Cambridge Audio has whipped the tablecloth off its latest and highly anticipated mid-range music streamer. The new Cambridge Audio CXN100 (£899/$1099) replaces the acclaimed CXN V2 model which not long ago picked up its sixth consecutive What Hi-Fi? Award in and became the first streamer to enter the What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, so you could say the successor has rather large shoes to fill – Shaquille O’Neil-wearing size 22s perhaps, to put the network player's achievements into perspective.
Since the CXN V2 went out of stock towards the end of last year, we have been eagerly awaiting news of an heir, and the CXN100 certainly seems up to the task of continuing the legacy. It might not look all that different from its predecessor – if it ain’t broke… – but Cambridge says the new network player is “a complete mechanical redesign” and a “true generational step up in sound quality, functionality and value for money”. We look forward to hearing the two side by side during a comprehensive review – watch this space – but for now, let’s sift through the specs...
An important part of any music streamer – and digital hi-fi product, at that – is its DAC chip, and the CXN100 uses the ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32, which Cambridge Audio says sounds (and measures) significantly better than the Wolfson WM8740-series silicone found in the older CXN V2. The DAC’s timing filter is supposedly so good that Cambridge didn’t feel the need to implement a post-DAC filter and complicate the signal path more than it needed to.
Changes in components, such as capacitors and op-amps, in the post-DAC analogue stage have led to an increased signal-to-noise ratio and reduced distortion, too.
It’s not at all surprising that the CXN100 uses the latest (fourth) generation of Cambridge’s StreamMagic module, which is also found in the company’s new budget MXN10 player and Evo 75 and Evo 150 streaming amplifiers, but it is good news for consumers. Onboard is pretty much everything a streaming-savvy audiophile could ask for – Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, UPnP (up to 32-bit/768kHz), Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and built-in access to Qobuz and Deezer. The CXN100 is Roon Ready and supports MQA audio and, via MPEG-DASH, high-quality internet radio. Meanwhile, physical connections span USB and USB Type B (32-bit/768kHz, DSD512), coaxial (24-bit/192kHz) and optical (24-bit/96kHz) inputs as well as optical, coaxial, RCA and balanced XLR outputs.
Speaking of menus, they – and playback displays – should be more easily visible on the front-panel colour screen thanks to its bump in size from 4.3 inches to 4.8. Generally, however, the CXN V2’s spic-and-span physical appearance has been left as is for the CXN100, and you won’t hear any complaints from us on the matter.
However, some will understandably scorn Cambridge’s decision to make a physical remote an optional extra this time, though the company would no doubt argue that control of such a product will predominantly be on a phone or tablet via the exemplary StreamMagic app. Anyone pairing the CXN100 with a CX Series amplifier like the CXA61 or CXA81, and/or the CXC CD transport will get the same remote in either of those boxes anyway.
So will Cambridge Audio remain king of the mid-market streamer hill with its latest CXN100? Considering the solid foundations from which it has been built, we certainly wouldn’t bet against it. Hold tight for our full review.
Read our first impressions of the Cambridge Audio CXN100
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Read our five-star Cambridge Audio MXN10 review