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Review: The Cambridge Audio CXN100 – Exceptional Sound Quality

Review: The Cambridge Audio CXN100 - Exceptional Sound Quality - In an increasingly digital world, audio equipment must not only perform but also integrate seamlessly into modern lifestyles. Cambridge Audio's CXN100 is one such device.

Introduction

Traditional British brand Cambridge Audio rises to the challenge set by emerging Asian competitors with its newest release – the CXN100. Designed as a network streamer with DAC and preamplifier functionalities, the CXN100 focuses on providing top-notch sound quality and cutting-edge streaming features. With competition heating up in the 1,000 Euro market, the CXN100 aims to stand out through its commitment to sound excellence and forward-thinking design.

The CXN100 is a successor to the popular CXN V2, featuring a new StreamMagic Gen4 module for advanced streaming capabilities, including MQA compatibility. Equipped with an ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC, it supports streaming services like Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, and Deezer. The device also offers high-resolution Internet radio via MPEG-DASH support and various connectivity options, including USB, coaxial, TOSLINK, and wireless connections via Chromecast, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth. Additionally, the CXN100 is compatible with Google Home, Apple AirPlay, and Roon multiroom systems, making it a versatile and comprehensive streaming solution.

Cambridge Audio, a renowned British manufacturer, has been a stalwart in the audio industry since its founding in 1968. Unlike many competitors that have since been acquired, Cambridge Audio remains proudly independent. The company, led by owner James Johnson-Flint, has a long innovation history, particularly in streaming and digital audio technologies. With an emphasis on creating high-quality sound experiences, Cambridge Audio has built a loyal following. Its products are acclaimed for their sleek design, user-friendly features, and, most importantly, exceptional sound quality. From amplifiers and speakers to DACs and network players, Cambridge Audio’s range appeals to audiophiles and casual listeners, consistently delivering audio excellence at competitive prices.

The Tech details

DACESS ES9028Q2M
USB AUDIO INPUTUSB Type B conforms to USB Audio 2.0
DIGITAL AUDIO INPUTSUSB Drive, Bluetooth (5.1), S/PDIF Coaxial, TOSLINK Optical
ANALOGUE AUDIO OUTPUTSBalanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analogue
DIGITAL AUDIO OUTPUTSS/PDIF Coaxial and TOSLINK Optical
COMPATIBILITYTOSLINK optical: 16/24bit 32-96kHz PCM, DoP64 S/PDIF coaxial: 16/24bit 32-192kHz PCM, DoP64 UPnP: up to 32bit, 768kHz Local USB media: PCM up to 32-bit 768kHz, DSD up to x512 USB audio: PCM up to 32-bit 768kHz, DSD up to x512 Bluetooth: SBC, AAC AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, MQA, Qobuz, Deezer, Roon Ready.
AUDIO FORMATSALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD (x512), WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, OGG Vorbis
ETHERNET10/100Mbit
WI-FIIEEE 802.11 ac (2.4GHz / 5GHz)
MAX POWER CONSUMPTION30W
STANDBY POWER CONSUMPTION<0.5W (eco), <2W (network standby)
DIMENSIONS430 x 85 x 305mm (16.9 x 3.4 x 12.2″)
WEIGHT3.55Kg (7.83lbs)
BOX CONTENTCXN100, mains lead, control bus cable, antenna x2, quick start guide, safety sheet, registration card

Design and Build: Commitment to Aesthetics and Sustainability

The design and build quality of the Cambridge Audio CXN100 is a testament to the company’s dedication to aesthetics and environmental sustainability. As highlighted, the device arrives in a package made of recyclable cardboard, with egg carton-like buffers that safeguard it during transit. The biodegradable plastic cases used for the device and its accessories further underscore Cambridge Audio’s commitment to environmental responsibility.

At 43 cm wide, the CXN100 is compact and lighter than many competitors in its price range. Its classic yet modern appearance features a sheet steel chassis and a curved sheet metal cover. The absence of heavy aluminum paneling, a common design choice in premium audio equipment, is a departure from the norm and reflects the brand’s distinctive approach.

The front panel is thoughtfully organized, with a clear division of controls. On the left, the power button is easily accessible. A 5-inch color display with six control buttons in the middle provides a straightforward interface for managing music and settings. The right side of the front panel is dominated by a large rotary volume control, which is smooth to operate and precisely positioned. The tactile nature of the volume control adds a sense of physical interaction often lacking in digital devices, enhancing the overall user experience.

One notable design choice is to forego touch controls in favor of physical buttons. While touch controls can be sleek and modern, they can also be prone to malfunctions or inaccuracies. The physical buttons on the CXN100 offer a reliable and intuitive alternative, ensuring consistent performance and ease of use.

The device features various connectivity options, including USB, coaxial, and TOSLINK for digital sources and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless streaming. Including wired and wireless connectivity allows users to enjoy a seamless and flexible streaming experience. Additionally, the CXN100’s internal switching power supply contributes to its lightweight design while maintaining quiet and efficient operation.

In terms of construction, the CXN100’s internals are neatly arranged and well-designed. Upon opening the device, it is evident that careful attention has been paid to the layout of the circuit boards and components. A complex, self-developed switching power supply powers the electronics, eliminating the need for a heavy and expensive toroidal transformer. This design choice creates a more efficient and lightweight device without compromising performance or durability.

Overall, the design and build quality of the Cambridge Audio CXN100 are impressive. The device is sleek, lightweight, and environmentally conscious, making it a standout option for users seeking a premium streaming DAC with a modern and user-friendly design.

Features and Connectivity: Advanced Streaming Capabilities and Versatile Connectivity Options

The Cambridge Audio CXN100 is a versatile streaming DAC offering impressive features and connectivity options. As a successor to the popular CXN V2, it incorporates a new StreamMagic Gen4 module for enhanced streaming capabilities, including MQA compatibility. This advanced module enables seamless integration with popular streaming services like Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, and Deezer, allowing users to easily access their favorite music. Additionally, the CXN100 supports high-resolution Internet radio through MPEG-DASH support, ensuring optimal audio quality for radio enthusiasts.

Connectivity options abound, with the CXN100 providing a range of wired and wireless connection methods. Users can connect digital sources via USB, coaxial, or TOSLINK, ensuring compatibility with various devices. Including wired and wireless connectivity allows for greater flexibility in setup and placement, catering to the needs of modern audio enthusiasts.

Wireless streaming is supported through Chromecast, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth, providing users with a convenient way to stream music from their smartphones, tablets, or other devices. These wireless options ensure that users enjoy their favorite music with minimal hassle, regardless of their preferred streaming platform.

The CXN100 also boasts compatibility with popular smart home systems like Google Home and Apple AirPlay, allowing for seamless integration with existing setups. Additionally, it is Roon Ready out of the box, making it easy for users to integrate the CXN100 with their existing Roon-based systems.

Overall, the CXN100 offers a comprehensive suite of features and connectivity options, ensuring that users can enjoy their favorite music in the way that suits them best. From streaming to high-resolution Internet radio to compatibility with smart home systems, the CXN100 is designed to provide a versatile and user-friendly streaming DAC experience.

Performance: Exceptional Sound Quality and User-Friendly Operation

The Cambridge Audio CXN100 is designed to deliver exceptional sound quality and a user-friendly streaming experience. Equipped with an ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC, the CXN100 ensures accurate and precise audio reproduction. This high-performance DAC supports various audio formats and resolutions, ensuring users enjoy their favorite music with optimal fidelity and detail.

One of the standout features of the CXN100 is its digital volume control system, which allows for precise and dynamic volume adjustment. This digital volume control system ensures the audio signal remains pure and unadulterated, with no loss of dynamics or resolution. The CXN100 is capable of precise volume adjustment in 100 steps, allowing users to fine-tune their listening experience to their preferences.

The setup and operation of the CXN100 are straightforward, with intuitive controls and a user-friendly StreamMagic app. The device is Roon Ready out of the box, making it easy to integrate with existing systems. Additionally, the CXN100 can be accessed and controlled via a web interface, providing flexibility for users who prefer to manage their audio setup from a computer.

The CXN100 is also designed with energy efficiency in mind, with low-power standby options and minimal energy usage during operation. Its internal switching power supply ensures quiet and efficient operation, contributing to the overall quality and reliability of the device.

In terms of performance, the CXN100 delivers exceptional sound quality and a user-friendly streaming experience. Its high-performance DAC and digital volume control system ensure accurate and precise audio reproduction, while its energy-efficient design ensures reliable and efficient operation. Overall, the CXN100 is a standout streaming DAC with exceptional sound quality and user-friendly operation.

Sound Quality: Audiophile-Grade Sound Performance

The Cambridge Audio CXN100 is designed to offer audiophile-grade sound performance, making it an ideal choice for music enthusiasts seeking an elevated listening experience. At the heart of the CXN100 is the ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC, renowned for its ability to reproduce audio with exceptional accuracy and clarity. This high-performance DAC supports a wide range of audio formats and resolutions, including high-resolution formats like FLAC, ALAC, and DSD, ensuring that listeners can enjoy their favorite music in pristine quality.

In addition to its high-quality DAC, the CXN100 features a digital volume control system that allows for precise and dynamic volume adjustment. This ensures the audio signal remains pure and unadulterated without losing dynamics or resolution. The CXN100 is capable of precise volume adjustment in 100 steps, allowing listeners to fine-tune their listening experience to their preferences.

The CXN100 is also equipped with StreamMagic Gen4, Cambridge Audio’s latest streaming platform, which ensures seamless playback of high-quality audio streams. Whether streaming from popular services like Spotify, TIDAL, and Qobuz or playing high-resolution music files from a networked device, the CXN100 delivers an uncompromisingly high level of sound quality.

Its intuitive and user-friendly operation further enhances the CXN100’s sound performance. The setup and operation of the CXN100 are straightforward, with intuitive controls and a user-friendly StreamMagic app. The device is Roon Ready out of the box, making it easy to integrate with existing systems, and it can also be accessed and controlled via a web interface.

Overall, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 offers exceptional sound quality and a user-friendly streaming experience, making it a standout choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts. Its high-performance DAC, precise volume control system, and advanced streaming capabilities ensure that listeners enjoy their favorite music with unparalleled fidelity and clarity.

Functionality and Usability: A Streamlined and Versatile Audio Experience

The Cambridge Audio CXN100 is designed to provide a comprehensive and versatile streaming experience with features and capabilities that cater to a wide range of audio needs. Equipped with a new StreamMagic Gen4 module, the CXN100 offers seamless integration with popular streaming services like Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, and Deezer, ensuring that users can easily access their favorite music.

The CXN100 also supports high-resolution Internet radio through MPEG-DASH support, allowing for optimal audio quality for radio enthusiasts. Its compatibility with popular smart home systems like Google Home and Apple AirPlay and its Roon Ready certification makes it easy for users to integrate the CXN100 into their existing audio setups.

In terms of connectivity, the CXN100 offers a range of options, including USB, coaxial, and TOSLINK for digital sources, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless streaming. This ensures that users can connect the CXN100 to a wide range of devices and enjoy their music in the way that suits them best.

Operation of the CXN100 is straightforward, with intuitive controls and a user-friendly StreamMagic app. The device can also be accessed and controlled via a web interface, providing additional flexibility for users who prefer to manage their audio setup from a computer.

Overall, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 offers a streamlined and versatile streaming experience with a range of features and capabilities that cater to the needs of modern audio enthusiasts. Its compatibility with popular streaming services, smart home systems, and Roon, as well as its intuitive operation and versatile connectivity options, make it an excellent choice for users seeking a high-quality and user-friendly streaming DAC.

Setting up the Cambridge Audio CXN100

Setting up the Cambridge Audio CXN100 is a straightforward process that can be done in just a few simple steps. The device comes with an intuitive StreamMagic app that guides users through the setup process, making it easy for even beginners to get started.

Step 1: Unpack the device. When you receive your CXN100, carefully unpack it and ensure all the included accessories are present. The device has a power cable, a remote control (if purchased separately), and a user manual.

Step 2: Connect the power cable to the CXN100 and plug it into a power outlet. The device will power on automatically and begin the startup process.

Step 3: Connect to your network. Use the StreamMagic app to connect the CXN100 to your Wi-Fi network. The app will guide you through the process, prompting you to select your network and enter the password. Once attached, the CXN100 can stream music from your network and the internet.

Step 4: Configure your audio settings. Use the StreamMagic app to configure your audio settings. You can adjust the volume, select your preferred audio sources, and configure other settings to suit your preferences.

Step 5: Start streaming. Once you have completed the setup, you can stream music to the CXN100 from your network or the internet. You can use the StreamMagic app to browse your music library, search for specific songs or albums, and create playlists.

Overall, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 is designed to be easy to set up and use. It has an intuitive app and user-friendly interface, making it easy for beginners to get started. With its versatile streaming capabilities and high-quality audio performance, the CXN100 is a great choice for anyone looking for a premium streaming DAC that is easy to use and delivers exceptional sound quality.

Technical Excellence and New Features: Elevating the Audio Experience

The Cambridge Audio CXN100 boasts a suite of technical features and capabilities that set it apart from its competitors, making it a standout choice for discerning audiophiles. At the heart of the CXN100 is the ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC, renowned for its ability to reproduce audio with exceptional accuracy and clarity. This high-performance DAC supports a wide range of audio formats and resolutions, ensuring that users can enjoy their favorite music in pristine quality.

The CXN100’s digital volume control system is another standout feature, allowing for precise and dynamic volume adjustment. This ensures the audio signal remains pure and unadulterated without losing dynamics or resolution. The CXN100 is capable of precise volume adjustment in 100 steps, allowing listeners to fine-tune their listening experience to their preferences.

In addition to its technical capabilities, the CXN100 offers a range of new features that enhance its usability and functionality. For example, the CXN100 comes with a new StreamMagic Gen4 module, seamlessly integrating with popular streaming services like Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, and Deezer. This ensures that users can easily access their favorite music and enjoy high-quality audio streaming.

The CXN100 also supports high-resolution Internet radio through MPEG-DASH support, allowing for optimal audio quality for radio enthusiasts. Its compatibility with popular smart home systems like Google Home and Apple AirPlay and its Roon Ready certification makes it easy for users to integrate the CXN100 into their existing audio setups.

Overall, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 is a technical marvel that offers exceptional sound quality, versatility, and ease of use. Its technical excellence and new features make it a standout choice for anyone seeking a premium streaming DAC that delivers unparalleled sound quality and user-friendly operation.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 is an impressive addition to the company’s lineup, combining technical excellence with a user-friendly design and versatile functionality. With its ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC, digital volume control system, and advanced streaming capabilities, the CXN100 delivers exceptional sound quality and performance. Its compatibility with popular streaming services, smart home systems, and Roon, as well as its intuitive operation and versatile connectivity options, make it an excellent choice for users seeking a high-quality and user-friendly streaming DAC.

Overall, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 stands out as a compelling option for audiophiles and music enthusiasts, offering a sophisticated audio experience in a streamlined and user-friendly package. Whether used as a standalone streaming DAC or integrated into a larger audio system, the CXN100 delivers exceptional sound quality and performance that sets it apart in its class.

Pros:

  1. Excellent sound quality: The CXN100 is built around a high-quality DAC that ensures accurate, detailed, and lifelike sound reproduction.
  2. Versatile connectivity options: The device supports a variety of wired and wireless connection methods, making it easy to integrate into existing audio setups.
  3. StreamMagic Gen4 module: This advanced module enables seamless integration with popular streaming services and high-resolution Internet radio.
  4. Energy-efficient design: The CXN100’s internal switching power supply and low-power standby options contribute to its environmentally friendly operation.
  5. User-friendly operation: The device can be easily set up and controlled via the intuitive StreamMagic app or a web interface, making it accessible to both beginners and experienced users.

Cons:

  1. No HDMI ARC port: Some users may miss the ability to connect their TV directly to the CXN100, although this can still be done via TOSLINK.
  2. No headphone jack: This omission may disappoint users who prefer to listen to music privately.
  3. Lacks an analog input: The CXN100 is primarily designed for digital sources, so users with analog audio sources may need to look elsewhere.
  4. No touchscreen: While the physical controls and StreamMagic app provide a satisfactory user experience, a touchscreen interface would have been a nice addition.
  5. Requires an additional purchase for a remote control: While the CXN100 can be controlled via the StreamMagic app, users who prefer a physical remote must purchase one separately.

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