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CXA81 Mk II: Cambridge upgrades their amplifier

The new CXA81 Mk II from Cambridge Audio replaces both the CXA81 and its little brother, the CXA61. We are promised better performance in all areas.

written by / 2024-04-20 - 8:00 am
CXA81 Mk II: Cambridge upgrades their amplifier

The new amplifier has the same dimensions and minimalist design as its predecessor, instead Cambridge Audio has focused on upgrading the internal components and circuitry. At the heart of the upgrade is a new DAC chip, an ESS ES9018K2M SABRE32, which handles up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 files. This is to ensure “outstanding sonic resolution” from digital sources.

In addition, Cambridge Audio has used new premium components in the amplifier circuits, allowing their engineers to “fine-tune and perfect” the sound. The goal has been to improve depth, sensitivity and stereo perspective by using higher quality components in the signal path.

Cambridge Audio CXA81 MkII angle
Photo: Cambridge Audio

AudioCambridge Audio promises “even greater clarity and musicality” in the updated amplifier. Unfortunately, we never got to test its predecessors.

However, we’ve been happy with most Cambridge Audio products, including the more expensive Evo 150 streaming amplifier.

Cambridge Audio CXA81 MkII rear
Photo: Cambridge Audio

Same feature set

And the Mk II version doesn’t get anything other than Bluetooth streaming either, as the CXA81 MK II has exactly the same features as its predecessor. Fortunately, there are plenty of digital connectivity options, including an asynchronous USB-B DAC input that handles the highest file resolutions.

Analogue inputs include both unbalanced RCA connectors and a pair of balanced XLR connectors. With dual speaker terminals, the amplifier can drive two pairs of speakers if desired.

Also check out Well-resolved power bundle

When it comes to compact all-in-one amplifiers, it can hardly be done better than the Cambridge Evo 150.

2 x 80 watts

As before, the CXA81 Mk II delivers 2 x 80 watts into 8 ohms from its class A/B amplifier. Bluetooth connectivity supports aptX HD codec for better sound, and the amplifier has both preamp and subwoofer outputs. A 3.5 mm headphone jack adorns the front panel, right next to an identical display/control panel as on the previous model.

The lack of significant visual or external updates may disappoint some, but it already looks good. The real difference is to be found in the sound quality.

Cambridge Audio CXA81 MkII SPREAD
Photo: Cambridge Audio

Cambridge Audio CX81 Mk II: Price and availability

The CXA81 Mk II will be available in May at a price of €1,199.

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