Cambridge Audio Alva TT
Boasting aptX HD Bluetooth streaming and direct drive, here’s a turntable with audiophile appeal, minus the hair-shirt attitude
PRODUCT Cambridge Audio Alva TT
TYPE Direct-drive turntable
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 435 x139 x368mm
• 33 & 45rpm
• High-output Alva MC cartridge
• Built-in phono stage
• aptX HD Bluetooth streaming
DISTRIBUTOR Audio Partnership PLC
TELEPHONE 0207 9402200
1 Polyoxymethylene (POM) platter
2 Rega-sourced tonearm
3 High-output MC cartridge
4 33/45rpm speed selection
5 Power on/off button
Cambridge Audio is not the first name that springs to mind when thinking of turntable makers, and that must have shaped the company’s thinking during the design process.
In short, it needed a strong USP and – memo to marketing – a snappy lifestyle-flavoured strapline to go with it. Enter the world’s first Bluetooth aptX HD-enabled turntable and, because it has a built-in phono stage, the reassuring just add vinyl’ marketing initiative. There might be record decks that are equally plug ‘n’ play, but so far only one that can stream to any Bluetooth receiver at up to 24-bit/48kHz hi-res.
Box ticked, Cambridge certainly hasn’t stinted on the quality. For presence and build, it’s at least the equal of the other decks here, if shaded for design originality by the
Rega and AnalogueWorks. Named after Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the phonograph, the plinth has a solid aluminium top plate which is nicely tactile and the gun metal/smoky grey finish is easy on the eye.
The dense and heavy platter is made from Polyoxymethylene (POM) – a high-tech engineering thermoplastic used in precision parts requiring high stiffness and excellent dimensional stability – and driven by a medium- torque, direct-drive motor good for 33 and 45rpm speeds which, like that of the Technics, claims to deliver better pitch stability than belt-drive designs.
Pre-installed in the Rega-sourced tonearm is a high-output moving-coil cartridge with an exposed cantilever design, which is claimed to reduce unwanted resonance and vibration while the built-in phono stage is based on the standalone Duo (HFC 436) – which has a very fine sound.
Whether feeding the supplied interconnect or streaming wirelessly to the XTZ Divine Bluetooth headphone I have to hand, the Alva TT’s sonic schtick is smooth, warm and couth, a canny interpretation of what most people think is the sound of vinyl. And it’s rather lovely if, ultimately, a bit safe – by the standards of this group anyway.
The Oscar Peterson track is telling here. Make no mistake, Naptown Blues, written by jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery, is a head-down thrill ride featuring Herbie Ellis channelling Montgomery and turning it up to 11 while Oscar Peterson is on fire, unleashing crashing cascades of block chords with speed and dexterity.
It should be a breath-takingly exciting listen. But the hot rod veers slightly towards the cocktail lounge. It isn’t a debilitating detour, but it certainly saps the performance of some drive, snap and energy despite being temporally on point.
Boz Scaggs, conversely, is on firmer ground with the Alva TT, his voice acquiring a little richness and losing some nasality while the playing takes on something of a golden glow. But although this is all extremely easy on the ear, it’s slightly muggy, too.
Yet it suits the EBGT cut well, plumping up the bass and fleshing out the Tracey Thom vocal to a degree few of the other decks can match. If you crave an overtly analogue warm and cuddly sound that nevertheless oozes refined detail and an immersive embrace, the Alva TT will fit the bill