The Cambridge Audio SX-50 bookshelf speakers are quite the package for only £130: clarity of highs and round lows for a blue collar price. Though in a field with serious competition (Q Acoustics has created award-winning speakers in this area for some time), the Cambridge SX-50 hold their own in terms of sound, especially for speakers less than £200.
The SX-50 speakers are very simple in design, keeping with Cambridge’s ‘sound first’ mantra. There are no ‘over complex or unnecessary features’ on the SX-50, just a simple, yet successful speaker design. After all, what sort of frills could one want from bookshelf speakers? Standing 22.5 centimeters tall, the front barely has room for a 135mm woofer and a 25mm tweeter; the bass reflex port is on the rear. This compactness, though, has its benefits: easy maneuverability and the ability to fit in small spaces like, say, a bookshelf. Their small size also makes them excellent satellite speakers to add to an existing surround sound setup, the only thing being that they lack a threaded insert on the back for mounting: generic speaker mounts would be needed. Available in black or walnut veneer, they will match any setting they are thrown in, though I imagine some consumers would prefer to have white.
Compared to the Q Acoustics Concept 40—floor standing speakers, similar to the Cambridge SX-60’s—the SX-50’s feel a little more brittle, if only because of their construction material and relative size. The Concept 40 is aluminum and feels more burly, though the disadvantage is the free standing speakers must occupy space on the floor, which in small room situations is at a premium. The SX-50’s, on the other hand, can fit where they need to be without having to sacrifice valuable floor space.
For the price, the SX-50 is virtually unmatched in terms of performance. With 87dB of sensitivity at 8 Ohms, they can be driven by almost any amplifier and they will sound fantastic. The 125mm bass/mid treated paper cone driver coupled with the 25mm silk dome tweeter deliver a a frequency range of 50Hz to 22kHz, they have 3Hz more on the low end than the Q Acoustics Concept 40, the disadvantage being their rear-facing ports. The caveat with the rear-facing bass ports on the SX-50 is that the speakers should be situated close to a wall: within 30 or so centimeters. The small 24cm cabinets don’t lend themselves well to being out in the open, as opposed to the front-facing ports of the SX-60 which do well in the open.
Perhaps more in line with the SX-50 than the Q Acoustics Concept 40 are the 3010i and 3020i speakers. These small speakers feature a very interesting solution to using a BiWire: both models use a cabinet within a cabinet to create extremely low resonance and reduce distortion of signals that have high bass content. The SX-50 doesn’t have such an elegant solution—nor does it use BiWiring—but it doesn’t mean it lacks the clarity of the more expensive 3010i and 3020i. Moreover, the Q Acoustics only have low frequency response down to 68Hz and 64Hz, respectively. To be fair, though, the Q Acoustic 3010i and 3020i’s sound fantastic but you’ll pay for it; the 3010’s run £140 while the slightly larger and better sounding 3020i’s are over £100 more at £250. Not exactly a budget speaker.
No magnetic shielding in the SX-50 means you’ll distort your old school CRT television screen which you probably haven’t watched since you were a child (and maybe not even then!). Modern LCD, plasma, and other screens won’t be affected by the lack of magnetic shielding, but you’ll wish the SX-50 had RF shielding when your phone goes off in the middle of a movie and produces the familiar “blip blip blip buzz”. Solution: don’t leave your phone on the bookshelf with your speakers.
Overall, the SX-50 are well-balanced speakers with a wide soundstage, suitable for music or films. Their small design doesn’t compromise on punchy bass and crisp highs needed for a full acoustic experience. The vital midrange doesn’t cut through unnecessarily, lending a solid blend of frequencies across its response range.
If you’re a starving audiophile or just want something to freshen up your film experience without breaking the bank. the SX-50’s are an excellent choice. The Q Acoustics 3010i’s are only £10 more but no appreciable gains are found with a competitor until you jump to the 2020i’s which run for a significantly higher price point. The compact design of the speakers lends itself well to tight spaces and sound best when near a wall due to the rear-facing bass reflex ports, making these excellent budget choices for a bedroom, office, or dorm.
They’re brilliantly good value and a class act to follow.
They pack a sound that you would not expect out of something so small and they are very nice classy and classic looking as well.
The soundstage is expansive and these speakers almost disappear.
…the speakers look great with cabinets designed to eliminate standing sound waves.
Frequency response: 50Hz-22kHz
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Recommended amplifier power: 10-100 watts
Drivers: 5.25” (135mm) treated paper cone woofer 1” (25mm) Silk dome tweeter
Ported: 1 rear
Magnetic shielding: No
Colour: Black or walnut
Dimensions (HxWxD): 225 x 161 x 240mm (8.9 x 6.3 x 9.4″)