The AXA35 boasts a toroidal transformer and offers extra versatility through its integrated moving magnet phono stage input for vinyl enthusiasts.The sound without any EQ applied is meaty and carries plenty of bass. Even with the volume turned up, the AXA35 never loses control of the music like some other budget amplifiers can. Thanks to that impressive toroidal transformer, the AXA35 delivers a big forward sound that really does tease out nuances from the music – The sound is superb. There is a level of control that the amplifier exerted over the music.
So why is Cambridge Audio selling a budget audio amplifier that includes a quality phono stage, but eschews any digital inputs? Well, it’s all about cost. It’s possible that Cambridge Audio could have included a cheap DAC stage in the AXA35, but that would mean cutting corners elsewhere. Fortunately, the Cambridge Audio design team chose not to do that and instead spent the budget on a really good toroidal power supply, some excellent components and a circuit layout that looks so neat and tidy. Even the build quality of the AXA35 and AXC35 is excellent and looks like it is built to last.
The first thing that strikes you about the Cambridge Audio AXA35 is just how confident it sounds. There’s no wavering over the placement of notes, no blurring of lines. Whether it’s carving out a bassline, delivering the leading edge of a drum thwack or positioning a vocal inside its stereo image, the AXA35 delivers them all in a precise and assured manner. There’s a real sense of power and weight attached to the rolling, rumbling bass notes. And while the bass is impressive, the details in the treble is most commendable and without a trace of sibilance.
The AXA35’s dynamic skills come to the forefront when conveying the drama of a track. The dynamic swell of each wave of drums powers through the track like a powerful riptide. It’s a spirited sound, but by no means aggressive. There’s no harshness or brightness, nor is the amp’s sound coloured or tainted in any way. With the Cambridge there’s an impressive sense of transparency to the track. the vocal sounds precise and tightly focused – the Cambridge Audio has no trouble communicating a track’s midrange – as does the piano, percussion and pointy bass line. All the elements sound clear, yet closely knit.The sound stays consistent with the same bold character traits shining through with the phono stage.
Just add a turntable and a pair of bookshelf speakers, and you’ve got yourself a very nice audio set-up that can serve up music at a decent volume with great sound that should suit most musical genres. When compared to one classic amp at twice the price, although it doesn’t have the digital circuitry, the AXA35 arguably sounds clearer and has a more neutral tonal balance, doing more than enough to justify the highest accolades at this price point.