Starting up - Audiolab vs Cambridge Audio combo

nabeshima

Novice Member
Hello everybody,
I am new to this forum and I come straight with a question :)
I am setting up an hi-fi system that I want to deliver in phases (budget constraint atm) and after some researches and studies based on my needs, I selected down the following 2 combo.
I'd like some opinion on which one might be the best to start, also considering my budget .

(1) Audiolab 6000N + Audiolab 6000A + Klipsch R-51M
(2) Cambridge Audio CXN V2 + Cambridge Audio AXA35 + Klipsch R-51M

To give some reasoning behind my thought process, let me share some of my requirements - what I want from my system:
  • good quality for the type of music I listen at (jazz, ethnic, 70's rock) & good solid sound in the space (living room of circa 20m2),
  • online streaming supported (Tidal, spotify, internet radio) controlled by Android App
  • main components separated for future upgrades
  • usb port (could have), bluetooth
  • 1,200£ for Phase 1 (please see below)
  • Multi-room (nice to have)
  • same brand (to accomodate my partner's request) to start
  • Phono stage (mandatory)

Phase 1: Music Streamer+Integrated Amp+Speakers
Phase 2: Turntable
Phase 3: CD player

Thanks in advance,
g
 
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muljao

Well-known Member
As modern stuff goes have you thought about two speakers such as sonos 5s or similar, audio pro/sony have new multiroom stuff.
These would cover all streaming bases and allow you to plug in turntable and cd if req, then add a speaker for other rooms as req.

Just an alternative idea
 

nabeshima

Novice Member
As modern stuff goes have you thought about two speakers such as sonos 5s or similar, audio pro/sony have new multiroom stuff.
These would cover all streaming bases and allow you to plug in turntable and cd if req, then add a speaker for other rooms as req.

Just an alternative idea
Thanks for the reply @muljao. Sonos as music streamer was an option however it will require a preamp for my old turntable
 

Costello

Well-known Member
Hi, I can’t comment on the streamers or speakers but these two amps are very different. The 6000A is a lovely sounding amp: very clear and civilised with a good soundstage, although it has been plagued by transformer hum issues. The CA AXA35 is very capable, I’m sure, but is half the price of the Audiolab. CA amps tend to be exciting but a little bit forward. If you’re set on a CA set up, it’s worth seeking a used CXA60. If you prefer a less enthusiastic, more civilised sound, Audiolab is the way forward. Just my experience from the two brands. Your choice of course 👍
 

nabeshima

Novice Member
Hi, I can’t comment on the streamers or speakers but these two amps are very different. The 6000A is a lovely sounding amp: very clear and civilised with a good soundstage, although it has been plagued by transformer hum issues. The CA AXA35 is very capable, I’m sure, but is half the price of the Audiolab. CA amps tend to be exciting but a little bit forward. If you’re set on a CA set up, it’s worth seeking a used CXA60. If you prefer a less enthusiastic, more civilised sound, Audiolab is the way forward. Just my experience from the two brands. Your choice of course 👍
The annoying bit of the CXA60 is that it does not come with a phono stage and I'll need to buy a preamp on top of. I found an used one around £400 which tempted me....
having said that, do you know any good link used stuff in London?
 

mseve1

Active Member
I think you'll be struggling to pick up either of your proposed startup options for £1200. Given this budget I think you'd be better off considering a 'streaming amplifier' such as a Marantz PM7000N (£900) to pair up with the Klipsch R51Ms. The Audiolab 6000a Play and Quad Vena II Play are slightly cheaper alternatives (£800) but both use the problematic DTS Play streaming controller.
 

nabeshima

Novice Member
thanks @mseve1 . The challenge I got is that, to be 100% honest I think I am mentioning the excuse of a future upgrade to justify a separation of the 2 layers even though I got a Sonos a Sono 2 for more than 6 years which I've never upgraded....
On the cost side both combinations (new) are around £1,300 which is still in budget, but on Cambridge Audio the concern is the power of the Amp, which I don't know it is really worth considering it.

CAMBRIDGE AUDIOCXN V2£749
CAMBRIDGE AUDIOAXA35£299
KLIPSCHR-51M£249
£1,297
 

Hoku

Active Member
Can I ask, have you heard the Klipsch speakers? I really wouldn’t recommend buying blind. As you would probably hope to keep your system for many years, it could be an expensive mistake buying blind under lockdown. And whilst I completely agree with your view of separates, due to their future flexibility, amp and speaker matching is vital to get a system you’re happy with. So it is a risky time to buy, without being able to demo systems. You may need to check your chosen supplier’s return policy very carefully if you still want to pull the trigger now. Please take this advice seriously - I’ve been in this game long enough to have made similar mistakes in the past just because I’ve found a good discount on a product.

Having said all that, one amp comes to mind that could tick many of your boxes, although it does push your budget slightly and I normally wouldn’t try doing that.

The NAD C368 with the additional BluOS module comes in at around £1100 with current offer from Sevenoaks. I think it would not only outperform both the amps on your list, but would add multi-room streaming functionality from a brand with a well-supported, stable streaming app, has Bluetooth and a moving magnet phono stage. It’s also a very powerful amp - not that you especially need that with Klipsch’s with their super-efficient 93db sensitivity. But it would certainly take a decent speaker upgrade later with the flexibility of being able to effortlessly drive less efficient speakers.

Yes it pushes your budget, but seems to tick all your other specification boxes nicely and gives you an amp with serious welly to boot.
 

mseve1

Active Member
On the cost side both combinations (new) are around £1,300 which is still in budget, but on Cambridge Audio the concern is the power of the Amp, which I don't know it is really worth considering it.
It's not so much the power of the amp as its quality - after all speakers like Klipsch are very efficient. The problem is that the CXN doesn't sit well in a £1200 system as it's eating up far too much of the budget. Far better to spend less on the streaming side to allow you to get a better amplifier - hence the reason for both myself and @Hoku suggesting integrated solutions which effectively allocate no more than ~£400 to the streaming functionality to give you a better balanced system.
 

nabeshima

Novice Member
The problem is that the CXN doesn't sit well in a £1200 system as it's eating up far too much of the budget. Far better to spend less on the streaming side to allow you to get a better amplifier - hence the reason for both myself and @Hoku suggesting integrated solutions which effectively allocate no more than ~£400 to the streaming functionality to give you a better balanced system.

Thanks @mseve1 , I got your point and I see where you are coming from. To be honest I started looking at the 3 below before I moved to a combo approach. But I feel, like you said, that it is quite unbalanced if I invest so little in the Amp compared to the music stream. It's also the reason why Audiolab kicked in: I felt it spread better my investment across the 2 components, giving me more confidence on the Amp.
But still, I believe I should really think when I will realistically plan an upgrade and consider it when deciding: the later in time the more i should look into an integrated solution

AUDIOLAB6000A Play
DENONPMA-150H
MARANTZPM7000N

To @Hoku , you spotted another big concern I have: I am buying blindly the speakers based on reviews. I'd like to liste to the combo before buying it. I guess it might take a few months before things reopen? I will definitely check the return policy and try to wait as much as possible (currently I am planning to buy at beginning of March)
 

Paul7777x

Member
To be frank, you have the balance all wrong here.

The streamer is very excessive for your budget. It’s simply too expensive in comparison with the rest of your choices.

(It would be a superb choice as a streamer/preamp into active speakers, but as you insist on a TT, that won’t work alas. No phono or even analogue input).

The speakers are not in the same league as the rest of your ideas.

They are doubtless a fine budget speaker, but... speakers are the single most important part of a hifi and therefore should be the best part of your budget.
 

Paul7777x

Member
Your budget is a healthy one and I’d be looking for a considerably better balanced hifi for your money.

So as a suggestion I’d seriously consider these items.


Top class speakers with a very useful discount.

And this amp/streamer is a proven and splendid machine. Plenty of current delivery too. A serious amp for your budget.


And, there is an adequate return time too.
 

nabeshima

Novice Member
Thanks @Paul7777x I did really appreciate your recommendation and all other answers.
I am now reconsidering my initial choice, as I feel it was more on the what I want rather than what I need.
I quickly checked the Yamaha R-N803D and I will spend some time over the next couple of days to go through reviews however I noticed there is also the R-N602 that comes at £200 less.
Is it worth considering it? I might move even more budget on the speakers
 

CalvinandHobbes

Standard Member
I would not get the Audiolab 6000N streamer. Unless something has drastically changed, the AudioLab's Play-Fi system streams music via your phone...meaning that your phone has to be on as it is the source of your music going to your streamer. This thread is discussing the problems with this setup: Audiolab 6000N arghhhhhh

For most other streamers, the music goes directly to the streamer from the Internet connection.


The Bluesound Node 2i might be a cheaper streamer option. You could even start with a phone connected to your DAC or amplifier as your streaming source.
 

nabeshima

Novice Member
I would not get the Audiolab 6000N streamer. Unless something has drastically changed, the AudioLab's Play-Fi system streams music via your phone...meaning that your phone has to be on as it is the source of your music going to your streamer. This thread is discussing the problems with this setup: Audiolab 6000N arghhhhhh

For most other streamers, the music goes directly to the streamer from the Internet connection.


The Bluesound Node 2i might be a cheaper streamer option. You could even start with a phone connected to your DAC or amplifier as your streaming source.
Wow, thanks for sharing this. I was not expecting music to be streamed via my phone: if I wanted that I'd buy a chromecast and plug it into an amp.

In any case at the moment I am seriously considering the suggestion from @Paul7777x
 

Mindhead1

Novice Member
Wow, thanks for sharing this. I was not expecting music to be streamed via my phone: if I wanted that I'd buy a chromecast and plug it into an amp.

In any case at the moment I am seriously considering the suggestion from @Paul7777x
Did you make a decision on your system?

I’m a little late to this thread, but agree with others that spending more on your speaker and amp over the streamer will give you better value for your budget.

I did a similar exercise late last year with a $1000 USD budget. I ended up with a Yamaha as301 ($300), Klipsch rp160m ($300) and Project Debut Carbon Evo ($500) for the main components of my system. I went over budget by $100 because I opted for a more expensive TT than initially planned. I have subsequently added a Project Phono Box S2 for $200. The phono stage upgrade was well worth it.

For streaming I’m happily using a Chromecast Audio I already owned. It’s connected to the optical input on my as301 and sounds excellent to my ears. I use YouTube Music for streaming and have a Plex server with FLAC that I’m able to access via the Chromecast as well.

If you get an amp with a good DAC, I’d strongly recommend a Chromecast Audio if you can find one or look at other affordable streamers/transports like the AudioEngine B-Fi. While I’m sure the more expensive streamers like the CXN are great from a sound quality perspective I’m not certain the other parts of my budget system are capable of taking full advantage of what they have to offer.

All that said, I’m in this forum looking for info on an amp upgrade. Considering a CXA81.
 

Njprrogers

Novice Member
I recently bought a second system for my office for almost exactly this price.

I went for the Audiolab 6000A Play after torturing myself with the available options mentioned above.

This is a very well regarded amp, a very well regarded streamer, a well integrated Ess Sabre DAC that Audiolab have been using for years (was separately in the M-DAC product). I picked up a pair of B & W 606 S1's for a bargain £329 as the S2's had just come out (still available in richersounds i think as well as other places). I've been delighted with the sound quality. Lovely sound stage, airy, nice separation.

I use spotify connect during the day which streams directly into the amp. In the evenings I do use Tidal at the moment for more critical listening and for this purpose, Play Fi is .... "grand". You're not going to be writing poems about it but it's improved.

I'll be dropping Tidal when Spotify HiFi comes out this year and most of my listening will be done from that.
 

Mindhead1

Novice Member
I recently bought a second system for my office for almost exactly this price.

I went for the Audiolab 6000A Play after torturing myself with the available options mentioned above.

This is a very well regarded amp, a very well regarded streamer, a well integrated Ess Sabre DAC that Audiolab have been using for years (was separately in the M-DAC product). I picked up a pair of B & W 606 S1's for a bargain £329 as the S2's had just come out (still available in richersounds i think as well as other places). I've been delighted with the sound quality. Lovely sound stage, airy, nice separation.

I use spotify connect during the day which streams directly into the amp. In the evenings I do use Tidal at the moment for more critical listening and for this purpose, Play Fi is .... "grand". You're not going to be writing poems about it but it's improved.

I'll be dropping Tidal when Spotify HiFi comes out this year and most of my listening will be done from that.
I’ve been looking at the Audiolab 6000A Play as it’s at the same price point as the CXA81 in the US. I may end up ordering them both, trying them out and returning one. It’s probably the best thing to do since I there is no where near me to listen to both.

I’m also thinking I could get by with the standard 6000A and continue using my Chromecast with its DAC And save a few $$$.

I’m also looking forward to Spotify Hi-Fi, that may get me to finally switch from YouTube Music Premium. But the commercial free YouTube is hard to give up. Maybe the Spotify move will encourage YourTube to offer a Hi-Fi option.

Enjoy your new system!
 

gava

Active Member
If you are still pondering...

KEF LS50 Bookshelf (£550) or Elac Debut F5.2 Floorstanders (£650)
Behringer A800 Amplifier (£165)
Yamaha WXC50 Preamp DAC Streamer (£269)

Total = £984 for the KEF option. If you want to spend extra money put the extra £200 into speakers. Sevenoaks have the QAcoustics Concept 40s for only £700 at the moment, like the LS50s, they are end of line and being sold at a very good discount over their normal £1,000.

Choose the speakers depending on your room size and how much bass you like, if in doubt go for the floorstanders. That system comes in under budget and I reckon you will be amazed.

If you wanted to really push the boat out, Focal Chora 816s are on sale in various places for £1,100. Total for the system would be £1,534 and it would be in a league you never imagined.

[Edit] This is a system which sounds good enough that not that long ago would have cost at least 3-£4k. Remember that the LS50s are in short supply now at £550, they were launched to rave reviews in 2012 for £2k.

The Behringer A800 is a very powerful commercial class D amplifier that is incredible value for money and performs as well as some well-known brand amps at more than £1000.

The DAC streamer has a few jobs: firstly get the data from the cloud streaming server in a user-friendly manner, convert it to an analogue stream to feed the amplifier, and let you control the volume. Spending extra money here can have surprisingly little effect.

Most of your money should go into a good set of speakers.
 
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English Invader

Active Member
I'm using the Cambridge Audio AXA35 and the AXC25 CD player and I've been very happy with them as a pairing. Budget Cambridge gear benefits a lot from "trickle down technology" from the higher end products and the corporate backing of Richer Sounds. They're very well positioned to provide good quality entry level products.

When you open the box, you don't feel like you're opening a £300 product. The build quality feels like you just spent a couple of grand and I keep noticing build features in the AXA35 that are not present in far more expensive amplifiers.

The 35w per channel is fine for me because I'm using the amp to power a pair of 70s speakers that were originally designed for 15w amps but if you're rethinking your speakers you may need something with a bit more oomph.

The phono stage works very nicely with the NAD C558 TT I'm using and instantly decommissioned the phono stage I was previously using (NAD PP2e).
 

Njprrogers

Novice Member
I’ve been looking at the Audiolab 6000A Play as it’s at the same price point as the CXA81 in the US. I may end up ordering them both, trying them out and returning one. It’s probably the best thing to do since I there is no where near me to listen to both.

I’m also thinking I could get by with the standard 6000A and continue using my Chromecast with its DAC And save a few $$$.

I’m also looking forward to Spotify Hi-Fi, that may get me to finally switch from YouTube Music Premium. But the commercial free YouTube is hard to give up. Maybe the Spotify move will encourage YourTube to offer a Hi-Fi option.

Enjoy your new system!
You can definitely leverage your Chromecast there with the standard 6000A. Enjoy your system whatever you choose!
 

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