Cambridge Audio recently sent over their budget AX35 hi-fi separates for evaluation. I wanted to get an idea of what a ‘budget’ Cambridge system of today might sound like, so they also provided the SX-60 standmount speakers. These smart but ordinary-looking standmount speakers are £229 per pair and are second up in a five-strong range that also includes a smaller bookshelf model (the SX-50), the SX-70 centre channel, the SX-80 floorstanders and the SX-120 subwoofer. The range is typical of a budget speaker model, designed to cover stereo and home cinema duties.
They might look like ordinary boxy speakers but there is some upmarket tech behind the grills. The 6.5 inch mid bass cone is of a ‘treated’ paper. Exactly what the treatment Is isn’t made clear, though by how it feels I’d hazard a guess at an Epoxy applied with a brush or automated sprayer to create the raised circular ridges that increase strength across the cone surface, minimising breakup under high excursion. The tweeter is a soft silk dome, again with a mysterious ‘treatment’, and a foam damper behind to minimise reflection.
The crossover has been carefully designed to maintain linear phase throughout the frequency range, quoted as 41Hz – 22kHz, though no reference for linearity is actually given. The speakers are 89dB sensitive with a nominal impedance of 8Ω and a recommended 20-100W RMS amplifier power.
The cabinets are designed using CAD modelling (most modern speakers are) and are constructed in MDF with a matte black vinyl face. These used to be available in a walnut finish too and at a lower price – but alas, not any more. Blame Brexit, high import fees, material supply and the UK government. The cloth-covered grilles featuring subtle Cambridge Audio branding are removable and held by small pegs, not magnetically which would have been nice to see at this price.
The driver fixings are concealed behind neat trims with a slightly rubberised texture that is also present on the rear terminal plate. I was pleased to note that the polarity markings above the single pair of terminals are raised which is a blessing to those of us with non-functioning eyes.
The terminals are small but sturdy and will take 4 mm banana plugs, stripped wire or small spades. There’s only 1 pair so no bi-wiring support, but as bi-wiring exists solely to raise the profits of speaker cable manufacturers and cater to the subjectivist crowd who lack a sense of reality, this is no great loss.
The speakers have a single front port, which should make them less fussy about room placement particularly in smaller spaces. A pair of foam bungs are provided in the box if you find the bass is still too boomy. These are a nice inclusion. You also get some documentation and self-adhesive feet that will at least provide a small amount of isolation if you situate the speakers on a shelf. Most good stands come either with top spikes or isolation pads of their own. I’d like to see some cables included in the box. If the £80 Edifier P12s can include a couple of perfectly decent speaker cables, the SX-60s can at nearly 3 times the money.
I positioned the SX-60s on stands with the tweeters just below ear height and toed in about 15 degrees toward the listening position. I found this gave the best stereo image and the most comfortable listen, as the top end can get a bit edgy at times.
That’s my only criticism though. In other respects the SX-60s are a confident, engaging and fun listen. The woofer is a high-excursion design and can produce a lot of bass on the ends of an amplifier more powerful than the AXA-35. But even with its low-powered partnering amp it’s nimble and well-controlled. The speakers remain consistent up through the lower midrange and appear to roll off slightly as the crossover point approaches, leaning back out to the top end where there’s plenty of detail.
They can get fatiguing with bright recordings, and they’re not the most refined listen. They’re more fun than they are realistic. The boxes do resonate sometimes, and you can hear it in certain notes, particularly those of cellos and the double bass.
A bit of extra cabinet stuffing would probably sort them out for little cost and would be an easy DIY mod, but not at the £229 asking price. These are speakers for rock and pop fans, but classical listeners should probably look elsewhere. They’ll delight hiphop and electronic fans too providing you have an amp with some ‘oomf’ behind it that can give those slightly stiff woofers a kick up the backside. Better still, look for a warmer amp to clean up the top end.
The SX-60s are a decent pair of budget speakers. They’re sonically a bit ill-refined and aesthetically ordinary, bordering on boring. But if you can live with their looks and they suit your musical tastes, they are an excellent choice in an overcrowded market, especially if you favour the one-brand system approach.