Home » Review: Cambridge Audio EVO 150 A well-equipped streaming system
Reviews

Review: Cambridge Audio EVO 150 A well-equipped streaming system

Review: The Cambridge EVO 150 is a very powerful package with crisp bass, great resolution, but not too high levels in the middle.

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.

Sure: Mechanical players such as a record or CD player are not part of the EVO 150, but with a pair of speakers or headphones, a really extensive system is ready. The fact that two pairs of loudspeakers can be connected is of course welcome, as is the fact that a subwoofer and a pre-out provide flexible options for contacting other (active) sound transducers. However, the fact that the headphone jack on the front only exists in 3.5 mm format and therefore does not accept a 6.3 mm stereo jack causes a little frown .

Der Cambridge Audio EVO 150 bietet auf der Front eine 3,5-mm-Klinkenbuchse

On the input side, the Cambridge EVO 150 offers a colorful bouquet of possibilities, with electrical and optical digital inputs, mini jack, balanced XLR ins, Ethernet, USB for mass storage and streaming from a player. There is even a moving magnet phono preamp on board, which is found in some other devices, such as the Arcam Solo Music(2,200 euros), is not available. In comparison, however, it is also noticeable that in some setups it could be desirable to have a DAB+ input and a few more HDMI and RCA inputs available. When it comes to streaming, the EVO 150 goes all out: Tidal, MQA, Spotify Connect, Roon, Qobuz, Chromecast and Airplay 2 – that leaves nothing to be desired. Cambridge uses its StreamMagic module here. aptX HD has also been implemented as a Bluetooth audio codec.

Der Cambridge Audio EVO 150 bietet vielen Quellen Zugang, sogar ein symmetrischer Hochpegeleingang ist mit an Bord

There are several communication channels to tell the Cambridge EVO how to implement user requests. A concentric double rotary encoder is available on the device itself to rotate through the menus, which are simply structured and clearly shown on the display. An infrared remote control is included with every EVO 150. Control with the StreamMagic app is also possible, and third-party apps from streaming services such as Tidal Masters or Spotify are also explicitly allowed to communicate with the device. A good old RS-232 control socket and a trigger I/O are also available.

Der Cambridge EVO 150 lässt sich über die Gerätefront, per App und Fernbedienung steuern

Cambridge uses the Saber ES9018K2M D/A converter chip, a Hyperstream converter from ESS, as the heart. This is currently very popular and is also used in the recently tested DAC/HP amp Waversa WminiHPA mkII (1,950 euros). If the source allows it, the chip converts PCM food at 32-bit/384kHz or DSD256. The Cambridge EVO 150 provides 150 watts of power with Hypex NCore power amplifiers, so the amplification is in Class D.

The front of the device looks bulky on the one hand, and has something airy, floating, dynamic on the other hand due to the footprint, which is smaller than the housing itself, which the black, wavy cheeks still support. But I like the magnetically attached wooden parts on the sides even better, they combine early seventies hi-fi chic with modern design standards. The Cambridge EVO 150 shows a square image on the large and, if necessary, very bright display, provided the source provides the necessary data. In the case of streaming, this is usually the album cover, and in the case of Internet radio stations, the station graphic.

Was darf's denn sein? Der Cambridge EVO 150 lässt sich mit zwei unterschiedlichen Seitenwangen schmücken

Setting up the Cambridge EVO 150 is marketed as being particularly easy – and it really is. In view of the range of functions, I would even describe it as exemplary and give it the title “almost suitable for senior citizens”. The overall usability can also be praised. This is not least because you have the choice. For example, I’m more of a tactile friend and am happy for any activity that I don’t have to do on a touch display. In this respect, I was happy with the two large input wheels. The button bar placed to the left cannot quite keep up with that in terms of feel.

Für Freunde des Taktilen: Der Doppel-Jog-Dial des Cambridge Audio EVO 150

There is a small flaw in the control concept that other people may not be interested in: Imagine a situation in which someone in a dressing gown, an empty coffee cup in their hand and eyes that are a little tired and swollen, is padding through the kitchen: I want to be able to switch the EVO to Deutschlandfunk on WDR 3 or my favorite Rembetiko station in the morning in passing .

Der Cambridge Audio EVO 150 empfängt Radio via Internet, doch nicht über FM oder DAB+

The setup worked great, the stations are easy to save. However, I was not able to call them up without a remote control or cell phone. I am of the opinion that the majority of functions must always be able to be set on the device, palm-sized, black devices are used often enough. At least I think so. Otherwise, the operation of the Cambridge EVO 150 runs extremely smoothly.

Cambridge Audio EVO 150: Sound Test & Comparisons

The advertised “British” in the sound of the Cambridge Audio EVO 150 is more in homeopathic doses – I would rather speak of a largely neutral sound pattern with not particularly intrusive, not too crisp high mids and highs.

Cambridge Audio EVO 150 im Regal

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.

Screenshot der StreamMagic-App, mit der sich der Cambridge EVO 150 steuern lässt

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”.

Das Anschlussfeld des Cambridge Audio EVO 150

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.

Die Holzwangen des Cambridge EVO 150 transportieren etwas 70er-Jahre-Flair

Incidentally, the all-in-one device handles the stage display just as “swayed” as it does with the dynamic aspects. The stereo image is neither noticeably narrow nor very wide. Localization sharpness and stage depth are comparable to the Musical Fidelity M2si integrated amplifier . It is nominally cheaper at 800 euros, but not in real terms, because here – as with the Rega and Abacus amplifiers mentioned – some features that the Cambridge offers are missing. If you mentally add these up, you can easily end up in similar price regions.

Digital & analogue

Not only the built-in D/A chip is groundbreaking for the sound character of a device, but its embedding: The Waversa Wmini HPA mkII uses exactly the same converter chip as the Cambridge, but there the result appears fresher even without processing due to the special type of integration , wiry, minimally crystalline. One could easily assume that in the EVO Cambridge combines the modern converter chip with a more mid-heavy, yet somewhat “British” sounding amplifier stage in order to tweak the overall result in this direction. However, the analog inputs should then actually be a bit milder – but they don’t. Cambridge has succeeded in producing the style described independently of the entrances and the exits. This makes the EVO 150 as an audio center largely homogeneous in terms of sound.

The comparison of the integrated converter with an external solution such as the Merging Technologies HAPI (eight-channel AD/DA, approx could get carried away with the positioning accuracy – which is slightly better in merging. And if a signal preamplified in the EVO 150 is routed via the preamp out instead of the internal power amplifier and amplified further with the Abacus mentioned, the sound pattern can be ascribed slightly more grippy structures. In the highs, the Dolifet seems a bit more nervous at the same levels.

MM-Tonabnehmer finden Anschluss am Cambridge EVO 150

My MM system , a basic Nagaoka MP-110, was equalized and amplified no noticeably better or worse than with the Rega Mira 3’s integrated solution. And headphone playback is okay, but a quality notch below the Waversa or the Lavry DA-11 (DAC/HP-Amp, around 1,500 euros), both of which allow for a bit more jagged dynamics and better resolution of details – but are also dedicated headamps, while that is just one of the many functions of the Cambridge. Many users of the EVO 150 will also want to connect their headphones via Bluetooth. The built-in transmitter does a good job here thanks to the latest technology and the implemented high-quality codecs.

 

Cambridge Audio EVO 150 - Cover-Anzeige

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.

Facts:

  • 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

 

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment