Review: Cambridge Topaz AM-5 amp, Denon SC-N10 speakers, JSC speaker cable, budget system
Budget Esoterica Review Magazine
August 2019 Issue
Today i will be reviewing a trio of entry level goodies for the music lover on a budget. These 3 components will form the basis of a good quality entry level system. For starters there is the Cambridge AM-5 amp currently available at amazon.com for $100. The amp is a good match for the Denon SC-N10 speakers , also $100 at Amazon.com, which is component number two. Lastly, i will be connecting the amp and speakers together with the JSC wire 14 AWG 2C audiophile grade CL3 speaker cable available at Parts Express for $30 for a 100 foot spool.
The Cambridge AM-5 amp is a full size amp that boasts 25 watts per channel. It has four inputs as well as a front mounted 3.5mm aux input. The amp is being advertised as, "Perfect For HiFi Beginners". I agree with this statement very much. It is not an amp for audiophiles, but most music lovers who don't want to spend a lot of money will be happy with it. You don't get any levels of refinement, sweetness or warmth or anything like that. It is also not the smoothest amp in the shed. You don't get an amp that has soaring highs or oodles of tight bass. This is a plain amp with a plain sound, but it does make music and that is what we want.
The Denon speakers are rather utilitarian looking with the basic black cabinet and rather attractive non removable grills. These are small two way speakers that use a 4.7 inch woofer cone and a 1.2 inch high definition tweeter. Frequency response is measured at 50Hz to 20 Khz. However, the tweeters seem to be a little rolled off in the highs to my ears. You do not get 5 way binding posts on this speaker , just good quality push in connectors that take a good size bulk speaker cable without any problem.
For speaker cable, i like the JSC CL3 speaker cable available at Parts Express. It is attractive speaker cable finished in a white jacket that is very easy to work with. The copper strands are not thin and prone to breaking like some other lesser cables. This is a robust speaker cable that will serve you well until you are ready to try something more exotic.
So, these three components with a good quality source gives us a good neutral sounding system. Listening to one of my favorite jazz cd's by Joe Henderson, titled "Inner Urge", i noticed the inherent limitations of this beginner system. Most noticeable is the lack of frequency extremes which is to be expected at this level. I also felt like the sound was missing some definition and could have been cleaner and clearer in the highs. On a positive note, i liked the liquidity of the sound.
While this system is not going to impress the seasoned audiophile, i would not recommend it to the seasoned audiophile,
this is for the music lover on a strict budget who wants straight up good pure and neutral sound without having to pay more for the audiophiles niceties such as refinement, warmth or sweetness.