Cambridge Audio CXN100 Network Player preview

posted on Thursday, 1st February 2024 by Steve May

Hi-fi  Network audio  Streaming 

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Cambridge Audio is throwing down the streaming gauntlet with the CXN100, its eagerly awaited successor to the CXN V2.

Rebuilt from the ground up, for optimum performance with streaming sources, the CXN100 Network Player utilises the latest  Gen4 StreamMagic module, which is the same StreamMagic module used in the Evo 150 and Evo 75 all-in one players, and ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC (by way of reference, the DAC in the CXN V2 comes from Wolfson).  

The ESS DAC can handle PCM digital signal inputs up to 32-bit 768kHz and DSD 512.

All the major streaming service providers are onboard, including Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz  and Deezer. The streamer is also compatible with MQA.

Exhaustively tuned over hundreds of hours, the new streamer is compatible with Google Home, Apple AirPlay and Roon multiroom systems. High-res internet radio comes as standard, with MPEG-DASH support. There's also UPnP support.

System builders should note that the CXN100 also has a pre-amp mode, allowing it to be partnered with a power amp.

'The Cambridge Audio CXN100 sets a very high bar indeed. Most importantly, it's a lot of fun to listen to'

Inside CI had a pre-release preview of the next-generation streamer at Cambridge Audio’s London-based music venue and HQ, Melomania, and can confirm it sets a very high bar indeed. Outstanding dynamic range and seriously low distortion are obvious traits.

For our audition, the CXN100 was coupled to a CXA81 integrated stereo amplifier and a pair of ATC loudspeakers.

Spiralling, by Keane, a complex audio mix, sees the CXN100 ride the knife edge of sibilance, but the player manages to stay sweet and propulsively musical, while Robert Wyatt’s At last I am Free demonstrates vast spatial clarity.

And most importantly, the Cambridge Audio CXN100 is a lot of fun to listen to. Wet Leg’s Chaise Longue positively bops along, tight and controlled, but with oodles of foot-tapping energy.

Physical connectivity is good enough, and comprises Ethernet, USB (at the rear), digital coaxial and optical audio, but no HDMI, while wireless support covers Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth - SBC and AAC codecs are supported, but not aptX or LDAC.

An analogue output is available through balanced XLR or phono RCA sockets. Cambridge has also dramatically refined the volume dial, which now offers 100 steps of control.

Design-wise, the CXN V2 is unmistakably Cambridge. The chassis is a familiar Luna Grey, only here the fascia is dominated by a​ large 4.76-inch hi-res screen, all the better to appreciate album art (and read without squinting). Usability takes a bit of a hit, with the removal of a remote zapper. If you want one, it's an optional extra. If not, you're encouraged to download the StreamMagic app - and in a household of multiple users, that means multiple app downloads.

Internally, the new build has meticulously simplified the unit’s signal path, and this could be taken as a major contributor to the streamer’s transparency.

We’re told that there have also been significant changes made to the post-DAC analogue stage, with more efficient capacitors and op-amps increasing the signal-to-noise ratio and reducing distortion. This clearly isn’t a mere makeover of the CXN V2.

So has the streaming audio jungle got a new king? We suspect it might.

The Cambridge Audio CXN100 is priced at £899 (€1049 / $1099). 

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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