Cambridge Audio Sonata DV30 Review

Cambridge Audio is a British firm that, despite a history of great, inexpensive audiophile goods, receives much too little attention – which is maybe unsurprising given that many of those who have – and/or do – work for the company are talented people themselves. Matthew Bramble, a brilliant tweaky type who was the lynchpin of the company’s electronics for nearly a decade, designed the DV30.

During his stay there, he regularly produced high-quality products that were all reasonably priced. The DV30 was introduced in 2008 as part of the company’s midi-sized, budget-priced Sonata series, and cost £200. Although Blu-ray had arrived by this point, it was still considered a high-end format, and it was thought that this small DVD spinner would still be appealing because it featured a high-quality, current upscaling 1080p-capable chipset, HDMI output, and SCART for legacy TVs.

Even through a recent television, picture quality is excellent, though not quite on par with the OPPO BDP-95. If you’re being harsh, it lacks a truly rich and wide palette of colors, yet it’s clean, stable, and detailed with smooth motion. The visuals are impressive, but the sound is much better. Bramble happily told me at the time of its unveiling that he’d spent a lot of work on the board layout, signal routing, and grounding, and that it was equipped with the highly respectable (and new, at the time) Wolfson WB8746 DACs. Instead of the lowest common denominator components found in most inexpensive DVD players, decent electronic components were specified.

The end result is a charming small DVD spinner that is great for watching movies but also does a decent job of playing music. It has a wide soundstage and a nice musical flow, and it sounds smooth and detailed. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but it’s one of the few inexpensive DVD players that you can actually listen to without fleeing to the back of the sofa. The coaxial digital output is also good, making it a good CD transport that can be improved with an Audiolab M-DAC or similar device. Use a decent mains lead (feeding its figure-of-eight IEC socket) to obtain the best sound; when done this way, it truly belies its modest (270x285x67mm) proportions and produces a large, powerful sound. The only flaw is the slightly cumbersome and unresponsive remote control, which, despite having a metallized front, is simply not as pleasant to use as competing Sonys of the time.

Overall, this is a pretty beautiful little modern curio – a good DVD player that takes up very little room and can also be used as a decent music player if desired. Even more, it works well as a CD transport for your high-end DAC. Given how out-of-fashion DVDs have become, you can get a great deal on these; they sell for under £50 on eBay.