Cambridge Audio CXN100

Cambridge Audio CXN100 network player review

Cambridge Audio’s CXN100 is the go-to network player if you seek reliable music streaming with a big-brand user experience. And who doesn’t want that?

What’s more, it has the finesse of a high-end audio component with solid app control but comes at a real-world price. It’s a huge achievement, but then the London-based audio specialist knows its way around hifi and has created something of a niche for networked audio components.

The CXN100 follows the CXN V2, which came out in 2018 and went on to become one of the most popular networked audio players ever. Besides the high-end build and hifi credentials at a value price, its proprietary StreamMagic module is a solid reason for the company’s legendary status among serious music streaming fans.

Cambridge Audio’s CXN100 network player occupies the mid-point sweet spot in the brand’s range, but doesn’t scrimp on usability, including via its full colour front screen

Let’s face it, whether your networked music system of choice is a Sonos multiroom setup with one of the most stable ecosystems and control apps in the business, or something more sophisticated like an Auralic streaming transport with its reliable Lightning DS platform, the success of any networked audio product is decided on the implementation of a robust network platform and intuitive control app. Get that wrong and you have a buggy user experience that takes all the joy away from music streaming. Get it right, and you have a strong networked audio experience that takes listeners on a joyous listening journey.

I can vouch for Cambridge Audio’s high-end audio capabilities while demonstrating its value commitment to hifi fans of all levels. There are seven models in CA’s network player lineup offering a range of solutions that leads with the flagship Edge NQ preamp with network player at £5k, followed by the Evo 150 all-in-one player at £2k (or the stylish DeLorean Edition for an extra hundred quid), and then the Evo 75 all-in-one at £1,099 (down from £1,499). After that comes the CXN100 at £899 on test here, followed by the AXN10 priced at £449 (down from £549), and the compact MXN10 network player also priced at £449. So in other words there’s a lot to choose from across CA’s range!

Brushed silver finish and clean lines makes for a handsome look

The mid-priced CXN100 is a music streamer that favours setups built around individual audio components. It looks similar to the discontinued CXN V2 (£799) and its £100 extra price helps to account for its larger (4.76-inch) hi-res colour screen with system menu control buttons on either side.

A decent display screen is a big deal for me, meaning I can see the album artwork from across the room as well as via the StreamMagic app or native streaming service app on my smart device.

The useful control knob to the right of the front panel has a weighted luxe feel too, and provides useful preamp level control, which is handy if you need to quickly adjust the system volume without reaching for your smart device.

Streaming wizard

Internally, Cambridge Audio says the CXN100 has been mechanically redesigned to bring a generational step up in sound.

Digital audio is fed via a new ESS ES9028Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC that can handle hi-res audio up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512. That means digital audio is handled at the highest quality levels at all times, including native MQA files.

Well spaced internals allow for plenty or breathing space, with a separate PCB for its power supply  (right of shot)

It has the latest proprietary StreamMagic (Gen4) module and integrates with Internet Radio, Tidal Connect, Qobuz, Spotify Connect, and Deezer streaming services. It’s Roon Ready too, allowing subscribers to seamlessly access integrated music content from all their streaming services and networked digital music libraries in one unified, user-friendly interface. The CXN100 is compatible with Google Home, Apple AirPlay, and Roon multiroom systems for sharing music across devices around the home.

Physical digital connectivity on the rear panel runs to Ethernet, USB-A, USB-B, coaxial and optical ports, while wireless support comes via UPnP, Google Chromecast, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth 5.1. There are a pair of balanced XLRs and RCA line-level analogue outputs.

Both digital and analogue connections are well served (including balanced outputs). Note the stubby type Bluetooth and wifi antennas which are less obtrusive than previous generations

Smooth operator

Getting the CXN100 connected to my home network, digital music library, and multiple streaming subscriptions is straightforward. I prefer to use the wired Ethernet port for the most stable connectivity, which speeds up installation when swapping review products in and out of my system. You can connect wirelessly to your home network, of course, but you’ll need your home network password to hand before getting started.

With the SreamMagic control app downloaded to my iPhone, the system guided me through the setup process step by step. As these things go, it was one of the smoothest installation processes I’ve encountered, and the StreamMagic app was connected to my Melco library and music service subscriptions in no time.

StreamMagic app is one of the best in the business


Cambridge Audio says the CXN100 has been designed, tuned, and engineered at its London-based HQ and home of its Melomania music venue. I enjoy the company’s ‘British sound’ approach and the high-quality audio handling it applies to its products. According to its website, the company’s path represents audio in its purest form and ticks plenty of my boxes.

I’ve been living with the CXN100 in my hifi setup for six weeks or so, hooked up to my Musical Fidelity M6 500i integrated amp, driving a pair of Dynaudio X38 floorstanding speakers. Its sonic synergy matches the sound of my existing components, and feels perfectly balanced across the frequency range with all the energy and pace to bring my music to life.

Everything sounds crystal clear, and although the ESS ES9028Q2M DAC may not have quite the same level of warmth and richness I’m used to hearing in my setup with an outboard Chord Electronics DAC in place, it’s dynamic and gets right to the heart of my music.

The CXN100 looks and sounds every bit the modern music streamer

Whether you’re a fan or not, Beyoncé’s reworking of The Beatles’ Blackbiird at 16-bit/44.1kHz is a magnificent track from her so-called country album. The Cambridge Audio handles her graceful vocal beautifully as the expansive acoustic soundstage fills the room. There’s a breathtaking level of detail and a sense of three-dimensional space and openness. It’s a spectacular listen and as immersive as anything I’ve heard from a network player in my hifi setup.

Upping the tempo with tracks like Let Go by Deadmau5 and Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys both at 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, the driving beats have all the incisive energy I’ve come to expect. There’s plenty of composure too, even on tracks with high-octane energy levels.

I’ve tried all kinds of network players in my hifi setup over the years, from upmarket components by NAD and Auralic costing £2k or more, to newcomers like the fiendishly affordable Wiim Pro add-on at just £150. Each has delivered a solid experience thanks to networking know-how and robust control platforms, but few manage the level of sparkle and joy that the CXN100 brings to my music.

In summary

Cambridge Audio is on a roll right now with two next-gen hifi component launches in as many months — the CXN100 and CXA81 Mk II integrated amp (at £999).

In many ways it was tricky to imagine how a third instalment of a mid-priced network audio player could better the iconic CXN V2, but this updated model proves to be a stonking followup that’s highly recommended.


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