|Type||Premium Audio Brand|
|Industry||Audio equipment manufacturing|
Cambridge Audio is a British manufacturer of high-end audio equipment. As the name suggests, it has its origins in Cambridge, England, where in the early 1960s a group of young technology graduates established a high-technology R&D and prototyping business: Cambridge Consultants.
Cambridge Audio began life as a division of Cambridge Consultants in 1968. The company's first product was the 2 × 20W P40 integrated amplifier, which was created by a team that included Gordon Edge and Peter Lee. In addition to an advanced technical specification the P40 had a slim case design by Roy Gray, from Woodhuysen Design.
Cambridge Audio became a standalone business from the group when a new company, Cambridge Audio Laboratories Ltd, was formed, operating from extensive premises alongside the old Enderby's Mill in St. Ives, Cambridge. The P40 was an immediate success, but would prove difficult to manufacture in any volume, a problem that would be resolved in 1970 with the introduction of the new 2 × 25W P50 model, which was a very similar product with regards to both circuit design and appearance, but had been engineered for mass production. Despite strong sales and rapid growth, the company required increased investment and so was sold in 1971 to Colin Hammond of CE Hammond & Co Ltd – then a very successful distributor of Revox tape recorders and other audio products in the UK, Canada and the USA.
A new company, Cambridge Audio Ltd, was formed, with leading UK electrical engineer Stan Curtis joining as the organisation's technical director. The St. Ives factory was extensive and at its peak employed more than 300 people. Most of the required components were made under one roof including the circuit boards and the aluminium cases. All transistors were made to CA's specification and even carried the company's own part numbers. Every product was extensively tested after manufacture and a printed certificate was produced for every individual unit detailing the actual measured performance results.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, Cambridge Audio changed owners a few more times, with the business sold to UK hi-fi entrepreneur Vince Adams, in 1980, and relaunched as Cambridge Audio Research Ltd. Financial difficulties for the parent company in 1984 led to Cambridge Audio Research being taken over by Stan and Angie Curtis and renamed Cambridge Audio International.
The next four years saw a rapid expansion of the business with over 16 new products being launched and with export markets re-established in over 28 countries across the world. In 1985 a major innovative step was made with the launch of the CD1, the world's first two-box CD player. The continued expansion of the company put a strain on both its physical and financial resources and at the end of 1988 Cambridge Audio became part of the Hi-Fi Markets Group.
The product range underwent another significant change in appearance with the low profile black cases giving way to full height cases finished in a neutral grey colour. Internally though, the existing Stan Curtis circuit designs were retained with key new product launches for the DAC2 and DAC3 digital-to-analogue converters and the T40 FM tuner.
Within two years Cambridge Audio was purchased by the Wharfedale company, best known for its loudspeakers, which set up a production line at its large facility in Leeds, Yorkshire.
Wharfedale was undergoing major re-organisation by a team that included Stan Curtis. Despite his sentimental attachment to Cambridge Audio, he realised the company needed a new home that could focus on the electronics and so the decision was made to divest Cambridge Audio and in 1994 the company would be sold for the last time before beginning nearly 30 years of growth and stability.
The purchaser of the business in 1994 was the newly-established Audio Partnership, which was formed by two entrepreneurial businessmen, Julian Richer and James Johnson-Flint, who were already enjoying significant success with home entertainment retailer Richer Sounds.
Audio Partnership was specifically formed to look for opportunities in acquiring under-developed brands with the intention of providing the investment to allow stability and growth, both in the UK and overseas. Target companies would be ideally British brands that had already developed exceptional technical and design credibility and popularity, but had been lacking in resources or funding to be consistent market leaders in the UK or other markets. Cambridge Audio was considered a perfect fit, becoming the company's first acquisition.
It remains Audio Partnership's prime focus nearly 30 years later, now solely owned by Johnson-Flint.
- 1968, P40 stereo amplifier, world's first to use toroidal transformers
- 1970, T50 tuner + P50 stereo amplifier
- 1971, R50 transmission line speakers
- 1984, C75 pre amplifier + A75 power amplifier
- 1985, CD1 CD player, world's first two-box CD player
- 1990, CT50 cassette deck
- 1994, Acquired by Audio Partnership
- 1995, DacMagic (original), first Cambridge Audio product to win a What Hi-Fi? Best Buy Award
- 2003, Azur series
- 2006, 840 audiophile series
- 2008, DacMagic
- 2010, Minx speakers, first to use hybrid BMR technology
- 2011, NP30, first use of StreamMagic platform
- 2013, Aero and Aeromax speakers
- 2013, Minx Air and Minx Go speakers
- 2015, CX series
- 2016, Yoyo wireless speakers
- 2016, Melomania venue opens at Cambridge Audio UK HQ
- 2018, Edge series, 50th anniversary
- 2019, Alva TT, world's first Bluetooth AptX HD-enabled turntable
- 2019, CX series 2 and AX series
- 2019, Melomania 1, Cambridge Audio's first true wireless earphones
- 2021, Evo series, Cambridge Audio's first all-in-one streaming amplifier and the first to use Class D amplification
- 2021, DacMagic 200M, first Cambridge Audio product to support MQA
- 2021, Melomania 1+ and Melomania Touch earphones, the latter of which are the first to use Class AB amplification
- 2022, First Red Dot Award wins for Evo and Melomania 1+
- 2022, Alva TT V2 and Alva ST turntables
Source: Cambridge Audio
Cambridge Audio has worked with several other brands, either to develop products or by hosting events at its Melomania venue space in London.
In 2016, Cambridge Audio partnered with British textile manufacturer Marton Mills to release Yoyo, a new range of three Bluetooth speakers. In the same year, Cambridge Audio opened a venue space, Melomania, below its London HQ. It has since hosted events such as premiere listening sessions for albums including David Bowie’s The Gouster, as well as awards nominations announcements with the Jazz FM Awards and auditions for the Drake YolanDa Award.
Manufacturing and the company today
Audio Partnership set up production facilities in China, with Cambridge Audio products manufactured in the country from 1994.
The company established an office in Hong Kong in 2001 and an office in mainland China in 2011, allowing Cambridge Audio to have its own production and QC engineers on site. Sales offices and teams were established in Hamburg, Germany and Hong Kong in 2015, followed by an office in Chicago, USA in 2017.
Investment in new products continues and the company now employs more than 100 people including an in-house engineering team, based at the Cambridge Audio HQ in London, SE1.
The 2020 to 2021 annual turnover of Audio Partnership was in excess of £33 million.
- Colloms, Martin (2009). "HiFi Critic Vol 3 issue Number 4". HiFi Critic.
- Cotton, Charles (May 2012). The Cambridge Phenomenon.
- . Cambridge Audio
- Pocket-lint (29 September 2016). "Cambridge Audio reveals Yoyo range of Bluetooth speakers - Pock". www.pocket-lint.com. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
- "Cambridge Audio UK". Cambridge Audio UK. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
- 2022 Shortlist Day - Drake YolanDa Award, retrieved 4 October 2022
- "New DeLoreans will get sound systems by Cambridge Audio". Top Gear. 11 August 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
- "Cambridge Audio Joins Eno, Adds Deezer". StereoNET New Zealand. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
- "AUDIO PARTNERSHIP PLC overview - Find and update company information - GOV.UK". find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 October 2022.