Cambridge Soundworks M80 Main / Stereo Speakers Reviews
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Cambridge Soundworks M80 Main / Stereo Speakers

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Cambridge Newton M80 Bookshelf Speakers: High definition at a reasonable price

May 31, 2002 (Updated Aug 21, 2002)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:tight bass, good imaging, good definition

Cons:can be revealing of poor quality CDs

The Bottom Line: The Cambridge Soundworks M80s are high quality bookshelf speakers at a reasonable price.

The Cambridge Soundworks M80s are Cambridge's best small bookshelf-style speakers. Although small in size (18" H x 10" W x 10 " D), they are heavy, at about 28 pounds per speaker, and each enclosure houses three drivers: an 8" woofer, a 3 " midrange driver and a silk fabric tweeter.

The M80 is an attractive speaker, with a modern but not obtrusive appearance. It is available in blonde maple, mahogany, and slate finishes. The grill cloth appears to be a woven fabric of some sort. The binding posts are of high quality, and the speaker can be bi-wired.

The mounting plate for the midrange/tweeter assembly can be rotated, allowing horizontal or vertical placement of the speakers. I have only heard the speakers in the upright position.

The M80 is a ported design. Frequency response is rated at 40hz to 22khz, with no tolerance given. Claimed power range is from 10 watts to 150 watts. Sensitivity is rated at 86dB, and nominal impedance is 8 ohms. The speakers are magnetically shielded for use in home theater applications.

So how do they sound?

Very clean! The M80s present a good, clean sound with tight bass, crisp treble, and good imaging, when positioned away from walls.

I listened to jazz, classical, and folk music on the M80s, first while comparing them with the less expensive Cambridge Soundworks Model Sixes, and later on their own.

One of the things that struck me about the M80s was the level of detail. Microdynamics (subtle changes in volume) were reproduced well on these speakers, and separate instruments sounded like separate instruments, not like undifferentiated mush. Sounds like fingers on plucked strings were easy to hear, and horns had good "bite" through the M80s.

The 80s are not overly bright, but they are more likely to reveal problems with cheap components or poorly recorded CDs than are the less expensive Model Sixes.

Another thing that struck me about the 80s was how tight the bass was. Some small speakers exaggerate the mid-bass (from roughly 60 to 120 hz) but produce a mushy, diffuse bass sound. Bass from the 80s was tight and punchy, and could be felt in my body.

Transient attack (the slam factor) was also quite good through the 80s. The sound was "fast" rather than "slow." The 80s could also play louder than the Sixes without strain.

The midrange of the 80s was neutral, with voices sounding realistic and neither too chesty or too thin. Sibilants ("s" sounds) were a bit more pronounced than with the Model Sixes, but not to the point of being obnoxious.

Though bass response was tight down to 50 hz or so, I wouldn't expect these speakers to be able to reproduce the bottom octave of music (from 20 hz to 40 hz), as the laws of physics just don't allow it from speakers of this size. However, these are good enough speakers that they would probably mate well with a subwoofer, like Cambridge's own BassCube 10 or BassCube 12.

Overall, I would rate these as a good buy, especially if you're willing to set them up for optimum performance (with room to breathe and slightly away from walls) and use them with decent associated components. If you're looking for something really inexpensive to hook up to your old Kenwood receiver, throw on a bookshelf, and forget about, consider also Cambridge Soundworks' own Model Sixes, which are quite musical, but not as accurate or refined as the M80s. (The Sixes cost about $150 less than the M80s when both are on sale.) The M80s might mate well with a good NAD receiver and CD player.

All Cambridge Soundworks still have a 45-day complete satisfaction guarantee, so you can take them home, give them a listen, and return them for a full refund if you're not satisfied.

The retail price of these speakers is about $450/pair, but you can often find them on sale for about $300. At that price they are a very good buy.

To read more about Cambridge Soundworks speakers, or to see what's on sale right now, check out their website at:

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 300/pair

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