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How Cambridge Audio’s “Music First” Ethos is Making Itself a Final Destination For Music Listeners 

Coral Williamson and EIC Ian White discuss the past, present, and future for Cambridge Audio. This must be the place.

Coral Williamson, Communications Manager for Cambridge Audio is Enjoying the Music

This must be the place.

Turning off the Cambridge Evo 150 and Evo CD player last night felt weird. I’ve been listening for a few weeks and there is a synergy with the Q Acoustics 5040 that makes me want to lock all the doors and not embark on the nine day journey ahead of me. I’m going to miss this system whilst I’m away and who knows if I will be the same person when I return. You never know.

I do have 2 pairs of headphones ready for the flights overseas and a rather long hike through the jungle. Never forget that it is always “music first” when putting together a stereo system. I promise not to get bitten alive or start a new conflict in the Middle East.

Cambridge Audio has been a “music first” brand since its inception and one would like to think that every company that designs and manufactures audio components and loudspeakers shares that same ethos.

With so much emphasis on the hardware, it is most certainly refreshing to see that the British manufacturer is taking a different approach to reach a new audience that is not obsessed with all of the technology that we focus on when it comes to music reproduction. All of these boxes are nothing more than instruments with which to enjoy art.

Cambridge Audio Made by Music Podcast

Between its new “Made by Music” Podcast and a world-class selection of high-end audio components and loudspeakers for almost every price point, Cambridge Audio is rather quickly becoming a one-stop shop for a new generation of music listeners.

Coral Williamson, Communications Manager for Cambridge Audio, joined us on the podcast to discuss the Cambridge revolution and where this remarkable British brand is headed. 

We also sat down to discuss the future of its Evo range, the popularity of its turntables, the future of streaming, and why non-audiophiles are so attracted to the brand.

What’s your role at Cambridge Audio and how did you get here?

I’m Coral, and I’m the PR & Communications Manager at Cambridge Audio. I’ve been telling people about how great our products are when it comes to enjoying music for just over two years – like everyone at Cambridge, I’m a music lover first and foremost. Before that, I helped champion songwriters’ rights at PRS for Music (and, like many PRs, was in music journalism first!).

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Turntable placing record
Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Turntable

Cambridge Audio just celebrated a huge milestone. How has the company changed over the years and what does reaching that milestone mean to the employees?

We’re now over 50 years old! Reaching that milestone means a lot to all of us. It means people have loved our products for that long – they trust us to give them a great audio experience. The company has changed massively of course in that time – from our ownership, being with Audio Partnership since 1994, to expanding our product offerings to include true wireless headphones (Melomania) and all-in-one streaming amplifiers (Evo).

We like to think of our products as having a timeless look – from the industrial designs of our flagship Edge series to the walnut side panel option of Evo, which pays homage to our original P40 amplifier while still looking modern. We are having fun exploring – for example – how the physical toggles of the P40 could be used as potential design inspiration in the upcoming DeLorean Alpha5, which we’re providing the audio experience in. So in a way, we are playing in that vintage audio space, but with smaller touches rather than wholesale products.

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Cambridge Audio P40 Stereo Amplifier from 1968
Cambridge Audio P40 Stereo Amplifier (1968)

How has the market changed for Cambridge Audio? Is the traditional customer still the focus or has the new retail environment and focus on vinyl and streaming made the company focus on a different type of customer? 

We like to offer choice, first and foremost. Whether your considerations are budgetary or format, we have something for every type of hi-fi customer: The AX series for those getting their first system; Alva for the vinyl fans; and Evo for those who prefer a simpler solution (my system at home is an Evo and turntable). We also offer Melomania earphones as a gateway to great sound, so we do consider ourselves a broad church. 

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch Wireless Earbuds White Floating with Open Case
Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch

What makes Cambridge Audio unique? Does the “music first” messaging and new podcast signify a new path forward? 

I don’t think it’s a new path for us; we’ve always been a business comprised of music lovers, from our Chairman James Johnson-Flint’s earlier years in pirate radio, to members of our team in the present day being in bands and orchestras.

But what we are doing is shouting about it a lot more now. We think the most important component of any hi-fi system is the music – the songs and albums that really move you, that you listen to from start to finish. The perfectly curated playlists and mix CDs that bring back memories. It doesn’t matter to us how you listen – just that you do, because you love music as much as we do.

Where do you think Cambridge Audio is headed as a company? 5 years? 10 years?

We want to be the best loved and most talked about hi-fi company – so nothing too ambitious! In the next decade, I imagine we’ll see ourselves continuing to adapt to the changing needs of the hi-fi customer; continuing to offer a wide variety of product, from headphones to hi-fi separates, and more lifestyle-friendly audio options with single-box solutions too. In 10 years, who knows which of the physical formats will still be popular? Maybe we’ll have brought back the tape player to support all the artists releasing their albums on cassette now too.

Will we see active Cambridge Audio loudspeakers in the near future?

Great question. As part of our remit to offer choice, we are always looking at what our customers are telling us they want – in terms of products, in terms of formats, and in terms of size. Unfortunately, you’re interviewing the gatekeeper of product announcements for the company, so I can’t say anything further!

Cambridge Edge A Integrated Amplifier Front
Cambridge Edge A Integrated Amplifier

Who is the typical Cambridge Audio customer? 

I don’t think we have a singular type of customer. We have Melomania headphone wearers who’ve never thought about buying separates; we have customers who’ve worked their way up our series ladder, from AX to CX and maybe they’re thinking about one day owning Edge (I know I am). We’d like to think they’re all music lovers; that’s what unites us. 

Cambridge jumped into the “streaming amplifier” category with the Evo series. How did the market react and what types of streaming products can we expect to see from the company going forward?

We were delighted with the reception our Evo series received – and is still receiving with the arrival of Evo CD. We also won our first Red Dot Award with Evo, which is testament to the work of our Head of Design, Ged Martin, in creating a product that feels at home in any living room. But it also sounds excellent – our engineering team did an amazing job putting it all together, with all the functionality that it has to boot. 

Cambridge Audio Evo CD Transport with EVO 150 DAC/Streamer/Amplifier
Cambridge Audio Evo CD Transport with EVO 150 DAC/Streamer/Amplifier

We’re very proud of our reputation in the streaming space now – we launched our first network player just over a decade ago, and our StreamMagic platform has been at the heart of more than a dozen products since. Our in-house team is constantly working to improve the experience and make sure we’re offering as many streaming options as possible, on as many of our products as we can. 

We’ve launched two more network players this year in AXN10 and MXN10, which have also been well received, and all I can say for now is that there will definitely be more from us in the streaming space in the future!

Cambridge Audio AXN10 Network Player Lifestyle Angle
Cambridge Audio AXN10 Network Streamer.

What are the some of the branding/collaboration partnerships that currently exist and where does the company plan to position itself in the future?

We’ve been ramping up our partnerships in the last couple of years, and are lucky to work with quite a few like-minded brands now. One that’s got the most attention is DeLorean, whose new electric vehicle, Alpha5, we’re providing the audio experience for. It’s our first foray into the automotive space and we couldn’t have found a better partner for it.

Delorean Alpha5 Side
Delorean Alpha5

In the US, another brand we’re loving working with at the moment is Gold Diggers, a boutique recording studio and hotel – we’ll be hosting an event with them next month to celebrate our partnership.

And on both sides of the pond, we’ve been working with the legendary Rough Trade to offer Cambridge Audio customers the chance to get vouchers to spend on vinyl. It’s another great fit. 

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We’re also proud to be a founding donor of EarthPercent, the environmental charity co-founded by music legend Brian Eno. We’re keenly aware of the impact the climate crisis is having on our world, and our CEO Stuart very strongly believes we need to do what we can to combat it.

How did COVID change the company? How did COVID change how the brand sees the retail experience and what it needs to do to get customers to dealers?

As it was for a lot of people, the pandemic was a weird time for us! So many of us were stuck indoors and chose to spend what would’ve been holiday money on improving the at-home experience – including by investing in audio equipment. But at the same time, the component shortage often made delivering those products harder.

It was also difficult not being able to visit our global dealer network as much during the pandemic. Physical stores are still so integral to buying hi-fi, and COVID hasn’t really changed that.

Within the company, we adapted well to remote working, and made it permanent. It means we can hire the best talent for the business, wherever they are – but have regular socials and meet-ups to make sure there’s still a supportive culture and nobody is isolated.

Cambridge Audio Evo 75 Integrated Streaming Amplifier Black
Cambridge Audio Evo 75 Integrated Streaming Amplifier

What are some of your favorite Cambridge Audio products? Why?

I have an Evo 75 at home – living in a small terraced house in London, I can’t play music too loud! – and I love how its black wavy Richlite panels fit into the modern aesthetics of the room. I also use my Melomania Touch earphones on a daily basis, for running errands or commuting.

One day I might have the space for an Edge series, at which point that will probably become my favourite products! 

Any final music recommendations for us?

Having recently enjoyed Glastonbury from the comfort of my sofa, I’ve been going back through the catalogues of some of the artists whose sets I really enjoyed. That’s included Rina Sawayama’s excellent second album, Hold The Girl, plus plenty of Chvrches, Young Fathers and Hot Chip. Especially since we also had Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor on our Made By Music podcast too!

For more information: cambridgeaudio.com

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Asa

    August 11, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    Nice work on the interview, and while I’m new to CA, I am enjoying my DACMAGIC200M. Good luck on your adventures!

    Also, will you be doing a follow-up piece on the latest Tidal update? It seems they’ve moved many tracks over to FLAC but still have MQA scattered around with various bitrates (and they advertise that), even within the same “Masters” playlist of the same band (ex. Rush). TGIF.

    • Ian White

      August 12, 2023 at 1:33 pm

      Asa,

      Will has something coming next week.

      Best,

      IW

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