Cambridge Audio EVO 150 | A Super Integrated Streaming Amplifier
It's been ages since a piece of audio equipment enchanted me the way the Cambridge Audio EVO 150 has. I recently moved things around to make my listening area more immersive with the products I am evaluating. Currently, I am reviewing Cambridge Audio's newest innovation, the Evo 150 Streaming Amplifier; however, I am also looking at Triangle Hifi's BR09 Floor standing speakers. So, I decided to pair the two to see how well they matched. I have to say, the first impression, the amplifier was barely out of the box, and the speakers were fresh and ready to play; I was very impressed with how balanced everything seemed. However, the longer I let it play, it did change a bit. We'll get into that later; I've experienced some burn-in before with other products; however, things genuinely changed to the point where I was in another room entirely and had to run into the listening room to see if someone had messed with the volume or settings.
I want to take a quick moment to thank James Johnson-Flint, CEO of Cambridge, for making this happen. I appreciate the opportunity to work with a company with such heritage. As you've probably guessed, Cambridge is a company hailing from the UK and innovating new products since 1968. Over 50 years of HiFi embedded in their DNA. It's no surprise that I knew it would be something special when I unboxed the EVO 150.
After unboxing the unit and placing it where it was going to be living for a while, I was curious how daunting the haptics would be, and of course, the overall time it would take to get it functioning. I have had some nightmare experiences, specifically with the Blue OS UI, so I hoped this encounter would be much different. I plugged in the power cord, connected the network cable, and downloaded the Stream Magic App to my android phone; I was up and running in under 10 minutes with no issues or obstacles whatsoever. I almost thought it was too good to be true.
The EVO 150 has a current price of $3000, which is about average considering the product's set of features and overall quality. The EVO 150 isn't the most expensive Integrated amplifier I have reviewed; however, it is the most intuitive. From the beginning of the unboxing process to the point, music was sonically playing; it was a pleasant experience because it's always wonderful when things work the way they are supposed to.
Aesthetically, the EVO 150 is sexy, clean, and beautiful. Hugging the unit is a black anodized aluminum cabinet. It features a 6.8-inch full-color screen that displays album artwork and playback info. It is helpful for any manual source switching or library browsing via a control dial for volume and scrolling. However, where the "magic" happens, sort of speak is within the controls and settings in the intuitive UI of the Stream Magic App. I love the side panels; they're interchangeable from a wood finish to a cool artistic black design. I, of course, stuck with the black because, well, all black everything for me.
For some reason, a few other reviewers were whining about the remote control and how they didn't like the thin, sleek buttons. I think they're great; it gives it an excellent modern, almost futuristic look.
This unit features Class D amplification, and you get 150 watts per channel into 8 ohms with the Hypex Ncore modules. So, this is plenty of power for a two-channel setup, even with a bit more demanding speaker. As I mentioned earlier, I am using the Triangle HiFi Br09's, which have a sensitivity of 92.5Db. So, I didn't exactly challenge the amplifier too hard since these speakers are relatively sensitive and easier to drive; however, they have five drivers in a 3-way format, so that's ten speakers the EVO 150 had to pump full of power. It did it effortlessly; even at higher volumes, it maintained that beautiful balance that the Triangle Borea series is known for.
After a few days of playing music through the speakers, I noticed the bass became much more present, and the soundstage widened considerably, which I think was a huge win. Everything just felt much more dynamic than right out of the box.
Or am I just crazy, and am I imagining things?
Either way, it sounds brilliant.
Especially when I played bass-heavy electronic music and Hip Hop, it just opened right up and filled the room with incredible immersive sound. Anything I played involving the Glitch Mob not only hit hard, but I was able to consume the barrage of different sounds and instruments and the variety of subtleties that go into a Glitch Mob production. I didn't stop there though, I have been listening to a song on repeat lately, and it's a live recording of all things. A genre I have never really embraced until now. It's a song called This Night by a band named Black Lab. They have a live acoustic album on Qobuz, and I have heard it before in different setups. Still, this time I listened to every detail in the recording down to the mechanisms of the photographer's shutter as they took pictures of the band at the venue. Details like these are exceptional because they place you in the venue with the band and allow you to indeed consume the music.
Aside from being a very competent streamer and having a fantastic app to accompany the streaming capabilities, you can hook up whatever you can think of to this Super Integrated Amp. It comes with balanced inputs if you're using an external component like a DAC or phono preamp with XLR outputs. There are two optical and digital coaxial inputs to take advantage of the onboard ESS Sabre 32bit high-resolution DAC. There is a TV Arc to turn this into a two-channel powerhouse for your flat screen. It offers an asynchronous USB port if you want your PC to join the party. It has a subwoofer out, which I find necessary in any circumstance. It also has a set of RCA pre-outs, which could go to an external amp if you have some hungry speakers or prefer using a separate amplifier. The EVO 150 comes prepared with a built-in Phono stage and an unbalanced RCA input for the vinyl community to plug in their favorite turntable or Phono Preamp. Two sets of five-way binding posts are provided for running two pairs of speakers simultaneously. In the front, for the head-fi fans, is a 3.5mm headphone out. In other words, there isn't much out there that you can't plug into the Evo 150.
If you don't use Spotify or Qobuz, the EVO 150 provides you with Google Chromecast and Airplay2 and decoding MQA and most file types, including DSD 256. So that should about cover most music streaming services and file types out in the ether. DSD 256 is a format sought after by an almost cult following of the format. So that alone is a huge selling point for some.
The caveat here is that I have never reviewed the Naim Uniti Atom, and since the Naim's inception, quite a few companies are starting to emerge with their take on a Super Integrated Amplifier. However, a couple of my colleagues have compared the two, and Cambridge is always coming out the victor.
So, to sum things up, the Cambridge EVO 150 is a capable streamer, powerful amplifier, and an overall one-stop-shop for an all-in-one sound system solution. It offers simplicity and ease of use paired with a powerful streaming solution in an attractive box that couldn't be more user-friendly. This unit truly gives you something to think about when deciding between a Super Integrated Streaming Amplifier and separate components.