Need help pairing bookshelf speakers with Cambridge cxa81 amp in small room

Prebel95

Standard Member
Happy weekend and go Bengals!

I have researched for many hours and decided I'll just ask as my head is starting to spin. Looking for an end game bookshelf pairing to this amp.

I recently got the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amp (well within return window fyi) currently being used with elac debut 2.0 b6.2 bookshelves on desktop speaker stands (use svs sb1000 pro for lower frequencies) in a small office, no more than 10x12 feet. This is connected to PC for multi nearfield use. Mainly music with some movies which sometimes I will use recliner away from desk roughly 7 feet from speakers but sometimes up close in office chair. Obviously gaming would be nearfield. Main goal is music but would like them to be somewhat versatile for those other things. I'm looking for a more neutral sound that is non fatiguing with clear detailed mids and Highs. Can be slightly warm, but would prefer something more critical with good imaging and vertical/horizontal soundstage that has impact that gets you lost in the music.

I've been eyeing the elac uni-fi 2.0 reference ubr62's but they look pretty power hungry. This may be why I'm having so much trouble. These speakers tick a whole lot of boxes but they aren't great for HT and movies and I'm not sure amp would be enough to drive them right. I would hate to invest in speakers and not get all out of them. So maybe I need to be looking at more efficient 89db 8ohm and up or perhaps they are more than enough to power them, I don't know (partly why head is spinning!) I have read reports it's best to pair amp with 89db at 8ohms or better efficiency.

I wouldn't want to spend more than what I put into amp. So around $1300 tops is the budget and am hoping for this to be my end game setup 😆

This is what I have been looking at so far:

1. Elac uni-fi 2.0 reference ubr62
2. Dali Oberon 3
3. Monitor Audio Bronze 100
4. Monitor Audio Silver 50 7G
5. Monitor Audio Silver 100 7G (a bit out of price range but If it's worth it)
4. Svs ultra bookshelf

And probably a handful more that I'm forgetting.

Would really appreciate any insight and or recommendations as I'm admittedly a bit of a novice in the hifi segment.

Here is a picture to get an idea of setup.

20220128_210032.jpg
 
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larkone

Member
I would be looking at active nearfield monitors as they are designed to work at those listening distances. No idea what is available in your market
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I’m assuming you hail from Cincinnati?

I agree with Larkone. Active speakers all the way for your needs.

I’d go for a pair of these.


Or, these.


And return the CX81 for, say, a CXN using its preamp outputs.

But any good quality preamp would be good.

Personally I’d go for this one.

I think you’ll be delighted with either pair of speakers.

Seriously engineered active speakers are something special, and both of the above are at least that.
 
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Prebel95

Standard Member
Thank you guys! I thought maybe this amp was the wrong move. And yes I was born and raised in Cincinnati and still living here. Good times to be a Cincinnatian

I'll probably be going with the dynadio lyd 7's and the cxn preamp! The focal's are a bit out of range but maybe it's worth saving up for??

Thanks a bunch!
 

Prebel95

Standard Member
I’m assuming you hail from Cincinnati?

I agree with Larkone. Active speakers all the way for your needs.

I’d go for a pair of these.


Or, these.


And return the CX81 for, say, a CXN using its preamp outputs.

But any good quality preamp would be good.

Personally I’d go for this one.

I think you’ll be delighted with either pair of speakers.

Seriously engineered active speakers are something special, and both of the above are at least that.

Hey Paul,

So I was hoping to go with crutchfield as that's where I got original amp. They have a really good exchange system. I didn't see the dynaudio there. Is there another powered speaker from there you could recommend? I was looking at this kef but woofer seems a bit small. Maybe doesn't matter as I have the sb1000 sub as I said. I assume you can hook up subwoofer to the powered speaker?

Thanks again, I would be totally lost without this advice.

Here is what I was looking at:

 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
The CXN is overkill if you’re just using the USB input from your PC.

The 200 is also likely to be at least as good a dac/preamp and quite possibly a little better.


(Sorry, I forgot to add it to the post above 👍 ).

It would also allow you the choice between the Dynaudios and the Focals.

I’m not sure if you have a store that stocks both anywhere near you?
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member

This would be a great buy from Crutchfield and would allow you to buy the Focals too.

The Kef LSX are great speakers by all accounts. I’m simply not too fond of having all and everything on one box.

Also, both the LYDs and the Focals are a better speaker.

I prefer the idea of proper active speakers separate from the dac/preamp box.

It makes more sense for any future upgrades and any unfortunate repairs.

And yes, both Cambridge preamps work with the SVS as do the Kefs.

Unfortunately Crutchfield don’t appear to sell actives in any great number or kind.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
If you prefer to buy from Crutchfield then I’d seriously cinder these.

Something of a legend already and a very good price too.


Genuine three way, six power amplifier active speakers.

Also available in gloss black.

A pair of these with the CA 200 would indeed be exceptional.

And they are perfectly capable of showing up improvements in any future upgrades you might make to your dac/preamp.
 

Prebel95

Standard Member
If you prefer to buy from Crutchfield then I’d seriously cinder these.

Something of a legend already and a very good price too.


Genuine three way, six power amplifier active speakers.

Also available in gloss black.

A pair of these with the CA 200 would indeed be exceptional.

And they are perfectly capable of showing up improvements in any future upgrades you might make to your dac/preamp.

Oh man, those elac's look sweet to say the least. I think I'll have to go with that. Would the schitt modi multibit work temporarily until I can get the extra money into the ca 200? And I'm not familiar with powered, I assume there is a sub out port?

Also curious why you say usb is not great. I thought the new asynchronous usb connection is quite good.

Thanks again
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I think you’ll love the Elacs. Everyone else seems too. They get consistently first class reviews.

And the speakers designer is something of a legend himself.

I’m not sure what you mean by the USB comment?

USB from a pc is the best way to go in my opinion.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
The Elacs do not have a volume control.

This means you need a dac with a built in preamp.

Using a dac without a preamp will fry the speakers.

The Schitt does not have a preamp so cannot be used.

You would need to add a preamp to the Modi to use it with any active speakers.


This would do the job if cash is short after buying the speakers.

Dac into preamp into Elacs. 👍

Then I’d save up for a better set up, for instance, the CA above, or
More of Schitts better stuff, ie;


And

 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Ps, the Preout goes into the SVS then into Elacs from there if you decide they need the sub.
 

Prebel95

Standard Member
Great! I am so excited, crutchfield was so good with exchange process. They are amazing. They just let me pay different in cost and already shipped them out and then I have 14 days to send cxa81 back. Maybe I'll test with that and compare with the schitt dac and pre amp and report back here and will explain the difference, if there is any. I already ordered the pre amp you gave link too. Thank you, I would have fried the speakers 😖😂

Is there anything I need to be aware of when hooking up the speakers to the cxa81? Might be interesting to you all my findings between the cheap schitt stack and the cxa81 or maybe it isn't ha

Edit: Oh, you made a comment about if you only use usb that it wouldn't be worth going with cxn. You just meant if I never used the streaming capability. Which I would by the way so maybe that would be my end goal over the CA?
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
That’s seriously good service from Crutchfield 👍

The only thing to be careful about with using the CX81 is to be sure you use the preamp outputs and remember to have the volume turned right down to start.

Also, make sure both the speakers and amp are turned off when making connections.

I didn’t know you might be streaming music too. Hence the ‘superfluous’ comment on the CXN. It would make an excellent streamer/dac/preamp.

But you can get as good for half the new price of the CXN.

I’ll be very interested in hearing what you think of the whole set up.

It really should be a noticeable improvement in every respect. 👍
 

Prebel95

Standard Member
Only thing I'm slightly worried about is nearfield. A YouTube review (not sure name) said he wouldn't recommend these for that use. But honestly, I'll mostly be listening to music from recliner I guess
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
They have a coincident tweeter and midrange driver so I’d not be worried about that.
 

Prebel95

Standard Member
Would you recommend certain rca cables for the pre-amp connection to sub/dac and speakers? I really don't want to spend a fortune but understand going too cheap can hurt the sound.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Not at all. Well made cables are not expensive.

It’s a huge myth that cables can or do make the least difference.

They merely have to be of a certain, easily attainable, quality of manufacture and that’s all.

Spending hundreds, or thousands, will make, literally, no difference at all.

These are all you’ll ever need.

Amazon product

In the US, Monoprice cables are great stuff. Four of these at the required length will do a great job.

Amazon product
 
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Prebel95

Standard Member
Just wanted to say I got the speakers today and have been testing them. They are amazing! Haven't got the schitt sys yet so using the cxa81. Everything is great, haven't used for movies yet. But music and gaming is unreal with the soundstage and imaging. They sound way bigger than they are. Thanks again for the advice. Now I'm going to want them hooked up to everything 😄🤦‍♂️do you know if these takes some hours to burn them in?

They included elac ls-80g stands for free too which they list for $500. Very impressive.

By the way I was researching integrated preamp and dacs . What do you think about denefrips ares II? They come highly rated but don't have the most connectivity. Maybe there is something else that can be added to it to add remote control and bluetooth/wifi


20220202_145940.jpg
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Just wanted to say I got the speakers today and have been testing them. They are amazing! Haven't got the schitt sys yet so using the cxa81. Everything is great, haven't used for movies yet. But music and gaming is unreal with the soundstage and imaging. They sound way bigger than they are. Thanks again for the advice. Now I'm going to want them hooked up to everything 😄🤦‍♂️

They included elac ls-80g stands for free too which they list for $500. Very impressive.

By the way I was researching integrated preamp and dacs . What do you think about denefrips ares II? They come highly rated but don't have the most connectivity. Maybe there is something else that can be added to it to add remote control and bluetooth/wifi


View attachment 1647530

I’m very pleased, and not a little relieved, that you love the new Elacs.

It’s always a bit tricky recommending speakers. They can be a very personal taste but.

You seem to get on blisteringly with yours. And it’s not a big surprise. I’ve not once seen or heard anything but the highest praise for them.

Denafrips seem to be a very serious engineering company.

And the Ares 2 is, again it seems, universally loved. People are making a big thing about its ‘natural’ sound. That is undigital.

Sometimes these things are best taken with a pinch of salt. There is lots of bullsh*t written about hifi, and days get more than their fair share.

A dac, even an excellent one, has less influence on the sound than your room for instance (although as you’re sometimes near field that matters less) and any dac certainly has less influence than speakers.

So it’s wise to not expect too much from changing DACs.

That said, and in your case in particular, a very good dac will get halfway the best out of your speakers. And the Ares does seem to be something of a modern bargain. I’d certainly be interested in trying one.

I do think it will do your speakers the world of good.

Now the important part. The Ares is a dac only.

Again, not a preamp. Sorry to harp on about that but it’s importsnt to not blow up expensive new speakers 👍.

Not many people enjoy that. And I’ve done it.

So. You will need a preamp. And a very good one to get the best out of the Ares and your new speakers.

I’d suggest sticking with the same manufacturer and going for the Denafrips Hestia.

It appears to be extremely well made and technically a quite simple line level preamp.

You will be balanced from Dac to preamp and then too speakers.

The more I think about it, the combination seems to be an exceptional match for your speakers.

Expensive compared to the CA200, for example, but once you’ve saved and spent the money, I’d say you’re very much unlikely to regret it.
 

Prebel95

Standard Member
Hey so just wanted to confirm connections so I don't blow something up.

I gathered from a previous post that you connect preamp to svs sub and then use rca outs to speakers? And you connect dac to preamp into pc obviously.

Also I've been looking at the denefrips and seems a bit much to put into speakers at moment over 2k usd. Could I start with that cambridge preamp dac and then later upgrade to the denefrips dac and use the preamp of the Cambridge dacmagic 200m is what I'm looking at as an interim solution.

It sounds like I would be better served with the hestia with ares but wondering if the dacmagic 200m's preamp would be okay and then eventually upgrade that down the line.

As far as crossovers go, there is the svs low pass filter and high pass filter on the speaker. Do you have any suggestions where to put these at? Currently lfe is turned off in the svs app so not using the subs low pass crossover and have both speakers high pass filter set to 60hz

20220204_125354.jpg


This is what I have set up currently but yet to connect. The cords on right (connected to the out rca's) I would connect to svs sub and then speakers connect to the subs rca outs?
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Yes, that’s the right way to connect through the sub.

But I would not, for at least a week or so.

It’s quite important to get to know your speakers properly before adding a sub. And I’d be surprised if the Elacs are shy in the bass.

You might consider giving the speakers a shot by themselves, just so you are completely familiar with them. You will also find that this helps enormously when it comes to integrating a subwoofer.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Ps, make sure the volume control is turned all the way down before switching the speakers on after connecting them up.👍
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
You cannot use the Cambridge 200s preamp with the Ares, or any other dac. The CA is a stand alone dac, with a preamp facility; not a sperate dac and preamp alas.

There is nothing at all to stop you using the Ares with the Schiit preamp for a while. It won’t get the best from the Ares, but it certainly won’t be poor (assuming you like it with the current set up).
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Now to the sub. Already a legend; with the Elacs I’d say you’re in for a treat.

Ordinarily with standmounts, it’s not a bad idea to set the low pass quite high, say between 80hz and even higher. Usually it’s to give the stereo amp an easier time driving them.

That is irrelevant with the Elacs. Their six power amps are immensely capable and need no help at all.

60hz, as you say is a good starting point. You may find in a few weeks of acclimatisation that you prefer, say, 80Hz.

But you might well find that around 50Hz is more appropriate for you.

Setting up a sub is not as much of a black art as some say, but it’s not to be rushed or bodged.

A good sub, and the SVS is excellent one, will add impressively to your enjoyment of games, music and films. But... only if it’s properly setup.

Very usefully, SVS has tools for the job.

Once you’re happy with your knowledge of your speakers, then get yourself to the SVS website and follow their instruction for integration.

It sometimes seems to be taking forever to properly set up a sub. But, it is always worth taking the time to do it properly.

Best of luck. You have a first class hifi. I do hope you enjoy it to the full 👍
 

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