Cambridge Audio Sonata DV30

Cambridge Audio DV30-BOne British company that gets far too little recognition is Cambridge Audio, despite having a history of impressive, affordable audiophile products – and that is perhaps not surprising considering that so many who have – and/or do – work for the company are talented people themselves. The DV30 was designed by Matthew Bramble – a clever tweaky type who was the lynchpin of the company’s electronics for nearly a decade.

During his time there, he came up with consistently high quality products, all of which were very keenly priced. The DV30 cost £200 in 2008, and was launched as part of the company’s midi-sized, budget-priced Sonata range. Although Blu-ray had surfaced by this time, it was the province of the high end, and the thinking was that this little DVD spinner would still have appeal; it offered a high quality, modern upscaling 1080p-capable chipset and HDMI output, as well as SCART for legacy TVs.

Picture quality is very good even through a modern television, although not quite in the OPPO BDP-95 league, admittedly. It’s crisp, stable and detailed with smooth motion, although it lacks a truly rich and wide palette of colours if you’re being harsh. Impressive, but even better is the sound. At the time of its launch, Bramble proudly told me that he’d spent a good bit of time paying careful attention to board layout, signal routing and grounding, and it was kitted out with the very respectable (and new, at the time) Wolfson WB8746 DACs. Decent electronic components were specified too, rather than the lowest common denominator stuff that normally goes into budget DVD players.

The result is a very likeable little DVD spinner which is fine for watching movies, but can also make a fair stab at playing music too. It sounds smooth and detailed, with a wide soundstage and an enjoyable musical flow. It’s not earth shattering, but is nevertheless still one of the few cheap DVD machines that you can actually listen to without running for the back of the sofa. The coaxial digital output works well too, making it a good CD transport which can usefully be upgraded by an Audiolab M-DAC, or suchlike. You’ll get the best sound by using a decent mains lead (feeding its figure-of-eight IEC socket); this done it really does belie its compact (270x285x67mm) dimensions and give a big, powerful sound. Only the slightly fiddly and unresponsive remote control lets it down, which simply isn’t as nice to use as rival Sonys of the day, despite the Cambridge Audio’s unit having a metallised front.

Overall then, here is a really nice little modern curio – a capable DVD player that takes up very little space, and also functions as a decent music maker should you wish to use it as such. Better still, it makes a good CD transport for your fancy, modern DAC. Considering how terminally unfashionable DVD is now, you can really pick up a bargain; these go for under £50 on eBay.

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