Cambridge Audio CP2 Review 59

Please see This Post for a detailed rundown of our reference system.


It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Cambridge Audio’s hi-fi offerings. Time and time again their products impress with their exemplary build quality, extensive though logical features, exceptional sound quality and a value for money that is unheard of at the price. The 651P, reviewed in 2014, was no different. Part of the Azur 651 range and Cambridge’s flagship phono stage, the 651P was a staggeringly good MM / MC phono stage for a modest £120 outlay.

Following the introduction of Cambridge AUdio’s CX range which replaces the 651 series as well as the Stream Magic and AVR lines, two new phono stages, the CP1 and CP2, were introduced. They replace the 551P and 651P stages respectively, and are largely similar in terms of features and design albeit with a jump in price to £100 and £150 for the CP1 and CP2 respectively.

The purpose of a phono stage, sometimes known as a phono preamplifier, is to amplify the minute signal generated by a phono cartridge to a line level signal. It also performs RIAA equalisation on the signal from the cartridge, reversing an equalisation curve applied to the music when a record is cut. The CP1 is a moving magnet only stage, while the CP2 supports both moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges. The CP2 also implements a switchable subsonic filter, while both models feature a balance control allowing the relative levels of the left / right channels to be adjusted to compensate for channel imbalance within the cartridge itself.

Both units feature class A gain stages and discrete transistor input circuits as opposed to the integrated circuits used in most similarly priced preamplifiers. Both models feature passive RIAA equalisation, though a few component changes including multi-parallel capacitors allow the CP2 to achieve a RIAA accuracy of 0.3dB at 20hz-50kHz as opposed to the CP1’s <+/-0.65dB 25hz-20kHz.

MM cartridge loading on both units is fixed at 47K ohm, 220PF. The CP2’s moving coil input is fixed at 100 ohms, 220PF. As with the 651P, I would like to see the ability to adjust the MC loading resistance and capacitance values. While the fixed loading value at 100 ohms is the recommended for many cartridges, the 220PF capacitance value means the best performance may not be realised from some cartridges that the CP2 would otherwise be more than capable of handling.

The units aren’t unlike their predecessors in appearance, sporting an all metal casework with a thick aluminium front panel and a wrap-around top cover. The styling has been updated however to include a front plinth spanning the length of the units and designed to match the new CX components.

Build quality is excellent, the only minor flaw being a small amount of flexing in the terminals at the rear. The units are light (0.8KG and 0.9KG for the CP1 and CP2 respectively), though the casework is solid with no flexing or resonance.

Sound wise I have no complaints. My first test involved running the CP2 on its moving magnet setting with a cartridge connected and the turntable properly grounded. Turning up the amplifier allowed me to assess the idle noise of the CP2, or more accurately the lack of idle noise. Both on the MM and MC inputs, the CP2 produces less idle noise than a Rega Aria and every other phono stage on hand. Less noise equals more music, so that’s a huge plus in my book

And the positives continue. The CP2 renders vinyl with its characteristic warmth intact. Stereo separation is excellent, and there’s no evident distortion even when running a moving magnet cartridge with a healthy 5MV output. The moving coil stage is a little noisier than the moving magnet stage, but it offers greater dynamics and is more involving than the latter which favours detail and is over all a more relaxed sound.

In summary, another remarkable effort from Cambridge Audio. The CP2 is an excellent phono stage for the money. It’s well made and aesthetically pleasing with a sound to match. It needs a fully adjustable MC section to truly better the competition, but even as it is it’s one of the best in its class. Highly recommended.


About Ashley

I founded Audio Appraisal a few years ago and continue to regularly update it with fresh content. An avid vinyl collector and coffee addict, I can often be found at a workbench tinkering with a faulty electronic device, tweaking a turntable to extract the last bit of detail from those tiny grooves in the plastic stuff, or relaxing in front of the hi-fi with a good album. A musician, occasional producer and sound engineer, other hobbies include software programming, web development, long walks and occasional DIY. Follow @ashleycox2

Share Your Thoughts

59 thoughts on “Cambridge Audio CP2 Review

  • Krzysztof

    Hello,
    Very nice review. You’ve said that Rega Phono MM tend to be little noisy, what do you mean by that please? Do you think that for Rega Planar 2 with Elys2 CP2 is a better choice?

    • Ashley Post author

      My experience with the Rega Fono MM was that it was quite noisy; I.E there was more background noise and idle noise than I would’ve liked. I should stress that I’ve not heard the new MK 3 version and can’t comment on it. I would probably look at something from the Pro-Ject Phono Box range or give the Rega Fono MK3 a demo as Rega components do pair well together. I don’t feel that the CP2 would be a good match for the Elys2, but I can’t say I particularly like the Elys2 anyway.

  • Juan

    Hi Ashley
    Great review, I have inherited a Technics sl-10 without the original cartridge that I broke when I was a kid (Karma), but apart from that in perfect condition and I was thinking about this Phono pre with maybe an ‘LP Gear T4P REFERENCE SERIES VS phono cartridge’ do you think this would be a good pairing, thanks for your help

    • Juan

      Wow very quick response!
      I was checking the phonobox line and is big, what would you recommend as the cheaper good option of the line so I can build on that, but more important I’d say why you suggest this as a better match, what should I look for.
      Thank you very much for your time and advice.

      • Ashley Post author

        I’d go for the Phono Box S, because it is adjustable. I believe the LP Gear cartridge is based on an Audio-Technica body, and Audio-Technica cartridges like low capacitance which the Phono Box S can provide.

  • Nugget

    Hi Ashley
    Thanks for a great review. I have been a vinyl listener for quite sometime but have always run MM cartridges (through my Rega Brio built in phono stage). A recent purchase of a Clearaudio Concept turntable with Concept MC cartridge has prompted the need for an a external phono stage. Without having done any research, I purchased the CP2 to run in the system before really deciding how I want to set up everything.
    After a few months, I am generally happy with the sound. But I do sometimes feel it is slightly less revealing in detail than I want. Do you think an upgrade in the phono stage may help? The Rega Aria has caught my eye but I do hear you think it’s slightly noisy. Do you think it would be worth the upgrade? Are there any other phono stages you think will be a good step up from the CP2? I will continue to use the Rega Brio amp as I’m more than happy with it for digital sources.
    Thanks for your advice.

  • Clinton

    Hi Ashley,
    I just bought a CP2 to run between a Linn Sondek LP12 and an Arcam Alpha 5 amplifier, because as nice as the sound is, it’s a bit too quiet.
    I’ve plugged the RCA output leads from the CP2 into the Video input plugs on the Arcam amp.
    Comparing sound before and after adding the CP2, I cannot discern any difference at all, and I feel like I’ve spent money for nothing. I’ve just read that the Arcam amp actually has a Phono pre-amp built in. Might this mean that the effects of the CP2 are being cancelled out, or is there something else I should be doing to get a noticeable result from the the CP2?
    Thank you.

    Clinton

    • Ashley Post author

      Hi Clinton – Sorry for the late response. The issue you describe is mainly related to gain. A cartridge has a certain output level, which the phono stage must amplify to line level. However a phono stage has a rated sensitivity and a margin in which it can operate without being overloaded. Most can be fed a signal of 7MV or so before they will overload, but if your cartridge outputs only 2.5MV the final output level will be lower as a result. As your CP2 is connected to a line level input of the Arcam, it will not be affected by the Arcam’s internal phono stage. That said, if you were running a moving coil cartridge into the moving magnet inputs of either the Arcam amp or the CP2, it would produce a sound that is much too quiet as a moving coil cartridge requires more gain. Could you provide further details on the turntable setup you’re using, particularly with regards the model of cartridge? How quiet is the sound using the CP2 in reference to other sources?

  • lux

    Hi Asheley,
    I was wondering if your Cambridge Audio CP2 took awhile to start up.
    Mine seems to only start producing sound after around 15sec of turning it on.
    Is this normal?

    Thanks!

    • Ashley Post author

      This is normal. The CP2 includes a muting relay which prevents any thumps or pops being transmitted to the amplifier when the unit is turned on and the circuits stabilise. The muting circuit de-activates after 15 seconds, hence the delay in output.

  • Danny

    Hi Ashley,

    Vinyl junkie here but newbie on gear. I love reading your comments. I just got one of these CP2s and am looking to pair it with a nice cartridge, AT preferable. My TT is low end but actually plays fine (TEAC TN-300 which came with an AT 95E). It will have to do until I move up to the Technics 1200G 🙂 Any suggestions would be very welcome. I’m thinking 2-3 hundred USD range. Thank you!

    • Danny

      Hi Ashley,

      Vinyl junkie here but newbie on gear. I love reading your comments. I just got one of these CP2s and am looking to pair it with a nice cartridge, AT preferable. My TT is low end but actually plays fine (TEAC TN-300 which came with an AT 95E). It will have to do until I move up to the Technics 1200G 🙂 Any suggestions would be very welcome. I’m thinking 2-3 hundred USD range. Thank you!

      I forgot to mention my TT is connected via the CP2 to a Prism Sound Lyra 2 and on to self powered studio monitors Adam A7X. (I generally listen to my vinyl in my small home studio.)

      • Danny

        Sorry, I guess I should include my listening taste. I prefer warm, clean, crisp and accurate sound. I generally listen to R&B, Funk, and Rock, and some Metal. Again, thanks for any advice you can offer. Given the 220PF capacitance fixed on these I want to make sure I understand what would best match up…

    • Ashley Post author

      Hi Danny – Probably the new AT VM540ML. That would be the highest I’d put on that table, but it still has the excellent MicroLine tip. It’s the predecessor of the AT440MLB and will put many more expensive options to shame. Should sound fine with the CP2. That combination shouldn’t be excessively bright but if it is you can always tweak it in software. Incidentally your interface appears to have an option to convert the high-pass filter into a RIAA de-emphasis filter, so you can connect a turntable directly to the instrument inputs. Might be worth experimenting with, if only to see which sound you prefer.

      • Danny

        Thank you!! I will most likely try that 540 out. Yes, I saw that my Prism has the RIAA filter. I tried it once and sounded terrible but for fun I just hooked it up and it does a nice job. I think I had something not right the first time. Will have to do some critical listening and compare it to the CP2. The Prism is an absolute wonderful world class interface…

        • Ashley Post author

          Quality of software RIAA really depends on the noise of the interface itself. If the inputs are particularly noisy, an external preamp is recommended as you are dealing with extremely low-level signals. The 540 is a great cartridge though.

          • Danny

            Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate it. Do you think the 540 is a big improvement over the 440? Folks seem to really love that one too. Thank your Shaun!

              • Danny

                Got a 440 and I can’t believe how great it sounds! Paired it with the CP2 and it’s very very nice. Tried using the Prism with the RIAA filter. It actually sounds very good as well. The instrument inputs are a bit too sensitive for my liking but the sound is still very clean with clear highs. Now I just need to upgrade the turntable, though this cartridge works very well in it. Thank you very much for the advice.

  • Spyros Apostolakis

    Hi there Ashley and a happy new year to all you readers.
    I have just bought the CP2 mostly based on your review and I am more than happy.
    My system also comprises of Pioneer A-50DA integrated amplifier, monitor audio gold 50 bookshelf speakers, Technics SL-1200 MK2 turntable that is more than 25 years old now but still in perfect working order and a Denon DL 103 MC cartridge.
    My question is if I decide to upgrade the cartridge as well, which would be most fitting to my system in your opinion? You seem to be extremely knowledgeable and I am looking forward to your reply.
    Thanks in advance.
    Spyros

    • Ashley Post author

      I tend to favour Audio-Technica cartridges in my own system, though there are plenty of options out there. AT carts do work particularly well with the Technics 1200, as do Ortofon (anything from the 2M blue up). Were there any particular cartridges you were considering?

      • Rick

        I want badly to be a member of the Ortofon fan club but I just can’t get past the “quality/expense” disconnect. All cartridge have inflated shamelessly over the last two or three years. The only cartridges I’d recommend from Ortofon all have either worse than acceptable or non-specified channel balances. I bought the AT-150mlx when it was affordable. I have a back up stylus that I bought when it was affordable. The rest of my cartridges (for that particular Phono stage) are Denon (110, about as poor a channel separation cart as I’ll own) and a host of vintage cartridges who all have fine separation figures. Sumiko has traditionally been the “go to” bang for the buck cartridge manufacturer. Unfortunately their cartridges have inflated as well. I have several BP2’s as backups. I have an original BP that works as well as the day it was bought. (I paid $80.00 for it from in ad in the back of Stereophile-pre-internet for those who can’t imagine such a thing.) I still put Pearls on my inexpensive tables though. They’re still the “bang” for the buck choice in terms of FR and Separation. But the bucks are bigger and the bang is smaller than it’s ever been……

        • Ashley Post author

          Couldn’t agree more Rick. I do think Ortofon have a couple of decent carts to offer, but I’ve never been a part of the ‘fan club’ as I’ve always been happier with my AT carts. The 150MLX is a cracking cartridge, as is the 150SA despite its technically inferior tip. They have some new carts out too, including a new model with a microline which looks promising but naturally prices are up, though only slightly. Unfortunately the same can be said for everything at the moment. SME just announced a price increase, I believe a minimum of 15% on everything as of February. Exchange rates are pretty poor so now is the time to purchase hi-fi, particularly as a lot of it comes from Europe or is UK made with a lot of European materials.

        • Spyros Apostolakis

          I mean Would there be a marked difference in sound, given the particular system that I have, that would make the £450 the AT cost worth?
          Because the Denon still has a lot of hours of play to give. It would not be changed otherwise.
          Thanks in advance

        • Ashley Post author

          Fantastic cartridge, superb tracker with bags of detail but extremely musical and easy to listen to. May benefit from a better phono stage (I’ve not heard one with the CP2), but I see no reason why it wouldn’t offer a noticeable improvement with the system you already have.

          • Spyros Apostolakis

            OK Ashley thanks again for your help.
            I will let you know if I finally decide to upgrade. First I have to find the money, hahaha.

          • Spyros Apostolakis

            Hi there again Ashley
            I finally bought the ptg33 II and I am extremely pleased. I also upgraded to a Rega Aria phono stage and now I need one final touch let’s say. I am considering buying the at ti15anv headshell.
            Have you listened to it on one of your systems?
            Best regards
            Spyros

            • Ashley Post author

              I haven’t, I think it’s too expensive. I run an LP Gear High-definition headshell on mine which doesn’t have overhang or azimuth adjustments. LP Gear make a nice range of headshells that are worth a look. The headshell you refer to will be fine, the resonance frequency is about 9.43Hz which is slightly below the 10Hz ideal but within the 8-14Hz recommended range so you’ll still have a good match for the arm. Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Technics headshell, its low mass coupled with the aT33PTG/II should mean that your counterweight is very close to the arm pivot to achieve the 2 grams tracking force. But if you wanted to upgrade it, why not. As that is an original Technics, I’d probably spend the money on having Audio Origami rewire and check the arm before anything else, and perhaps add an LP Gear headshell if you wanted to alter the look slightly.

              • Spyros Apostolakis

                Have you ever listened to or used any of the Clearaudio concept or the Pro-ject classic turntables? I am finally thinking of upgrading to one of these with the 33ptg cartridge.

                • Ashley Post author

                  Yes, I’ve heard and reviewed both here as well as the cartridge you mention. Decent turntables for what they are, though both have strengths and weaknesses. I would choose neither deck with that cartridge, but if I were forced I’d have the Pro-Ject, simply for the fact that is is far less of a faff to change the cartridge on it than the Concept.

  • sl-2000

    I’m stuck between the CP1, CP2, YAQIN MS23B, and the Pro-Ject Phono Box S for my Shure M97XE (maybe Ortofon 2M Red) cartridge on a Technics SL-2000. Don’t have a huge upgrade budget at the moment and just want to get the full performance with a new cart and preamp from my current set up in the meantime.

    Any recommendations to assist in my decision? Looking to purchase both my new cart and phono preamp by the end of the month. I appreciate the feedback!

    • Ashley Post author

      The Pro-Ject Phono Box S looks to be fully adjustable and would be my choice. If you’re thinking of upgrading the cartridge, depending on the sound you like, I’d seriously consider the AT120E or even better the AT440MLB. While a little more than the 2M Red, the 440 offers a microline stylus profile and is a great match for your Technics. It’s likely the last cart you’ll ever need unless you ever wanted to spend serious money on a turntable upgrade. I’ve never been a fan of the 2M Red, it’s bright, sibilant and I’ve never been able to cure its inner groove distortion. I here the Sure cartridges, especially with some of the aftermarket styli, suffer the same issues.

  • Selvam

    Hi Ashley,
    Thanks for your review. I have 3 queries. Could you Please spare some time in answering these. Thanks
    1) I thought of buying Audio Technica LP5 turntable but now I’m preparing myself to buy the most appraised Technics 2016 model (SL-1200G – available for £2799). Is it that really worth, considering it’s versatility and the most reliable direct drive Turntable ?
    2) Cartridges — Moving Magnet – I was suggested Ortofon 2M Black for Technics, of course Moving Coil are very expensive. Assuming I’m prepared to spend £1000 for cartridge, options are there Ortofon Quintent Blue, Ortofon Cadenza Blue, AT-ART7 etc. Is moving coil definitely a better in producing a sound quality ?.
    3) This is the most tough problem to solve for me which is more relevant for this review actually (apologies rest are out of topic). Phono Stage :- Phono Stage for Low output Moving Coil are tough to select and difficult to demo with cartridge & turntables (with so many variables). I researched forums about few Phono stages but in the end very confused. Phono stages such as Schiit Mani Phono (Cheap, Neutral and Analytical – $129), Trichord Dino Mk3(Versatile – £489 but additional Power supply unit is very expensive), Graham Slee Revelation(£799), Rega Aira (5 Star by whathifi – £798) and Cambridge Audio CP2 (£129). Cambridge Phono output is not great in Spec.. Few are saying Tube Phono such as Pro-ject S Box is good and So I’m totally confused by Phono stages especially for Moving Coil which makes me feel better off with Moving Magnet cartridges. My budget for Phono stage is maximum £1000. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks for your time.
    Appreciate your help

    • Ashley Post author

      The Technics is probably the best direct drive turntable around at the moment, if not the best turntable around at the moment regardless of drive system. It is a stunning piece of engineering in its stock form and is probably the last turntable you’d ever need. It features a stunning direct drive system, a beautifully designed tonearm and an extremely rigid chassis. If you have the money, it would be my turntable of choice.

      As for cartridges, both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges have their pros and cons. I really don’t think that one is necessarily better than the other, and instead it depends on the particular model of cartridge. Personally I prefer Audio-Technica cartridges over Ortofon cartridges, and would take an AT150SA over a 2M black. However the2M black is certainly a very good cartridge. As for moving coils, the AT33PTG/II should be a great match for the Technics and has a really nice microline stylus. Or you could step up to something like the AT-ART9. Those would be my choices.

      In terms of a phono stage, the Pro-Ject PhonoBox RS is one of the best phono stages around at the moment. It offers every adjustment you could need (and you can even adjust it on the fly while it’s playing). You can match it to pretty much any cartridge on the market. Purchase it with one of the box design power supplies for a true high end phono stage which sits right around your £1000 budget, and again it’s probably the last phono stage you’ll ever buy. Personally I find the Rega Aria produces too much idle noise but that’s just my opinion of course, it does sound very nice.

      If you wanted a high end plug and play setup, your alternative would be something like the Rega RP10 / Apheta2 with the Aria. That is another stunning setup which would sound exceptional, though it is a belt drive deck. The Apheta2 is a very unique MC cartridge, and there’s really nothing preventing you installing one on a Technics if you wanted to. Just a few things to consider. My vote would probably be for a Technics, AT33PTG or ART9 and a PhonoBox RS. Of course at this price it’s important that you demo the items you plan to buy beforehand where possible.

      • Selvam

        Hi Ashley, As usual you provided very good inputs to clear my confusion. Richer Sounds are happy to provide 10 month payment plan. As you suggested, I would be buying Technics SL-1200G + AT33PTG + Phono Box RS. I need to convince them to do a demo. Power Supply(£450) is almost closer to the price of Phono stage. You saved me time & of course money which otherwise wasted in trial and error. Thanks for your time & help. Cheers 🙂

        • Ashley Post author

          That’ll be a really nice vinyl system. I would recommend having a demo of the Rega RP10 / Apheta2 / Aria just so you can hear something else in your price range. Be aware that high end vinyl systems such as the ones you’re considering will only perform at their best with clean records in at least reasonable condition. I’d recommend including a cleaning machine in your budget, something like the Pro-Ject VC-S which is a worthwhile investment.

          • Selvam

            Hi Ashley, Thanks for your suggestion. I would listen to Rega RP10 combo set up.
            Also, out of curiosity, how better Cyrus Phono Signature Phono compared to Pro-Ject RS Phono. Keeping aside of Cyrus capability to handle 4 turntable which I believe won’t use at home & Remote, with regards to Sound Gain, low noise, sound quality – Does Cyrus Phono Signature worth extra £900?.
            I have bought whole lot of 225 Records of 70s, 80s (Indian music LPs). So, I need cleaning. I’m wondering whether Professional Ultrasonic Cleaning service by Analogue Seduction before first use worth doing it? (or) it is over kill?. Of course I will buy Pro-Ject VC-S for regular cleaning. Thanks for your time. Appreciate your effort in answering our queries.

            • Ashley Post author

              That Cyrus phono stage is quite new and I’ve not heard it yet. I doubt it will be significantly better, maybe a little. Worth hearing though. I’ve certainly heard great things about it. As regards cleaning, ultrasonic cleaning is certainly better. If you’re considering paying someone else to clean the records as well as buying a cleaning machine, you may find it cheaper to simply purchase an ultrasonic record cleaning machine for yourself. It really depends on your budget, though it looks as though you’re considering spending a lot of money. Usually providing you place clean records into a new sleeve (keeping the original of course for value), record cleaning only needs to be done once.

  • Kevin Trowbridge

    Ok great article, so then which would you choose for the money? The 651P (which I currently have) the CP2,or the Rega fono MM

    • Ashley Post author

      If you already have a 651P, I’d probably stick with it. The Rega would probably sound a little better, but I feel it would be more of a sidestep than an upgrade and Rega’s phono stages are too noisy in my experience, though they do sound great. The 651P is a very good phono stage and will serve you well unless you wanted to upgrade to something at more than double its price.

    • Kevin Trowbridge

      Ok thanks for the replies, I’m using a rega RP3 with the elys 2 cartridge and I’ve got to be honest the more I play it the better it’s starting to sound so I guess I will stick with the 651P.

  • Willy Wonky

    I use the CP2 with a Debut Carbon dc (ortofon Blue), and it’s extremely quiet, revealing and true to the source. I also run a sub and the filter helps with rumble buildup if the source is light on bass and you are ambitious with the sub’s volume. I bought it with an eye to trying out an MC cartridge when the Blue requires replacing.

  • Ricktpt1

    The Balance control is THE reason (all the other improvements being worthwhile) to consider this leap forward. The reason? VINTAGE CARTRIDGES that have gone out of spec with regard to their channel balance tolerances. The landscape is RIDDLED with them. Some of them are iconic (otherwise) in terms of sonic qualities. It brings back the dead faster than you can say “Sheriff Rick Grimes”.

  • User

    What is the difference between this and the 651p? I saw both for sale at the same price. Is there one I should buy over the other?

    • Ashley Post author

      Slightly better THD specifications for the CP2, as well as the balance control which may be of interest to you. Other than that they’re fairly similar.

      • user

        thanks – besides the option to hook up a MC, is there any difference in the quality between the CP1 and CP2? I have a MM turntable and probably won’t be getting a MC upgrade anytime soon.

        • Ashley Post author

          The CP2 offers better RIAA accuracy and an extended frequency response. The subsonic filter is a worthwhile option if you have sub woofers or speakers with large bass drivers, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it. Which one you should opt for depends on your turntable and cartridge combination, though if you have the budget I’d opt for the CP2 as it will sound better with an MM cart, and it gives you the flexibility to upgrade to an MC in the future.