To improve on something that’s already pretty good, sometimes all you need is a light touch. That’s what Cambridge Audio has done with the second iteration of its CXN streamer launched in 2018 – an update to the Award-winner we first reviewed in 2015.
Now, alongside Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect, you can also stream music via Google’s Chromecast on the Cambridge Audio CXN (V2). With new features being continually added but still delivering a terrific performance for this mid-range price, it's no wonder that this CXN (V2) network streamer remains a multiple What Hi-Fi? Award-winner since its launch.
The Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) has kept all of the great sonic characteristics of the original. That same vibrancy and enthusiasm that greeted us all those years ago hasn’t changed much in the time since.
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.
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 player does.
With something more bouncy and upbeat, such as Warren Zevon’s Werewolf Of London, the CXN (V2) delivers both a punchy bass and a tinkling treble simultaneously. A good streamer, tackling those few opening bars, needs to balance both the deep drum and the piano – which the CXN (V2) does impressively. The bottom end is weighty, but lithe enough to give you a good kick, while the piano is light and airy without being overly bright.
The timing is tight and gets your foot tapping almost immediately. We described the original’s sound as ‘wonderfully entertaining’, and it’s nice to hear that Cambridge Audio has retained that quality in the V2.
We play Childish Gambino’s This Is America, a song which overlays a grumbling, rolling bass with the clicks and taps of percussion and a multitude of different voices. Some hi-fi will lose sounds in the turmoil, but the CXN streamer manages to separate each element out and present it as a cohesive whole. No need to keep it simple here, the CXN (V2) will be able to keep the complex coherent.
At the heart of the CXN (V2) lies Cambridge Audio's proprietary StreamMagic platform, which is also present in its networked products (the Evo 75 and Evo 150 hi-fi systems, the Edge NQ high-end streamer and the more budget MXN10).
Top of the list of new features here is the Chromecast capability that sets this version apart from the original. Following a firmware update in 2018, the CXN (V2) now supports Chromecast, enabling users to stream content wirelessly from compatible apps. We set up the Chromecast with no problems, and in just a few moments are casting music and videos to other devices.
For those on Apple’s ecosystem, meanwhile, AirPlay 2 is built into the streamer so you can send your music via your iPhone, iPad or other Apple device to your speakers.
High resolution 24-bit/192kHz, DSD64
Streaming features UPnP, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, internet radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Roon Ready
Inputs USB type A x2, USB type B, optical, coaxial
Outputs Optical, coaxial, balanced XLR, RCA
Network Ethernet, wi-fi
Finishes x2 (lunar grey, black)
Dimensions (hwd) 9 x 43 x 31cm
Spotify subscribers can also use Spotify Connect to send their music to the CXN (V2) streamer directly from the app, while Tidal subscribers can similarly benefit from Tidal Connect support. The well-appointed StreamMagic app, available on iOS and Android, can also be used to control playback and is a gateway to popular streaming services (Qobuz, Amazon Music) as well as internet radio and more. As of 2022, Deezer support has also been added to its list of features and it is also Roon Ready.
As always, we’d recommend a wired connection for the best sound quality. This streamer is capable of playing high-resolution files of up to 24-bit/192kHz, upsampled to 384kHz, through the USB type B input for your computer, along with optical and coaxial inputs. Also included are a pair of RCA and balanced XLR outputs, along with two digital outputs.
The only other change to the CXN (V2) is a faster processor to handle the Chromecast functionality. Cambridge Audio claims the CXN (V2) will operate faster, and with the two streamers side by side, the newer one boots up faster and gets to our music notably quicker than the original.
Whether using the app or the remote control, using the CXN in daily use is fuss-free and easy, with the streamer responding swiftly to our commands and making the music playback process from multiple sources relatively seamless.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it seems to have been Cambridge Audio’s motto here – and the build quality of the CXN (V2) seems exactly the same as the old CXN.
It’s a premium quality that’s reflected in the buttons and the recently redesigned remote control – both of which are easy to use and responsive – while the volume dial retains that signature weighted resistance that gives a satisfying sensation when moving through menus.
The 4.3in screen shows track, artist, album and sampling rate, with album artwork in full colour that's vibrant and clear. It never feels cluttered and each bit of metadata is spaced nicely. Having input labels printed upside down on the rear panel is also a thoughtful touch – meaning you can easily read them when you’re looking down on the streamer.
The model comes in Cambridge's customary Lunar Grey finish, but there is also a limited edition black version available as of 2023.
While we don’t believe in foregone conclusions, the Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) might be the closest we’ve come to one. The addition of extra streaming features – Chromecast, Tidal Connect and more – only grants more functionality to an already great streamer.
While we've tested plenty of music streamers since the CXN's launch, none have been able to dethrone the CXN (V2) from its perch at this price level. The Cambridge streamer has won a What Hi-Fi? Award ever since 2018 and still holds that perch to this day, making this music streamer a six-time, well-deserved winner.
- Sound 5
- Features 5
- Build 5
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See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winners
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Want a more budget option? Read our Cambridge Audio MXN10 review