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Cambridge Audio CXA81

Stereo integrated amplifier with built-in DAC and Bluetooth®

Item # 779CXA81G

An audiophile's dream: plenty of power, digital inputs, plus balanced and unbalanced analog inputs.

An audiophile's dream: plenty of power, digital inputs, plus balanced and unbalanced analog inputs.

Top seller

Item # 779CXA81G

Out of stock
C$1,799.99

About the Cambridge Audio CXA81

An excellent centerpiece for an audiophile-grade system

The Cambridge Audio CXA81 is a great fit for a high-quality two-channel sound system. Its oversized toroidal transformer means it can deliver 80 watts per channel of pure, dynamic power to your speakers. This amp build on the foundation its predecessor — the CXA80 — a Crutchfield customer favorite. The new model adds Bluetooth® with aptX® HD encoding for high-quality music streaming from compatible devices.

An excellent centerpiece for an audiophile-grade system

The Cambridge Audio CXA81 is a great fit for a high-quality two-channel sound system. Its oversized toroidal transformer means it can deliver 80 watts per channel of pure, dynamic power to your speakers. This amp build on the foundation its predecessor — the CXA80 — a Crutchfield customer favorite. The new model adds Bluetooth® with aptX® HD encoding for high-quality music streaming from compatible devices.

A variety of connections

The CXA81 offers a convenient blend of analog and digital connections for your music sources. There are two Toslink optical digital inputs, a coaxial digital input, and a Type-B USB port for connecting a computer. Analog components can be connected to one of four unbalanced stereo RCA inputs or the balanced XLR input. There's a mono subwoofer output, and a stereo RCA line output for passing signal to another amplifier.

Real power for the real world

Cambridge Audio's conservative power rating of 80 watts per channel only tells part of this amp's story. Those watts are generated by a power supply that employs an audiophile-grade toroidal transformer for plenty of steady, low-noise current. The transformer is centrally located inside the chassis to minimize interference with sensitive preamp circuitry, and surrounded by hefty extruded heat sinks for cool, efficient operation. The result is an amp capable of handling the heavy demands of 4-ohm speakers as well as all the dynamic peaks in music that make it sound real.

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Product highlights:

  • 80 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (120 watts x 2 channels into 4 ohms)
  • 4-ohm capability allows use with a wide range of speakers
  • THD: 0.02% (20-20,000 Hz at 80% of rated power)
  • built-in high-performance ESS Sabre SE9016K2M DAC
  • toroidal power transformer for low noise and high-current output
  • Bluetooth® wireless connectivity for streaming music from compatible smartphones, tablets, and computers
    • aptX® HD encoding provides high-quality music streaming from compatible devices
  • Class AB amplifier design
  • full-metal casework with thick, brushed aluminum front panel and acoustically damped chassis for enhanced resonance control
  • remote included
Connections:
  • two Toslink optical digital inputs
  • coaxial digital input
  • USB Type-B input for connecting a computer
  • four unbalanced stereo RCA inputs
  • balanced XLR left and right input
  • mono RCA subwoofer output
  • stereo RCA preamp output
  • switchable A+B speaker outputs with binding-post connectors
  • control bus input and output
  • 12-volt trigger input and output for automatic synchronized on/off with compatible Cambridge Audio components
  • IR input
  • RS-232C data port
Dimensions and warranty:

What's in the box:

  • Integrated amplifier
  • 6' AC power cord
  • Remote control
  • 3 "AAA" batteries
  • Bluetooth antenna
  • 39" mono-RCA control cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Important Safety Instructions

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Cambridge Audio CXA81 reviews

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More details on the Cambridge Audio CXA81

Stacey B.

Features & specs

Performance Specs
Watts RMS per Channel (8-ohms) 80
Watts RMS per Channel (6-ohms) Not given
Watts RMS per Channel (4-ohms) 120
Frequency Bandwidth 20-20k
THD 0.02%
Minimum Impedance 4 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio 105
Digital Music Features
Built-in DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) Yes
High-resolution Audio Playback PCM, DSD
Bluetooth Built-in 4.2
Wi-Fi N/A
Connections
Total Analog Inputs 5
Phono Input No
Optical Digital Inputs 2
Coaxial Digital Inputs 1
USB Input Yes
Preamp Outputs Stereo, Sub
Headphone Output 3.5mm
Dimensions and Warranty
Width (inches) 16-15/16
Height (inches) 4-1/2
Depth (inches) 14-9/16
Weight (pounds) 19.1
Parts Warranty 3 Years
Labor Warranty 3 Years
The Cambridge Audio CXA81 replaces these items:

Product Research

Features

80 Watts x 2 Channel: Rated at 80 watts x 2 channel into 8 ohms (or 120 watts x 2 channel into 4 ohms), the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier is powerful enough to drive some of the most demanding speakers, yet has the nuance and subtlety demanded by modern recordings. The CXA81's class AB amplifier design, along with its centrally mounted oversized toroidal transformer and extruded heatsinks, will reveal spectacular detail in your music.

Oversized Toroidal Transformer: An oversized toroidal transformer gives the CXA81 a muscular 80 watts of power for each channel. Painstaking engineering gives it super-low levels of distortion and supreme electrical efficiency. The result is an amplifier with limitless reserves of power, ready to maximize the dynamic potential of any loudspeakers and able to play at any volume level without stress or distortion.

Symmetrical & Separated Circuitry: The entire internal layout of the CXA81 is designed to minimize left/right crosstalk and provide astonishing stereo separation, thanks to its symmetrical and separated circuit paths. By entirely separating the left and right channel heat sinks, and using symmetrical and separated circuit paths for the two channels, the CXA81 will deliver stunning stereo separation and minimum cross-channel interference with great soundstage performance.

High-Quality Damped Metal Chassis: The Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier features a high-quality damped metal chassis, designed to ensure that nothing rattles or interferes with the electronics.

ESS Sabre ES9016 K2M DAC: The CXA81 is designed to bring your music to life, no matter how it’s stored. So it features an entirely new digital board, including the cutting-edge ESS Sabre ES9016 K2M digital-to-analog conver. Which means digital audio files up to a 32-bit/384kHz or DSD256 are brought dramatically to life, with every detail and nuance delivered intact. The CXA81 combines unparalleled accuracy with vivid musicality.

Bluetooth Audio Streaming w/ aptX HD: The CXA81 features built-in Bluetooth 4.2 with support for wireless music streaming (A2DP) and remote control (AVRCP). You'll be able to wirelessly stream stored music, music apps, and other audio content on your Bluetooth-enabled source device to the integrated amplifier. In addition to support for Bluetooth's standard SBC codec, the CXA81 supports Qualcomm's aptX HD codec that provides much higher-quality sound than previous codec versions (available in a growing number of Android mobile devices and Mac computers). aptX HD preserves sound data through the wireless audio transmission, resulting in a "better-than-CD-quality " (24-bit/48kHz) listening experience.

  • Playback control and song/artist/album information will still need to be done from the Bluetooth source device.
  • Only one device can be paired and connected to the integrated amp at a time.
  • The CXA81 has a Bluetooth wireless range of approximately 32.8 feet.
  • Make sure to connect the included Bluetooth antenna on back of the integrated amp.

USB-B Port: The CXA81's USB-B port allows you to connect your Windows PC Or Mac computer to the integrated amplifier for playback of stored music files (up to 32-bit/384kHz). The CXA81 is both USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) and USB 1.1 (Full-speed) USB port
compatible. It should also work with the new USB 3.0 ports where the PC will simply treat the CXA81 as if it were a USB 2.0 or 1.1 device. The CXA81 supports two USB Audio protocols - USB Audio Class 1 (which works over USB 1.1 ports and
supports up to 24-bit/96kHz) or USB Audio Class 2 (which requires a USB 2.0 port and can support up to 32-bit/384kHz).

  • Windows OS: With the CXA81 switched to USB Audio Class 1 the CXA81 will work with the native Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8 Audio 1.0 driver (no need to load any new driver) and accept audio up to 24-bit/96kHz. With the CXA81 switched to USB Audio Class 2 the CXA81 will work with the same Windows operating system, but will also need the Cambridge Audio USB Audio 2.0 Driver to be loaded and can then accept up to 32-bit/384kHz. Click here for USB 2.0 Audio Driver.
  • Mac OS: With the CXA switched to USB Audio 1.0 the CXA will work with the native Mac OS-X 10.5 (Leopard) or above Audio 1.0 driver and accept audio up to 24-bit/96kHz. With the CXA switched to USB Audio Class 2 the CXA works with the
    native Mac OS-X 10.5 (Leopard) or above Audio 2.0 driver and can accept audio up to 32-bit/384kHz. No extra drivers are required for either setting.

Notes:

  • Always use a high quality USB connection cable certified as USB High-Speed. USB cable connections longer than 9.8' may result in inconsistent audio performance.
  • The Ground/Lift switch enables the USB interface earth to be disconnected from the CXA81 chassis earth. Disconnecting (lifting) the earth can be useful if electronic hum is heard through the speakers when the USB input is selected. The switch should otherwise be left in the Ground position.

Optical & Coaxial Digital Inputs: The CXA81 integrated amp features two optical (toslink) inputs and a S/PDIF coaxial (RCA) digital input so you connect all of your digital sources. The two optical digital inputs support 2ch PCM (up to 24-bit/96kHz), while the coaxial digital input supports 2ch PCM (up to 24-bit/192kHz). The digital inputs do not support multichannel formats, such as Dolby Digital or DTS.

Balanced & Unbalanced Audio Inputs: The Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier is outfitted with both balanced and unbalanced analog audio connections. The CXA81 integrated amp features four unbalanced stereo RCA and one pair of balanced XLR inputs to connect high-resolution CD and SACD players. XLR is a higher-quality input that can reject noise and interference from equipment with balanced outputs. The CXA81 does not feature a dedicated phono input. If you want to connect a turntable, you'll need a turntable with a built-in phono preamp or an external phono preamp (sold separately - see Accessories Tab).

Outputs: The Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amp is outfitted with A-B speaker terminals, a mono-sub output, stereo pre-outs and a headphone jack.

  • A-B Speaker Terminals: The Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier is equipped with two sets of gold-plated, binding-post speaker terminals (labeled A and B). The terminals will accept bare wire, spade connectors, single- and dual-banana plugs. (The red and black caps can be removed when using banana plugs.) The use of A and B speaker terminals allow you to hook up speakers in another room. When using a single pair of speakers, use speakers with a nominal impedance of 4 ohms to 8 ohms. When using two pairs of speaker, use only speakers with a minimum nominal impedance of 8 ohms.
  • Subwoofer Output: The CXA81 integrated amp features a mono-subwoofer output for adding a powered subwoofer. To ensure there's no unnecessary high frequency noise affecting the subwoofer, the subwoofer output is filtered at 3kHz. This is high enough to prevent any phase shift associated with the low pass filter affecting what happens below 200Hz. The result is a phase linear subwoofer output signal which is clean and musical.
  • Pre-Outs: The Cambridge Audio CXA81 is equipped with a pair of RCA pre-outs to connect the integrated amp to an external power amplifier.
  • Headphone Jack: The CXA81 integrated amplifier offers a front-panel 3.5mm headphone output to connect a set of headphones for private listening. When headphones are connected, the output to both A/B loudspeakers is muted.

Remote Control: The CXA81 is supplied with an IR remote control that operates this integrated amplifier and other Cambridge Audio CX series components. The remote operates off of three "AAA" batteries (supplied). The CXA81 also features an RS-232C port, a Control Bus In/Out, an IR in, and a Trigger In/Out for custom remote integration.

  • Control Buss In/Out: The Control Bus Input and Output (RCA) allows un-modulated commands from multiroom systems or other components to be received by the amp and loop out to another unit.
  • IR In: The IR input (3.5mm) allows modulated IR commands from an IR repeater or custom install systems to be received by the integrated amplifier.
  • RS-232C Port: The RS-232C port allows you to control the CXA81 from a custom install control system (sold separately).
  • Trigger In/Out: The CXA81's 12V trigger input (3.5mm) can be connected to the trigger control output of home automation equipment to control the power state of the integrated amplifier. The 12V trigger output (3.5mm) can be used to turn on other equipment that has a trigger in.

Auto Power Down: The CXA81 integrated amplifier can be set to automatically go into "Standby mode" if there is no audio signal or operation for approximately 20 minutes.

CAP5 Protection System: Cambridge Audio has developed a proprietary protection system to ensure reliability and a long life for its amplifiers and connected speakers. The CAP5 protection system comprises of five main protection methods -

  • DC Detection: CAP5 offers loudspeaker protection if the output of the amplifier goes to a high constant voltage (DC) because of some internal fault. In this case, the integrated amp will automatically switch off.
  • Over Temperature: CAP5 includes temperature detection which constantly monitors the heat generated by the output transistors. If the monitored temperature reaches a high level, the amplifier will automatically switch into a fault mode and turn off.
  • Overvoltage/Overcurrent: CAP5 offers V/I (voltage/current) protection by constantly monitoring the output transistors to keep them working inside their Safe Operating Area (SOA). The unit will automatically power off during voltage or current protection.
  • Short Circuit: During power up from standby, CAP5 performs a check on the loudspeaker terminals to see if a short across the terminals has been accidentally introduced. If the resistance measured across the loudspeaker terminals is too low the unit will stay in Standby mode until the fault has been removed and Power up is re-attempted.
  • Intelligent Clipping: CAP5 has the ability to detect when the amplifier starts to clip or overdrive at its output, which can damage loudspeakers, and degrade the sound. When clipping is identified, the volume level of the integrated amplifier is automatically reduced.

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Customer Q&A

Q
Crutchfield asked: Why did you buy this?
A
I followed up on a consensus of opinions over a range of websites. The price is just within my means and the toleration of my wife. [ H  May 22, 2020 ]
A
Cambridge Audio is well known and has a great reputation of making high quality yet affordable Audio/Stereo equipment backed by many decades of experience. [ Royal H.  Mar 15, 2020 ]
A
This is my first venture into the world of hi fi and I choose this product based mainly on reviews and connectivity options. [ Albert  Dec 05, 2019 ]

11 questions already asked

Q
What type of usb connection is that on the back?
[ Rick  May 31, 2020 ]
2 answers
A
USB B
[ SHAUN  May 31, 2020 ]
A
It says "USB audio in". It appears to be for a data cable like a printer cord. I'm thinking that it can be used as an external speaker from a computer or router. I have never used it.
[ Eric  May 31, 2020 ]
Q
The speaker's binding post on the back of the unit looks to be cupped. Will I have problems connecting my speaker cable flat spades to it?
[ Jimmy  May 06, 2020 ]
2 answers
A
The posts unscrew, so you should be good. There is a tab in the center of them that comes off and on for banana plugs. That is probably why it looks cupped in the photo.
[ Jeffrey  May 26, 2020 ]
A
Did you mean capped. Yes they are but can be removed, I use banana clips and only had to remove the caps
[ Robert  May 26, 2020 ]
Q
Can I use this like external amp ?
[ New User  Apr 06, 2020 ]
3 answers
A
Sure, I would think so. You just use one of the line level inputs from your preamp into the Cambridge. At that point, it's simply amplifying the signal.
[ Matthew  Apr 20, 2020 ]
A
Dude, I cannot answer that question. Depending on your speakers... this is a great amp... great DAC in the amp ....classical rock an roll all sound beautiful ..terrific power... easy to use..
[ Arthur  Apr 21, 2020 ]
A
I don't think so, but I'm not sure. It can work as a pre-amplifier, that's for sure.Enter an answer to this question.
[ Alvaro Luis  Apr 20, 2020 ]
Q
is dot indicating volume level on the volume control knob illuminated ?
[ Dariusz  Mar 10, 2020 ]
3 answers
A
No painted white. Power switch is illuminated
[ John  Apr 15, 2020 ]
A
The dot isn't actually illuminated but it is made of a shiny metal that is reflective and can be picked up visually in most lighting conditions in my 15 x 13 listening room.
[ STEVE  Apr 07, 2020 ]
A
it does not light up..there is a dimple indicating where the knob is in relation volume height. I hope that helps
[ Arthur  Mar 10, 2020 ]
Q
Does the remote require a direct line of sight to the amp (I want to place the amp in an adjacent room)?
[ Neil  Feb 14, 2020 ]
1 answer
A
Yes, the remote operates using IR frequewncies, and will need line of site, or you would need to install an IR repeater system. https://www.crutchfield.com/shopsearch/ir_repeater.html
[ Calvin  Mar 12, 2020 ]  Staff
Q
Can I bi amp my speakers using the second set of speaker posts?
[ MattK  Jan 16, 2020 ]
2 answers
A
The amplifier only has two output stages, left and right. Both speakers a and b are each tied to the same output stage of the amplifier. So no you cannot bi_amp . If you meant bi - wire then yes you can bi_wire, but be careful with the impedance of the drivers as the will be in parallel and the amp is only rated at 4 ohm minimum.
[ Warren  Feb 15, 2020 ]
A
No, the second posts are merely B (A/B setup). So effectively you can bi-wire, but not bi-amp
[ Light Artist  Feb 15, 2020 ]
Q
Does this amp have HT Bypass??
[ Dougy  Dec 17, 2019 ]
1 answer
A
That particular model does not but the Cambridge Audio Azur 851A does: https://www.crutchfield.com/I-rET1c290/p_779851AB/Cambridge-Audio-Azur-851A-Black.html
[ Cosmo  Jan 08, 2020 ]  Staff
Q
Does this amplifier have a Phono stage?
[ Ted  Dec 15, 2019 ]
2 answers
A
No, you need to use a external phone stage.
[ Alvaro Luis  Apr 20, 2020 ]
A
My understanding is that this does not have a phono input. Therefore, you would need a separate phono stage, which is a good thing!
[ Jeffrey  Dec 17, 2019 ]
Q
can it be delivered to Malaysia ?
[ Ahmad  Dec 14, 2019 ]
1 answer
A
Ahmad, unfortunately, we do not ship outside of North America
[ Calvin  Dec 28, 2019 ]  Staff
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