When I discovered that the Cambridge Audio Aero speakers were equipped with a BMR driver my interest was more than usually piqued. This type of driver is a pretty rare beast, you can find it in Naim’s Ovator speakers and on one other speaker that I know of, so the fact that Cambridge have put it on a £600 floorstander is pretty radical. They didn’t just buy it off the shelf either but had respected engineer Graham Bank spend considerable time and energy making it work in the way they wanted. The BMR (balanced mode radiator) driver was an offshoot from the work that NXT did when they developed the inexpensive flat panel speaker that didn’t quite take over the world as planned. It’s an interesting technology nonetheless, one of its qualities being the ability to deliver similar sound pressure levels in all areas of the room, effectively breaking the inverse square law that dictates a halving in volume with a doubling of distance from the loudspeaker that afflicts cones and domes. Cambridge claim a similar quality exists with its Aero speakers, describing them variously as “speakers can be placed in a wider range of places” and “driver construction also delivers a more room-filling sound.” Which is good for general listening and equally for surround applications, the Aero 5.1 system has been lauded for its home cinema capabilities.
What’s more significant in this regard is the enormous bandwidth of the sub two inch diameter BMR driver, Cambridge run it from 250Hz all the way up to a specified 22kHz. Making it almost a full range device and putting the crossover point with the bass drivers way out of the midrange that most two ways are confined to. The bass drivers in this instance are 6.5inch paper coned units with concealed fixings and a clever juxtaposing of reflex port and BMR to create a vertical mirror effect on the front baffle.
The box itself is vinyl wrapped but looks quite walnutty in less than bright light, it’s not overly heavy as befits the price but has “critical bracing” to keep it under control. Cable terminals are limited to a single pair but that’s no bad thing in my book, one run of decent cable is expensive enough as it is. Big conical spikes are included in the box as are port bungs should there be bass problems, as it was I used the soft plastic feet also supplied. You have to attach the plinth before setting the Aeros up and this is a little fiddly because spacers need to go between the speaker base and plinth for the bolts to go through. But the base has a rubbery cover and the spacers provide a shadow gap that looks good.
Throwing it down
The potential to get sound out into the room was immediate from the outset, John Fahey’s acoustic guitar sounding remarkably solid. This instrument must be largely delivered by the BMR of course which will help, Zappa’s Duck Duck Goose (Läther) on the other hand stayed largely in the box and reveals the limitations of the enclosure, such things being largely unavoidable at this price point. The balance is on the warm, relaxed side largely because the mid is so smooth, it avoids the edginess of tweeters and the unavoidable issues of crossover points in the part of the spectrum that we are most sensitive to. The twin bass drivers come into their own with drums, Laurie Anderson’s Gravity’s Angel provided the source for the powerful kick that the Aeros deliver. With classical material the results varied with recording as one would hope, the more up to date ones tending to sound more spirited and alive than vintage examples.
Those results were achieved with class A Valvet solild state amps, I also tried a ModWright KWI200, this feedback free design works well with high sensitivity speakers but as it was passing I gave it a shot. The pairing delivered all the groove and propulsion of Parliament’s Osmium while revealing what a grungy recording it is. A more contemporary piece by the Nils Lofgren band also came across with remarkable immediacy and decent bass extension, the Aeros get out of the way rather well for such a big and affordable floorstander. Dynamics are not quite up to the highest standards, I didn’t get the full energy that you can with alternatives like the Bowers & Wilkins 684 S2, a more expensive and conventional model. It has a tighter, more incisive sound albeit not one that is necessarily more revealing. I quite like the relatively relaxed presentation of the Aero 6, it’s sophisticated and finely layered. It is also very clean through the midrange, you can hear the box at low frequencies sometimes but a good recording shines through with ease.
With a more appropriately priced amplifier, Rega Brio-R, and Rega’s giant slaying RP8 turntable this speaker delivered oodles of detail, a chunky bottom end and texture of the sort rarely heard at this price. It lacks the imaging skills and bass power of more expensive set ups but does give good solidity of image. Timing is also rather good, it reflects the capabilities of this front end and amplifier with ease and the bass sounds good and taut, which is always better than big and fat.
The Aero 6 is a lot of speaker for the money, especially now that the price has been dropped – I started this review a few months back! So it’s even better value, but, as Munich show report readers will have noticed Cambridge Audio has revealed a better Aero, Aeromax, which has a more solid cabinet, higher quality parts and, crucially, a fourth generation BMR. Aeromax 6 is also more expensive at £1,000 but if your budget stretches that far it’s the one to try, it could well address the caveats noted above and do more to bring out the qualities of the main driver. As it is the Aero 6 is a bargain for those who want more than instant gratification.