Cambridge Audio has taken 50 years of audio evolution and put it all into one beautiful compact component for the modern music lover. With its vast array of possible sources, app control, and simple design, the EVO brings a new level of sound quality to the all in one system....
Evo 75 & Evo 150
All-In-One Player Review
50 years of audio evolution for the modern music lover gives us the Evo.
Company and Product Overview
Cambridge Audio is one of our favorite brands at Audio Advice. They have been around for decades and have won numerous awards all over the world for the value they pack into their gear. Their list of 5 star rated components just goes on and on!
This overview is on a new product category for Cambridge Audio which is a new single chassis component with everything you need for great sound in a beautiful, small design. Their new series is called the EVO and for now, it is two models, although we expect to see more pieces in the future.
Design and Build Quality
There has been a really great trend over the last few years of high-performance audio companies introducing all-in-one type products that pay homage to the great sound of their best gear while giving you all of the latest tech features you might expect to see in a very mainstream product.
The new EVO series from Cambridge Audio is just such a great piece. Cambridge Audio has been known for making some of the best value audio gear on the planet. Their top-of-the-line EDGE series offers up incredible sound regardless of price while their AX and CX series give more budget-conscious music lovers a great way to get into good sound for not a lot of money.
With vinyl and music streaming growing so rapidly, there has also been a trend of simply tying one’s TV sound into a great HiFi setup, especially in smaller living spaces.
EVO finally gives us the best of both worlds with that classic Cambridge Audio sound. The two EVO pieces are designed to enable music lovers to have access to the new ways we listen to music alongside the vintage methods with the great addition of HDMI ARC- which we will get into a little later.
These beautiful new components are very compact in size but with what we feel is a very cool design. On the left side is a very large glass display. The other side has a dual function volume knob that reminds us of a fine camera lens. The outer black portion of the knob controls volume, while behind it is a silver matte textured surface knob for selecting the source. The difference in feel between these two means you will never make a mistake and twist up the volume when you think might be changing to a different source.
The 6.8” display is bigger than most smartphones and allows you to easily see what is playing from across the room. There is also a set of transport controls to the right of the display. When you adjust the volume either from the app or the unit, a neat looking large numerical semi-circle of numbers pop up in the right of the display window. You can also see these from your listening chair, but the app gives you full volume feedback too. All in all, a super cool design that feels both modern and classic.
Build quality is typical Cambridge Audio — far better than you might expect for the money. You even get two extra sets of side panels that magnetically attach to customize the appearance. Cambridge added a cool touch to the top plate. They embedded a small piece of aluminum with their logo in the center of the left side. All of the rear panel connections seem very solid, especially the speaker binding posts.
Features and Technology
There are two versions of the EVO that, while they share a lot of the same features, do have some differences.
Both are enabled with the great Cambridge Audio StreamMagic platform. Cambridge Audio has been improving this software for years and every time they improve it, the upgrade is free. When we look at what it offered 3-4 years ago versus now, the updates are pretty amazing.
The latest version of StreamMagic has everything a music lover would need for streaming music. It supports Chromecast, Apple Airplay2, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal (with MQA to boot), Qobuz, Bluetooth AptX HD and if those were not enough, they recently added full Roon control. You can easily set up the EVO to access any music on your network as well.
If you want to use any other apps not in StreamMagic, the EVO can handle that well using your choice of Chromecast, Airplay 2, or Bluetooth AptX HD.
Finally, you can plug in a USB stick to the rear panel to access music files on the USB stick.
HDMI ARC is found on both units and this is just such a great feature. ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. If you have a compatible TV (and most TV’s in the last several years have ARC) you simply connect the HDMI ARC jack on your TV to the HDMI input on the EVO. This will send the audio from your TV to the EVO, but that is not the big deal. The standard for HDMI ARC allows the TV remote to talk to the EVO. When you turn on your TV, the EVO will come on, go to the ARC input and the best part is your TV remote will now control the volume and mute on your EVO.
HDMI ARC makes integrating a great stereo system with your TV for much improved sound just super simple.
Both units have a mini headphone jack on the front panel just below the volume knob. This will disengage the speakers when you connect it up.
This is pretty slick as the EVO includes a Bluetooth AptX HD output transmitter. If you have a nice pair of Bluetooth headphones, you can enjoy any of your sources connected to the EVO.
This is where we start to see some differences in the two units.
The EVO 75 gives you both a Coax and Toslink digital input for a CD player or TV without HDMI ARC. The EVO 150 adds one more Toslink input but also includes an asynchronous USB input for your computer that can play files up to 32-bit 384kHz asynchronous and up to DSD 256. We suspect most people will just use the great StreamMagic app for digital music files though, so these differences may not mean that much to you.
The main difference between the EVO 75 and EVO 150 in the analog domain is the EVO 150 has a moving magnet phono input. Cambridge tells us this phono input is very similar to their Solo MM separate phono preamp, which means it is very good.
Both units have an AUX RCA audio input for a vintage analog source and the EVO 150 adds a set of balanced audio inputs. This one puzzled us a bit as normally balanced audio sources are pretty massive separate components and the EVO is aimed at the person who wants great sound in a small package. Maybe Cambridge Audio has something up their sleeve for a future component, time will tell.
The EVO 75 has a single pair of speaker outputs, while the EVO 150 gives you both an A and B which you can do in any combination. That means you could run another pair of speakers off the EVO 150 in a different room. The EVO150 is rated at 150 watts per channel, while the EVO75 is 75 watts per channel.
Both units have preamp outputs for adding a larger power amp and both have a subwoofer out. Your sub will need to have a crossover built-in, but almost all subwoofers made today are set up for this type of connection.
As you can see, both EVO units are packed with features that allow you to enjoy your music in many different ways. Those features would not do any good if the EVO did not have that amazing Cambridge Audio sound.
When we look at the technology Cambridge Audio used to make these small audio units have high-performance sound, it’s pretty impressive how they did it.
Since the EVO needed to deliver great sound in a small package, Cambridge Audio opted for a Class D amplifier section. Now before all of you audiophiles turn your nose up, if you implement Class D properly, it can sound very good and has the advantage of being very efficient. Our very popular Peachtree Audio amps also use Class D amp sections. These types of amps offer great efficiency which is why the entire world of touring sound has moved to Class D amps. They weigh less and generate less heat, which increases their reliability.
Cambridge Audio decided on a very high-end Class D amp, the Hypex Ncore® module. This is found in some other high-performance products as well. It comes with a power supply capable of high current delivery and has the ability to drive just about any speaker load.
The EVO then gets a separate power supply for the preamp. Their London-based audio engineers fine-tuned the preamp section of the EVO through extensive listening tests so that when mated up to the Hypex Ncore® power amp module, the EVO has that classic British Sound that Cambridge Audio has been all about for decades.
When you take the combination of what is probably the world’s best sounding Class D amp module and a pre-amp tuned by some great ears, the sound is very pleasing without any trace of edge or harshness. The best part is that this all fits into a super compact and beautiful package.
Our testing unit was an EVO150 and we used it with a pair of B&W bookshelf speakers, the 706 S2, which are about $2,000 a pair. We felt like this might be the type of speaker someone would pair up with the EVO.
When you consider everything you get with the EVO, it really is like a combination of a great Cambridge integrated amplifier, like their CXA81 and their CXNv2 Series 2 streamer — plus more — built into one beautiful package. So, as you might imagine, we decided to compare its sound to that of the CXA81/CXNv2 Series 2.
We used a selection of tracks we were familiar with using Roon and had a very pleasing outcome. Another test we did was simply using Bluetooth to go directly to each amp as the CXA81 has Bluetooth built-in.
First of all, this unit has just a wonderful display. When using digital music with metadata, the album art and data are beautifully displayed. Volume changes are also really easy to see from across the room as a big display pops up while you are changing. We found the hard buttons very easy to use and understand as well.
In our analysis, the separates provided better sound, especially in terms of hearing subtle details and bass control. However, both combinations, like we usually hear with Cambridge gear, had our toes tapping to the music equally well. The big surprise was how smooth the EVO sounded to us. We pushed the EVO150 pretty hard to see if we could get the sound to have any sense of strain and only at levels that hurt our ears was any strain present.
When using Bluetooth, we felt it had a slightly sweeter sound than the CXA81. This really speaks highly to the work Cambridge Audio did to give us so much tech in a wonderfully small and beautiful package.
While we were not really surprised at how good the EVO would be just based on our history with Cambridge Audio gear, it was another one of those moments when we thought, wow, how did they do that?! You do get a lot of great sound in a beautiful, small package!
As more people decide to bring high-quality music into their homes, there has been a big increase in demand for aesthetically pleasing components that provide great sound quality but have everything you could ever need in one single box. Also, we are seeing more and more people ditch their soundbar for a system they can easily use with their TV to improve its sound without compromising the sound of their music. The new EVO line from Cambridge Audio is perfect for this type of situation.
If you are ok with separate components and have space, a CXA61 or CXA81 with the CXNv2 streamer will give you a better sound, but for an all-in-one system, the EVO series is fantastic. For small rooms and no need for a phono input, the EVO75 will be fine. We were impressed at how well the EVO150 pushed our test speakers, so if you want to crank things up with larger speakers, we would suggest the EVO150. Also if you want to enjoy music from your computer or a turntable, the EVO150 would be the better option.
EVO150 vs. EVO75
|Power Output (Into 8 OHMS)||150W||75W|
|DAC||ESS Sabre ES9018K2M||ESS Sabre ES9016K2M|
|Moving Magnet Photostage||✓||✕|
|Analog RCA Input||✓||✓|
|XLR Balanced Input||✓||✕|
|Asynchronous USB Input||✓||✕|
|Bluetooth APTX HD In/Out||Integrated||Integrated|
|Speaker Sets||A/B Switching||A Only|
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
A Modern Evolution
Cambridge Audio took their 50 years of audio experience and put everything they have learned into one amazing box for the modern music lover.
We love the clean lines and beautiful faceplate of the EVO series. It combines simplicity with an interface that is a joy to operate.
StreamMagic Future Proof
The EVO uses the StreamMagic app which Cambridge Audio keeps improving with free updates to add the latest high-quality music services as they become available. With this technology the EVO should be viable for decades.
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