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Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player: Review

The only thing missing from the MXN10 is support for MQA, but none of that matters when you reproduce music this well with wonderful tone, texture, and pacing. Is this the best network streamer under $500? We think it is.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Music Streamer Lifestyle

If you have been considering adding a network player or streamer to your existing stereo system, there are a lot of viable options below $600 that offer excellent performance, flexibility, and long-term support through firmware updates. The Cambridge Audio MXN10 ticks off all of those boxes and more for $499.

One of the biggest obstacles to mainstream adoption of hi-res audio and high-end network players has been the price of admission. Most consumers view their smart phone as the only network player they will ever need; and that is especially true for those who prefer to use Bluetooth loudspeakers and want to minimize any additional components or cables.

For the rest of us who want access to Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Roon, Chromecast, TIDAL, Qobuz, and our home networks — a smart phone doesn’t really work as well unless your wireless speakers support all of those platforms and lossless playback.

Adding a network player to a system shouldn’t be a complicated or expensive endeavor and we’re starting to see a trend emerging in the entry-level and mid-tier categories with a new range of affordable high-end network players that offer access to almost everything but without the fancy touchscreen or headphone amplifier.

NAD just introduced the CS1 network player and we were not surprised to see Cambridge Audio introduce two new models at the beginning of the year.

During my recent review of the $219 WiiM Audio Pro Plus Network Player, I compared it to the Cambridge Audio MXN10 that has been a fantastic addition to my Cambridge Audio Edge A Integrated Amplifier; the MXN10 took the spot of a Roon Nucleus Music Server which is now connected to an ASUS router in our home office and serving as a hub for the entire house.

Cambridge Audio AXN10 Network Player Angle
Cambridge Audio’s AXN10 Network Player is an MXN10 in a Larger Chassis for $100 more.

MXN10

The MXN10 offers the same features and functionality of the larger (and more expensive) Cambridge AXN10 in a much smaller chassis. The goal was to offer a hi-res network player that could be placed out of sight or be integrated more easily into a vintage audio system with a free set of analog inputs.

Fans of MQA will be disappointed to learn that the MXN10 does not support the codec, but with so many things up in the air about the technology even with its recent acquisition by Lenbrook, that might not a strong knock against the streamer in the long run. TIDAL has been replacing MQA files with hi-res FLAC versions and those are supported by the streamer.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Front
MXN10

Specifications

  • INPUTS: Ethernet, USB socket (mass storage), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 
  • OUTPUTS : Line out (unbalanced), Digital out (Coax and Optical)
  • DAC: ESS Sabre ES9033Q
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz – 70kHz +0/-1dB
  • ETHERNET: IEEE 802.3 10 Base-T or 100 Base-T 
  • WI-FI Wi-Fi 5 dual band 2.4/5gHz
  • BLUETOOTH : 5.0 A2DP/AVRCP supporting SBC and AAC
  • COMPATIBILITY : UPnP, Local USB media, Internet Radio, Chromecast, Spotify connect, Tidal, Qobuz, Roon Ready, Airplay 2
  • AUDIO FORMATS : ALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD (x512), WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, OGG Vorbis 
  • HI-RES SUPPORT: Up to 768KHz 32-bit PCM, up to DSD512 
  • MAX POWER CONSUMPTION: 20W
  • STANDBY POWER CONSUMPTION : <0.5W
  • DIMENSIONS (W X H X D) & Weight : 52 x 215 x 191mm (1.2kg)
Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Angle
MXN10

Design

Out of the box, the MXN10 definitely feels on the conservative side from a design perspective.

Cambridge has gone with a smooth, lunar grey finish and the front panel features four preset buttons on the right. The left side of the panel features a power button and white LED that indicates that the unit has locked onto a Wi-Fi signal.

Similar to the Bluesound NODE, there is no front panel display and users must rely on the StreamMagic app for access to streaming services, album and track information.

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The rear panel is actually very uncluttered with only a single set of analog RCA outputs, two digital outputs (1 coaxial and one 1 optical), USB 2.0 port for flash drives, a single ethernet port, and Wi-Fi antenna connection.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Rear
MXN10

Listening

Downloading the StreamMagic app and installing it properly should not take more than 5 minutes; especially if you have all of your passwords handy.

Whilst one would probably not describe the app as “slick,” it does provide rather responsive operation that allows one to cycle between streaming platforms without any noticeable lags and searching for albums or tracks is quite simple.

The app also provides access to built-in internet radio that offers MPEG-DASH support, giving one access to an extensive list of radio stations around the globe. The sound quality listening to radio stations in Israel during the current conflict was excellent and almost on par with the Naim Uniti Atom that we reviewed back in 2021.

It can also locate and play any music file stored on the same home network, such as from NAS devices connected to your router.

Since its release, Cambridge has added additional functionality to the MXN10 with a firmware update that adds pre-amplifier controls, allowing you to adjust the volume from within the app. You can still adjust volume from within your streaming service’s app, or via the physical controls on your amp/wireless speaker, if preferred. 

Cambridge Audio StreamMagic App Screenshots on iOS 2023
StreamMagic App on iOS

Other updates in the new software release add more functionality to the StreamMagic app, including two new browsing functions: ‘Go to Album’ and ‘Go to Artist’. 

The “Now Playing” screen also offers more options for favoriting and adding tracks to playlists. 

Having both analog and digital outputs actually made it easier to compare the MXN10 to the WiiM Pro Plus and Bluesound NODE with my Cambridge Edge A Integrated Amplifier, Cambridge AXA35, NAD C 316BEE V2, and the Naim NAIT 50 Integrated Amplifier.

Loudspeakers were the Magnepan LRS, Q Acoustics 5040, Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3, and Acoustic Energy AE100 MK2.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Silver Angle
MXN10

Cristo Redentor

After letting the MXN10 play on repeat using TIDAL for a few days, the streamer got the opportunity to shine or falter with Donald Byrd through the Edge A/LRS system that is my daily listen in the den.

Right off the bat, the MXN10 demonstrated that it differs rather significantly from the NODE and WiiM Pro Plus in a few areas.

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The Pro Plus is the coolest sounding of the three streamers and offers the most incisive presentation from top to bottom; the NODE leans the opposite direction with a slightly fuller sound and greater low end impact.

Byrd’s trumpet cuts through the air with the Pro Plus with a harder edge and far less texture than the NODE; the top end offers up greater detail but the notes vanish as quickly as they appear and there is a two-dimensional quality to it that doesn’t hold one’s attention in the same way.

The MXN10 hits the hardest of three with a fuller overall tonal balance and excellent clarity.

The biggest difference between the three is that the MXN10 handles dynamic shifts with greater agility and offers up music with much more pace.

Horns are pushed slightly forward of the mix but there is a tangible feeling to it that feels far more authentic.

Keeping up with the tempo of the music is not a weakness of either the Pro Plus or NODE, but the MXN10 feels snappier and tighter regardless of the recording.

Jazz recordings are well served by all 3 streamers, but the MXN10 delivers the piano and bass with greater weight and presence whilst remaining clear and detailed.

Switching to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Mean to Me” recorded with Oscar Peterson, the Pro Plus delivers Peterson’s piano with excellent pace and precision, but with far less texture and weight than the NODE or MXN10.

Fitzgerald is locked firmly in place by all 3 streamers, but there is a clear difference in the delivery; the Pro Plus feels somewhat flat, whilst the NODE and MXN10 push her forward somewhat with greater soundstage depth and top end sweetness.

The interplay between Peterson and Fitzgerald has a palpable feel to it through the NODE and MXN10 and when the tempo and complexity shifts, the more expensive streamers are far more adept at keeping up and everything feels well organized.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Black Edition
Cambridge Audio MXN10 Black Edition

This Must Be The Place

Talking Heads, Tangerine Dream, The The, Nick Cave and Blondie felt like an eclectic mix to give all 3 streamers a genuine shot at the title and it also illustrated what makes the MXN10 that much better than the Pro Plus.

The incisive presentation and cooler tonal balance of the Pro Plus did not work in its favor with Speaking in Tongues, Parallel Lines, Phaedra, London Town 1989-1993, and The Boatman’s Call; each recording felt stripped down in comparison to the MXN10 and gave up texture and dynamic impact in the process.

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Nick Cave and David Byrne’s vocals were clear and precise but the absence of color reminded me of the early days of the compact disc where everything felt extremely sterile and lacking nuance.

Switching between the Magnepan LRS, Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3, and Q Acoustics 5040 only exacerbated the issue with the Pro Plus sounding cooler with each change of loudspeaker.

The 703 S3 was the best scenario for the Pro Plus with its fuller sounding presentation and my initial thoughts on system matching with the WiiM streamer stand.

The MXN10 handled the pacing, dynamic shifts, and top end energy of the recordings far more convincingly; once you hear how much fuller vocals sound in comparison to the other two streamers, it’s harder to accept anything else.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Silver Front
MXN10

Final Thoughts

The $219 WiiM Pro Plus is extremely good at what it does under the condition that the rest of your system offers a richer presentation and can make up for its cooler tonal balance and incisive outlook. For the money, it’s the one to beat.

The Bluesound NODE ($599, now $449) is still a solid option that offers superior connectivity and a more sophisticated control app. BluOS 4.0 is an excellent streaming app that offers much more flexibility for those looking to build out a multi-room wireless system.

Cambridge Audio, however, has delivered a superior listening experience that offers a more colorful presentation of the music that moves along with excellent pace and presence.

The StreamMagic app keeps improving with each update and whilst it lacks some of the features of BluOS 4.0 — it’s reliable and easy to use with all of the music streaming platforms that I currently use.

The absence of a front panel display at this price level should not be a deal breaker for anyone; all 3 units offer very usable and well-designed control apps and most listeners are going to look at their phones for track and album information so its really a moot point.

Not offering support for MQA feels rather irrelevant at this point unless Lenbrook plans on launching its own music streaming platform and with easy access to almost every major streaming platform through the app — the Cambridge Audio MXN10 offers exactly what we need.

Where to buy: $499 at Amazon | Crutchfield

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Larry

    November 3, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Ian,

    While I’m sure that from a sonic perspective, your comparison of the three units is accurate, from a software perspective, Cambridge’s Stream Magic app is too basic to warrant considering their unit.

    I’m a Qobuz user, and it lacks AutoPlay (which I have found to be a great way to discover new music), not to mention it’s downright ugly from an aesthetics point.

    What I’ve found that works better for me, and at a much lower cost, is to use a Wiim Mini being driven by Audrivana Studio via Kernel Mode over UPNP, then out to your favorite DAC over an optical connection.

    To me, it doesn’t make any sense to spend $500 on the Cambridge only to replicate what I can do with the Mini for $80 + $80 for an SMSL-SU1 DAC over UPNP from AS.

  2. Yannis

    December 7, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Hi from Greece (again),
    An interesting piece of equipment and at a reasonable price. I have two questions, although i don’t expect you to have listened to all equipment on earth.
    (a) Do you think that CA MXN10 works well with Rega Brio?
    (b) Is there a benefit in connecting CA MXN10 to a dac and at what cost
    My current chain includes Audirvana studio (mac) => Rpi 4 => irdac II => Rega Brio (2017) => Elac Debut F6
    Thank you in advance
    Yannis

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