Cambridge audio AXR 100 review

Cambridge audio AXR 100 is a nice amplifier from Cambridge audio. Cambridge Audio has launched three mid-range audio amplifiers recently and they are super worth the money to be considered. The amplifiers are AXA 35, AXR 85, and AXR 100. The first one, AXA 35 is an integrated amplifier and the other two are stereo receivers. This line up is the replacement of Cambridge audio’s Topaz series or amplifier. Being a successor, they are certainly better than the Topaz series. In fact, AXR 100 is the most powerful amplifier in the Cambridge audio lineup. Today, we are going to see only Cambridge audio AXR 100.

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Front image of cambridge audio AXR 100
AXR 100

Stereo integrated amplifier vs stereo receiver.

We have mentioned that Cambridge audio AXA 35 is an integrated amplifier but AXR 85 and AXR 100 are stereo receivers. Why? 

The presence of an FM receiver makes the AXR 100 and AXR 85 a receiver and AXA 35 is not. If the FM module had not been there, all three are considered as receivers.

Appearance 

AXR 100 looks just beautiful. It has a slight wedge-shaped stand underneath that the whole receiver looks like floating on the table. Very unique design. It is a pure analog amplifier with digital controls. AXR 100 is made of brushed aluminum and has the same finish there in the front. 

There is a beautiful digital display upfront. This is a digital dot matrix display. It displays the source by default. It shows the volume increment, tone controls, FM Channels, and connected Bluetooth devices.

Buttons in AXR 100
Buttons in AXR 100

There is a power button on the front of the device. Next to the power button, there is a 1/4 inch headphone jack. The headphone output has a separate amp and it is really good. Followed by the headphone jack, there are next/previous buttons for FM radio. A mode/store button follows it. 

Source toggle and FM buttons in AXR 100
Source toggle and FM buttons

Below the digital display, there exist an array of buttons in two rows. The first row has six buttons and they are the source toggle buttons and a speaker A B button. Below these buttons, there are 5 tiny buttons. Those are for FM Presets. 

Volume control on AXR 100
Volume control

On the right end of the amp, there is a menu button for tone controls, an IR receiver for the remote, and a big volume jog wheel. Volume jog is made of plastic. But, it has satisfying steps or clicks to it. Every button has a nice feel to it. On the extreme left there exist an audio aux input. You can hook up your phone to the receiver with an aux cable.

picture of the rear side of AXR 100
Rear of AXR 100

The rear side has well laid out connectors.

power socket of AXR 100
Power socket of AXR 100

On the rear, there is an ICE power connector on the right end. The power cable comes in the box. There is a toggle for 220/115 volts.

Binding posts of AXR 100 and an exhaust
Binding posts and exhaust

The binding posts are strong and well built. It can power two sets of speakers at the same time and therefore 4 pairs of binding posts are given. Bluetooth adapter is also included with AXR 100.

inputs and outputs of AXR 100
All connections to AXR 100

Since it is a receiver, it comes with the place to attach a 75 Ohm FM antenna and a 300 ohm AM antenna. Below the antenna sockets, there are two optical ins and a digital coaxial ins. This connects to the Wolfson DAC inside. On the right side of the coaxial port, there is a USB connector. This is just a service port and You can connect things like chrome cast audio as it can give out a power of 5V 400 mA.

Apart from Digital inputs, you will get 3 analog inputs, Moving Magnet phone input and its ground. There are a rec out and subwoofer out. The sub out crossover is set at 200 Hz

The system has a fan too as the output is a higher 100 watts which demand a lot of electricity and therefore more heat is liberated. While overheating the fan kicks in. At such high volumes, you cannot hear the fan.

Build Quality.

As mentioned already, the front is made up of aluminum. The whole chassis is well made and put together. The binding posts are really good quality and so are the switches and buttons. Overall, the build quality is very very good. AXR 100 is a well-made amplifier like any Cambridge audio amplifier. It weighs around 17.8 lbs. This alone can speak about the build quality of the amplifier.

Remote

AXR 100 comes with a remote. The remote has numerous buttons and it shares the functionality with a CD player AXC 25/ AXC 35. There are a power button, mute button, volume controls, FM control buttons, and tone control buttons available on the remote. The only area I felt Cambridge audio cut cost is on its remote. Not only the amp doesn’t have a separate remote, but it is also made of plastic and the quality is normal. That doesn’t mean the quality is bad. Just that it is not on par with metal builds.

Audio performance

Audio performance is why you should consider getting this amplifier. The sound is beautiful and has a warm British sound with a touch of neutrality. It doesn’t have a harsh treble and for that matter, it doesn’t even have strong bass. It is fairly a great sounding amplifier.

Treble performance

The treble performance is great. It is not that the treble is recessed in any way. There are plenty of high frequencies out from the amplifier but they are not harsher by any means. The treble is on the warm side of the neutral and you can listen to AXR 100 for a longer period of time without any ear fatigue.

Mid-range performance

The midrange in AXR 100 is beautiful and neutral in nature. The sound is expressive and full of emotions. It is easily one of the best sounding mid-range in the amps on the same price range. The sound has an oomph that many other amps miss. The lush warm vocals from this amplifier are more suited for genres like jazz, blues, etc. but throw in any genre, it plays well. This is one of the best characteristics of the amp and you need to pay twice the money to get a better midrange from an amp.

Bass performance

The amplifier is reasonably Bassy but I am not sure it will satisfy bass heads. Like other Cambridge audio products, the bass it has is punchy and fast. I have a floor stander with 8-inch woofers. It can go low but the characteristic of the bass is fast and articulate. It doesn’t have much weight to it but packs a punch.

If you like the fast bass kind of sound you will appreciate it. It is quite astonishing to see in one moment it punches the bass hard and in the next moment, it stops like it hits the wall. The amplifier has needed a damping factor for fast yet accurate bass. If the bass is low to your liking, there is a tone controller and you can always crank it up for that extra bass.

My system has 8-inch woofers and the amp has no issues playing it. The amplifier has a huge toroidal transformer and it can supply more power as the music demands and stops on a dime. 100 Watts is a lot and it can power even the speakers that are hard to drive like Elacs, pioneers.

The sound is transparent and the clarity of instruments was great. The midrange is one of the best I have heard in this price range. The sound is very very expressive and conveys plenty of emotion.

Listening Experience

I played ‘TIme was’ by Wishbone Ash (1972). It majestically starts with a guitar note. The guitar is full of Clarity. Later in the song, there is a piece with an electric guitar solo and it sounded absolutely brilliant. The drums felt real and the cymbals are full of texture. Vocals are smooth and very very engaging.

Then I played ‘He’ll have to go’ by Jim Reeves. That is one phenomenal song. The center image from which the voice emanates is one of a kind. The soothing voice of JIM Reeves was beautifully painted by AXR 100. The harmonics from the right blend in with the music perfectly while the piano sounded confident and assuring.

Next, I listened to ‘Plastic heart’ by Tyler Bates from John wick 2. The song has a great sense of scale and depth to the music. Our AXR 100 has no issues in conveying those incredible scales and depth. The dynamics were spot on. The bass notes have authority even at chest hitting levels.

I then listened to ‘Prologue: The blackboard’ from the album, the theory of everything done by Areyon. Right from the start till the end and the following tracks were very very enjoyable. The bass notes at the start were impactful. It is great to see the amp can move the big woofer of my system easily and stops in a fraction of a second. This gives the bass the required quickness. When the music demands, the amp delivers the required power. The guitar notes will tell you the ultimate clarity and transparency of the track. 

At last, I listened to ‘Nine feet underground medley’ by caravan from the album in the land of grey and pink. It has a funky keyboard sound and a great drum sound. AXR 100 made justice to all the instruments in the song. Drums are brought to the attention immediately by the amp while the guitar sounded the smoothest. 

Conclusion

If you want an amp that has 100 watts per channel without breaking the bank, Cambridge audio AXR 100 is for you. It possesses a quality that many other amps in the price range just don’t have. The midrange is to die for and the transparency is great. For under $500 you cannot go wrong with Cambridge audio AXR 100. Thanks for reading.

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