Recently Cambridge Audio celebrated its 50th anniversary with the development of its Edge Series. With no development cost limitations in place, it was a project that pushed their engineers to ask what was possible? One of the pieces developed is the Integrated Amplifier Edge A.
Cambridge Audio Edge A Integrated Amplifier
- Understated styling
- More than adequate power
- Digital and Analog Inputs
- Bluetooth and aptX HD
- DSD 256 and USB support up to 32-bit, 384kHz PCM
- Balanced inputs
- Audio Return Channel, (ARC)
The term “British Sound” was heard right about the time Cambridge Audio was formed in Cambridge, England. Not to suggest that Cambridge Audio coined the phrase, but today Cambridge uses the moniker in their core philosophy. The British sound in the mid to late 1960s referenced not only the popularity of British artists like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones but innovative recording engineering and ultimately to the gear that reproduced it.
The Edge A Integrated came my way quite innocently, yet I was in London and visited their headquarters while this series was in development a couple of years back. I was, and still am impressed with the design of the series, leaving me the impression of a clean and refreshing form. However, the styling of the Edge A is merely the façade of a seriously, musical-sounding piece of gear.
CONTINUOUS POWER OUTPUT:
100W RMS into 8 Ohms; 200W RMS into 4 Ohms
<0.002% 1kHz (8 Ohms); <0.02% 20Hz – 20kHz (8 Ohms)
<3Hz – >80kHz +/-1dB
S/N RATIO (REF FULL POWER):
Input A1-A2 (unbalanced) 380mV RMS
Input A3 (balanced) 47k Ohm ; Input A1-A2 (unbalanced) 47k Ohm
Balanced, Coax S/PDIF, TOSLINK, USB Audio, Unbalanced, Bluetooth, Audio Return Channel (ARC)
Speakers, Preamplifier, Headphones (impedance of between 12 and 600 ohms are recommended)
USB AUDIO INPUT:
USB Class 2.0 supporting up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM, or up to DSD256
4.1 (Smart/BLE enabled) A2DP/AVRCP supporting formats up to aptX HD
16/24 bits, 32-96kHz
COAX S/PDIF INPUT:
16/24 bits, 32-192kHz
MAX POWER CONSUMPTION
150 x 460 x 405mm (5.9 x 18.1 x 15.9″)
Cambridge, edge a, integrated, amplifier, design, modern, british, hifi, Amplifier Review 2022
As I’ve already mentioned, the Cambridge Edge A Integrated amplifier is gorgeous in its understated, elegant design. At first, it may appear brutally simple but the more you look at how function merges with form, you begin to appreciate the engineering aesthetics of the Edge A. So, my immediate, eyebrow-raising impressions aside, there is much to know about this gem of an amp.
Getting back to the external design, the obvious aesthetic has to do with the softly curved faceplate, that leads around to the heat sinks on each side. The face is efficient, with a dominant feature, a large, centered dial, for volume control. But look closely and you will also see a second ring around the dial used to select one of the nine inputs. I have included a diagram of the complex design. There is a standby/on button on one side and a ¼” headphone jack on the other. Discreetly positioned under the main dial, is an IR sensor for the remote control.
This Integrated amp is not alone in the series, where you can opt for separates with a network player pre-amplifier NQ model which can be paired with either an Edge W stereo amplifier or the Edge M monoblocks. They all sport the same chassis design; simple, clean curved aluminum bodies.
The rear of the Edge A reveals the diversity of this integrated amplifier. Firstly, a pair of speaker binding posts, properly located towards the edge of each left and right side, away from the other connections. Included are, balanced and unbalanced pre-outputs as well as balanced and unbalanced inputs. Included are three digital inputs as well as a USB input that supports 32/384 PCM. In addition to an RS232 connection for integrators, and a Bluetooth (aptX HD) antenna for pairing enabled devices, I am impressed to see an ARC, HDMI connection making this amp a perfect mate for a stereo-based A/V system. Conspicuously missing is a phono input.
The Edge A is deceptively heavy, over 50 lbs if you read the specifications above. Dual toroidal transformers arranged in “opposing symmetry”, may be contributing to the heft. By using two, (the larger the better), Cambridge increases the efficiency while helping to clean up any stray magnetic interference. And although 100 watts into 8 Ohms may not seem like a ton of output, this is done with a modified traditional Class AB design, by adding a bias voltage with the intent to reduce distortion. Cambridge refers to it as Class XA.
The remote control is no more than it needs to be, controlling inputs and volume as well as mute and skip, but also includes programmed buttons for volume control and source selection.
The first time the Edge A is powered on, it will go through a volume calibration as the dial moves around.
An integrated amplifier is straightforward in the setup, frankly. I did try and use all of the inputs as much as possible for the review which meant; an OPPO CD player both as a transport and a digital source, using the USB from my laptop and a Meridian Explorer2 in-line DAC, my Marantz turntable through a Halo phono stage preamp feeding an analog input, and a NAD music server for streaming music from TIDAL. I used several speakers during the review but predominately a pair of MayFly 201A which I had in for evaluation. I also did manage to swap them out for the large Golden Ear Triton One. R and also a small pair of PSB Alpha 5 monitors.
If you intend on scrolling to the end of this review, bypassing all the trials and tribulations of my long-term review of the Cambridge A integrated amplifier to get the preverbal thumbs up or down, the recommended or highly recommended version, read no further, I’ll spare you the trouble – I loved this integrated amplifier, soundly, (excuse the pun) recommended.
Now, if you want to know why, read along. With an abundance of time spent with the Cambridge Edge A, I was able to understand the nuances as well as the overt characteristics of this amplifier. Regardless of the speaker-in-rotation, I was amazed by the depth and breadth of the music. The Edge A managed the full frequency range dynamically, meaning the amplifier did not struggle with reaching deep into the bass, through the mid-range, and into the highs.
I was able to feed it from a variety of sources; digital from streaming was my overwhelming preference, simply because of the convenience. However, I loved bringing out my stack of SACD and DVD-A disks and playing them through my Oppo UDP-205 Universal player.
The now-classic, soulful album from Lyle Lovett, Joshua Judges Ruth on DVD-A, is remarkable. Lovett’s voice is beautifully rendered with just the right amount of texture and tone. Backup voices are deep and full. Far from what I would call pure country music, each track offers a soulful story, as perfectly illustrated with the track, She’s Already Made up Her Mind”. The music in each channel jumps off the speaker’s face in detail! “JJR” is a must-have to show off your audio system.
Steely Dan’s SACD Gaucho also proved to sound superb through the Cambridge Edge A. The Edge A delighted me on the opening track, Babylon Sisters where each instrument is clearly in three-dimensional space. The distant variety of horns along with the guitar notes, are shaped and presented “lively”.
Digital sources sent to the Edge A come in a couple of forms. The obvious and shortest method is taking advantage of the Bluetooth capability of the amp. I was frankly beyond pleased with the sound from my Tidal service, feeding the Edge A from my iPhone. Tracks like Warren Zevon’s Carmelita featuring some elegant guitar-playing or Led Zeppelin’s That is the Way, which delighted me with clarity and punch, both from MQA files,
That’s the Way, is from the 1970 release of Led Zeppelin III. What I love about this track via the Cambridge Edge A, is how fresh it sounds; perhaps giving some credit to the original engineering. Plant’s voice is clean and full while the mandolin and guitar sound textural and rich.
Playing the same tracks through my overachieving NAD Music Streaming DAC C-658 proved a truly minor difference. Other than a slight volume adjustment, I could not distinguish between the two.
Switching back to the NAD DAC, I dialed back the volume and played the seductive Boz Scaggs’ base-heavy track, Thanks to You from his album Dig. A deep underlining low-end tone throughout the track is easily managed by the Cambridge Edge A. The deep, low frequency can also be heard in the track from country singer, Chris Jones’ No Sanctuary Here. Along with his earthy voice, the base background vocals are thick and present. But accompanied by rich electric guitar work, both the highs and middle range is expressed cleanly, warmly.
Although it would have been a nice addition for the Edge A to include a phono stage, nevertheless I used my Parasound JC3 to feed it analog signals from my Marantz turntable. My musician friend Micah Sheveloff sent me the album version of his beautiful solo album, Rockville. I had only been hearing it digitally from Tidal, his album proved to be another experience. Micah’s voice and piano playing are the essences of this album, and I found the vinyl version gave his voice a bit more weight and texture.
While the integrated amplifier market gets ever more crowded, the CAMBRIDGE AUDIO EDGE A stands out with its stunning good looks and equally lush sound quality.
- Amazing clarity of sound
- Modern Styling
- All in integrated
- Phono stage
I am not new to Cambridge Audio gear, although the last review was some time ago with the Cambridge Azur. But I find this new Edge series a level above, from the styling and engineering all the way through to the listening. I have truly never reviewed an amplifier that shapes the sound; voices are palpable and warm, instruments are cleanly isolated, identifiable, and rich in tone. A truly sublime experience.