivity. When it comes to the analog side, it has 4 RCA inputs and a balanced XLR, but no phono input. The S/PDIF coaxial inputs will ensure the amp can handle files up to 24 bit/192 kHz and it also comes with 2 Toslink optical inputs that can handle up to 96 kHz. You can connect the Toslink digital inputs with Toslink digital outputs in your TV so you can use better stereo speakers to improve the audio in your TV.

Outputs

When it comes to outputs, this amp has for the preamp and subwoofers if you have these connections to increase performance. A 3.5mm headphone jack allows you to play on your headphones when you just want to listen to music without disturbing anyone and a pair of speakers that you can play separately or together. You’ll need to use a Bluetooth dongle if you want to stream wirelessly. The preamp output allows you the freedom to add a larger power amp in the future and use the CXA81 as a preamp.

Who is it best suited for?

The CXA81 is the perfect integrated amp for anyone looking for an amp that will power your entire audio system. Its wide array of inputs means you can use it even in the future, you can use it with most of the speakers and will produce good quality sound.

Are there alternatives?

FeaturesAudiolab 6000ANAD – D3020 V2
Power output50W x 2100W x 2
Channels22
S/N ratio110 dB90 dB
Power output50W to 8 ohms30W to 8 ohms
Frequency response20 Hz – 20 kHz +/- 0.3 dB20 Hz – 96 k Hz +/- 0.3 dB
AvailabilityCheck Price HereCheck Price Here

So, should you buy the Cambridge Audio CXA81 amp?

Although it might be a bit expensive, it’s a great amp with lots of power supply and can drive almost any kind of load and with the 80W, you can pair it with most of the speakers. It also comes with plenty of inputs and outputs plus a nice addition of a USB input and Bluetooth integrated input that will ensure you get wireless streaming and the best sound quality. However, you’ll have to attach a Bluetooth dongle so you can stream wirelessly from any of your smart devices. Apart from that, it’s worth spending some extra money to experience better sound quality for a long time.

FAQ

Does the Cambridge Audio CXA81 have a phono preamp?

A phono preamp will provide a connection between the amp and a record player. It’s mostly built-in to receivers and amps to provide a direct connection of a turntable, but the CXA81 doesn’t come with a built-in phono amp.

Does Cambridge Audio have tone controls?

Tone controls have been omitted and both the power supply and signal chain have been upgraded with quality capacitors.

Andrew Gibbons

According to Andrew Gibbons, playing the guitar is fun but it will take a few months before you can come up with a creative expression. Gibbons is a guitar instructor and has been teaching University music programs for over a decade, when it comes to playing the guitar a lot of factors come into play that determines the type of sounds produced. The guitarist must consider the guitar's neck and body shape, weight, and string type, the amp is also a primary determinant of the sounds produced and that is why Gibbons has created extensive excerpts detailing on the delicate topic. Guitarists must also pick a pose, be it the pro, wizard, hipster, or the old master.