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Cambridge Audio

Manufacturer: Cambridge Audio
Price (in Poland): 6990 PLN

Gallery Court | Hankey Place
London | SE1 4BB


Provided for test by: AUDIO CENTER POLAND

CAMBRIDGE AUDIO is a British company founded in - clearly - English Cambridge. Its origins date back to the early 1960s, when a group of engineers graduated the university there, and formally began operating in 1968. The first product was the 20-watt P40 integrated amplifier. Turntable ALVA TT is a turntable, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the brand.

ambridge Audio is one of the „middle generation”, companiesfounded more or less in the same time as some other famous British brands, such as: Bowers & Wilkins (1966), Harbeth (1968), Spendor (1971), Monitor Audio (1972), Castle Acoustics (1973), Meridian Audio (1973), Naim (1973), Linn (1973) and the youngest in this group Arcam (1976), that is another firm associated with this place (Arcam = A&R Cambridge Ltd). It so happens that all these companies still exist and most of them do pretty well still today.

One of the characteristic features of these manufacturers was a narrow specialization. Today it has changed a bit, because - for example - Meridian offers digital sources, amplifiers and active speakers, Naim’s lineup is similar, and the most diverse offer is probably the one of Cambridge Audio. Its core is electronics, which has been emphasized by the top Edge series. In addition to it, the manufacturer's lineup also includes loudspeakers, soundbars, integrated systems (Yoyo), Bluetooth speakers, and since last year also a turntable with Bluetooth functionality.


Let's face it head on and look at the two words that have never been used together in a single sentence concerning an audio product of this class: 'turntable' and 'Bluetooth'. Combining them Cambridge Audio showed courage and out-of-the-box thinking. Many vinyl record fans may consider it a profanation. Because - to be honest - it is. Playing an analog record in order to convert it to a digital signal and send it wirelessly using a lossy codec, and finally re-convert it to an analog signal is a complete nonsense. It's better to buy a streamer and enjoy music from Tidal.

This is true, but not the whole true. The world today is much more complicated, and audio is a much more multi-dimensional place than it used to be. And this is because the generation entering adulthood today, as well as the previous ones, are used to a completely different model of using music than we are. For them, streaming is something normal, and physical media are the domain of "old-timers".

It is a paradox, that today the only source of music acceptable to them apart from a "cloud" is vinyl record, which has become a part of their culture-sphere, their life. And that’s great! - Let's be happy about the fact that they are with us and that music is an important part of life for them, because five or six years ago it seemed that we are the last generation who even cared about it.

The thing is that today all product’s features, including audio products, are equivalent, all matter. In our case it would be: sound, appearance, ease of use, functionality - all equally important for users. I think that the planning department at CA had these basic indicators written on a large board (you can probably see what I'm doing - I think analog, which makes me an "old-timer" ...) and under each heading ideas were written down about what to do to make their turntable meet all these expectations.


First of all, it was decided - or at least that's what I imagine - that it would be a turntable other than all commercially available products. It was also decided that it will be a "premium" design, because there is no point to try to win a share of low price market dominated by Chinese manufacturers (that cost less than PLN 1000) and Pro-Ject and Rega (from PLN 1000 to PLN 3000 and above).

Therefore, the Alva TT was to be an integrated turntable, as simple as possible to assembly and operate. This is a non-decoupled design with a direct drive, with a pre-installed cartridge and phonostage. What makes this turntable clearly different is the Bluetooth connectivity - the company claims it's the first such turntable in the world.

Setup | The turntable actually arrives to us almost ready for work. The tonearm is mounted on the deck and a cartridge in the tonearm. We have to place Alva TT on a flat, level surface. And that's because the this deck does not feature any adjustable feet that could otherwise be used to level it. The next step is placing a platter over motor’s spindle - it's a direct drive, so you do not have to worry about the drive belt. Finally, we have to place a counterweight on the tonearm. The only serious activity you need to do is balance the tonearm - you will need an (included) Ortofon's plastic, mechanical scale to do that.

Deck | The turntable looks very modern, but it is not intrusive in its modernity - and that's probably what it was about. It has a low profile and it features a dust cover. Its chassis is made of milled MDF boards covered with a piece of aluminium in titanium colour - it is this board that gives ALVA TT its clean look. The whole construction stands on strips of foam rubber.

Motor | The platter, made of polyoxymetelen (POM) and aluminium, is placed directly over the motor axis. POM is an advanced thermoplastic material used in precision elements that must be very rigid and perfectly preserve their dimensions regardless of the operating conditions. Other companies such as Clearaudio and Transrotor also use it.

The direct drive is a solution known from DJs turntables, and preserved during difficult 1990s and 2000s in Technics turntables. This type of drive allows you to maintain wow & flutter at a very low level of only 0.06%. And that means high sound pitch stability. The tested turntable features an average power engine controlled electronically. On the top there are two small buttons, which allow us to choose between speeds - 33 1/3 and 45 rpm. The platter accelerates to full speed almost instantly.

Tonearm and cartridge | The Alva TT has been equipped with a very nice tonearm - it is the Rega RB 220. It is a single element, including the headshell, made of aluminium and magnesium alloy; that features a magnetic anti-skating. Also the cartridge is an OEM product by an external manufacturer; company materials say it was designed at Cambridge Audio, but it's unlikely and probably it was about collaboration with some specialist company. It's a nice design MC HO, or Moving Coil, but with a high output level.

It features an exposed generator, as in cartridges made by Van den Hul. It features an aluminium cantilever and elliptical stylus. The VTF is set at 2 g. It is known that it is produced in Great Britain, perhaps by Rega. Interesting fact - the exposed motor assembly was placed, in relation to the ground, at an angle of 68 degrees to celebrate the company's year of establishment. The Alva MC cartridge is also available separately and costs $ 499.

Electronics | The clou of this design lies in what you can not see at first glance - in electronics. In the chassis there is a PCB with a phonostage and a Bluetooth transmitter. The phonostage section is based on 5532 integrated circuits and very nice polypropylene and polystyrene capacitors. Interestingly, you can not turn it off to use an external phonostage. You can though turn off the Bluetooth transmitter. It is tiny and has been sourced from external supplier; its antenna was placed on the front of the turntable. The Bluetooth transmitter in Alva TT works with the latest version of the aptX HD codec.

| WHAT IS an aptX?

aptX is a way of coding and decoding (hence the name – codec) Bluetooth signal resulting in a higher quality sound than a basic solution. An algorithm, it is based on, was created in 1988 at the Queen's University in Belfast under the doctorate of Stephen Smyth. He worked on accelerating the transmission of broadband sound for audio signals with the lowest possible losses.

His first system was apt-X100, used by DTS to encode the 5.1 soundtrack for Steven Spielberg’s movie Jurassic Park. This algorithm was used for the first time in conjunction with the transfer of data via Bluetooth in 2009. Today it is difficult to imagine audio systems that would not use it. Its popularity caused that it became very attractive for investors and therefore in 2010 it was bought by CSR, and in August 2015 CSR was bought by Qualcomm.

Thanks to advanced calculations, the aptX system allows for sending a PCM digital signal with 16 bits and a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. In its context it is referred to as "CD quality", but in reality it is not - it is a lossy coding. The rate of such signal is 345 Kbps, but with very low signal latency. Let me remind you that the CD standard requires a rate of 1411,2 Kbps. Even so, the sound quality from aptX is really good.

In 2015, the right to this patent was bought by Qualcomm, and a year later they presented a codec called aptX HD. It allows a transmission of a high resolution signal - 24 bits, 48 kHz. The signal is still properly coded, and the transmission speed is 576 Kbps. This is a lossy signal encoding, but as explained by Mr Johnny McClintock, Qualcomm sales and marketing director, in the interview for, the compression is relatively gentle and it is based on ADPCM (adaptive PCM), which maintains higher sound quality than standard lossy codecs (more HERE).

Cambridge Audio is an experienced manufacturer of phonostages, and its Solo and Duo models are praised for great sound. And this is the phono preamplifier one finds in the tested turntable. After amplifying the signal, it can be sent through RCA outputs to a regular input in any amplifier.

The second way to use Alva TT is to send the signal wirelessly. Cambridge Audio has developed several breakthrough solutions for our industry, such as the first use in the toroidal transformer amplifier or the world's first two-box CD player. The use of a wireless Bluetooth connectivity in a turntable therefore has a deep sense for the CA. But only when it is the best possible solution.

Therefore, Alva TT features the latest version of aptX HD, which allows the transmission of high-resolution (24/48) digital signal. The turntable automatically connects to the selected receiver - if it is equipped with a standard Bt receiver, the signal is of low quality but if the aptX is possible signal will have a quality "comparable to the CD", and if it is compatible with aptX HD a high resolution signal is sent.


Alva TT is not meant to be yet another turntable, this is not what this design is all about. It is supposed to be something else - to some extent something more. Sure, it comes at some cost. I am sure, however, that its versatility will be simply irresistible to many people.

It seems that one can imagine some basic situations where Alva TT will fit in perfectly. The first one combines audiophile requirements and functionality, which Cambridge Audio engineers give us with this product. We add the turntable to our audio system, with an amplifier and speakers, and connect it using the RCA interconnect (included) to the linear input of the amplifier. This is an "audiophile" function.

But we also pair some Bluetooth headphones with the turntable wirelessly and listen to music in a different room, or just away from the turntable - during work or in the evening. This is the "freedom of use" function. Instead of headphones or alternatively, we can pair the Bluetooth turntable with a Bluetooth speaker, for example in a different room or outside the house, and play vinyl from a distance. This is a "social" function.

The turntable comes to us with an interconnect, the same as found in Rega's standard tonearms, but a removable one. To reduce power consumption, if the device does not rotate its platter for 20 minutes, it goes into standby mode. This function can be turned off by pressing the Standby button for a longer time.

I chose the first two situations for the test because they seem natural in this case. The turntable was placed on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack and was connected to the "High Fidelity" reference system. I paired its Bluetooth with the Cambridge Audio Yoyo (L) system, i.e. system with Bluetooth speakers; Yoyo (L) is compatible with the aptX HD codec.

Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

  • Cosmic Machine, Because Music BEC5161705, 2 x 180 g LP + CD (2013)
  • Breakout, Blues, Polskie Nagrania „Muza”/Polskie Nagrania SXL 0721/2007, „Czarne perły | No. 3”, 180 g LP (1971/2007)
  • Eva Cassidy, Songbird, Blix Street Records G2-10045 (1998)
  • Marek Biliński, Best of the Best, Bi.Ma. BiLP-01, 180 g LP (2014)
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, Columbia | Sony Music Entertainment/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 2-45011, „Special Limited Edition 05371”, 45 RPM, 2 x 180 g LP (1959/2015)
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, Columbia/DOL DOL006, 140 g LP (1959/2013)
  • Peter Gabriel, So. 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, Realworld/Virgin PGVOX2, 4 x CD + 2 x DVD + 180 g LP + 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1987/2012)
  • Pharrell Williams, Happy [From Despicable Me 2], Columbia 884305363, 45 RPM LP (2014)
  • Wojtek Karolak & Adam Czerwiński, In A Sentimental Mood, AC Records ACR 009, „Limited Edition | No. 383”, 180 g LP (2018);

In this sound everything is "correct". It is a sophisticated product designed to increase the amount of joy in the world with as little problems we usually face when dealing with vinyl, as possible. This is an internally coherent presentation. It has its limitations, I will point them out, but as in a context of what it was created for is perfect.

Because it is a warm and lively sound. The warmth is manifested, for example, in the fact that the vocals seem more pleasant, richer. Even if they are slightly behind, as in the mix Do not Give Up from the 45 rpm maxi single attached to the Peter Gabriel’s So. 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition box, with Alva TT it will be spiced up, dipped in sauce, so to speak. It will still not be big, the turntable will not enlarge the presentation, and yet it will be placed in the foreground - where our attention tends to focus.

The warming up part concerns the rounding and roll off of the upper treble, which was done very skillfully. One of the annoying features of vinyl records, especially if they are older and worn, are cracks and pops. With this turntable they are less annoying than with others, „clouded” by the mid part of the band. Hence your older vinyl records will sound pretty good with this turntable. However, I did not feel like there was something missing. It's a skilful usage of timbre and dynamics, because the noise and cracks&pops can sometimes be heard, but they are more of a confirmation of the fact of listening to vinyl, rather than a nuisance.

And it's an open sound. I was a little surprised at how much information about the upper midrange was there when I cued the album Blues by Breakouts - it was not flooded with honey, it was not mush, and there was a nice rhythm, open treble, drive. Shortly after that I heard the same set of features when listening to Pharrell Williams' Happy [From Despicable Me 2], records by Marek Biliński, etc. Each time I was offered a similar set of features, namely: warmth, smoothness, a warm, slightly rolled off upper treble and a very good rhythm.

The lowest bass is also rolled off, same as the upper treble. Yet, I did not lack bass, it sounded really cool. And again - it is not about cutting the lowest part of the band of, but about the fact that our attention is focused on the midrange. And that's where the most happens in music. Because, you see, it's a turntable designed for people - that's how I see it - who are not nitpicking. For those who like to listen to music from vinyl records, or would like to start it, as well as those who are put off by the problematic operation of a record player and poor functionality of audiophile proposals, and because of them gave up on this wonderful music medium. This is a turntable for those the "The Telegraph" wrote about in 2017:

According to a BBC/ICM poll from last year, 41 per cent of people who buy vinyl have a turntable but do not use it, with 7 per cent of vinyl buyers not even owning a turntable.

Chris Moss, Why are we falling for the great vinyl scam?, „The Telegraph”, 22 April 2017, accessed: 27.03.2019

During the next two years, little has changed in this respect. Cambridge Audio lands a hand to these people. It's a turntable for those who do not listen to the vinyl, even though they want to but are afraid of the problems, inconveniences etc. The Alva TT is not the best sounding turntable for the money - I would like it to be clear about it. For 7,000 zlotys one can buy a Pro-Ject, Rega or Music-Hall turntable, with a nice phonostage that will deliver a better performance. Maybe not "better", but simply more neutral.

And that’s OK, these are products for another group of customers. The Cambridge Audio system, because it should be considered as such, is devoid of internal constrain, which characterizes truly audiophile products. We do not have to achieve anything with it we just can do a lot with it. We can, for example, listen to music using wireless headphones or a Bluetooth speaker.

Cambridge Audio

Price: 1790 PLN

The Yoyo (L) is sort of "entertainment center". Although it looks similar to the Yoyo (S) portable wireless speakers, it is larger than them. The device allows you to send wireless signal via Bluetooth (aptX HD), has a built-in Chromecast, Spotify Connect, also features a digital HDMI ARC (can be used as a soundbar) and optical input, which allows you to connect to it a TV set. You can also charge mobile phones with it.

The company provided the ability to change its performance using presets such as: Movie, Music, TV and Voices. In each of them you can change the bass setting. Yoyo (L) finish is a high quality wool material supplied by the Marton Mills factory in Yorkshire, existing since 1931. There are two shades of gray to choose from - light and dark. The device measures 269 x 125 x 269 mm.

To use Yoyo (L) via the built-in Bluetooth you do not need much time - you need to select the Bluetooth icon on it, and in the turntable press the button on the back for two seconds. If the Alva TT was previously paired with another receiver, it must be first unpaired by holding the button for 10 seconds. Then we start pairing process again - they stay connected even when we switch off the turntable and Yoyo (L).

The sound quality from the turntable will depend only on the quality of the receiving device - the turntable is "transparent" in this pair. With Yoyo (L) I got a nice, pleasant, warm presentation. This is a device that offers an incredibly immersive sound, reminiscent of what I remember from childhood, from tube radio receivers with a single speaker. Nothing annoys, nor bothers listener.

A user can choose one of four preset correction curves - the one for music is really good. You can also add some bass, but I would rather not do it, because it won’t add extension but only cause the mid and upper bass to get boomy. With only exception in the situations where Yoyo (L) is used in a large space placed far from the walls. In neutral position Pharrell Williams from the yellow maxi-single Happy sounded joyfully, the French experimental and 'cosmic' music from the Cosmic Machine compilation disconcertingly, and Eva Cassidy from the excellent SP Records album Songbird - offered me her melancholy in a convincing way.

I think it is clear - the Bluetooth connectivity in a turntable is an auxiliary system, but a very nice one. It's not about perfect sound quality, it's just about a nice sound and freedom from a cable connection, and that's a big difference. Cambridge did a really good job because used together with Yoyo (L) it offered me a non-committal (that is, one that did not impose its "audiophilism" and yet it did not mess with anything audiophile), a modern system with a physical music medium. It was a refreshing experience.

If some product is to expand the group of people listening to music in a decent manner, then it will be this type of audio component, like the Alva TT. They are intended for people who would probably never decide on this step. We can use it to create a minimalist system, having only a turntable and Bluetooth wireless headphones, or a Bluetooth speaker, such as - for example - Yoyo (L). This type of system will give us a lot of joy from a fact that (1) we listen to music and (2) it’s a music from a vinyl record. Contact with a physical carrier has an unbelievable effect on how we experience music, it's probably clear.

Cambridge Audio is a bit like a sailor setting off to unknown lands, and Alva TT is his ship. Thanks to such companies, our industry does not fly too far away from the normal world. I think people working there feel perfectly what Billie (15) has expressed, when asked by the portal, why she buys vinyls:

“Just because I like vinyl a lot. The feeling of buying the record, holding it in my hands, playing it, … is so much nicer than on my phone.” She got into vinyl after receiving a turntable for her latest birthday. “I already had a few records from my father’s bands (Reinhard Vanbergen, ed.) and I also stole a few from his collection. The turntable came with a few records as well and ever since I’m hooked.”, Why do teenagers still buy vinyl records?, 9 Aug. 2018, accessed: 27.03.2019


And that’s what we need – people addicted to music not to audio components. People who do not close themselves inside some microworlds they believe are the only right ones. But they never are. Cambridge Audio with their Alva TT pierces through that wall of pride and hauteur, letting some fresh air to the audiophile world. Bravo! ■

Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

- Drive: direct
- Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
- Motor torque: 1.6kg/cm
- Wow & Flutter: <0.1%
- Platter: POM (polioksymetylen)
- Platter diameter: 305mm
- Power consumption: around 6W, max 20W

- Type: one piece aluminum casting
- Effective length: 238mm
- Overhang: 17.2mm
- Effective mas: 11g

- Type: High Output Moving Coil
- Frequency range (+/- 1dB) 30 Hz-20 kHz
- Stylus: elliptical
- Cantilever: aluminum
- Output: 2mV (1kHz)
- VTF: 2g
- Recommended loading: 47kΩ
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 435 x 139 x 368 mm
- Weight: 11kg


Reference system 2018

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC