These days the term ‘receiver’ is typically used to describe a multi-channel amplifier used in an audiovisual setup such as a home cinema system. That wasn’t always the case, however. The term was once used to refer to a traditional radio tuner, or to an amplifier and tuner combined into a single chassis. Such devices, typically known as stereo receivers, were once common particularly in budget hi-fi systems, when traditional radio still held precedence over internet radio and music streaming. Stereo receivers have largely disappeared from the market, though they’re seeing a small resurgence, albeit with a digital streamer replacing the traditional radio section. Props then to Cambridge Audio for keeping the traditional analogue receiver alive with their Topaz SR10 being nothing more than a traditional stereo receiver in almost every sense of the word.
The SR10 is part of Cambridge Audio’s entry level Topaz range, and sits below the SR20, the larger model offering higher power output and an integrated Wolfson DAC. The SR10 is a traditional analogue receiver featuring 4 line inputs, an FM / AM tuner and even a moving magnet phono stage. It’s powered by a substantial toroidal transformer, and features a fully discrete amplifier section outputting 85W RMS per channel, digital tone, balance and volume controls, and a variable speed fan for cooling.
Traditional it may be, but the SR10 isn’t void of modern conveniences. There’s a 3.5MM input on the front panel for your MP3 player with a 10dB boost to compensate for the often low output level of such devices. The tuner section provides 15 presets each for the FM and AM sections, and every function of the unit can be controlled via the included remote handset. 2 Pairs of speaker outputs are provided should you want to bi-wire your speakers or run a pair in another room, and there’s a mono sub woofer output too, along with a fixed level line output for your recording device.
Specs wise, Distortion is rated at <0.01% at 1kHz into approximately 68W (80% of rated power), and <0.15% at 20Hz, 20kHz into the same figure. Frequency response is rated at 5Hz - 50kHz, and the signal to noise ratio is rated at >82dB (unweighted). The power amplifier damping factor is >50, and there’s a 200Hz second order filter on the sub output. In practice I found the noise floor of the receiver to be inaudible from my listening position. The fan noise was so quiet as to also be inaudible unless I put my hear against the casing of the receiver, and despite my attempts to encourage the receiver to produce some heat, it managed to remain cool and composed no matter how high I raised the volume.
In the box the receiver is accompanied by both UK and EU power cables, some documentation, the remote handset and a pair of included batteries. You also get a simple wire antenna for the FM tuner, and an AM loop antenna with the usual plastic stand.
Despite being a fairly long running model, The receiver looks not unlike Cambridge Audio’s newer offerings. It features a wrap-around lid with extensive venting and a Cambridge audio logo on the top, and a thick slab of brushed aluminium forming the front panel. The controls are simple and logical, including a dedicated control for each source input, 5 preset controls, controls to tune the tuner and a volume control. There’s also a menu control which allows the bass, treble and balance to be adjusted using the volume dial, and a display which shows the tuner information, tone and balance settings the volume in dB. Rounding out the front panel are the aforementioned 3.5MM input, a full-size headphone output, a control to switch between the 2 pairs of speaker outputs and a hard power switch with a power LED.
On the back, large speaker terminals support bear wire and banana plugs, providing the end caps are removed. The inputs and outputs are via RCA jacks, and there’s a turntable ground positioned above its respective input. Traditional coax and spring cup sockets serve as the tuner antenna connections, and there’s a 2-pin IEC input for the included power cable along with a voltage selector behind a cover plate.
The build quality is excellent. The receiver feels extremely solid when it’s lifted and moved, and the terminals are also of excellent quality. I particularly like the volume dial which fronts a stepped digital encoder and turns smoothly with a gentle click as it goes. It feels great to use, as do the other controls on the front panel.
The remote is a more traditional unit. It’s light and a little plasticy, the controls offering up a more spongy action. It’s perfectly usable though, and is better than many at this price. It takes a pair of AAA batteries which slot into a covered compartment at the rear, and is fairly non directional in use. The remote will control the receiver’s amplifier and tuner sections, and a matching Cambridge CD player such as the Topaz CD10.
The receiver is extremely simple to use. Powering the unit on emits a couple of relay clicks at which point the last used input will be recalled. The receiver doesn’t remember its previous volume state which came as something as a surprise, though thankfully the tuner state is saved as you would expect. Pressing one of the dedicated input controls will select the desired input, and repeated pressing of the front-panel tuner control will toggle between the FM and AM bands.
When a device is connected to the front panel 3.5MM input it takes over the aux input and can be selected using the respective button on the front panel or remote. Removing the jack reverts back to the input on the rear, and the 2 can of course be connected simultaneously. Connecting headphones mutes the output from both speaker pairs, which can be toggled between A, B, A+B or off via the control on the front panel.
The tuner section supports both automatic and manual tuning. The tuner also supports RDS (radio data system), with station data displayed on the front panel display when available. Pressing the mode button switches between the 3 tuner modes (automatic, manual or preset), at which point the skip controls will alter the frequency or preset. Once tuned to a station, holding the mode button allows you to store the station into one of the 15 presets available for each band.
10 of those presets can be accessed directly via the front panel, the 5 controls accessing a second preset when held for a momentary period. For example, the first control accesses presets 1/6, the second 2/7, the 3rd 3/8 etc. You can also select the preset mode and use the skip controls to cycle through all available presets. Presets can be cleared by holding both the 5/10 and menu buttons at the same time and restarting the unit when indicated.
Sound settings are made by repeated pressing of the menu button, at which point the volume dial can be used to adjust the bass, treble or left/right balance. Tone adjustments are available over a range of +/-10 dB at 100Hz and 20kHz. I left the tone and balance controls in their neutral positions for the review. It’s also possible to configure the tuner de-emphasis and tuning steps when moving the unit to another region by holding both 4/9 and Menu.
Out of the box, the SR10 offers up a very even handed presentation, though its bass performance is particularly strong from the get-go. Given some run in time the presentation alters slightly to offer greater insight across the whole frequency range, though thankfully the strong bass performance remains to be joined by a warm mid range and a laid back treble that removes any chance of the receiver becoming bright and / or harsh when pushed. While it’s not the most detailed sound (you can’t expect that at this price), it’s extremely musical, engaging and not at all fatiguing.
The SR10 also appears true to its power output, managing to remain composed at high levels for an extended period of time. I played a range of albums mostly via CD, vinyl or streamed via Apple’s AirPlay including Shinedown’s ‘Somewhere in the Stratosphere,’, Rod Stewart’s ‘Unplugged and Seated’, and even the live stream of the Queen Extravaganza’s performance from Freddie Mercury’s 70th birthday party. The SR10 displayed admirable composure during the latter set in particular where the volume was raised to extremely realistic levels. I couldn’t faze the SR10, and that certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.
The phono stage offers a low noise floor and plenty of gain for any moving magnet or high output moving coil cartridge. Its sound is much the same as that of the analogue inputs; laid back and musical with a touch of that characteristic vinyl warmth. It is perhaps one of the best internal phono stages I’ve encountered and is a most welcome inclusion.
The tuner section is also superb, particularly on FM where the noise level is extremely low. The AM section is a little narrow in bandwidth, but there’s very little musical content on AM these days, its frequencies mainly reserved for spoken content for which the SR10’s AM section is more than adequate.
I miss the days when Cambridge manufactured some truly excellent stand-alone tuners including the 651T which I feel is perhaps one of if not the best stereo tuners ever made. I can only assume that although traditional radio is still extremely relevant (digital radio in particular), the demand for a traditional stereo tuner has dwindled to the point where they see little to be gained by continuing their manufacture. That coupled with the fact the companies network players offer perhaps the best implementation of an internet radio service of any player on the market. To me the decreased demand for traditional radio, and the components on which to listen to it, is a great shame, and I’d be very happy to see a product like the 651T reintroduced to the market.
In summary, the SR10 is a fitting tribute to the stereo receivers of yesteryear, but it’s much more than that. It’s a phenomenal amplifier in its own right with a decent amount of analogue connectivity, an excellent tuner section, modern convenience and a musical sound. It’s everything a stereo receiver should be, with no unnecessary digital bells and whistles to complicate and clutter the design. A true nod to the good old days of analogue, though thoroughly modern in both style and function. Highly recommended.