Cambridge Audio Aero 2 Speaker System Page 2

Peter Parker Picked a Peck
Your first impression of the BMR in action may be misleading. It took about a dozen hours of play for these speakers to settle in, and the mutation over that period of time was more noticeable than I typically find with conventional drivers, with the top end steadily gaining in refinement. But it was worth the wait. A clear, uncolored midrange is the Aero’s chief strength. No, the midrange is not disproportionate or exaggerated at the expense of the top end—but it is transparent and even, like looking at your garden through a freshly cleaned window. Bass from the monitor’s and center’s “subwoofers” is firm and tuneful, and if you think you’re getting too much of a good thing, Cambridge provides a foam bung to block the monitor’s front port. This option might be helpful if the only practical placement in your room is near the wall, which tends to boost bass.


I got to The Amazing Spider-Man—the reboot with Andrew Garfield&Dasha;late in the listening demos when the speakers had completely broken in and the mid and upper frequencies were at their most pristine. The Aero 2 monitors and Aero 5 center stood up to high-volume blasting and were commendably free of the harshness that plagues some tweeters in loud passages. Midrange was loaded with detail, but it was the kind of detail that fills in objects within the soundfield, as opposed to merely outlining them. The Aero 9 subwoofer handled the bottom end with aplomb, delivering loads of output, and its combination of active and passive drivers crossed over to the speakers (at my usual 80-Hz crossover) so holistically that the system’s bass response often seemed to come from a single large speaker, as opposed to a 5.1 configuration.

In Dredd, lurid ultraviolence in a futuristic urban jungle is accompanied by a relentess score with electric guitars ripping through the soundfield like avenging furies. Normally I would find this kind of material as enticing as fingernails scraping a chalkboard, but the clarifying power of the BMR drivers made it a more palatable, if not edifying, experience. The sub made the synth bass of doom an omnipresent, suspense-building pleasure. With the Aero system’s clean output and even balance of frequencies, I felt as if I were sitting in the mixing suite, alongside the engineers, deciding just how much of a sonic barrage the audience could take.

Flight stars Denzel Washington in his always compelling low-key-but-intense mode. An extended plane crash front-loads the story with high-decibel action, and here the Aero BMRs, woofers, and sub combined to step up the excitement with wide, confident dynamics. The result was almost unbearably intense, and it set the stage for the less bombastic, character-based drama that forms the rest of the plot, making a good movie even better.

A Seasoned Witch
Close to the Edge, the Yes masterpiece, has always struck me as unfinished business. Although the album never fails to deliver a shot of prog-rock stimulation, especially in the frantic sidelong title track, lots of intriguing ingredients get buried in the too-dense original mix. The new 5.1-channel 96/24 mix by Steven Wilson (available on both Blu-ray and DVD-Audio) moves many of the keyboard and backing-vocal parts to the surrounds, not only liberating those elements but leaving more space in the front soundstage for the lead vocals and especially for the drums. The Aero system dynamically accelerated an already powerful engine to exhilarating levels. Even elements that weren’t disserved in the original mix—like the growling bass—became more of a good thing. This classic has never sounded better.


For classical listeners, new surround mixes aren’t thick on the ground, so I’ve been backtracking into my library’s large supply of multichannel SACDs. A great specimen is the PentaTone release of symphonies by Haydn (Nos. 88 and 89) and Beethoven (the first) with Sir Colin Davis conducting the Royal Concertgebouw and BBC Symphony orchestras. The Aeros were the perfect vehicle for these 1975 golden-age-of-quad recordings by Philips Classics, especially in the Haydn symphonies, taped in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The BMRs lavished their clarity and detail on the concert hall’s distinctive acoustics, making its long, luxurious decay perfectly continuous. String textures in all recordings were reasonably refined (after break-in). In the more propulsive Beethoven First, kettledrums got best-case treatment from the speakers and sub, with a gratifying combination of weight and pitch control. I must confess, I didn’t expect much from this small, prosaic-looking sub, but the more time I spent with it, the more respect I had for it.

Hearing Billie Holiday’s vulnerable late-career voice, with its noticeable rasp and brittle vibrato, is always a highly emotional experience for me. The Aero 2 was the perfect vehicle for this delicate and extraordinary instrument, delivering it whole, in one piece, undivided by crossover circuitry, and opening that window I referred to earlier. The record was Stormy Blues, the first of three double-LP sets showcasing the singer’s Verve catalog. The beautifully recorded mono signal imaged perfectly between the two speakers. Lateral head moves hardly budged it. Even when I sat at my desk—to the right of the right speaker—the vocal frequencies remained balanced.

There are experiments. And then there are experiments that work, thanks to relentless fine-tuning. Cambridge Audio’s Aero speakers are the latter. Having already heard the BMR technology in the company’s excellent Minx satellites, I suspected it would work well when Cambridge elevated it to larger speakers—but it worked even better than I’d expected. Demo after demo, the Aeros got better and better, and I gradually pushed up the performance rating till I could push no further. What makes these unusual speakers even more remarkable is that they’re so affordable. You needn’t be a big spender to buy into a cool new technology that sounds fabulous. That’s a story I’m always happy to tell.

Cambridge Audio
(800) 663-9352