Cambridge SoundWorks Portable Speaker System

cambridge Soundworks.jpegThis is, hands-down, the best portable audio system I have ever heard. It takes a few minutes to set-up and pack-up, and you need a power source to run it, but wow! does it have great sound! I have used it for parties, outdoor BBQs, and on vacation and it never fails to sound great. The included speakers and amplifier, the necessary cables, and your iPod, all pack into the included hard case (which also contains the subwoofer).
My only gripe is that the connections are all clip-connections rather than banana connections, but Radio Shack and other sources sell small banana-style plugs to use with clip connections, making set-up much easier (no frayed wire ends). cambridge-soundwords2.jpg I can't recommend this enough for anyone who wants audiophile-quality music they can take with them to a cabin, condo, RV, or to their backyard as needed. The price is higher than your standard portable units, but Cambridge Sound Works constantly has sales and coupons on the net, making the price a little bit better. In any event, it's well worth even the full list price! There are few things I have come across that are "best of class" but this is certainly one. --Torgny Nilsson Cambridge SoundWorks Model 12 Portable Speaker System $375 Don't forget to comment over at Cool Tools. And remember to submit a tool!


  1. It would be so easy for them to make a Class D amp that can run on a 12V battery. Then it would truly be portable.

    I built a stereo for my bike using such a thing, but I had to design my own PC board to get all the features I wanted, such as a USB charger port for the music player.

    1. I’ve built one too using a Sonic Impact amp and a couple of high-efficiency speakers. The box was the biggest labor at the time. Although the thing is pretty dang awesome I’m about to build another as I considered it a prototype from the start. We should exchange notes! I’d love to see the board you built!

    2. A decade or so ago a friend of mine built an amp that fit into a large toolbox and ran off motorcycle batteries. He wanted a portable sound system that could run for a couple of hours off the grid with enough power for a large dance floor. By now I forget if the speakers were also in the box or not. It was heavy enough that he usually carried it on a hand-truck rather than by the handles. Looked a bit silly to feed something that large from an iPod, but it worked really well, and he could out-blast sound systems that ran off A/C power while still producing good quality sound.

      neverender, this is one of the series of articles pointing over to KK’s Cool Tools blog. Yes, the product is commercial, but it’s still cool, even if the submitter didn’t make it himself.

  2. These are bar none the best ultra portable PA you can have.

    I’ve been following these since the model 11 and the Model 12 in the late 90s waw a bit more heavy duty. But these are still great.

  3. Audiophile grade? You say this like it’s a good thing. These are the guys who spends hundreds on a length of copper with magical labels.

    1. Actually, it is possible to be an audiophile that does not buy into the magical maple volume knob, or worry about ‘burn in’ on your speaker cables if they are wound the wrong way.

      Think of it like Medicine and “New Age” Medicine. One is a real science – not perfect, but always improving. The other is complete Woo, with no more basis in science than druidic rites – and no mound of scientific inquiry will sway them.

    2. Those guys still get a better sound; it’s just barely audible :p

      Consider it the same as getting an extra 5fps out of a new graphics card.

      1. In response to Daemon, I am chasing things that are audible but have not been measured YET. I believe in Double Blind Testing, but some individuals can pass DBT that 99.99% of the population fails. And yes, that includes cables. News flash: burnin has been measured for polyester caps.

        To the Anonymous response, I reply that you can’t hear the differences because you have listened to bad reproduction and high levels of noise all your life. Get a concert season subscription to acoustic music and swear off earbuds and speakers for the duration, wear earplugs in the presence of background noise especially motor sounds, and then tell me if audiophile gear sounds imperceptibly better.

  4. I have an older version of this kit and it did come with both a 12V battery and a cig-lighter adapter that fit the car and the battery.

    Awesome sound.. pre-amp has a tendency to get frizzy on adjustment.

    Is it time now to just refer to those things in our cars as “charging outlets”? I can’t think the last time anyone tried to light up from one in the old beater.

  5. We had one of these or similar at Brown University back in 1992 or so. I am so glad to see they still make these!!

    The Brown system was used for everything. Multiple daily lectures, performances for high end academic music people like Paul Lanskey and Todd Macover. It even was the primary driver for a series of stealth raves in the area. POWERFUL much beyond what you’d think and CLEAR.

    The one at Brown took a poop one day and made the weirdest sound before smoking. When we called customer service we were told that we had a lifetime warranty. I told them Brown U was 300 years old and was technically immortal but they said the relationship was worth it and had the sound system fixed and back to the music dept in less than 2 weeks.

  6. Audioengine has speakers that are cheaper, more portable, have a built-in amp, and work well with the mp3 players nearly everyone will be using with this thing anyway.

    I LOVE my audioengine 2’s, been thinking about buying a set of 5’s.

  7. Generally speaking, there are two classes of audiophile. Yes, there’s the magical thinking “my knobs make my speakers sound better” crowd, but they’re not the only ones kicking around the Internet. They’re just the most visible because everyone likes to drag them into the spotlight for a laugh.

    The other crowd looks for a different set of criteria. They look at the electrical and acoustic properties of the speakers and the sound equipment powering it. They look for speakers that don’t have frequency response curves that bounce all over the place; for equipment that doesn’t put too much electrical noise in the signal; and for speakers that don’t keep resonating after the audio signal stops.

    Basically, they look for things that are measurable. Yes, you’ll still see people talking about qualitative features and “you’ll know it when you hear it” judgments, but audiophile is a spectrum, not a binary pigeonhole.

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