Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Turntable Review

Posted on 14th February, 2023

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Turntable Review

James Michael Hughes takes this interesting new ‘plug and play’ turntable for a spin…

Cambridge Audio

Alva TT V2 Turntable

£1,699 RRP

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review

The original Cambridge Audio Alva turntable came out a few years back, aimed at people who want to play vinyl LPs in high-quality sound without fuss or drama. As its name suggests, the new TT V2 builds on the original. It continues to offer a high output moving coil pickup cartridge, built-in phono stage, and aptX HD Bluetooth wireless connection. However, the phono stage and Bluetooth are now switchable, allowing the use of an external phono stage should you so wish.

A different tonearm is now fitted, replacing the Rega-based arm used on the original. Cambridge Audio claims the new arm delivers audibly better results and offers fine control over anti-skating, plus the convenience of a detachable headshell. It’s a medium-mass design using widely-spaced bearings, and has a smooth satin-black finish. The detachable headshell makes life easier when swapping cartridges, although you may not wish to, as the one included is surprisingly good. This high-output moving coil costs £499 in the UK if bought separately, and is way better than the sort of pickup you usually find fitted to a typical turntable package at this price. The only downside is that its open design means the coils are exposed, which isn’t ideal for a ‘starter’ deck!

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review

Like its predecessor, the Alva TT V2 has a direct-drive motor rather than the more commonly used belt drive. The motor itself is an 8-pole, 3-phase brushless DC design that’s quartz crystal referenced. As a result, an impressively low 0.06% wow and flutter figure is claimed.

The 21mm thick platter weighs 2.2kg and is made from a material called Polyoxymethylene – a hard semi-crystalline thermoplastic. It’s often used for precision engineering applications where stiffness and dimensional stability are required, says the company. The finish is even, and the fabrication accurate – so much so that it can be hard to tell if the platter is revolving when viewed at a distance. No mat is included, as the record goes straight onto the largish, 30.75cm platter.

The complete turntable assembly weighs 10.9kg and consists of a damped composite chassis topped by a 6mm thick aluminium plate. The ‘Lunar grey’ finish is understated but classy, and the engraved Cambridge logo adds an air of quiet sophistication. The overall effect is very swish and perfectly in keeping with a mid-priced design such as this – it certainly does not feel cheap.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review

Usefully, a phono stage is built in, which is based on the company’s Alva Duo design – however, an external phono stage can also be used, as mentioned previously. Given a suitable amplifier – or one-box system such as Cambridge Audio’s excellent EVO 150 – you could connect the Alva TT V2 using Bluetooth aptX HD. While this offers 24-bit/48kHz architecture, the codec bitrate is just 576kbps – better than the 384kbps of standard Bluetooth, but still only half the 1441kbps of CD.

All the same, Bluetooth gives greater flexibility when it comes to turntable placement, so for some users, a compromise in sound will be a price worth paying. Usually, most decks need to be within a metre or so of the amplifier or phono stage because the connecting cable is fairly short. Of course, you could try a longer cable, but this may lead to increased hum/noise and RFI and loss of high frequencies due to extra capacitance. However, having a built-in phono stage like the Alva TT V2 means a longer cable run can be used without problems if desired. Bluetooth range is excellent – it even remained connected when I put the turntable in my kitchen, and took it upstairs to the bedroom! Of course, it does entail a slight loss in terms of sound quality.

It’s nice to see a decent hinged lid included. This helps keep dust off and affords protection when the turntable is not in use. The platter gets up to speed in about one revolution, and speeds (checked with a strobe) were spot-on. The direct-drive motor and centre bearing are, to all intents and purposes, noise-free. Even at full volume, with the stylus touching the turntable chassis, I could hear no low-frequency rumble or hum, and there was virtually no hiss from the phono preamp. The chassis deals with transmitted noise well, but decoupling still isn’t as good as a deck with a proper sprung subchassis. To a certain degree, the Alva relies on the mass of the chassis to dampen noise and resonance.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review


I began listening with a wired connection using the Alva’s built-in phono stage into the auxiliary input of Cambridge Audio’s impressive EVO 150 streaming amplifier. The first thing that struck me was the impressive solidity and stability of the sound. It really was very focused. In particular, pitch stability was outstanding.

A good belt-drive turntable can produce results that are comparably good, but not always. Many use a spliced-belt (rather than a belt in a single piece), and this can add a slight ‘twinge’ because the join is less flexible. Also, slight physical irregularities in the belt, or grease on the driving surfaces, can cause wow even if the platter is very heavy.

The Alva’s direct-drive motor has a good strong 1.6kg/cm high-torque drive and turns with impressive accuracy and precision. Playing LPs of piano music, this stability was very apparent. Older direct-drive motors gained a poor reputation when it came to the portrayal of pace and timing, but you can’t say that about the Alva – it’s very capable in this area.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review

The moving-coil cartridge supplied is extremely good. It needs to play maybe a dozen or more sides before it starts to settle down, and initially, I noticed a slight emphasis on surface noise compared to my regular cartridge. But this definitely eased with use. Tracking is good, and there’s the subtlety and finesse one expects from a good moving coil pickup. Tracking at 2g should have a beneficial ‘cleaning’ effect on the grooves of your records! You may find surface ticks and pops diminish on certain LPs the more you play them…

The supplied arm seems excellent. It has low-friction bearings and a detachable headshell. And while it’s true that having a one-piece arm/headshell, with fewer breaks in the wiring from cartridge to phono stage, improves sound quality, any losses here are minimal.

Being picky, I could feel slight free-play in the Alva’s arm bearings. It wasn’t much, but it was there – just. However, I can’t honestly say I detected any loss of focus or precision in soundstaging or clarity; indeed, the Alva package sounded excellent. Playing that old favourite Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, the deck had impressive clarity and good dynamics. Perhaps the presentation was slightly curtailed compared to what I’m used to from my own Pro-Ject Xtension 10, which gives a bigger, more voluminous sound that’s slightly more open and less constrained. But the Alva matched the more expensive Pro-Ject deck for precision and focus; it was detailed and solid.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review

Out of curiosity, I tried replacing the supplied Cambridge interconnect cable with Vertere’s Redline, which uses silver-plated copper conductors and is a screened ‘balanced’ configuration with separate conductors for positive and negative. The Redline cable delivered a noticeable improvement in terms of clarity and dynamics. At once, Art Pepper’s saxophone projected more strongly, and the whole sound seemed dynamically more lively, subjectively slightly louder, and holographically more three-dimensional.

The sound was good using the supplied Cambridge cable, but after the Vertere cable, I wanted to increase the volume a notch. Going to Bluetooth was a step back from the Cambridge cable. The sound was even flatter and less dynamic, although still very listenable. With Bluetooth, I wanted to increase the volume by two notches to compensate! Once you do this, the sound subjectively becomes more comparable. However, being slightly louder means low-level background noise becomes more noticeable. After a few minutes pass, your ears adjust, and things start to sound fine again. I can see situations where the practical benefits of Bluetooth might easily outweigh the sonic drawbacks.

In truth, it’s only when you go back to the best arrangement that you realise what’s missing. Alas, the Vertere cable retails for nearly a third of the price of the turntable, which is a considerable amount, in context. It rather makes the point that the Cambridge Audio is a great package at the price, but is still easily upgradable if you have the funds. Others have hinted that the Alva lacks dynamics slightly, but a better interconnect like the Vertere helps to address that complaint. Certainly, once partnered with a better cable, the Alva gave my Pro-Ject a close run – impressive stuff when you remember this is first and foremost supposed to be an easy-to-use, ‘plug and play’ design!

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 Review


It’s hard not to like the new Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 – it’s an excellent turntable at a really keen price. Especially for those new to the world of vinyl, this is a well-made and easy-to-use package that offers great sound for a surprisingly modest outlay. The really clever bit, though, is that it comes unexpectedly close in performance terms to more ‘purist’, audiophile-focused designs – which demonstrates what an intelligent design it is.

For more information visit Cambridge Audio

      James Michael Hughes's avatar

      James Michael Hughes

      An avid audiophile for many decades, Jimmy has been writing about hi-fi since 1980 in a host of British magazines, from What Hi-Fi to Hi-Fi Choice. Based in London, England, he’s one of the UK’s most prolific record and CD collectors – no streaming service can yet match his amazing music collection!

      Posted in:Hi-Fi Applause Awards 2023 Turntables
      Tags: cambridge audio 


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