When embracing the world of streaming music, the choice often boils down to investing in a new streaming amplifier or upgrading an existing hi-fi system with a streaming player. Cambridge Audio offers two compelling solutions for this dilemma with the AXN10 and MXN10. In this review, we explore the larger of the two, the Cambridge Audio AXN10, to discover how it fares in streaming audio.
|CAMBRIDGE AUDIO AXN10|
|Converter equipment:||ESS Tech Saber ES9033Q|
|Inputs:||WLAN/LAN, USB media|
|Outputs:||Digital: 2x S/PDIF, analog RCA|
|App/remote control:||For iOS and Android / no|
|Dimensions (W x H x D):||43 x 7.5 x 30.5 cm|
Reasons to Buy the Cambridge Audio AXN10:
- Exceptional Sound Quality: The AXN10 delivers high-quality audio performance, ensuring your music sounds detailed and engaging. Whether you’re a casual listener or a dedicated audiophile, its sound quality will impress.
- User-Friendly Setup: Setting up the AXN10 is straightforward, making it suitable for users of all technical levels. The intuitive StreamMagic app guides you through the initial configuration, ensuring a hassle-free experience.
- Versatile Connectivity: This streaming player offers various connectivity options, allowing you to integrate it into your existing audio system seamlessly. Whether connecting to an amplifier, preamplifier, or active speakers, the AXN10 adapts to your setup.
- Energy Efficiency: The AXN10 is remarkably energy-efficient, consuming minimal power in standby and active modes. Its eco standby mode further reduces power consumption, making it environmentally friendly.
- Responsive Control App: The StreamMagic app provides an intuitive interface for controlling the AXN10. It offers quick response times, allowing you to navigate your music library and streaming services easily.
- Standalone DAC: With its built-in DAC, the AXN10 enhances audio quality when connected to analog components. It offers the flexibility to upgrade your system’s sound performance.
- Reliable Wireless Performance: Whether using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the AXN10 delivers stable wireless performance, ensuring uninterrupted playback of your favorite music.
- Integration with Music Streaming Services: The AXN10 integrates with popular streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz. You can access your preferred music catalogs directly through the StreamMagic app.
Reasons Not to Buy the Cambridge Audio AXN10:
- Lack of MQA Support: If you are a fan of MQA-encoded music (Master Quality Authenticated), you may be disappointed as the AXN10 does not support this format. However, this limitation may not be crucial for all listeners.
- No Front USB Port: Unlike other streaming players, the AXN10 does not feature a front USB port for connecting external storage devices. While this may not be essential for many users, those who prefer front USB access should take note.
- No Visual Display: The AXN10 lacks a visual display on its front panel. While visual information can be accessed through the StreamMagic app, some users may prefer a physical display on the device.
- Limited to Stereo Output: If you require multi-channel audio output for home theater setups, the AXN10’s stereo output may not meet your needs. This streaming player is designed primarily for two-channel audio systems.
The Cambridge Audio AXN10 offers impressive sound quality, ease of use, and versatile connectivity options. It is well-suited for users seeking a high-quality streaming experience with minimal setup complexity. However, its lack of MQA support, absence of a front USB port, and stereo output limitation may be considerations for specific preferences or requirements.
Build Quality and Design:
The Cambridge Audio AXN10, a part of the AX series, is a testament to the brand’s reputation for providing excellent price-to-performance ratios. It features a minimalist aluminum front panel in “Lunar Grey” with a standby switch and four buttons for customizable internet radio presets. The absence of a front USB port, although rare in need, contributes to its clean aesthetics. While the absence of a display may raise eyebrows, it’s compensated by the StreamMagic app for control and information.
The device sports a compact yet spacious design, with a large black lid that, although lacking in insulation, does not detract from its overall appeal. The back of the AXN10 reveals its versatility, with antenna connections for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a USB port for storage devices, and S/PDIF digital outputs, among other features. Notably, it lacks volume control, making it ideal for connecting analog integrated amplifiers or amplifiers with built-in DACs. The internal components are housed efficiently, with the electronics occupying only a fraction of the available space.
1. Build Quality:
- Sturdy Construction: The AXN10 is well-constructed with a robust chassis that ensures durability and longevity. It feels solid and well-made, giving you confidence in its build quality.
- Premium Materials: High-quality materials are used in construction, contributing to its sturdiness. The aluminum front panel, for instance, not only adds to its aesthetic appeal but also enhances durability.
2. Aesthetic Appeal:
- Streamlined Appearance: The AXN10 features a minimalist, streamlined design that complements modern home audio setups. Its clean lines and uncluttered front panel make it visually appealing.
- “Lunar Grey” Finish: The aluminum front panel sports a “Lunar Grey” finish, which adds an elegant touch and helps it blend seamlessly with other audio components in the Cambridge AX series.
- Compact and Space-Efficient: While it offers a larger 43 cm housing (AXN10) for those who prefer a matching visual aesthetic, the more compact MXN10 variant is available for those looking to save space. Both variants maintain a sleek and space-efficient design.
3. Functional Design:
- Intuitive Front Panel: The front panel of the AXN10 is designed for convenience. It features a standby switch and four buttons for assigning Internet radio stations, ensuring quick and easy access to your favorite stations.
- User-Friendly App: The AXN10’s design extends to the user interface through the StreamMagic app. The app provides a user-friendly interface for controlling the device, offering a seamless experience when managing your music library and streaming services.
4. Ventilation and Heat Management:
- Ventilation Considerations: The AXN10’s design takes heat management into account. It opts for a fanless design without ventilation slots on the top cover. This approach helps maintain a sleek exterior while ensuring efficient heat dissipation.
- Cool Operation: Thanks to its efficient heat management, the AXN10 remains cool during operation. This means you don’t have to worry about excessive heat generation affecting its performance or the surrounding components.
5. Antenna Placement: The back panel of the AXN10 reveals thoughtful antenna placement. Two antenna connections accommodate the included stub antennas for WLAN and Bluetooth, ensuring reliable wireless connectivity. The strategic antenna placement helps maintain strong signal reception.
In conclusion, the Cambridge Audio AXN10 excels in build quality and design. Its sturdy construction, premium materials, and attention to detail improve its reliability and longevity. Its aesthetic appeal, compact form factor, and user-friendly design make it a valuable addition to any audio setup, seamlessly blending style and functionality. Its ventilation strategy and thoughtful antenna placement enhance its performance and usability.
Comparison with Competitors:
We conducted comprehensive listening comparisons to understand better how the Cambridge Audio AXN10 stacks up against its competition. We pitted it against the Argon Solo and the iFi Stream, both popular options in the streaming player market.
Cambridge Audio AXN10 vs. Argon Solo: In a head-to-head comparison with the Argon Solo, the Cambridge AXN10 shines with a more transparent and less nervous audio presentation. The AXN10’s musicality outperforms the Argon Solo, providing a richer and more engaging listening experience. This comparison was settled decisively in favor of the AXN10, showcasing its superior musical package.
Cambridge Audio AXN10 vs. iFi Stream: Compared to the iFi Stream, a streaming player without DAC, the AXN10 faces a more evenly matched contest. Both streamers were connected via a coaxial digital output to a high-end DAC, and their performance in purely digital terms was closely evaluated. While the differences were subtle, the iFi Stream eased out a slight advantage with slightly smoother highs, more melodic mids, and a tidier soundstage. This competition was a close call, with the iFi Stream securing a minor lead.
In conclusion, the Cambridge Audio AXN10 is a strong contender in the streaming player arena. While not always a clear-cut winner, it justifies its price point with its impressive performance, build quality, and practical features. Whether competing against the Argon Solo or the iFi Stream, the AXN10 demonstrates its prowess in delivering high-quality audio and versatility.
The usability of the Cambridge Audio AXN10 is one of its standout features, making it an attractive option for both novice and audiophiles. Here’s a detailed exploration of its usability:
- Effortless Setup: Setting up the AXN10 is a breeze. The user-friendly device guides you through the initial setup process, making it accessible even for those with limited technical expertise. The StreamMagic app, available for iOS and Android, provides clear instructions for connecting the AXN10 to your home Wi-Fi network, and it also assists in configuring other settings, such as music service integration.
- Intuitive Control App: The StreamMagic app plays a pivotal role in enhancing the usability of the AXN10. Its user-friendly interface allows you to browse and select music effortlessly. The app’s design is clear and responsive, making navigating your music library and streaming services easy. Additionally, the app controls various functions and settings, including playback, volume adjustment, and source selection.
- Energy Efficiency: The AXN10 is remarkably energy-efficient, consuming minimal power in both standby and active modes. Standby mode requires only 2.6 watts when connected via Wi-Fi and even less (2.4 watts) when using a wired Ethernet connection. For eco-conscious users, an eco standby mode reduces power consumption to 0.4 watts. This thoughtful feature ensures minimal environmental impact while the device is unused.
- Quick and Responsive: The AXN10 offers rapid response times when switching between music sources or radio stations. It remembers your last played source, allowing you to pick up where you left off effortlessly. This quick operation enhances user convenience, especially for those who prefer seamless and immediate access to their favorite content.
- Connection Versatility: This streaming player offers versatile connectivity options. It can be easily integrated into your existing hi-fi setup, making it adaptable to various systems. Whether connecting to an analog integrated amplifier, a preamplifier, or active speakers, the AXN10 provides flexibility in incorporating it into your audio system.
- Reliable Wireless Performance: While the AXN10 can be connected via Ethernet for maximum network stability, its wireless performance is also noteworthy. Users can opt for a Wi-Fi connection without worrying about dropouts or interruptions, as it consistently delivers stable playback. The device’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity support further enhances its usability.
- Integration with Music Streaming Services: The AXN10 integrates with popular music streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz. Users can access their favorite music catalogs directly through the StreamMagic app, simplifying the streaming experience. For those subscribed to these services, the “Connect” functionality allows easy streaming from their respective apps.
- Standalone DAC Option: Including a high-quality DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) within the AXN10 adds to its usability. This feature allows users to enjoy enhanced audio quality when connecting to analog integrated amplifiers or preamplifiers, ensuring compatibility with various audio setups.
In summary, the Cambridge Audio AXN10 excels in usability, catering to both beginners and audiophiles alike. Its user-friendly setup, intuitive control app, energy efficiency, quick response times, versatile connectivity options, reliable wireless performance, and integration with popular streaming services make it a compelling choice for those seeking a seamless and enjoyable streaming experience.
Setting up the Cambridge AXN10 is a breeze, especially with the user-friendly StreamMagic app guiding the process. The device excels in energy efficiency, consuming minimal power even in network standby mode. It remembers the last source played, ensuring a seamless listening experience, particularly with internet radio stations. The control app is intuitive and sophisticated, offering excellent functionality.
The AXN10 provides stable wireless playback without dropouts or hiccups, making it suitable for users who prefer a wireless setup. Its performance improves with a wired Ethernet connection, delivering network stability and enhanced sound quality with improved coherence and quietness.
The sound quality of the Cambridge Audio AXN10 is a crucial aspect that audiophiles and music enthusiasts pay close attention to when considering a streaming player. Here, we delve into the sound quality and sound testing of the AXN10:
1. Sound Quality Overview:
- Musical Fidelity: The AXN10 impresses with its musicality, offering a sound signature that emphasizes clarity, precision, and a natural tonal balance. It strives to faithfully reproduce the original recording, making it an excellent choice for audiophiles seeking high-fidelity playback.
- Transparent and Cohesive Sound: One of the standout qualities of the AXN10 is its ability to deliver a transparent and cohesive soundstage. Music comes alive with depth and separation, allowing listeners to discern individual instruments and vocals clearly.
2. Sound Testing:
- Connection Options: The AXN10 offers various connection options, allowing users to tailor their listening experience. Testing the device with different setups, including digital and analog connections, reveals its versatility.
- Digital Output: When using digital output, such as through coaxial or optical connections, the AXN10 delivers a clean and accurate signal. This allows you to pair it with high-end DACs or amplifiers for enhanced sound quality.
- Analog Output: The results are impressive for those connecting the AXN10 directly to an integrated amplifier or preamplifier with its onboard DAC. The DAC provides a natural and detailed sound, making it an excellent choice for audiophiles who prefer simplicity without sacrificing quality.
- Playback via Roon: Testing the AXN10 with popular music management software like Roon demonstrates its compatibility and performance. Roon users can easily integrate the AXN10 into their setup, providing access to high-quality streaming and a seamless user experience.
- Comparison with Competitors: Comparative listening tests, including comparisons with competing streaming players like the iFi Stream and Argon Solo, highlight the AXN10’s strengths. It competes favorably, offering a musical and engaging sound profile.
- Connectivity Stability: Whether you use a LAN or WLAN connection, the AXN10 maintains a stable and uninterrupted streaming experience. This stability ensures that your listening sessions are free from dropouts or hiccups.
3. Versatility and Musicality:
- Streaming Quality: The AXN10 supports services like Qobuz at CD-quality levels, ensuring high-resolution audio playback. This makes it suitable for both casual listeners and audiophiles who demand the best possible sound quality.
- Gapless Playback: A notable feature of the AXN10 is its support for gapless playback, allowing for seamless transitions between tracks meant to be played consecutively. This enhances the listening experience, especially for live albums or concept albums.
- Control App: The StreamMagic app is crucial in sound testing, offering intuitive control and access to various streaming services. The app enhances usability and ensures a smooth and enjoyable listening experience.
In conclusion, the Cambridge Audio AXN10 lives up to its reputation by delivering exceptional sound quality. Its emphasis on musicality, transparency, and cohesiveness makes it a compelling choice for music lovers seeking an immersive and true-to-source listening experience. Whether you prefer digital or analog connections, the AXN10’s versatility and stable performance ensure that your music is reproduced with fidelity and precision. It competes well with other streaming players, making it a noteworthy addition to any audio setup.
Technical excellence is a key aspect of the Cambridge Audio AXN10, manifesting in various ways that enhance its performance and functionality. At its core, the AXN10 is equipped with the StreamMagic SoC (System on Chip), responsible for handling the device’s streaming capabilities. This dedicated hardware ensures smooth and efficient streaming processes, delivering audio content with minimal latency and high fidelity. The presence of this specialized chip is indicative of Cambridge Audio’s commitment to optimizing the technical aspects of the AXN10.
Additionally, the AXN10’s support for gapless playback is a testament to its technical prowess. Gapless playback is crucial for maintaining the continuity and flow of music albums with tracks meant to transition into one another seamlessly. Cambridge Audio’s implementation of this feature ensures that listeners can enjoy an uninterrupted listening experience, particularly when exploring genres like classical music or progressive rock, where track boundaries are often blurred.
Furthermore, the AXN10’s integration of the StreamMagic app showcases technical excellence in software development. The app provides intuitive control over the device’s functions, including selecting music sources, managing playlists, and adjusting settings. Its user-friendly interface and responsiveness make it a powerful tool for navigating the streaming landscape, allowing users to access and enjoy their favorite music content effortlessly. Overall, the Cambridge Audio AXN10 exemplifies technical excellence through its specialized hardware, gapless playback support, and user-friendly software, ensuring a high-quality streaming experience for audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
The Cambridge Audio AXN10 boasts many practical features that enhance its usability and versatility. One standout feature is its energy efficiency. In standby mode with network readiness, the AXN10 consumes a mere 2.6 watts (WLAN) or 2.4 watts (LAN). For eco-conscious users, an eco standby mode reduces power consumption to just 0.4 watts. This energy efficiency reduces operating costs and minimizes its environmental impact.
Another practical feature is the AXN10’s quick and easy setup process. Registering the device in your home WLAN is straightforward, guided by the user-friendly StreamMagic app. The app also simplifies basic setup, including configuring your preferred music service. Additionally, the AXN10 remembers the last source played, automatically resuming playback when the device is powered on. This feature makes the user experience convenient, particularly when returning to your favorite station on the internet radio.
Furthermore, including RCA line outputs on the AXN10 allows it to seamlessly integrate with various audio components, such as integrated amplifiers or preamplifiers. This flexibility ensures that users can adapt the device to their existing setup, whether it involves analog amplification or active speakers. Overall, the AXN10’s practical features contribute to its ease of use and compatibility with different audio systems.
Cambridge Audio’s AXN10 is a compelling solution for music enthusiasts looking into streaming audio. Its exceptional performance, build quality, and practical features make it a commendable addition to any hi-fi setup. While it lacks MQA support, the AXN10 offers a well-rounded and immersive listening experience, making it a worthwhile investment for those seeking a versatile streaming player.
- High Sound Quality: The AXN10 offers exceptional sound quality, focusing on musicality and transparency. It faithfully reproduces audio with clarity and precision, making it a great choice for audiophiles.
- Versatile Connectivity: With multiple connection options, including digital and analog outputs, the AXN10 can seamlessly integrate into various audio setups, allowing users to tailor their listening experience.
- Stable Streaming: The device maintains stable streaming, whether connected via LAN or WLAN. It ensures uninterrupted playback, preventing dropouts and hiccups during music listening.
- Gapless Playback: Supporting gapless playback, the AXN10 ensures seamless transitions between tracks, enhancing the listening experience for live albums or concept albums.
- Intuitive Control App: The StreamMagic app provides an easy-to-use interface for controlling the AXN10 and accessing streaming services. It enhances usability and convenience for users.
- No Built-in Display: Unlike some competitors, the AXN10 lacks a built-in display on the front panel. Visual information is primarily accessed through the StreamMagic app, which may not be ideal for users who prefer on-device controls.
- No MQA Support: The AXN10 does not support MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio, which could be a drawback for users who rely on MQA-encoded music files or streaming services for high-resolution audio.
- Limited Front Panel Controls: The front panel of the AXN10 offers minimal controls, limiting on-device functionality. Users may need to rely on the app or other remotes for certain actions.
- Size and Form Factor: The larger 43 cm housing of the AXN10 may not suit users with limited space or those seeking a more compact streaming player. The smaller and more affordable MXN10 variant addresses this concern.
- Price Consideration: While offering excellent value for its features, some users may find the price point relatively high compared to other streaming players with similar capabilities.
When choosing a streaming player for your audio system, it’s essential to weigh these advantages and disadvantages based on your specific preferences and priorities.
Interested in network players? Read our reviews of Network Player.