Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

Posted on 3rd March, 2024

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

Simon Lucas auditions an impressive new affordable network music player…

Cambridge Audio

CXN100 Streamer


Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

Cambridge Audio has been turning out super-competitive music streamers at various price points for years now – and the sweetest spot in its range has been the CXN, followed by the near-legendary CXN v2. Most brands would leave well alone or fiddle around the edges, then make a big song and dance about a 'CXN v3'. But that's not how Cambridge Audio rolls.

Of course, nothing happens in isolation. So, as well as having to improve on its own sky-high standards with the new CXN100, Cambridge Audio also has to concern itself with the slew of available alternatives. Many of these exist for no reason other than being inspired by the company's achievements and covet just a slice of its market share. So this new streamer has it all to do.


Even if you get right up close, not much differentiates the outgoing CXN v2 from the CXN100 on first acquaintance. 'Lunar grey' finish that's just about interesting enough not to count as 'silver'? Check. Average 85x430x305mm [HxWxD] proportions with just about the right amount of kit-rack presence? Check. Exemplary build quality and standard of finish for the money? Check and check again.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

There have been changes, of course, but they're just not all that obvious until you start examining the spec sheet and using the CXN100 in earnest. For example, the bright, crisp, high-resolution screen in the centre of the fascia is a little larger now at 121mm. The StreamMagic control app is now an absolute paradigm of stability, easier and more logical to use than before, and sets a standard to which many rival brands (some considerably larger and better-resourced than Cambridge Audio) aspire.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

Cambridge Audio will sell you a CX Series remote control handset if you insist, but in all honesty, there's little point when you have access (free for iOS and Android, what's more) to an app as well-realised as this one.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

There are some physical controls on the fascia. At one end is a power switch, and at the other is a big volume control for use when the CXN100 is in preamp mode. And on either side of the screen are some little buttons that cover off 'play/pause' and 'skip forwards/backwards' and scroll up or down through the on-screen menus. Around the back, the aerials dealing with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are now much smaller than before, which helps the look of this unit stay nice and clean.

Its Bluetooth is of the 5.1 variety, but it's only compatible with SBC and AAC codecs, which is the one mild disappointment of the streamer's specification. Other wireless options include dual-band Wi-Fi (of course), Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast; this streamer is Roon Ready, too. Additionally, the app gives access to internet radio via MPEG-DASH, while Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify Connect and TIDAL Connect streaming options are also built-in. Finally, by way of an encore, the CXN100 is compatible with Apple, Google and Roon multiroom standards.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

The rear of the player offers up decent connectivity, as you'd expect. As well as control bus inputs and outputs for use with other Cambridge Audio equipment, there's an Ethernet input, USB-A and USB-B sockets, plus digital coaxial and digital optical inputs. Outputs run to digital coaxial and digital optical, in case you want to use an offboard DAC alongside balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analogue outputs.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

Mind you; your offboard DAC will have to be pretty special to make you want to bypass the new chipset fitted to the CXN100. Cambridge Audio has ditched the Wolfson DAC used in the CXN v2 in favour of an ESS Sabre ES9028Q2M device. This upgrade means this new model is capable of dealing with digital audio files of up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 resolution (through its USB input and via UPnP) and has MQA compatibility too. As expected, the digital optical input is limited to 24-bit/96kHz and DoP64, and the digital coaxial to 24-bit/192kHz and DoP64.


There are many admirable aspects to the way this new Cambridge Audio streamer sounds, but one of the most pleasing is how forgiving it is of sub-optimal content. Many of its rivals, at various price points, can get quite sniffy and judgemental when confronted with, say, a 160kbps MP3 file of Eartheater's Pure Smile Snake Venom – but the CXN100 sets out to make the best of it. No matter the file type, resolution or source of origin, this unit gives you its best shot.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

That's not to say it doesn't prefer the good stuff, of course, which is where it really shines. A 24-bit/192kHz FLAC file of New Amsterdam by Elvis Costello & The Attractions streamed via Qobuz is delivered in robust and entertaining fashion, with the CXN100's sense of engagement almost tangible. It offers an impressive amount of detail, both broad and fine, at every stage of the frequency range – but it's not analytical for the sake of it. Rather, it identifies and contextualises the finest details simply as elements of the overall performance and so gives them precisely the amount of weighting they require. Whether it's a tiny harmonic variation in guitar strum 'A' relative to guitar strum 'B' or a distant organ glissando at the very back of the soundstage, this streamer paints as complete a picture as possible.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

A 24-bit/96kHz FLAC of Julia Holter's Sun Girl allows the Cambridge Audio to highlight the even, naturalistic nature of its frequency response. From the casually punchy and substantial bottom end to the crisply shining top, the CXN100 is even-handed in its representation. Its midband is articulate and deft, loaded with information regarding the singer's attitude and emotional state, as well as the fundamentals of their technique. It is completely direct and unequivocal in its delivery. The journey from the top of the frequency range to the bottom is smooth and even, with no suggestion of over- or understatement at any point.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

All of this happens on a soundstage that's broad, both left-to-right and front-to-back, carefully controlled and completely believable. Listening to a DSD64 file of Living for the City by Stevie Wonder via the player's USB input not only allows it to showcase the organic nature of its tonality but also its ability to construct the stage – every element of the recording gets enough elbow room to do its thing. The spaces between each participant are clearly apparent, and even the layout of the drum kit is explicitly conveyed. None of this comes at the expense of timing, though. The CXN100 presents the recording as a single occurrence resulting from interaction and response rather than a collection of discrete actions. There's a cohesiveness to its delivery that's by no means a given in audio equipment of any type or price.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

What else? Well, this streamer's transient speed is unarguable. Talk Talk's momentous Spirit of Eden as a 16-bit/44.1kHz file is the sort of recording that can quite easily evade the player dealing with it, but the CXN100's authority is apparent. It draws completely straight lines at the attack of bass sounds, and, as a result, its rhythmic expression is confident and coherent.

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Streamer Review

It's at this point in a review where I normally say, “Yes, but…” and go on to explain precisely how a piece of audio equipment is somehow flawed or deficient. But all I can come up with where this streamer is concerned is to say that it's not especially tolerant of bright, treble-centric partnering equipment. The top end of the CXN100's frequency response is about as well-lit as is acceptable. In a sympathetic or even ambivalent system, this is never problematic, and it never threatens to get hard or edgy, even at big volumes. But if you introduce the CNX100 to an amplifier with a lively top end and then connect that to forward loudspeakers, then things might conceivably get too close for comfort.


In some ways, this was a 'no win' situation for Cambridge Audio. If the CXN100 turned out to be great – which is precisely what has happened – then no one who's paid any attention to the company's record where streamers are concerned really expected anything else. If it turned out to be less than great, then that would be portrayed as a blunder. So no pressure then, for this superb value new streamer. It deserves the success it will surely enjoy.

Visit Cambridge Audio for more information


      Simon Lucas's avatar

      Simon Lucas

      Simon was editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine and website and has since written for Wired, Metro, the Guardian and Stuff, among many others. Should he find himself with a spare moment, Simon likes publishing and then quickly deleting tweets about the state of the nation (in general), the state of Aston Villa (in particular) and the state of his partner’s cat.

      Posted in:Hi-Fi Sources Streaming Applause Awards 2024
      Tags: cambridge audio 


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