Looking at the latest version of the CXN it’s not easy to spot any significant updates from the original. So, what’s changed? Read our Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Review.
In a nutshell: a faster, more powerful processor for a “smoother user experience”, MPEG-DASH and HTTP Live Streaming HLS compatibility to enable high-quality internet radio streams (many BBC stations at up to 320kbps) and greater playback control via the ability to ‘seek’ through a track played over UPnP, USB or Spotify Connect.
It’s a pity on-board Bluetooth hasn’t been folded into the deal. If you want it, you’ll need the USB BT100 aptX module as before. Carried over from the original are the dual Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs, enabling all digital inputs to play hi-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz, though Anagram Technologies’ second-gen Adaptive Time Filter (ATF2) then up-samples to 24-bit/384kHz.
As before, Spotify Connect and AirPlay are built in and the CXN V2 also supports Napster, BBC iPlayer Radio, Aupeo! Pandora and Rhapsody. External connectivity is comprehensive with NAS drive and UPnP compatibility, coaxial and optical digital inputs and, via the USB slot on the rear panel, support for DSD64 using the DoP protocol rather than in native form. There are four USB ports in all. The one on the front is for streaming with a memory stick while, round the back, there are sockets for the Bluetooth module and wi-fi dongle plus an asynchronous Type-B input, claimed to put the bite on jitter if files are stored on your computer’s hard drive. All the usual formats are supported including ALAC, WAV FLAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+ and OGG Vorbis. Outputs are balanced XLR (ideal for linking to a CX series integrated amp) or unbalanced RCA and you can connect to your router with an Ethernet cable or using the supplied wi-fi dongle.
The CXN V2’s streaming skills are mighty impressive, hi-res or not. The overarching presentation is smooth, full bodied, tonally rich and finely textured, but – acting as a front-end to my ATC P1 power amp (HFC 397) driving Bowers & Wilkins’ 705 S2 standmount (HFC 430) – it knows how to boogie. And, when required to step it up, knock it clean out of the stadium. Thirty Seconds To Mars’ juggernaut, Walk On Water, at 24/96, has true wall-of-sound scale, intensity and sheer woofer-wobbling, low-end wallop. Hard not to smile.
TYPE Network music player/DAC/ digital preamp WEIGHT 3.5kg
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 430 x 85 x 305mm
24-bit/384kHz and DSD64- capable DAC
Wi-fi and Ethernet streaming up to
Digital inputs: 1x USB Type-B; 2x USB Type-A; 1 x coaxial; 1x optical
Outputs: 1x RCA; 1 x XLR
DISTRIBUTOR Audio Partnership Plc.
Anyone that wanted to sell the sonic advantages of top-notch streaming to a sceptic like me could do a lot worse than play Joni Mitchell’s 2000 version of Both Sides Now, which even at 16/44.1 sounds velvety and voluptuous, Joni’s vocal mellow and smoky. Even so, the CXN V2 can’t get away with this charm offensive scot-free. The click-fit team-up of Chord Electronics’ Poly wireless network module (HFC 431) with the Mojo DAC (HFC 423) delivers a streaming skillset that, while far from as operationally suave and satisfying as the CXN V2’s, posts a scorching standard when it comes to sound quality. For all the CXN V2’s muscular drive, rich tonality, tidy timing and natural detail, the Chord combo is more transparent and insightful with a firmer grasp of rhythm, greater dynamic reach and finesse and an organic sense of ebb and flow.
That said, the Chord combo’s small size requires a certain mindset for operational harmony as part of a full-sized system. This is where the CXN V2 more than excels. It’s a lovely slice of full-width design that makes navigating and accessing multiple sources at speed as complicated as falling off a log and whenever you switch it on, it simply sounds fab.
A talented streamer/digital preamp/DAC that's even better to use and fine value
- Muscular, natural sound
- A dream to use
- Style and build
- Bluetooth extra
- Nothing else at the price