Cambridge Audio SX-80 Loudspeaker

hfncommendedDesigned by Cambridge Audio's in-house team in London, the refreshed SX-80 is a big speaker on a small budget

When it launched its Edge series in 2018 to mark its 50th Anniversary [HFN Nov '18], Cambridge Audio appeared to be making a concerted effort to reach a little higher. But proof this stalwart of the UK high street hasn't turned its back on wallet-conscious buyers arrived recently in the form of its reworked SX loudspeaker range. With head-turning prices, a modern finish and dimensions that won't upset your interior designer, these are likely to garner considerable interest.

The SX-80 reviewed here is the 'flagship' of the series, inverted commas necessary because it's still priced at an agreeable £399 per pair. Other options in the lineup are the SX-50 and SX-60 standmount/bookshelf models (£179 and £229, respectively), plus the SX-70 centre enclosure (£149) and SX-120 subwoofer (£199) for multichannel fans.

Such prices can make Cambridge Audio's full product portfolio feel a little unbalanced, as there's no other, more expensive, speaker lineup to ponder over. In fact, seeing as the company's loudspeaker stable consists solely of the SX series and the ultra-compact BMR-driver Minx models, plus in-ceiling and outdoor options, the SX-80 is currently the only floorstanding speaker it makes. A partner for Cambridge's £3500 Edge W power amplifier? Probably not.

Back In Black
The earlier-generation SX models escaped our attention at HFN, but this latest series is more of a respray than a re-engineering, with just a new matt-black finish and Cambridge Audio logo to separate them from their predecessors. Even the name remains the same, without so much as a 'MkII' suffix. The revamped colourway is a welcome move – the previous series was available in either black or dark walnut wood veneers, and looked a little fussy. Now there's more synergy between the cabinet and speaker grille, which attaches via push-in fixings and covers approximately one half of the front baffle.


Can I Bend Your Ear?
Making good on Cambridge Audio's promise of a 'clean and understated look', the SX-80's PVC-wrapped MDF cabinet – which features 18mm-thick side walls and offers a 37-litre internal volume – is resolutely square, suggesting the CAD modelling conducted by the design team was focused on the inside, rather than the outside.

However, making up for what some will view as an unimaginative aesthetic is this speaker's easy-to-install nature. A moderate 16.9kg weight means moving the SX-80 around for performance fine-tuning is never a chore, and it comes pre-installed with its four-corner feet ready for the supplied spikes. Lace up via the solid speaker terminals and you'll be good to go in a matter of minutes.

Don't be fooled by its trio of drivers – the SX-80 is a two-way speaker, using a pair of identical bass/mid units above and below its tweeter in a D'Appolito array with a 1.6kHz crossover. Given that the speaker measures just 98cm tall, this arrangement doesn't follow the general rule of mounting a high-frequency driver at ear height – unless, perhaps, you do all your listening slumped down in your sofa. At this price point, however, it's likely that such an audiophile concern isn't of key interest to all users – how often have we seen bookshelf speakers placed well below ear-level in 'starter' systems?

Cambridge Audio says both the bass/mid driver and tweeter are bespoke to the brand and 'sourced from trusted partners'. The treble unit is a 25mm silk dome, fitted with an internal foam damper to absorb rear output and limit reflections and claimed to deliver 'a wide and effortless soundstage'. The 165mm bass/mid with its treated paper cone benefits from a 'carefully optimised' magnet system to craft what is described as a 'deep, punchy bass with high efficiency'.

Meanwhile, rated sensitivity is a fairly typical 87dB, and the speaker claims a nominal 8ohm impedance [although PM's measurements suggest 6ohm would be a fairer assessment]. And in practice, I found it easy to drive, as all affordable loudspeakers should be.

sqnote Tower Of Strength
Cambridge Audio's well-priced floorstander doesn't fall into the trap of attempting to sound like something more expensive and failing miserably. Yes, it's a tower speaker, but rather than try to blow buyers away with boisterous bass and epic scale, it majors on midrange and high frequency detail, a good balance across the audio band, and tuneful low frequencies. For £400, it's an accomplished all-rounder.

Cambridge Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Audio Partnership PLC, London
0203 514 1521