We've built a five-star streaming hi-fi system that provides simplicity and fantastic sound quality

Great British hi-fi systems
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

If you've read our other Great British hi-fi systems features (Naim-powered CD/vinyl, terrific value hi-fi and CD and streaming) then you'll have seen that those other three systems in this high-performing quartet are multifaceted – in that they each have at least two sources on offer.

It makes sense, though, to have a system in this group that is more streamlined in outlook. This set-up keeps things as simple as possible by dealing with streaming music in its many forms – and leaves it at that. 

You, as the end user, should know that this trio of Award-winning products can form the basis of a far expanded set-up easily enough: just add CD player, turntable (with a phono stage), even a tape deck if that’s your thing, at a later date and it will be a system that will serve you wonderfully. But not everyone has need of any extra fripperies in their music listening. If you have young kids or unruly pets, pretty much the last thing you would need exposed in your home is a valuable turntable and fragile, vulnerable 12-inch vinyl records. No, a couple of well-built pieces of kit married to a solid pair of loudspeakers will serve you very well indeed. 

Which is what we have here. The Cambridge Audio pairing are long time favourites of ours here at What Hi-Fi?, and they work brilliantly together, not surprisingly. And the original B&W 606 certainly wasn’t broken when the S2 Anniversary Edition was introduced – it won What Hi-Fi? Best Buy Awards itself – but the new model is an undeniable step up, and will suit any number of set-ups.

The system

Network streamer: Cambridge Audio CXN V2  (£799 / $990 approx / AU$1495 approx)

Integrated amplifier: Cambridge Audio CXA61 (£699 / $865 approx / AU$1308 approx)

Standmount speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 (£599 / $899 / AU$1299)

Total:  £2097 / $2754 approx / AU$4102 approx

Music streamer: Cambridge Audio CXN V2

Cambridge Audio CXN V2 music streamer

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We’ll start with the source, as it is a real superstar of its type. Most importantly it sounds really vibrant and enthusiastic, whatever type of music you throw at it. As we describe in our review of the Cambridge Audio CXN (V2): “We play Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Nicks’ soulful, sweet singing is full bodied and beautifully conveyed. The way she shifts between notes is smooth, and the occasional words clipped to keep her rhythm are snappy and insightful. Even the odd vocalisation – the hums and aahs – are detailed and full of melancholy musings.”

As our review points out: “Most half-decent streamers could reproduce the basics of this song, but it takes something more talented to dig into the emotional core of this track and deliver it – and that’s what this Cambridge does.”

The Cambridge streamer is wonderfully even across the range as well, delivering hard-hitting bass with a light-stepping, twinkling treble – all of which helps convey a tune with tight timing and provide a sound that is dynamically entertaining.

And, naturally, it covers pretty much all bases as far as digital music options go. It will play hi-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD64 from a NAS drive, and it is equipped with streaming options to die for, including Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Google Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, Roon, Deezer and more. More than enough for most end users, in other words. 

Integrated amplifier: Cambridge Audio CXA61  

Cambridge Audio CXA61 integrated amplifier

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

As with its streaming brother, the Cambridge Audio CXA61 is an updated version of a product that we weren’t particularly aware needed updating; and, as with the CXN, we are extremely glad that the boffins at Cambridge went to the trouble. It was well worth it, both times. 

The main obvious difference in the next-generation amplifier is the addition of a USB input that sits alongside the digital and coaxial inputs on the rear panel. There is also a new DAC module that will play 24-bit/384kHz PCM files and up to DSD256 data streams. And, to cover pretty much all bases, aptX Bluetooth is now included in the package as well.

On the face of it, though, those are the only obvious changes. The power output remains a solid 60W per channel and there’s no change as far as connectivity is concerned. This integrated still has four line-level stereo RCA inputs on the back and a 3.5mm jack for portable music players on the front. 

While the basic analogue circuit hasn’t been revamped, the engineers aimed to improve sound quality by changing most of the op-amps in the signal path and upgrading the capacitors in both the pre and power sections of the amplifier.

And that work has certainly paid off. While still recognisably related to the older amp, this new version sounds more transparent and playful. It’s simply more fun to listen to, regardless of input chosen.

Bookshelf speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 bookshelf speakers

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Using these Bowers & Wilkins speakers with the Cambridge pairing, our system sounds firmly in control of proceedings with punch, scale and authority at all times, as well as a cheerful refusal to get stressed or uncomfortable when the musical requirements get demanding. Overall it has a nicely judged tonal balance that walks a delicate path between attack and refinement; there’s spaciousness here too, and the kind of outright clarity that sets a high bar for the price.

And that third What Hi-Fi? Award winner for 2022 rounds things off nicely. As we say in our 606 S2 Anniversary Edition review, “It has dominated the mid-priced standmounter market over the past three years with nothing we have reviewed coming close to knocking it off the top spot.”

And, while we loved the predecessors, this pair of updated speakers proves significantly more capable.

The biggest differences with the S2s are heard in the bass, where the new version is so much more precise and controlled; these speakers are cleaner, more insightful and have notably more punch than their forebears. 

Move up the frequency range and the steps up in articulation and clarity are striking. Voices come through with greater subtlety, and it’s easier to hear changes in intonation and phrasing. The B&W 606 S2 offer a clearer view of the recording and sound more balanced overall.

They deliver a sound packed with authority, and don’t struggle in the face of large-scale crescendos. As the music builds in a piece, these speakers have the composure and organisation to keep things under control. They rarely sound flustered or stressed no matter how demanding things get.

Consider that these speakers, like both the electronic units in this system, are the next generation of already impressive Award-winning products, and these clear improvements are all the more surprising – and, of course, all the more welcome.


This stunning system manages to dial things up a notch on what, three or four years ago, could easily – as ‘version one’ – have been a top set-up that we would most certainly have highlighted in a similar feature. With the upgrades to each unit, however, things have stepped up more than a level. This is a three-way combination that shows just how impressive a mid-range streaming hi-fi system can be.


This terrific-value hi-fi system is great, British – and punches above its weight

Step-up British hi-fi system for CD and streaming joy

This Naim-powered CD and vinyl system celebrates the best of British hi-fi

Read our British Hi-Fi Week 2023 news, features and reviews

Jonathan Evans
Editor, What Hi-Fi? magazine

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for 17 years or so. He has been a journalist for getting on for three decades now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.

  • EssentiallyJay
    This is my setup without the CXN-V2 and I'm still debating whether to go for that, a Node-X or a Chord Mojo or Qutest and pick a digital transport later.

    Can validate the CXA-61+ 606 S2's pair very well, look, and sound excellent. Get the power coated black stands too they were only around £100.

    Incidentally the onboard DAC sounds great to tide you over. Added Topping D10S's as a well measured budget DAC and they are too analytical with no tone of warmth, prefer the onboard CXA-61 DAC until I upgrade as per above.
  • ashdash12
    I'm sorry but there's no place for any of the B&W anniversary editions. GR research has proven how they're a compromise in design and component quality and they are very fatiguing to listen to.

    There are much better choices out there such as the Elac Unifi 2.0 3-way speaker which would take any day over the B&W.
  • Jasonovich
    I think the What Hi Fi selection of components is really predictable, when there are so many alternatives on the market and I was hoping they'll be a little adventurous.

    The Cambridge CXN-V2 is no doubt a very capable streamer and an excellent choice, however, I am one of those people who'd been trying purchase Eversolo DMP-A6 DAC-Streamer (has to be the bargain of the year, resembles HiFi Rose streamer, costs only £759 and performs well above its price range). Beautiful glitch free apps on 6" touch screen display.

    Unfortunately for me, every online vendor I tried, it all sold out. This I suspect was on the back of very positive reviews. One of the reputed YouTube hi-fi audiophile channels compared it with the Cambridge CXN-V2, the latter did not fare very well against the Eversolo (and these two streamers are in the same ball park).

    Please check it out for yourself, the DMP-A6 is the new kid on the block. I decided against it in the end, my Onkyo 6130 Streamer was adequate for my own requirements, as I'm not really into internet streaming, maybe it's an age thing, though internet streaming portals such as Spotify or Tidal are great for checking out new artists and whether their music is worth that extra investment.

    In the end, buyers remorse got the better of me, though like an insane audio fanatic I am!
    I did go back for a second bite of the cherry, I did fork out for a stand alone DAC, Eversolo's other sibling the DAC Z8, this replaces my Topping E50, an excellent sounding DAC, though I think someone mentioned on the thread, it was too analytical (a different model but true with most Sabre chipsets, typically Topping. Mind you the Topping E70 Velvet edition has the AKM chipset and sounds different from the vanilla E70), yes true but also neutral sounding. My Z8 does cost more than three times as much as the Topping it replaces but it does introduce a more deeper soundstage and has a nice warm tonality which was lacking on the E50. The low frequencies on the Eversolo are truly abundant without smothering the treble. It has the latest ESS ES9038PRO DAC and I/V conversion is 8 times the frequency. I was also tempted by the much dearer Gustard A26 and slightly better sounding but it wasn't as versatile as the Eversolo. Those digital mock VDU analogue display meters and a selection of three VDU themes did it for me! Yeah the Gustard would have been nice but if the missus ever found out I paid almost £2K for a small black box. I know, I know, man up, you haven't met my missus.

    Apologies, I have digressed a little but this didn't struck a Chord with me (no pun intended), I was hoping What Hi Fi could have been a bit more imaginative and surprised us with an alternative selection rather than play safe. We are all aware of the main actors and they have never disappointed but it would have been refreshing to explore new names and new players.
  • manicm
    ashdash12 said:
    I'm sorry but there's no place for any of the B&W anniversary editions. GR research has proven how they're a compromise in design and component quality and they are very fatiguing to listen to.

    There are much better choices out there such as the Elac Unifi 2.0 3-way speaker which would take any day over the B&W.
    Yawwwn. Bet you're an Amir Audio Science sycophant too