Size really isn’t everything. Whether it’s a pair of speakers, a dinky DAC or even a portable Bluetooth speaker, there’s absolutely no guarantee that size in any way correlates with great sound. Big and bulky units certainly have their place, and the trend towards more size equalling more sound is pretty inescapable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean improvements in actual audio quality. In reality, the finest brands in the business often know how to get a lot out of a little.
That’s just as well, because Cambridge Audio’s latest network music streamer is something of a tiddler. Neat, compact and easy to pop onto your hi-fi rack without needing three burly men and a new extension to install, the new Cambridge Audio MXN10 is one of the most unobtrusive network players you’ll find, not to mention one of the least expensive. If this little thing has the sonic chops that belie its size and price, its rivals should be quaking in their figurative boots.
Build & design
As hinted at above, the MXN10 is a tiny little operator; a far smaller, narrower design than its larger counterparts such as the more traditionally sized Audiolab 7000N (review coming soon) and even the fairly compact, Award-winning Bluesound Node (2021). Finished in smooth, inoffensive lunar grey, the MXN10 features four preset buttons on the right accompanied by a clearly demarcated power button and a small white light to tell you whether or not you’re currently connected to the wi-fi. Clean, clear and simple are the watchwords here.
Sources AirPlay 2, Bluetooth 5.0, Google Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Internet Radio
Network Wi-fi, ethernet
Inputs USB Type A
Outputs Coaxial, optical, RCA line level
Headphone output? No
Max file resolution: 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512
Dimensions (hwd) 5.2 x 21.5 x 19.1cm
Regarding physical connections, the MXN10 is fitted with an RCA line level analogue output, one coaxial and one optical on the digital side, as well as an ethernet port if you’re planning on plugging the unit directly into your router as opposed to relying on your wi-fi connection. It’s not exactly a party round the back, but there’s enough here to satisfy the essential requirements.
There’s also no remote provided, so unless you’re planning on spending much of your listening time on your knees poking around with on-unit controls, you’ll need to download the dedicated StreamMagic app to control your listening experience. There’s also no full display provided, so getting to grips with how this app operates will be essential if you’re going to get the most out of your shiny new network player.
You can control the volume using your mobile or tablet device’s control or from within the supported streaming apps, or you can engage pre-amp mode and control the unit’s volume directly from within the StreamMagic app (as long as you’re using the analogue output).
Having a broad array of streaming choices is, obviously, essential for a network streamer, and the MXN10 doesn’t let us down, hosting a plethora of streaming methods and services including Google Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, as well as support for Bluetooth 5.0. Better yet, there’s built-in internet radio which, thanks to MPEG-DASH support, gives high-quality radio streaming across practically any global station you can think of. It can also locate and play any music file stored on the same home network, such as from NAS devices, for instance.
The MXN10’s StreamMagic streaming module and app are at the heart of the player, providing the oft-lauded bespoke Cambridge Audio software so that you can stream from your phone. The app is decent, and while music services such as Tidal are never as smooth or intuitive when hosted on such platforms, StreamMagic is more responsive and less frustrating than rival control apps. It’s also incredibly easy to set up; just turn on your new player, download the application and, even if you choose not to create an account and sign in to StreamMagic, the app will simply pick up your MXN10 immediately.
The MXN10, impressively, comes equipped with the ESS Sabre ES9033Q DAC, allowing it to stream high-resolution files of up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 resolution, so you’ll rarely find your dinky streamer caught out by something it can’t give proper justice to. We are slightly perturbed by a lack of native MQA support for Tidal Masters, though. A minor quibble, but a shame nonetheless.
Cambridge Audio’s recent work in the realm of amplifiers and streamers has been little short of stellar, impressing us with the Award-winning CXA81 integrated amp in addition to the (also) Award-winning CXA61 amp and the (also) award-winning CXN (V2) streamer. Expectations have been set mighty high for the MXN10, even at this relatively low price.
Max Richter’s melancholic slow-builder Never Goodbye is delivered in a spacious and well-organised manner. The MXN10 walks a carefully chosen path between the even-handed, detailed and spacious sound of the similarly-priced Audiolab 6000N Play and the more characterful and energetic balance of the current Award-winning Bluesound Node (2021). It combines the strengths of these talented rivals while adding a dose of dynamic expression and rhythmic coherence that they can’t match.
We like that the Cambridge remains composed when the music becomes demanding, and the way it renders the tone and texture of instruments in such a convincing way. There is a good sense of scale here combined with a surprising dose of authority.
Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake’s collaboration on Holy Grail further reveals the MXN10’s capabilities. Whether it’s Timberlake’s high, soulful vocals or Z’s hard and heavy rapping under a punchy beat, the MXN10 easily has it covered, delivering a real sense of rhythm and swing by the time the verses kick in. If you want to feel the energy and movement the track demands, this is the way to listen to it.
Moving away from purely comparative tracks, we let the Cambridge Audio streamer stretch its legs, with what by now are becoming routinely impressive results. The more we listen, the more the MXN10 reveals its myriad strengths, providing Wu-Tang Clan’s Gravel Pit with bounce and heft before wowing us with a powerful yet clean and organised rendition of Deftones’ Swerve City. Listening to the MXN10 is a pleasure, and one we aren’t keen on ending.
Cambridge Audio has done it again. A small size and an even smaller price tag might have put some niggling doubts in our minds before testing, but those soon fall away once we unleash the MXN10 in our test rooms.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the likes of Audiolab and Bluesound need to be worried. Both of these companies have dominated the entry-level music streamer market for a number of years now, but Cambridge Audio has now crashed that party. Is the MXN10 the finest affordable music streamer on the market? It could well be.
- Build 5
- Features 5
- Sound 5
Read our review of the Bluesound Node (2021)
Also consider the step-up Cambridge Audio CXN (V2)