THEY STILL make stereo receivers? Who knew! But seriously, folks—I’m here all week. Stale humor aside, there will always be a sure market for high-quality audio playback, with access to terrestrial broadcast radio, AKA good old FM, and a basic feature set for hooking up outboard components. And Cambridge Audio’s AXR100 is one of a small but growing cadre of current-day stereo receivers aiming to satisfy it.
British stalwart Cambridge Audio—that’s Cambridge as in punting on the Cam, not duck boats on the Charles—has a well-earned reputation for judiciously balancing audiophile desires with the imperatives of value, an equation to which the AXR100 seems well-targeted. Its 100-watts-per-channel amplifier is supplied by an impressively solid power supply, including a substantial toroidal transformer, something not always seen at this entry-ish level. Also of note is onboard digital-to-analog-conversion, in this case a 24-bit/192-kHz circuit served by optical and coaxial digital inputs, but lacking the USB type-B port you’d need to connect a laptop or other computer source directly. I frankly found this omission to be surprising, given that hi-res streaming is the audio “it” of the moment, and streaming directly from a connected laptop is the easiest and cheapest way to get on board. (Surprised, that is, until I poked around the agora a bit, where I found that none of the other under-$1,000 stereo receivers, regardless of brand or country of origin, includes this all-important input, either.)
In other terms, feature-wise the Cambridge is unabashedly basic. It has three stereo analog RCA inputs, a moving magnet phono input, and a fourth, auto-selecting analog-input on a front-panel minijack for conveniently connecting portable devices like a phone via its headphone output. The only audio outputs other than speakers-level, which are provided in duplicate as selectable speakers-A/B on light-duty plastic multiway jacks, are a fixed-level analog record-output and a single subwoofer jack, which is low-pass filtered at a fixed, 12 dB/ octave 200 Hz curve.
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February - March 2020