Cambridge SX-80 – Apparently, Cambridge has taken the Rolling Stones as a model for the update of the SX series. The motto of the SX-80 could be “Paint it Black”. Do you also achieve a brilliant performance in matt black? Our test answers that.
Cambridge’s SX speaker series just got a color update. The proven successful series of the British is now dressed in matt black. The two previous color variants with foil veneer in black and walnut are history.
The designers should be targeting the group that barricaded themselves in the basement before the corona lockdowns: the home theater community that prefers loudspeakers in simple, matt black without design capers. This means that they are not even particularly noticeable if they are not hidden behind acoustically transparent fabrics.
With the hi-fi-affine regular readers of stereoplay, on the other hand, they like to show what they have. With regard to stereo applications, one can therefore not necessarily speak of progress – with the possible exception of young Wilders who wrap their sports cars in matt black.
Anyway, there are of course still enough technical reasons to be interested in the SX series. And a very pragmatic one on top: After all, you don’t get a pair of stylish floorstanding speakers from a good company for less than 500 euros every day. At Cambridge you get a solid basis for this.
The English have always attached great importance to solid, low-resonance housings for the SX series. The blackened SX-80 is no exception. The MDF housing was created using the state-of-the-art CAD system and has been optimized against vibrations at key points in order to minimize discolouration caused by walls that vibrate with them.
The developers also designed the magnet system of the woofers and midrange speakers for more precise bass reproduction. The two 16.5 cm drivers have treated paper cones because the designers expect a particularly balanced frequency response.
The dome tweeter relies on a silk dome with a diameter of 2.5 cm. Foam damping behind the silk dome is intended to dampen the sound energy radiated from the rear for uncolored, clean high-frequency reproduction.
As far as the design of the baffle is concerned, the driver arrangement corresponds to the D’Appolito principle named after its inventor. And according to the pure teaching, the SX-80 is actually a 2-way box with two low-midrange speakers connected in line.
The fundamental advantage of a real D’Appolito loudspeaker is bundling on the vertical plane, which leads to a reduction in floor and ceiling reflections and thus to a more precise sound image. As far as the detailed design of the floor-standing speaker is concerned, the connection field offers solid plastic terminals with gold-plated contacts for single wiring.
The front covering is made of black fabric and only covers the upper half of the baffle. This gives the 1m high speakers a classic, British monitor look.
Makes it difficult on the monitor
Monitors have always been associated with the utmost neutrality and the renunciation of any showmanship. Seen from this point of view, appearances are not in the least deceptive. The two British were sober and controlled like the Queen at an official reception. What is as little associated with monitors as with the royals, on the other hand, was an extremely jagged element that, despite all controls, ensured plenty of life in the listening room.
Nevertheless, it was more the more subtle details that shaped the image of the two Brits. So the SX-80 managed to focus very well. Solo voices were quite vivid and sharply outlined in the middle between the two speakers. The timbre was more on the bright side of neutral.
No matter how classic the Cambridge box may look, it has about as much in common with the rather soft, warm settings of traditional island solutions as an electric Jaguar E-Pace with an XKR from the last century.
However, the playback did not slide into harsh conditions, although higher levels in connection with complex passages seemed a bit compressed and strained. The very affordable floorstanding speakers mastered the low pitches flawlessly, if not to say impressive, in terms of depth as well as precision and punch.
The kettle drum beats in “Children’s March” from the stereoplay CD 11/17 took on pitch-black and precise form in the listening room and formed the icing on a performance that was extremely glamorous compared to the price.
Cambridge SX-80 – Conclusion
It is not uncommon for inexpensive floorstanding speakers to use effects that are mainly appreciated by young pop listeners. Not so with the Cambridge SX-80. It tries to get as much right as possible for less than 500 euros in the audiophile sense.