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Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Music Streamer: Review

Cambridge Audio’s CXN V2 may offer the perfect balance of performance, ergonomics and affordability in the crowded network streaming market.

Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Digital Music Streamer

So you’ve got a killer Hi-Fi stereo rig: your LPs and CDs sound sweet, your speakers are set up just right. But something’s missing. What may be missing is the entire world of music that’s available on demand today via streaming services like TIDAL, Apple Music, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music Unlimited. And that’s where Cambridge Audio comes in, with their line-up of music streamers, like the CXN V2 ($999).

Cambridge Audio was launched in Cambridge, England in 1968 by a group of young college graduates and music lovers who felt there was room in the world for Hi-Fi products that pushed the limits of performance while remaining relatively affordable. They were the first to use the revolutionary toroidal transformer design, which can now be found in high performance amplifiers all around the globe. The company changed hands a few times in its early days but has been stable and successful under the ownership and stewardship of Audio Partnership since 1994.

Cambridge Audio CXN v2 Front

The CXN V2 is about as platform-agnostic as it can get, supporting virtually all music streaming services in one way or another. Whether through direct integration of the streaming service within its own Stream Magic app or via third party integration like TIDAL Connect, Spotify Connect, Chromecast built-in or Apple AirPlay — Cambridge Audio has got you covered.

If you’ve already ripped your CD collection or downloaded digital music files to your PC or local network, this player can access those as well, either directly through a UPnP server running on your network, or via the popular Roon server and app. The CXN V2 is a Roon-Ready component.

The CXN V2’s built-in Twin Wolfson DACs (Digital Audio Converters) can also be used to turn digital bits into analog music from a separate CD player, CD transport or any other digital component with a fiberoptic or coax digital output.

The unit also includes a USB port on the front in case your digital music goodies are all tucked away on hard drives or flash drives. And if you’re into finding local radio stations from all over the world, the “Internet Radio” feature will allow you to do just that.

When I received the CXN V2 for review, I excitedly tore open the box (no actual boxes were harmed), dug out a pair of RCA cables from a drawer (vintage Monster Cable, no less), and started exploring. The unit comes with a substantial remote, which can operate not just the CXN but a Cambridge Audio preamp and a CD player/transport as well.

The actual CXN streamer controls are in the center section of the remote. But if the remote isn’t handy, you can also navigate the CXN menus via buttons and dials on the front panel.

Cambridge Audio CXN v2 with remote control

The Cambridge Audio CXN V2 comes with a remote, but you may never need it.

Form Factor and Ergonomics

The center of the front panel features a small color LCD screen which can display album art as well as details on what source or song is being played. It’s a bit too small to be readable from across the room, but the screen is nice for those who don’t want to have to keep referring back to their phones to see what’s playing. The screen gives the streamer a bit of individual personality as opposed to the generic black or silver boxes that make up most of the competition. In addition to the Luna Grey finish of my review sample, Cambridge offers a limited edition black version.

Cambridge Audio CXN v2 Front Panel
The CXN V2 features a color screen to display album art or source information. Eight buttons flanking the screen enable menu navigation and music playback.

You have many choices in how to operate the Cambridge Audio streamer. Using the TIDAL, Spotify or Qobuz apps, you can drive your listening session from each respective mobile app and connect directly to the CXN V2 for playback using the app’s “Connect” feature (e.g. TIDAL Connect, Spotify Connect). For Apple Music you can connect via AirPlay 2. For Amazon Music and several other music apps, you can connect to the streamer using Chromecast built-in. If you want to access local digital music files, you can use the Roon app or use Cambridge’s “Stream Magic” app to access a compatible UPnP network music server on your home network. You can also access thousands of Internet Radio stations from the Stream Magic app.

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Cambridge Audio StreamMagic App Screenshot
The Cambridge Audio Stream Magic app allows you to access local digital music files, music streaming services or Internet Radio. It also allows you to see the details (bit depth and sampling rates) of the music being played.

Spec It Out

The Cambridge Audio CXN V2 features twin Wolfson WM8740 DACs which support 2-channel stereo digital music files and streaming formats up to 24-bit/192KHz. These are paired with a second generation ATF2 digital filter which upsamples content to 24-bit/384 kHz and a two-pole dual differential Bessel analog filter. The unit includes S/PDIF coaxial and TOSLINK optical digital inputs and outputs, a front and rear USB port as well as balanced XLR and unbalanced stereo RCA analog outputs.

Cambridge Audio CXN v2 Rear
The CXN V2 features digital inputs and outputs as well as both balanced and unbalanced stereo analog outputs.

No headphone jack or Bluetooth headphone output is provided. The assumption is you will pair the player with a receiver, preamp or integrated amp which does have a headphone output, or even a dedicated headphone amplifier if you want to listen to your digital music privately. Also, without an HDMI port, there is no support for immersive multi-channel surround sound or “spatial audio.” But as of the publication of this review, no competitive products support immersive sound either.

For networking, the CXN V2 supports hardwired ethernet as well as WiFi IEEE 802.11 b/g or n at 2.4 GHz. The unit is standard component-sized, measuring 85 x 430 x 305 mm in height/width/depth (3.4 x 16.9 x 12.2 inches). It weighs in at 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds).

Listening

I’ve spent many hours listening to music through the Cambridge Audio streamer over the past few weeks. I say “listening through” not “listening to” because, like any good source component, digital or otherwise, the CXN V2 excels at passing music through to your system with little to no editorialization. High quality streams and lossless digital files revealed every last detail in the music. The review system included a Rotel preamp, Conrad-Johnson tube amp and KEF bookshelf speakers and powered subwoofer.

Whether I was playing high res audio PCM and DSD downloads from HD Tracks, high resolution audio streams from TIDAL, lossless streams from Amazon Music, or local FLAC files and 320 KBPS MP3s ripped from my CD collection through Roon, the CXN V2 delivered the sonic goods. I heard no audible artifacts that I could pin on the streamer. It just lets the music play through.

The internet radio station Radio Paradise filled the bulk of my listening sessions. Launched in the year 2000, Radio Paradise offers an exceptionally varied mix of music with an emphasis on modern rock and alternative but with classical, jazz, classic rock, folk, electronica and world music thrown in. Founder and head DJ William Goldsmith told me in a recent interview that sound quality is paramount to the Radio Paradise experience.

Happily, the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 supports Radio Paradise’s lossless CD Quality 44.1 KHz 16-bit FLAC stream thanks to MPEG-DASH technology (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP). With this technology the stream can be broken into bite-sized chunks to deliver a high quality music listening experience with minimal buffering issues.

Listening to Radio Paradise through the Cambridge Audio streamer, I had to remind myself that there were only two speakers in the room: the soundstage expanded far above and beyond the seven feet between the speakers.

Cambridge Audio CNX v2 in rack
The Cambridge Audio CXN V2 network streamer will fit right in with an audiophile HiFi rig, vintage or modern.

Learning the Ropes

Though I’ve written about audio and video gear since 2001, the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 was actually the very first dedicated music streamer I’ve reviewed. I’ve used and reviewed Sonos products for over a decade and have numerous streaming speakers in various locations in our home, but the Cambridge Audio streamer is the first audiophile-approved dedicated music streamer I’ve tested. And as such, there was bound to be a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately the Cambridge Audio folks were super helpful in getting me up and running.

Cambridge Audio has its own app for iOS and Android: Stream Magic. Similar to Sonos, the Stream Magic app allows you to register multiple music streaming services within the app, and use the app to create playlists to drive your listening sessions. You can also find and add Internet Radio stations from within the Stream Magic app and save those as presets.

But, as mentioned earlier, Cambridge also offers direct integration with multiple third party apps, so you don’t actually need to download and use the Stream Magic app if you don’t want to.

If you’re a Roon user, you can continue to use the Roon app to access and integrate local digital audio files and streaming music, and simply output that Roon feed to the CXN V2.

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If you’re a Spotify or TIDAL user, you can use your existing app, and just connect to the CXN V2 from within the app. This allows you to use your existing app to control the music, but the music stream gets delivered directly to the Cambridge Audio streamer. Forget the constant interruptions and inferior audio quality of Bluetooth: all you get here is the music.

With services like Amazon Music Unlimited, you can take advantage of Chromecast to stream your songs over to the streamer. But if you’re really into audio quality, you should be aware that as of the date of this review (June, 2023), Spotify has no high resolution audio options at all (though that may be changing soon), and Amazon’s high res audio option, which they call “Ultra HD Music” isn’t supported over Chromecast. The Amazon Music app drops from “Ultra HD” to “HD” quality over Chromecast. Even so, with lossless CD quality streaming, both Spotify and Amazon Music sound quite good over the Cambridge Audio streamer.

Pros:

  • Compatible with all major music streaming platforms
  • Supports High Res Audio from local files and multiple streaming platforms
  • Color screen allows you to see what’s playing and navigate your music without a phone
  • Impeccable sound quality

Cons:

  • No support for immersive audio/spatial audio
  • No headphone jack

Final Thoughts

For those who have built up a serious HiFi rig over the years but are curious about how to explore the wide world of digital music streaming, the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 offers a compelling option. It features fairly intuitive operation, comprehensive streaming app support, elegant looks, a nice color screen and excellent sound quality. And with a price tag of just under $1,000, it won’t break the bank. Highly recommended.

Where to Buy:

Cambridge Audio CXN V2 (Lunar Grey) on Amazon

Cambridge Audio CXN V2 (Black) on Amazon

Related Reading:

Top Music Streamers of 2023: A Buying Guide

Cambridge Audio Unveils a Pair of Affordable Music Streamers: Meet the AXN10 and MXN10

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. ORT

    June 26, 2023 at 11:15 pm

    This is a very beautiful piece of equipment made even better looking by having a USEFUL display. Yup.

    I have no use for “ROON”. How difficult can it be to select music and hit play? It is not.

    This is one of the more affordable “high end” webbers out there and it comes with a fine pedigree for those to whom that matters (and often it should!). I remain a Denon and Grace Digital enthusiast. Easy-peasy-mac-n-cheesy.

    But this is still a fine choice! Roon? Pfffffft!

    ORT

    • Ian White

      June 27, 2023 at 1:12 am

      ORT,

      Cambridge makes very fine streamers. I have the MXN10 on my desk.

      Ian

      • John Dietmann

        June 28, 2023 at 8:27 am

        I live in the UK and all of my hifi stereo was bought here. The core of the system is the CAv2 streamer connected to a Rega Brio amp and a pair of B&W floorstanding speakers. I use Qobuz and have flac-ripped my cd collection on a ssd to play through the streamer. The Internet radio is a plus. I use my tablet as a remote because the screen on the streamer is to small. Excellent sound. StreamMagic app and Chromecast very good

        • Ian White

          June 29, 2023 at 2:28 pm

          John,

          I own 2 Cambridge integrated amplifiers and have just recently started using the new MXN10 with them. Superb kit.

          Best,

          Ian White

          • Alex Bennett

            July 1, 2023 at 9:39 pm

            For anyone interested to buy one, the CXN v2 has been a “no regrets” purchase. It’s a key piece of my modest set up, bringing the digital world to my all-analog amp.
            Good amplifiers last for many years, but with the pace of technology you may want to replace your streamer every 5 years. That’s a good reason to keep them separate.
            I’ll likely buy the CXN v3 when Cambridge eventually build it.
            The v2 and the stream magic app are fantastic.

    • Chris Boylan

      June 27, 2023 at 3:20 am

      Without Roon, it would be difficult for the Cambridge Audio streamer to access any local digital files, e.g. music you have ripped from your own CD collection or downloaded from HD Tracks. Sonos includes a server for free in its software suite which allows you to access local digital files. Cambridge either requires you to install a uPnP server on your network (which is normally not free) or you can use Roon to access the files. How does HEOS handle local digital file access? I’ve only used it for streaming.

      • ORT

        June 27, 2023 at 3:59 am

        Hi Chris! The only time I ever used HEOS for access to my music was when I hade about 16,000 songs on my Android phone and my laptop. It was easy as I went to the Music section and found “This Phone” and clicked on that and then chose what I wanted to play. I suppose if I had music on my iPad Mini (4) I could easily access it as I have the HEOS app on it too!

        I mostly play music on my 3 services and then CDs and Records. HEOS does all of them easily but with Vinyl it does not sound that great in other rooms. Even I can tell without straining, LOL!

        CDs are great. And to be honest, I want to be in the room with my turntable unless it is an automatic one which since buying the 3 Pro-Jects (all manual) ain’t likely to happen for a while, LOL!

        I seem to recall (I am OLD) putting my laptop on the network a few years ago and accessing music from it via HEOS and it worked just as fine as accessing it from my phone did.

        It sounded good and I could play off a play list (rare) or as I prefer, “RANDOM”. For me HEOS is excellent! I have 12 of their speakers throughout our home and recently purchased about $4,500 worth of them from Best Buy (I am now broke but the people I love will be happy!) to give as presents to family and friends.

        I have a HEOS link that I want to put with an antique (early ’60s) mini-console stereo (trying to get the turntable to work first!).

        ORT

  2. Doug

    June 27, 2023 at 1:56 am

    Would like to see it compared to the Eversolo dmp-6 streamer which has been getting rave reviews. They’re in the same price point/bang for buck so probably won’t go wrong with either choice.

    • John Dietmann

      June 28, 2023 at 8:14 am

      I live in the UK and bought all of my stereo hifi gear here. The CA Streamer v2 is the core of the setup. It is connected to a Rega Brio amp and to a pair of B&W floorstanding speakers. I use Qobuz and have my cd collection flac-ripped on a ssd which plays through the Streame. Internet radio is very useful.

  3. Michael Little

    July 3, 2023 at 5:58 am

    What is to bad is Modwright recently stopped offering their tube modifications for this.

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