Cambridge Audio CXN100 Review: Raising the Streaming Bar?

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Review: Raising the Streaming Bar?

Cambridge Audio CXN100 Review: Raising the Streaming Bar?

In a nutshell: With significant upgrades like a flagship-class ESS Sabre DAC, refined analog stage, and Cambridge’s latest streaming platform, the CXN100 delivers demonstrably better performance than its predecessor to easily justify the modest $100 price increase.


  • Sabre32 Reference DAC delivers audibly clearer and more accurate sound
  • StreamMagic Gen4 brings full support for leading streaming services
  • Comprehensive wired and wireless connectivity options
  • Intuitive app control and integration with multi-room ecosystems


  • Higher price than outgoing CXN V2
  • Lacks HDMI connections compared to some competitors

Buy CXN100 Now

Cambridge's New Sonic Masterpiece - The CXN100 Network Player Reviewed

Cambridge Audio holds an esteemed reputation for producing some of the finest sounding hi-fi components spanning over five decades. The British brand has garnered particular acclaim in the digital era for its CX series of network audio streamers. Their previous model—the CXN V2—spent years dominating its class, even earning recognition in What Hi-Fi’s Hall of Fame.

However, technology relentlessly marches forward. In response, Cambridge has unveiled the next-generation CXN100 priced at a modest $1,099. This successor retains everything that made the CXN V2 a standout, while incorporating cutting-edge upgrades that promise to push sonic performance and streaming flexibility even further.

A Major DAC Upgrade for Pure Audio Reproduction

The CXN100’s most significant advancement lies in its new digital engine. Cambridge has moved from the venerable Wolfson DAC used in the outgoing CXN V2 to ESS Technology’s flagship Sabre ES9028Q2M chip. Already recognized as a preeminent choice for many high-end digital audio products, this proprietary Sabre32 Reference DAC takes musical accuracy to another level.

How does it improve over lesser Sabre models? First, the ES9028Q2M flaunts eight individual DACs in one small package, enabling superb 130 dB signal-to-noise ratio and 32-bit/768kHz PCM plus DSD512 decoding - beyond the limits of human hearing. Second, ESS’s patented 32-bit Hyperstream architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator provide class-leading jitter rejection for flawless conversion of even the most demanding high-res audio.

Augmenting this ultra-precision DAC is an all-new analog circuit stage. Here, Cambridge Audio engineers carefully selected upgraded capacitors and operational amplifiers that lower noise and distortion over previous implementations. Taken together with the ES9028Q2M’s pure digital signal, the resulting CXN100 analog output promises unparalleled volume and musical accuracy.

To quantify the gains, Cambridge’s own technical measurements reveal noticeable improvements in key areas like noise floor and total harmonic distortion compared to the older Wolfson-equipped CXN V2. Expect these measurable differences to translate into subtly cleaner and clearer sounding performance that faithfully renders all the micro-details and dynamic impact embedded within your favorite recordings.

Of course, specifications and test results can only reveal so much. Ultimately, it will be critical listening tests by seasoned audiophile reviewers and enthusiasts that determine whether the CXN100 moves the musical needle over its illustrious predecessor. If Cambridge Audio’s confidence proves justified, this latest streamer aims to become the default recommendation for discerning listeners demanding premium fidelity from streaming content.

Stream Magic Gen 4 Brings Slick Service Integration

While sonic upgrades like the ES9028Q2M DAC lay the CXN100’s foundation, wireless connectivity and streaming functionality are equally important in this age of audio consumption. Here again, Cambridge delivers substantive enhancements by incorporating its latest fourth-generation StreamMagic platform.

This proprietary technology powers seamless access to all major streaming platforms and music services. Out of the box, the CXN100 comes preloaded with native support for Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Qobuz, Deezer, and TuneIn internet radio. For subscribers, built-in Roon Ready support grants simple integration with Roon’s acclaimed software ecosystem lauded for its rich metadata and intuitive interface.

Upgraded from StreamMagic’s third-gen instance, the key improvement in Gen 4 relates to its slicker, unified interface for browsing and managing various streaming sources. Where earlier models required juggling between disparate apps, the CXN100 consolidates access to your entire collection across services for painless navigation directly through Cambridge’s control app.

Other creature comforts like downloadable firmware updates help keep things feeling fresh by enabling rapid integration of additional features and services as they emerge. With streaming technology evolving swiftly, this focus on nimble software-based extensibility guarantees the CXN100 won’t be left behind anytime soon.

Comprehensive Wired and Wireless Connectivity

In terms of physical inputs, the CXN100 retains the outgoing CXN V2’s versatile array of connectivity. Key digital options comprising USB, coaxial, and TOSLINK return to assuage users with investments in external drives brimming with audio collections.

Joining this trio is a fresh suite of wireless capabilities headlined by Apple Airplay 2 and Google Chromecast. These allow direct streaming from iOS devices and Chrome OS machines respectively. Bluetooth rounds things out for anybody preferring a cable-free life. And unlike the CXN V2, you won’t need an optional adapter since it’s all built-in now.

Analog output comes through the usual suspects of single-ended RCA and balanced XLR options. Both deliver enough juice to reliably drive everything from budget amplifiers to hungry high-end models. Just be aware there is no onboard headphone connection or HDMI ports like some competing designs, so plan your system setup accordingly.

For many listeners though, the CXN100's extensive input flexibility means it will slot cleanly into practically any existing configuration whileFuture-proofing against upcoming source components down the line.

Slick App Control with Multi-Room Audio Support

Controlling the CXN100 comes courtesy of Cambridge Audio’s full-featured StreamMagic smartphone app available on iOS and Android. Intuitive menus make light work of browsing streaming catalogs, queuing playlists, and adjusting settings like digital filters. Cover art and metadata are displayed beautifully on the disturbingly large 4.3” front panel display when using the app.

Better yet, the app facilitates multi-room audio integration with other StreamMagic devices around your home. This means seamlessly grouping the CXN100 with Cambridge’s amplifier models or wireless speakers to blanket your entire abode in synchronized musical bliss. Support for Apple Airplay 2 and Chromecast means iOS and Android handsets can also directly beam content everywhere.

For those eschewing touchscreens, Cambridge thoughtfully bundles their CX Series remote control in the box. Though fairly minimalist in button count, it neatly handles core playback adjustments and input toggling. Volume must be controlled separately on a connected amplifier, however.

Distinctive Cambridge Audio Heritage

Given the CXN series’ strong pedigree, Cambridge engineers clearly set ambitious design goals for this next-generation CXN100 model. Long-time customers can rest assured knowing that despite changes under the hood, Cambridge Audio retains their steadfast commitment to audio performance, usability, and honest value.

Central to this equation is the fact that - like every Cambridge product dating back to 1968 - the CXN100 was conceived entirely in-house by the same London team responsible for the multi-award winning Edge and Evo series hi-fi separates. Countless hours of critical listening ensure the CXN100 upholds a uniquely involving and transparent Cambridge house sound signature sure to please discerning ears.

That tireless attention to detail manifests itself everywhere from the rigid steel chassis construction to custom firmware optimized for the ES9028Q2M DAC. Lesser brands reliant on third-party platforms cannot make such exacting claims. It may seem trivial to some, but understandable pride in their British engineering heritage is part of why Cambridge components ultimately sound and *feel* special compared to soulless mass-market products designed chiefly to hit aggressive pricing targets.

Consider also that Cambridge sells factory-direct online, eliminating unnecessary middlemen that tack-on premiums without adding value. This direct customer relationship helps Cambridge maximize performance-per-dollar while forging lasting bonds through exemplary after-sales support and community interaction.

Approachable Price for a Loaded Feature Set

Incredibly, Cambridge Audio accomplishes this amalgamation of elevated design and manufacturing for a quite reasonable $1,099 base cost. That’s just $100 more than the outgoing CXN V2 that garnered universal acclaim over its lifespan. Given the magnitude of upgrades on offer—especially the ES9028Q2M DAC that costs more than the entire CXN100 by itself—this nominal price hike seems almost absurdly fair.

In an age where bleeding-edge smartphones and televisions cost thousands annually, the CXN100 stands out for delivering substantial continuous long-term value. Unlike disposable gadgets, meticulously engineered hi-fi components like this often provide satisfying service for many years or decades rather than mere months.

That prolonged lifespan gets lengthened further here thanks to Cambridge Audio’s exemplary history of issuing useful firmware enhancements down the road. Existing customers gain features and platform updates free that companies like Sonos would ransom behind expensive hardware changeovers.

Early Verdict

Until final listening evaluations emerge from trusted reviewers, definitive judgments on the CXN100’s sonic gains over its predecessor aren’t possible. However, Cambridge Audio’s proven in-house engineering pedigree and the impressive caliber of components used here suggest an extremely strong likelihood the CXN100 will shine as a best-in-class performer.

Consider that Cambridge claims their own controlled measurements show double the signal-to-noise ratio alongside halved total harmonic distortion measurements relative to the older CXN V2. That didn’t stop its predecessor from achieving tremendous critical and commercial success anyway, so any demonstrable improvements likely push the CXN100 into rarefied territory.

This expectation seems bolstered by Cambridge’s confidence in setting such an aggressive price point barely exceeding the CXN V2’s cost. Remember, this newly added ESS Sabre DAC itself retails for nearly the entire CXN100 MSRP. Evidently, Cambridge isn’t banking on fancy packaging or marketing gimmicks to sell this streamer. The product simply delivers substantive performance returns on investment based on engrained engineering discipline.

Granted, competitors like Bluesound, Naim, and Linn offer comparable connectivity with some unique features absent here. However, their substantially costlier asking prices reflect leaner hardware margins stemming from more modest manufacturing scale. The CXN100 counters by matching essential functionality then plows savings into sound quality for discerning listeners rather than glossy bells and whistles.

When catalyzing analog bliss is the primary goal, nothing else in this crowded market promises Cambridge’s potent blend of audio prowess, streaming versatility, and value. Early indications imply the CXN100 handily earns its keep as the CX range’s luxurious new flagship. Expect it to cement Cambridge Audio’s dominion over mid-range streaming players for the foreseeable future.

The CXN100 is available now direct from Cambridge Audio or authorized dealers for $1,099. As a proud British heritage brand, Cambridge also offers excellent customer support and active user forums to answer any additional questions. Given the immense critical respect its predecessors earned over the years, this polished new model deserves to rank atop shopping lists for fans seeking sensational sonics and contemporary features.

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Cambridge Audio CXN100 Review: Raising the Streaming Bar? Review

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