When the list of requirements for buying a new hi-fi system is as long as the contract documents when buying a house, it sounds like a lot of equipment has to be purchased. Cambridge Audio is taking a different approach with the EVO 150 and trying to pack as many features as possible into a single device. Powerful power amp? is in. phono preamp? Sure, on board. USB and Ethernet? Of course. Bluetooth? Yes, both as a receiver and as a transmitter. The price of 2,499 euros for the 150 watt version tested here seems realistic in view of the wealth of capabilities (the 75 watt version is 1,999 euros). But of course the question arises as to whether you have to struggle with compromises.
The range of functions of the Cambridge EVO 150 is so gigantic that it would go beyond the scope of the test report to list everything here in detail. Cambridge Audio itself avoids losing the attention of interested parties and initially only mentions the most important parameters on the homepage – and simply describes the device as an all-in-one amplifier. However, they have not allowed themselves to be carried away with as much understatement as Rolls-Royce once did (“power: enough”): they make it quite rightly clear that an EVO is the central star that regulates everything that occurs in the house in terms of audio tasks.
Contrary to what is sometimes associated with ‘British’ sound, the bass range is neither underrepresented nor spongy. The level in the frequency range is not particularly high either, but the bass is very controlled and firm down to the lowest register. Steve Borrill’s bass on The Future Won’t Be Long (on Spyrogyra’s 1971 album St. Radigunds) needs to be concrete and rigorous to perform well in the opener’s mix. The Cambridge EVO does this extremely well. For most loudspeakers with a bass reflex system that fits. With some music and many closed systems, one or the other listener will perhaps wish for a little more substance. However, there is hardly any roll-off to the very deepest sub-basses, and the EVO 150 also transmits signals produced with the synthesizer close to the infrasonic limit without hesitation.
“The Brits can do the middle!” – This is not a dictum of hi-fi, but what is not, can still be. After all, devices from the island are said to place a special focus on a defined, but never overly analytical, but rather pleasant midrange. Cambridge Audio takes the same line and ensures that this spirit also arrives at the production facility in the Far East. The great balance can be seen brilliantly in Dave Evan ‘s vocals and acoustic guitar on The Words In Between. Tips for playing the grandiose album by the unfortunately almost forgotten folk virtuoso from Wales are the title song “Now Is The Time” and especially “Rosie”.
Also very dense material, such as that in the same era under the leadership of the recently sadly deceased exceptional producer and sound engineer Al Schmitt (Toto, Ray Charles, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Henry Mancini , Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley …) from the album After Bathing At Baxter’s by Jefferson Airplane , is displayed transparently and objectively with the Cambridge EVO 150. The material does not stick or clump together, the components can be clearly identified. The representation of the mids, even of highly compressed radio pop productions, is catchy, but not “overreaching”, if I’m allowed to use this weird play on words.
The heights continue this language, but with a slightly different dialect. Anyone looking for really agile heights is in the wrong place with the EVO 150. Instead of sparkling highs, the EVO 150 presents the acoustic events of the respective sound source in a rather neutral way, but not with the restraint that the Rega Mira 3 integrated amplifier (approx. 1,000 euros) has. Cambridge has trimmed the EVO in the treble in such a way that it works with a very high level of detail and transparency, but does not breathe excessively airily. With high-treble systems, such as the Stax SRS-2520 headphones, the long-term audibility is still limited – which speaks for the neutrality of the Cambridge. The rather long and admittedly exhausting double album Drukqs byListening to the Aphex Twin ( listen on Amazon ) at a comfortable volume is not possible with many devices, including the EVO. Good examples are “Jynweythek”, “Gwarek2” and the FM synthesis genius “Btoum-Roumada”.
Even if I would perhaps attribute a little more cuddly highs to British sound – clearly represented, neutral ones are a decisive precursor for a high resolution of detail. And it is indeed grandiose: the structures of the electronic claps, snares, shakers and even the artificial spatial responses on “Bbydhyonchordč” (The crude song title suggests that these are still Drukqs , doesn’t it?) can be studied very closely, which my Rega-Integrated does not do so well on the amplifier side, but the power amp Abacus 60-120D Dolifet (990 euros) does.
The crisp, fine dynamics of the Cambridge can be easily understood using the first (allegro) and fourth and last (allegro assai) movements of the third symphony by Java-born Henk Bading , played by the Janáček Orchestra from Ostrava in the Czech Republic under David Porcelijn (on: cpo, 2008 ). There, brass and flutes blare with the percussion, which the EVO 150 easily provides at the outputs.
Bading ‘s symphony is not stingy with Hollywood bombast and exhausts the coarse dynamic spectrum of a symphony orchestra. The Cambridge EVO 150 streaming amplifier implements the changes, which are sometimes composed quickly one after the other, just as quickly as the aforementioned Abacus power amplifier – but not more agile. The 150 watt version of the Cambridge Evo is never really overwhelmed, even at high levels on different speakers. On the “other side” of the technical dynamics, there were no nasty surprises either: Even at short listening distances, the background noise was almost imperceptible.
Conclusion: Cambridge Audio EVO 150
If you enjoy optimizing your system by swapping components and the associated changes in sound, you will hardly be interested in an EVO 150. But if you are looking for a single device that can take on almost all audio tasks and appears future-proof, the Cambridge EVO 150 is a very powerful package with crisp bass, great resolution, but not too high levels in the middle and a “for British Conditions” rather transparent high range. Overall, the EVO relies on neutrality.
Cambridge has built a homogenous device and this homogeneity extends to the various inputs and the outputs – with the analogue headphone path lagging behind the other output paths by an inch. All in all, the Cambridge Audio EVO 150 delivers very convincing sound characteristics, a wide range of functions, great looks and good usability at a fair price.
The Cambridge Evo 150…
- is an all-in-one device with streaming capabilities, which even has phono connectors (MM). Only non-Internet radio stands out. On the output side, too, the equipment is above the standard: two pairs of speaker connections, sub-out, headphone and preamp out as well as Bluetooth are on board.
- is tonally largely neutral and balanced overall. It is nice that its sound characteristics do not differ noticeably from input to input or output to output.
- transports basses effortlessly and crisply down to the sub-range – and that is rather neutral to slightly slimmer.
- presents the mids clearly, distinctly, vividly and always well balanced.
- resolves the highs very well and displays a somewhat stronger clarity than one tries to describe with the cliché of “British sound”.
- does not set any new milestones in terms of stage performance, but is also very far from neglecting this area. Image precision and stage dimensions are realistic and appropriate for the price range.
- can dynamically demonstrate what today’s audio technology is capable of, both in the case of short peaks and extensive load changes in the musical source material.
- delivers all of these features at an absolutely justifiable price.
- Model: Cambridge Audio EVO 150
- Concept: streaming amplifier
- Price: 2,499 euros
- Dimensions & Weight: 317 x 89 x 352 mm (WxHxD), 5.3 kg
- Inputs: 1 x RCA and 1 x XLR (high level), 1 x Phono-MM (RCA), 1 x S/PDIF electrical, 2 x Toslink, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x USB-B, 1 x USB- A (storage medium), Ethernet, WLAN, Bluetooth
- Outputs: 2 pairs of speaker outputs, 1 x sub-out, 1 x preamp-out, 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output (front), Bluetooth
- Audio Formats: Support for all popular formats and codecs, including DSD256, aptX HD, FLAC, AAC, etc.
- Power: 150 watts at 8 ohms (class D)
- Miscellaneous: RS-232 and IR input, trigger I/O
- Guarantee: 2 years