The Cambridge Audio CXN is an internet radio and streaming music tuner that will upscale digital audio and deliver the best possible sound.
What Is the Cambridge Audio CXN?
The CXN is billed as a “Network Audio Streamer.” It’ll take digital audio from a variety of line-in sources, but most importantly, via your home network or via the internet, upscale it, and send it out to your amplifier for high-quality sound. It has built-in wi-fi, allowing it to connect directly to internet radio stations and streaming services (it has Spotify and Tidal awareness), as well as AirPlay 2 and Chromcast, so you can get your music to it effortlessly.
What’s in the Box?
The CXN unit, power cords, a remote with batteries, and the quick start guide.
Dual Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs
2nd Generation ATF2 up-sampling to 24-bit/384khz
2-Pole Dual Differential Bessel
USB Type B conforms to USB Audio profile 1.0 or 2.0 (user selectable)
S/PDIF Coaxial and TOSLINK Optical)
Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analogue
S/PDIF Coaxial and TOSLINK Optical
UPnP, Local USB media, USB audio 1.0 and 2.0, S/PDIF Toslink and Coaxial, Airplay 2, Chromecast built-in , Internet radio, Spotify Connect, TIDAL, Qobuz, Bluetooth aptX via BT100 Bluetooth receiver (not supplied)
ALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD (x64), WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, OGG Vorbis
IEEE 802.3, 10 Base-T or 100 Base-T
IEEE 802.11 b/g or n (2.4GHz)
85 x 430 x 305mm (3.4 x 16.9 x 12.2”)
How to Use the CXN
While the back of the CXN makes it look complicated, it’s only because the device gives you so many options for high-quality outputs. Mostly you want to worry about two things during setup: connecting it to your network (and the internet), and connecting it to your amplifier.
The wifi setup is pretty straightforward as these things go. You can either log your phone onto the CXN’s wireless radio and then connect it to your wifi, or you can pick your router on the front panel and manually enter your password there (a little clunky, but you should only have to do it once). Of course, if you have can hardwire connect it to your network, that’s way easier.
Figuring out what kind of audio connection you’ll use to your amplifier depends a lot upon what you’ve got. There is certainly the standard line output for RCA cables, but there’s also digital output via optical or coax, and even XLR balanced output.
You can completely control the CXN via the remove control or the beautiful color screen and menu buttons and dial on the front of the device. The CXN will recognize any UPnP devices on your network, so if you already have a digital library stored on a NAS, it will be easy to start using that, and the device will recognize pre-made playlists in a variety of formats.
There is also a StreamMagic app that gives you total control, and makes it simple to connect Spotify, Tidal, and other streaming services to your device, and even set them up as favorites that you can return to over and over. Since it also has AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built in, you can also easy send music from your personal devices straight to the CXN. But here’s the important thing to remember: since the CXN has its own network capabilities built in, you don’t have to stream to it from your device – it acts as an internet device itself, and will stream music without having to be connected to your phone. That’s really convenient.
For example, I’m a huge fan of the SomaFM internet radio network. I’ve set a couple of their stations as favorites on the device, and rather than streaming them from my phone, I can just “tune” them in on the CXN itself. I’ve also been able to add the CXN to my whole-house music setup using AirPlay and AirFoil.
Why You Should Get the Cambridge Audio CXN
The CXN is a luxury in many senses. It does something you can do in other ways, but it makes it so much easier and more seamless. It’s also a gorgeous and high-quality piece of audio hardware. The screen is beautiful, and the UI is well thought-out and functional. And I love the marriage of high-tech with dependable analog controls – buttons and knobs. It’s also not inexpensive. At $1,099 retail, it’s certainly geared towards audio enthusiasts. But I’ll admit that it made me enthusiastic. So, if you’re looking for something to add to your fancy audio setup, or want to treat someone (perhaps for Father’s Day?) with a piece of hardware that will open up a whole new world of music sources to them, it’s hard to beat the Cambridge Audio CXN.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review unit that was returned after this piece was finished.