Cambridge Audio Edge NQ/M Streamer/Monoblocks

hfnoutstandingNamed after founder Prof. Gordon Edge, Cambridge Audio's flagship series is reinforced by the new 'M' monoblock amp. With the NQ Streamer, does this combo have an edge?

Nothing if not ambitious, Cambridge Audio's Edge series first broke cover three years back as part of the company's 50th anniversary celebrations. It took its name from Gordon Edge, one of the company's founders and the brains behind its first product, the P40 amplifier. Designed to take on the best in high-end audio, these Edge separates also serve as 'halo' products for the company's lower-tier ranges.

Of course, high-end as realised by the Cambridge Audio team, known for decades for its value-for-money products, was never going to mean 'impossibly priced'. The Edge A integrated amp [HFN Nov '18] sells for £5499, and the 100W-rated Edge W stereo power amp for £3499, while the new Edge M monoblocks, good for 200W/8ohm are pitched at £3999 each. Its natural partner is the £4499 Edge NQ streaming preamplifier.

Outside Edge
Yes, these are affordable high-end products, but sold outside the purview of most traditional high-end retailers. In the UK they're available through Cambridge's longstanding retail partner, Richer Sounds, or direct from the Cambridge Audio website – you can even buy them online and have them delivered next day!


Do so, and you'll be treated to the first part of the Edge experience – the company takes to the next level the luxury unboxing experience we first encountered when some manufacturers started packing their products in bespoke fabric bags. Open up the hefty packaging and you'll find the unit nestling in tailored coverings, and supplied with stretch 'stockings' you can even use as dust-covers when the system isn't in use.

Of course, all this doesn't influence the sound, but it is part of the 'reveal', and as such plays a part in the pride of ownership, bringing the buyer to the superb build and finish of the Edge products. And from the engineering within to the looks and the experience of using them, these are designs giving nothing away to the pricier high-end models they've been created to challenge. With hefty build, simple styling and minimal controls, they are designed to be chic, sleek and easy to operate, while still delivering where it counts – in their performance.

For example, given the wide-ranging capabilities of the Edge NQ – this is, after all, a network music player, DAC and analogue/digital preamp all in one unit – one might expect a fascia bedecked with controls. Instead there are just two: an on/standby pushbutton, and a concentric rotary for everything else – turn the front part for volume, and the rear for source selection. There's also a remote handset, but the majority of the 'driving' of the NQ is going to be handled by two apps.


Sabre Inside
The Edge app handles all the set-up, while the app designed as part of Cambridge Audio's proprietary StreamMagic network audio platform deals with the streaming capability.

And while the Edge NQ will play music from network storage, using streaming services including Qobuz, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Bluetooth (with aptX), Airplay, Chromecast and Internet radio, and is also Roon-ready, this is more than just a network player with a choice of fixed- or variable-level unbalanced and balanced analogue outputs. It's also a fully-functioning DAC, with five inputs including two optical, one coaxial, an HDMI (ARC), a USB-B port supporting 384kHz/32-bit PCM and DSD256, plus a USB-A port to which storage media can be connected.


All the digital sources are handled by a tried-and-tested ESS Sabre ES9018 DAC, and there are also three sets of analogue inputs – two on unbalanced RCAs, the other on balanced XLR. Networking is via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi, the latter using a supplied dongle connected to a dedicated USB-A port, the sole conventional antenna merely serving its Bluetooth capability.

In-House Tech
The Edge M power amplifiers follow the ethos of the rest of the range in that, while mighty powerful, they're anything but huge, and follow the same sleek design language as the NQ. They're just a smidge taller at 15cm, but occupy the same footprint, and use the company's in-house Class XA amplification technology, as found throughout the Edge range. The amps offer both XLR balanced and RCA inputs – given the balanced layout here the former is clearly preferable, and so that was how I tested them with the NQ streaming preamp – plus 'loop-through' outputs to allow further amplifiers to be daisy-chained. In addition, 'Link' in/out sockets allow the amps to be powered up and down remotely by the NQ, for which cables are supplied.

Cambridge Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Audio Partnership PLC, London
0203 514 1521