Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Review
The Cambridge Audio CXN V2, which stands for version 2 from Cambridge Audio. It is a network audio streamer that plays your digital files, whether they be on an iTunes library or NAS. This has USB Class one and two built-in so you can play high res music as well! With the new update of this product comes better connectivity to all streaming services including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music Tidal, and many others (including internet radio). Basically, it becomes the hub for your digital player with easy access to everything in one place
Cambridge Audio’s CXN v2 streamer/DAC is the best of its kind. The company was early in discovering how important good filtering is to digital players, and they still use Anagramm technology to shape a second-generation ATF2 up-sampling for 24 bit 384 kHz sound quality with this model. It features dual Wolfson WM8740 DACs that are coupled by an impressive 2nd generation filter from AFTF or Advanced Filter Technology Forum which shapes sample rates into what we know as CD quality (16bit 44kHz).
With all these tech specs under its belt, there isn’t much more you could ask from Cambridge audio! It is 3.4 inches tall, 16.9 inches wide, and 12.2 inches deep. It weighs 7.7 pounds.
The first thing you notice is the luna gray surface finish on the front plate. The rest of this CX line, including its CD player, power amplifiers, and other components has this same eye-catching color scheme for a uniform look in your living room or anywhere else you want to set it up – but that’s not all! You’ve got some excellent sound quality coming from these speakers too with their clean design which will give off an amazing sonic experience whether they’re playing music or just sitting there without any noise whatsoever.
The Cambridge Audio CXN v2 digital preamp is the update of the original. It has a stylish brushed aluminum front, available in silver and black, that measures 430 by 305 x 85 millimeters. On its sleek design are features such as a standby button for on-the-go usage with an included USB slot to plug your device into if you need extra space or power up while camping!
The 4.3-inch display shows menu’s or info on what track is playing including cover art so it never gets boring scrolling through them all! There are four buttons for navigation and an infrared sensor built right in making this speaker perfect for use indoors too because no one likes sound bouncing off walls when they’re trying to relax at home after work.
The turn knob is the input selection knob, so you can select your different inputs or menu items on the screen that displays what’s coming up. You press it and push in to enter: if this box goes into preamp mode, then turning volume will also be possible.
When a new page comes up with options for USB connection as well as one on the rear of the device – both are available for connecting hard drives onto devices without having them take away from front space.
Moving on to the rear, as you can see, all the connections are back here. Starting on the far left is the power connection. You plug the power cable in there. Next is a Wi-Fi dongle so you can connect wirelessly to your network. And if you want to connect via ethernet, there’s that connection right there. But in between these two is the USB connection that I talked about before.
If you don’t want your hard drive hanging out in the front of this, you can always plug it in the back so it won’t be seen, and that is a definite plus.
Moving on you’ve got digital inputs and outputs for the coaxial and Toslink connection. Just above that are control bus connections in and out, so you can connect this to other gear and do certain command functions. For example, if you had the CX-81, you could connect this, and if you turn the cx81 on through the control cable, it would also turn on this box, so that’s just nice to have.
Down here is a USB b connection so that you can connect this to your computer with a USB a to USB b connection or USB c to USB b connection. That’s a plus. Next to that is a ground slash lift switch. This is a nice switch to have if you have some ground hum happening, you can flip it, and hopefully, it will get rid of that ground human excellent little attention to detail from Cambridge Audio.
Finally, we have balanced and unbalanced connections. You can connect this to your powered speakers or a power amplifier. This does not have amplification built-in. This is just basically a processor. It does have a preamp in there, but there is an additional amplification. So you do have unbalanced and excuse me unbalanced and balanced connections right there.
A few remarks here: the USB for mass storage, both on the rear and the front, is not suited for iOS devices like an iPod. However, that’s no problem since the CXN supports Airplay and – with an optional dongle – also Bluetooth A2DP and apt-X.
The USB input for audio supports both Class 1 and 2. The default setting is Class 1, which is limited to 96 kHz but works on all computers without extra drivers. In the audio menu, this can be changed to Class 2 to support 192 kHz and DSD64. For use with Windows computers, the supplied driver must be installed. All other inputs support all sampling rates up to 192 kHz, but DSD is only supported over USB.
For Internet Radio, the more efficient streaming MPEG-DASH and HLS-compatibility is present.
On opening the Cambridge Audio CXN v2 network streamer’s cabinet, I noticed it was cleverly constructed. It felt very sturdy when closed, and only after removing many screws, I got access to the inside. There are three main PCBs: one holding the non-linear power supply, one holding all the digital and analog audio, and one directly behind the front to hold the display and buttons.
Several smaller boards are used for interfacing and, for instance, holding the rotary encoder. According to the press release, a faster processor with extra memory should make the V2 faster than the original.
Let’s look at the audio side: Local stabilization, Wolfson WM8740 DAC chips, N55322 op-amps, and firm mute relais. Also, note the screws that almost certainly must prevent vibrations in the PCB at this critical point. Not strange, the measurements show very clean figures. This all is neatly laid out.
But if you’re farther away, Cambridge also includes a remote. This remote is cool because it’s not just a remote for the CXN v2 digital streamer. It’s also the same remote for the CX power amplifiers, the a61 and a81, and the cd player. The power amplifier controls are up here up top, the network player right here in the center, and then the CD player is down here at the bottom.
If you want to power it on you, just hit the power button up there, and then there’s this light button so you can change the brightness of the LCD screen. You have all the different functions that you need for the CXN v2 right here in the center.
If the remote and front panel controls don’t do it for you, Cambridge Audio, you also have an app called the stream magic app. You can use that to control the CXN v2 all the way. You can turn the power on, turn the power off, change the volume, and change the input selection. You can add it to your queue. You can remove things from your queue. You can Chromecast to the box.
Basically, you can do everything you need with the app, including setup, which is pretty cool. It has a classic yet timeless look to it that I really appreciate.
My Experience on the CXN V2
Let’s move on and talk about my experience with the Cambridge Audio CXN v2 network streamer. I paired this with a couple of different amplifiers, including the cxa81, the power amplifier from Cambridge Audio. I also compared it to a couple of separate DAC’s including the one in my Denon AVR X4400h. I did all of this to understand exactly how this is going to sound.
I also like the led screen right here because I like looking at the album art. It looks good. It’s nice and clear. Honestly, I wish it was OLDED because then those blocks would be inky black. But that’s probably asking a bit much.
The next category I want to talk about is features and controls. Cambridge has included support for all the major apps, including Tidal, Qobuzz, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, and many others. It has a Chromecast built-in and Apple Airplay 2 support. It is also Roon Ready. So if you have an excellent curated Roon library, you can play it through this player.
But one thing that’s missing is Bluetooth support. But you can buy a Bluetooth dongle from Cambridge Audio. That dongle supports apt-x codec, which is good. But it does not support the apt-x HD codec. So you can’t Bluetooth high-res music to this box.
That’s a little bit of a miss. This box also does not have MQA hardware built-in, which means you cannot stream Tidal masters to this box from the app or your phone. But you can still play them.
You have to connect it to the USB port to your computer, and then you can play the Tidal masters audio. I was able to do that, and it works. But you can’t stream it because the MQA hardware is not built-in.
Let’s talk about sound quality. I listened to music on a couple of different headphones, some different speakers, and different amplifiers. I compared it to different processors, and I just enjoyed the experience. I mean, it didn’t have any additional color. It didn’t add anything to the music. It just played it like it was supposed to be played.
I compared it to CDs that I owned, listening to both Qobuzz and Tidal on their cd quality levels, and I could not tell the difference whatsoever between the CXN v2 and the cd I was playing. I went back and forth forward and back and just listened, and I just enjoyed both. Sometimes when you listen to things you know, you find like you’re enjoying the one you know version a little bit better than the other, like on a cd versus a digital player.
And on this one, I enjoyed them equally the same. So I’m happy to say that it reproduces cd quality basically bit for a bit, which is a definite plus.
Moving on to the high res music. I found that the high resolution seemed just a touch warmer, a little bit more intimate now and then. That is a definite plus. I felt like I was more there with the music when listening to hi-res, but that wasn’t always the case.
So from a high-res standpoint, I think it plays high-res, but I also think it does come down to how the music is mastered whether or not you’re going to feel like you got a higher resolution track than cd quality. But for the Cambridge Audio CXN v2 digital preamp itself, plays well, and the experience is relaxed.
To wrap this all up, I enjoyed my time with the Cambridge Audio CXN v2 digital network streamer. It is a great audio player. It looks good. It has got that LCD screen so you can look at your album art. It plays high-quality music bit for bit, and it sounds good, which is a definite plus.
The only two drawbacks that I found were that it doesn’t have Bluetooth built-in. And even if you purchase the wireless dongle, it doesn’t do apt-x HD. So you can’t get high res Bluetooth support. It also doesn’t have MQA hardware built in.
If Cambridge Audio decides to build another version of this, which I hope they are, hopefully, they will include those two things, making this an even better player. But if you are looking for a player to play high-res music that looks good and you kind of like looking at your mark, this is definitely something you should check out.