Cambridge Audio Aeromax 6

Cambridge Audio AeroMax 6 picFor real-world audiophiles, this is surely the best new product of 2014, and one of the most interesting loudspeakers I have heard in a very long time. It’s so special because it is highly affordable (it costs just £900) yet delivers a sonic performance way higher than the price suggests. Indeed to my ears the Aeromax 6 sounds like a cost-cut high end design, rather than just another puffed-up budget box.

It is almost unique in its use of a Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) in place of a conventional tweeter and midrange driver. This is radical and clever; it gives far better dispersion, is more linear and lower in distortion too. The 46mm BMR fitted to the Aeromax stretches from the high treble all the way down to the upper bass, obviating the need for a crossover right in the ‘presence’ region, where it is least wanted. The human ear is most sensitive here, and because there’s no crossover it takes phase problems out of the equation in the midband and gives it an eerily electrostatic-like sound in some respects. It’s also tonally very smooth, being made of light but stiff paper.

The second benefit is that because the BMR goes all the way down to 250Hz (many conventional tweeters struggle to reach below 2kHz), it lets the bass driver stick to what it’s best at – generating large amounts of clean low frequency energy. In the Aeromax 6, two 165mm pulp bass drivers are used to produce a gutsy, powerful sound; they integrate really well with the BMR and give an unexpectedly seamless and tuneful bass.

The original Aero 6 was launched in 2012, but barely eighteen months later the London-based company decided to revamp it. On hearing the first incarnation, I was taken aback by its overall tonal evenness and stereo imaging ability but a little underwhelmed by its bass grip and treble extension. The new Aeromax range sees designer Dominic Baker ironing out these issues, and the result is that the largish (344x980x240mm, 17kg) cabinets are now better braced, and come in a lovely gloss white or black finish. The latest fourth generation Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) is fitted too along with better OFC internal wiring and upgraded speaker terminals.

The basic sound of the Aeromax 6 is ultra smooth yet naturally musical, making it unlike practically every other loudspeaker near its price point. It is totally devoid of the sort of peaks and lumpiness in the midband that all but the very best boxes suffer from. It really is uncanny, and the mods to the new Aeromax make it even easier to enjoy. Treble remains delicate and refined but is now better extended, and bass is usefully grippier and more tuneful. Any new purchaser will need to choose whether or not to use the supplied foam bung in the front-firing bass port; my recommendation would be to keep it in at all times, because it tightens up what is still an ever so slightly soft bottom end.

The Aeromax 6 delivers an almost holographic soundstage, cathedral-like in its scale. This speaker never shouts across the midband and so is highly relaxing to listen to, yet can never be called boring. It oozes fine filigree detail, being unexpectedly nuanced at the price. The Cambridge Audio is also highly adept at playing rhythms, a trait it shares with its predecessor but more so; it is faster, tighter, tauter and has less overhang down below. This makes it a more expressive performer which better carries dynamic inflections than its already accomplished predecessor. Music flows with a wonderful ease; it makes some of its price rivals sound horribly stilted.

The Aeromax 6 isn’t beyond criticism; in absolute terms it has a subtly ‘papery’ quality which doesn’t convey the full range of tonal colours from ice-cold to sumptuously warm; everything sounds slightly sweet regardless of the original recording. Nor does it quite have the glassy clarity of higher end designs. Still, it is always great fun, and its healthy sensitivity (90dB/1w/1m quoted) makes it a willing partner for valve amplifiers or Class A solid-staters; one famously synergistic combination I have found is with the classic Musical Fidelity A1 integrated amplifier. This is a lovely loudspeaker then, nothing less than a seminal audiophile bargain and true budget esoterica.

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