Cambridge 540a V2 Issues


New member
Username: Zamdrang

Post Number: 1
Registered: Sep-06
I just took the plunge and bought a 540a(v 2.0) I have a couple of issues with the volume knob and wondering if anyone else notices the same things.

At very low volumes I only get one channel. If I roll the volume up from zero the right channel comes on first with no sound from the left, keep going just a bit and the left will come on but the right is still noticeably louder. This is all at very low volumes like I say. (I first noticed it trying to fall asleep with some blues) Were talking small incremental changes in volume, but it is there.

I feel pretty confident ive ruled out it being the rest of my system, it all worked fine with my old JVC reciever. Also ive swapped cables, speakers, etc etc. Still the same.

Also with the volume knob. Mine has "slack" for lack of a better term, when turning it up and down, its like free play back and forth before feeling any resistance. Again, very slight but noticeable. I thought maybe it was just tolerances between the knob internals and the remote control motor (I assume thats what turns it remotely) until I had the sound issue. Overall the whole knob feels sort of loose and sloppy.

The 340a I had before this was much tighter and precise, which is ironic because Cambridge claims upgraded pots and a better "feel" with the V2 amps. They also claim a "heavier steel" on the V2 volume knob, im no metalurgist but it sure feels like plastic to me.

Im not trying to bash the product, it sounds FANTASTIC. I just feel let down with the quality.

This is my second try at a cambridge integrated from audio advisor and im wondering if im being too picky at this price point and its peculiar to the V2 amps or I just got a bad one.

Audio Advisor is great to work with and will take it back, exchange it..whatever. My problem is deciding where to go from here. Try another Cambridge or try another NAD.

Id appreciate any input. Thanks.

Silver Member
Username: Hawk

Highlands Ranch, CO USA

Post Number: 972
Registered: Dec-03
1. The unit is defective. Take (or send) it back. A brand like Cambridge should have never let that get through QC. It sounds like a defective pot, to me. I have not had a chance to look at the new (ver.2) Cambridge line of integrateds, so I cannot say if it is an issue for the model or just a bad one, but that product should have a better pot than that.

2. Metal feel. Most volume control knobs today are merely plastic with a metal reinforcement ring, usually on the inside. As a sidebar, you can buy a $1K HT receiver from Marantz and the volume knob is the cheapest platic you can imagine (you can squeeze it!) with no metal reinforement. I assume they believe people will only be using the remote. Unfortunately, the days of the solid aluminum knob are gone unless you go to a very high end product. Still, different manufacturers do different things. My HT receiver has an aluminum cover over a plastic knob, with a steel reinforcement ring inside the plastic. Overall, the feel is quite good (although I use the remote more often than not!).

3. Whether you exchange the Cambridge for another is a call for you. However, the is no better value in audio today than the NAD C320bee or the newer 325bee. If you need more power, the C352 is also a wonderful product. I note that Saturday Audio is closing out the 320bee for $299. See it in the upper right hand corner of their home page:

The NAD will have a livelier sound and better (tighter) bass, but I rate it just as smooth as the Cambridge in the midrange and treble, so I think it is a better product. It is a Reference Component for Stereophile for good reason. Whether it is right for you would require you to audition it.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. I hope it helps.

New member
Username: Zamdrang

Post Number: 2
Registered: Sep-06
Hawk, thanks for the sound advice, it does help. I feel it is defective too, it seems to equalize once you get past this point. But I like low volume so to me...not right.

I initially bought a 340a and got a defective unit too, so my opinion of CA is slowly sinking. Based on the positive press I think its coincidence but I am.

I have considered the NAD 320 as well. However based on the problems I had with my 340a purchase im getting a great deal on the 540. Plus I felt the 340a was a bit underpowered and the 540a is almost as well but I can live with it. So I dont really want to take step down in power. (the 540a V2 is 60wpc) Im not unhappy with the sound....not at all.

Still im curious about the NAD line. How would the 50wpc C320BEE compare to the 340a and the 540a? (right in the middle on paper) I read another post of yours that mentions two opinions on the CA that its warm,smooth and musical, while others say it lacks punch. Where in your opinion would you say the BEE or the C352 fall in that regard?

Contrary to what ive read as recommendations for my kind of music (rock..metal etc..what IS recommended for hard music?) Personally I like what im hearing with the 540A. But other than a much costlier Adcom seperate pre and power amp setup its the best ive had a chance to listen to.

Ultmately its up to ones own ears of course. I agree with your descriptions of what im hearing as well as the slightly boomy bass, though so I would appreciate your opinion.

Thanks again!

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 1455
Registered: May-05
Tyler -

Your amp may not be defective. I don't know how Cambridges normally behave, so you're going to have to bear with me here. A lot of gear has the balance issue at low levels. I own a NAD 304 (about 15 years old), and a NAD 320BEE. Both have had the imbalance at low levels since day one. Their was a discussion about this a while back. I looked for it, but couldn't find it.

At this price point (and higher), the volume control often aren't the best quality. They have a normal difference between channels that isn't very noticable at normal levels, but very noticable at low levels.

Have you tried using the balance knob if you have one? This is one of it's intended uses.

New member
Username: Zamdrang

Post Number: 3
Registered: Sep-06
Hi Stu, thanks for the input. Im not able to demo anything locally and the NAD would be my next stop so this is good to know.

I may not have keyed in on as quick had I not had a 340A before this, (in fact its still in the box next to the 540A so ive compared them at length) They are night and day. The pot shaft on the 540a is very loose compared to the 340a and the overall resistance is much less as well. I know theyve changed it, I guess one expects the next step up to be better not worse.

I have tried the balance knob and it does balance it out at higher levels, initially I have zero left channel at all so it makes no difference. However up to about 9 oclock or 8:30 or so when there is (unbalance)sound from both it does help the issue. Beyond that point the sound is equalized.

Its a shame this is a common issue. How much more would it add to the cost to have a pot(s) that dont exhibit this tendency? Surely one exists. Ive lived with and old JVC AV reciever for years and when taking the plunge for some better gear I expected more. The sound is better, (although debateable for my purposes) but that the volume pot on my old "consumer level" reciever is more precise is suprising to say the least.

Silver Member
Username: Hawk

Highlands Ranch, CO USA

Post Number: 979
Registered: Dec-03
I think what surprises me is that while Stu is absolutely correct that this was an issue in equipment for many years, I have not seen it on any quality gear for at least 5-6 years. I really believe that both design and QC has markedly improved, and for me, this was no longer an issue. Yes, my old NAD 3140 (purchased in 1982) had this problem, but as it was common in consumer electonics, we just learned to live with it. I also remember when I bought my Kyocera receiver with the slider volume control in 1988, one of Kyocera's reasons for using it was that they had far fewer problems with channel imbalance (nevertheless, consumers couldn't accept it and Kyocera is no longer in the audio equipment business).

But, as I said, design and QC has improved to the point that I simply haven't seen or heard this problem in a number of years. Tyler's last post also suggests to me that his situation is worse than normal if he is getting all the way to the 9 o'clock position before the sound equalizes. That, to me, is a defective pot, particularly from a brand such as CA.

FWIW, I dropped by my NAD dealer and tried out his 325bee to see if there was a similar problem with the bee, for my own curiousity if nothing else. I couldn't detect any channel imbalance at low levels. I also tried the same thing at home with my Rotel receiver, and it had no imbalance at all. I have concluded that the difference may be in the type of volume control pot used. My Rotel and the NAD use a microprocessor to control volume, and the rotary knob merely give instructions to the microprocessor to increase or decrease volume. However, it sounds like the CA uses a motorized analog pot, similar to the one in my daughter's system (so I have serious expereince with this type of control). These are far less accurate and do suffer from channel imbalance because they are an old style pot with a motor to allow a remote control. So I guess I am coming to the conclusion that the problem may be endemic to CA.
This conclusion would suggest that it isn't about the amount of money needed to insure it doesn't exhibit this tendency, rather, it is a matter of choice in design. I think NAD and Rotel have made a better choice here.

I hope I am being clear--I never quite know . . .

New member
Username: Zamdrang

Post Number: 4
Registered: Sep-06
Hawk, very clear and very helpful. Thanks for your insight and checking the BEE as well as your Rotel.

Yes it is close to 9 o'clock before things trully equalize. While in the "unbalanced" range, movement of the knob within the slack I described above causes the right channel to vary in volume quite dramatically.

As for the pot, im very familiar with pots on guitar amps and it does seem to be traditional style pot. Great info on the means by which NAD and Rotel control volume.

After more time I agree more and more with yours (and others) description of the CA amp. Laid back, smooth, very musical are apt descriptions. Lacking punch could be used as well. It seems to take and round the edges of big powerful rock n roll "hits" if you follow me. Which makes your NAD and Rotel references all the more interesting from both a build and musical standpoint.

Regardless of the issue im having, I have to contradict myself and say after extending listening there does seem to be musical attributes of this amp that leave me wanting to try something different.

Would you guys agree with looking at NAD or Rotel for rock/heavy music?

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 4133
Registered: Dec-04
Absolutely agreed.
Other makes are out there as well, but budget is budget.
I find the cd player has as much to do with the quality of RnR as the amp. Speakers are critical.

I may have missed what kind of speakers you have, your room size and your typical and peak listening levels.
Any other musical interests other than Rock?
And what vintage rock? Elvis also? Doors? Kinks?

New member
Username: Zamdrang

Post Number: 5
Registered: Sep-06
Nuck, thanks for the tip. Im pretty new at this game, ive just sort of lived with what I had for years and never really been happy with it. So this my first "step up" if you will.

Im running this with a Yamaha CDC 505 changer, and Kenwood JL-680 floorstanders. I havent been able to find specs or info on either online, so im assuming old and/or undesireable...probably both.

My current room size is about 12' by 22', 70% of the time id say medium volume, 30% high volume. Neighbors arent a concern so I do like to crank it and play the electric guitar with the stereo.

No Doors for me, Kinks yes, Pink Floyd, Rush, Satriani, Scorpions, Beatles. Not much into vintage rock. I have some VERY hard agressive metal, some punk rock. I like good blues as well, Robert Cray is a favorite. As I type im listening to April Wine - The Nature of the Beast.

To give you my take on my setup. I have always felt the speakers were severely lacking, what started me down the amp trail was seeing a good deal. I have noticed a definite change with the switch to the CA amp vs the old JVC AV reciever I had. Prior to the change, the guitars were more upfront. They are clearer now..everything sounds great really. But the guitars seem more in the back of the mix, it doesnt punch as hard and its quite bright. I do wonder however, with the amp ugrade if the speakers weaknesses are now more "exposed" if you will. Same with the CD player.

Regardless the tone change with the amp and the characteristics I mentioned above are unmistakeable. I guess pinning down what the culprit is and where to go next would be my dilemma.

I wonder if I could improve the weak areas with future upgrades if I would be happy with this amp(one with a precise volume control of course) In many ways it shines and id prefer to avoid going through this all again. (no stores were I looking at mail order only)

When I hear the descriptions of the Rotel being "up front" and the NAD having tighter bass im intrigued though.

I saw your post about the source being everything too...I think thats probably sound advice. I wonder if thats where I should spend my money first.

Sorry for another long winded post. I think too much.

You guys' advice is greatly appreciated.

New member
Username: Zamdrang

Post Number: 6
Registered: Sep-06
I just got a reply from Kenwood on my JL-680 speakers:

Thank you for writing to us at Kenwood USA Corporation.

In regards to your inquiry, below is the information that you have

Introduced in 1989
System: 3-way 3-Speaker System
Enclosure: Acoustic Air Suspension
Mounted Speakers:
Woofer: 12" (300mm)
Midrange: 4-1/2" (110mm)
Tweeter: 2" (50mm)
Maximum Input Power: 140 Watts
Rated Input Power: 70 Watts
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 92dB/W at 1m
Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20,000Hz
Corssover Frequency: 2,000Hz, 5,000Hz
Width: 14" (355mm)
Height: 26" (660mm)
Depth: 10-1/2" (266mm)
Net Weight: 26.5 lbs (12.0kg)
Accessory Supplied: Speaker cord

I thought id "add" this to my last post and see what if anything this info helps or hurts? Any opinions?

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 4175
Registered: Dec-04
Tyler, I don't know what to suggest. The Cambridge issue is one thing, the speakers are another.

The speakers uhh...questionable, IMHO.

Just step carefully, listen to as much stuff as you can, and bring your own cd's.

Standard issue advise, but there is a reason why.
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