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Cambridge Soundworks ?

Guest Droog

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CSW started business with the sub/sat systems. Particularly the one that came with two separate 8" sealed box enclosures for $499.

Then came the Model 6 and then the 17. The CSW Model 6 bore at least some resemblance to the KLH 6, but the CSW Model 17 is far closer to a KLH 32 than a KLH 17. All good speakers. While the CSW Model 6 and 17 are not the living end as far as performance goes, the performance of both systems belies their respective, 10 year warranty, free shipping, $149/pair, and $79/pair price tags. I have recommended both these speakers to many people over the last 10 years or so, with no squawks as of yet.

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  • 2 months later...

I purchased the first speaker system, the 4 piece Ensemble, after reading its review in The Absolute Sound. One reviewer said it performed better than any speaker at twice the price ($1200.00), and the other reviewer said that it blew away her previously reviewed system, which cost about $2400.00. She immediately started listening to music again after spending all her previous months' effort in trying to get the expensive speakers to sound acceptable. I swear this is true. The Ensemble is still in my main system today. I got it in 1991.

Original prices were $599.00 with formica clad bass units and $499.00 for vinyl clad bass units. After a few years, the formica was dropped as an option. The satellites were non-adjustable. A revision in about 1993 added the Kloss toggle switch level controls for midrange and highs, and the woofer started to have the heat sink for power handling in excess of 150 watts around this time.

This was the modification to the 8 inch driver which was done in order to use it in the Powered Subwoofer II, and it was also used in the Ensemble. This version had the highest price, which I think might have been $649.00.

In 1998, production started in China, and the satellite cabinets were changed to molded plastic, very heavy, and with no detriment to the sound. The bass units retained the heat sink on the driver and became cosmetically better finished. The binding posts were moved to the back of the bass unit, from the side. The toggle switches were dropped on the satellites. Price was dropped to $599.00. This is called New Ensemble. Actually, I think that the circa 1993 revision might have been called New Ensemble, and this creates confusion between the two versions' names.

I have a 1990 CSW catalog, and the first surround speakers were called Model 10. They are the same two-way satellites that were from the Model 11, the first incarnation of Kloss' suitcase three piece system. I believe that these satellites stayed the same when the system was changed to Model 12-- changing the dimensions and style of the bass case-- but I am not sure. I don't know if these have the Kloss cone with center dome tweeter. They have a smaller midrange than the Ensemble satellites.

The first small bookshelf speaker was called Ambience, and it was physically bigger than the later Model 17. The woofer is 6 1/2 inch long throw, and the tweeter is a 1 inch dome. The coolest ones are the solid light oak cabinets. I'll bet that they reach lower than the CSW 17, but I have not heard either. CSW claimed more output at 40 hz than any other speaker its size, and this is surely with them against a wall. What does this mean? Julian Hirsch said they sounded wonderful, but that the bass was lacking in comparison to other speakers which had real output at 50 hz or below. Still, he did not put them closer than 2 feet from the rear wall.

I don't know when the Model 6 was introduced, but it was around 1995. It has the Kloss tweeter, like the Ensemble, and was made in Cambridge until production was taken to China. I don't know if the USA ones sound better. Early to middle ones have light gray grilles, and later ones have black grilles. I don't know if a black grille means Made In China, but this is shown on the rear label.

The Model 17 has a 5/8" polycarbonate dome tweeter and a 5 1/4''' long throw woofer. I would compare the CSW 6 to the KLH 17, both of which I own. But, the decades difference make them sound like cousins, not brothers. The younger cousin has better imaging, the older cousin reaches a little lower with authority-- if its woofer surrounds are sealed well. The younger cousin can handle a lot more power. I think the CSW 17 was introduced with the 6, and early ones are USA, but I could be wrong.

Both the CSW 6 and 17 are in vinyl Teak, light Oak and Black Ash cabintes. The latter is shiny surface, and the other two are more dull. I think the Teak is as attractive as vinyl wood grain can get.

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  • 4 years later...

Over four years after writing about the Ensemble and other early CSW models, I have a few changed opinions, mainly after using the Chinese Ensemble for a longer time, and opening up a bass unit to compare it to a USA one. And after putting up my KLH 17 pair after listening to the CSW 6 for a long time.

The Chinese Ensemble is inferior to the all of the USA versions. The bass units are flimsy construction compared to the USA ones. The bass quality is less well controlled and more attention-getting at first blush. The midrange and highs are more fatiguing to listen to. For movies, there may not be much difference, but for music the USA versions are superior.

The Chinese CSW 6 just doesn't have the bass weight of the KLH 17. It is forward sounding and thin. The imaging is somewhat better, but the faults are fatal. The USA version got the good reviews. Like the Ensemble, I suspect that the Chinese version is inferior. I have never used a USA version. I have avoided buying a pair on eBay just to satisfy curiosity.

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A Google search suggests the Company was formed in 1988.

I'm not sure what their first products were, but I use Cambridge Soundworks Towers as my references. They are excellent speakers, standing up well to such classics as AR2axs, Dynaco A-25s, ADS 710s, and Large Advents, not to mention more modern speakers like Paradigm Studio 20s, Snell Es and Vandersteeen 2Cis.


Wanted to know when Cambridge Soundworks was founded and which models are some of the first produced. Comments on the model 17?
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