CAMBRIDGE: All you might want and need to know about: The Cambridge R40-2 loudspeakers – review and/or test if you prefer – by Howard Popeck

Shortly after starting Subjective Audio in 1976 I came across my first pair of Cambridge Audio speakers. A not unhappy experience. I made some notes at the time. Thus what follows here is a combination of facts (manufacturer’s specifications) plus my subjective impressions derived from deciphering my notes. And after that, memories of the experiences.
Specifications:
Dimensions: 31” (h) x 13” (w) x 13” (d0
Weight: circa 52 lbs
Type: transmission Line
Drive units: 13” x 9” bass  (EMI) + 5” midrange + 2” tweeter (makes unknown)
Crossover points: 400Hz and 3kHz
Impedance: 8 ohms
Finish. Teak, Walnut, Rosewood and special order white
RRP in 1976: £185 inc vat
Measurements:
I didn’t take these. I didn’t know how. And so I’m relying on notes taken from the comments of technical friends at that time.
These were classed as a ‘sensitive’ speaker i.e. 81dB sensitivity'
I saw a measurement graph but didn’t take a photocopy. I did make some notes though. It wasn’t a totally flat ‘curve’. At 1kHz there was quite a rise (stupidly in retrospect I didn’t note how much) and a serious dip around 4kHz. And then another rise at 8kHz. On the face of it, not good. However…
The sound – part #1
Back all those years ago, 35 in fact, the challenges re interface between amp and speakers and the sonic changes caused by speaker cables were little understood and rarely commented on. Did I know though? Er, not directly, no. I certainly experienced the effect but wondered if what I heard was affected by my mood, or the time of day I was listening at, and so on.
So, the era of upper loudspeaker cable was yet to arrive and I used either QED 42-stand or QED 72-strand. There were no such things as aftermarket super power cords. All UK amps in those days had thin, captive mains leads. And that was that.
At the time I was using a slightly used Pioneer SA9100 and a Lecson AC1/AP1 combination. I auditioned the R40-2 using both. Turntable was a Fons CQ30 with SME 3009 arm and Stanton 681EEE mm cartridge. Tuner was a basic Trio. I upgraded to the magnificent Trio KT-917 (which I till use to this day) in late 1979.
The sound – part #2
Initial impressions using the Pioneer were not very promising. My notes strongly indicate a colored midrange that was immediately noticeable. Also the bass was a bit flabby and the top-end a bit bright. Speech sounded artificial. Similarly with Classical music i.e. artificial. I fiddled about with the myriad tone controls on the Pioneer with varying degrees of success.
Certainly the spiky treble could be tamed and the midrange made a little more realistic. However the flabby extreme bass was not tamed by the tone controls unless the extension was curtailed. Deepish flabby bass or less deep but tauter bass.
I then switched to the Lecson. It was in every respect a transformation. Treble was smoother and the midrange less fierce, there was a slight reduction in detail but the clever (far cleverer than the Pioneer) and very sophisticated filters on the Lecson AC1 worked wonders. And the bass was considerable more acceptable.
The sound – part #3a
I tried the then very new Meridian 101 / 103 combination and shortly after, the 101b / 103d combination. The then characteristic Boothroyd-Stuart house sound was apparent. But compared to the Lecson design, the sound was far faster, punchier, vivid, compelling and exciting. Very clever, but not with these speakers.
The sound – part #3b
Finally, and for a short period I used these speakers with the then very new Michaelson & Austin TVA-1 export power amp driven by the Meridian 101b preamp. That was the magic combination. It was for me a truly great sound. The characteristic distortions of the valve power amp seeming to mitigate rather than compound those of the speakers. And that was pretty much that. Until now.
Conclusion
These speakers can probably be picked up for peanuts now. The bass bloat could no doubt be reduced by using spikes and an amp with a decently high damping factor. Modern speaker cable would help too I guess.
The physical proportions would I feel look good today and for me, a square cross-section is visually appealing to me. A white pair, assuming they hadn’t yellowed to a naff ivory shade might be quite attractive in the right room with the right décor.
Downsides are that the drivers are no longer made and the very capable 13” x 8” bass driver has no current replacement. Probably can be refurbished here > http://www.wembleyloudspeaker.com/page-products-repair.shtml
I’m no DIY expert BUT I have a feeling that a modern, simple crossover with decent wiring and decent components might be able to make these really sing.

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