The Cambridge Audio MXN10 convinces with its small format. Sound and operation are absolutely suitable for HiFi. And at a pretty low price.
- Full, natural HiFi sound
- Convenient streaming
- Practical direct selection buttons on the device
- No volume control
- No screen
Cambridge Audio builds reliable and popular network players like the CXN V2 on the in-house “StreamMagic” platform. But it already costs almost 1000 euros. Until now, anyone who wanted or was able to spend less had to go to other providers. So it’s high time for a compact, affordable economy player: the Cambridge Audio MXN10.
With this new network player, the English have cut the entry into their program in half. This applies to the price, but also to the case width. The beautiful TFT display of the older brother, its IR remote control and a few other equipment details also had to be omitted. But not everyone needs it.
The usage scenarios of such players are diverse, and not every model is ideal for every purpose. Which is why we will also take a close look at the equipment differences in the practical test. But first the MXN10 has to show how much hi-fi quality it has. Small giant or half a portion – our listening test answers this question, which of course also draws comparisons to popular player alternatives.
Cambridge Audio MXN10 in the listening test: Elegant, soft, but not flabby
In the acoustically moderately optimized listening room, the MXN10 plays via its RCA analogue outputs with an integrated amplifier of the 3000 euro class and studio monitors from Tannoy. No setup that forgives scratchy highs or a low-substance basic tone. But it doesn’t have to be with the MXN10, because the small streamer plays just like a big one with a well-balanced sound and rich, tight bass.
This is not something that can be taken for granted: when the Arctic Monkeys are on the car celebrate sophisticated retro elegance with an orchestra and smooth vocals, then that sounds a bit compact over many compact players. The Sonos Connect, which has since been replaced, noticeably narrows the room panorama and concentrates a little too much on the lower midrange. This also gives the sound a slightly hollow coloration and makes the pitch of the strings seem a bit pitched down.
Viewed in absolute terms, the Sonos still sounds very decent and absolutely suitable for HiFi. Only in a direct comparison with the MXN10 do its small weaknesses begin to be noticed – and then also to be annoying. The new Cambridge is simply better in every respect: finer in the treble, deeper and more controlled in the bass, spatially much wider and more open.
You can appreciate and celebrate the precise, detailed production of the Arctic Monkeys album, but also the ingenious songwriting of the band so much better. Does it matter if you only listen to the music on the side? Is the difference also noticeable if the hi-fi system is older or wasn’t anything special back then? Pretty sure not. But the more you are interested in the sound, the more closely and longer you listen, the more worthwhile the better player is.
If an external network player is too expensive for you, you can also opt for a streaming amplifier. He then integrated the streamer directly. HIFI.DE has already been able to test some. You can compare them in our leaderboard:
Highres as a sound bonus
The Cambridge can also hold its own against the popular Bluesound Node in the listening room. The node looks slimmer, more concise and a bit brighter, which fits better or worse than the rather warm, silky MXN10, depending on the environment. The characteristics do not change even with high-res material, which both players support up to 192 kHz sampling rate.
You can already hear that in the electronic soundscapes of the Rival Consoles, the vinyl version of their album now is Include a 96kHz WAV download, presumably exported directly from ProTools. And even more so with David Crosby’s beautiful album Crozwhich was mastered for the 96/24 download (via Highresaudio.com) with significantly less compression and thus more transparent and natural.
As is well known, the Sonos must fit at sampling rates above 48 kHz. But we had already ticked that off with lossless playback in CD quality. The question is rather what has to come to top such a mature and flawless sounding player like the MXN10. “For example a CXN V2”, Cambridge would say. And he’s right about that: the big brother makes music more upright, clearer and more rousing. Anything else would have been disappointing in view of the gigantic use of components in comparison. In terms of sound alone, the MXN10 does not turn the brand’s internal hierarchy upside down. But it expands them with pleasingly low loss of enjoyment by a big step into affordable price ranges.
Cambridge Audio MXN10: Technical design and practice
The MXN10 is a concentrated piece of high-tech. But you can’t tell by looking at it, because Cambridge has dispensed with any design flourishes and a display. As a user, you have a display in front of you anyway, namely that of your smartphone or tablet. And it runs the stable, sophisticated StreamMagic app, which leaves nothing to be desired and is available free of charge for Android or iOS.
The IR remote control is therefore omitted, as are the controls on the device – at least to a large extent. In addition to the standby button, there are still four preset buttons on the front panel, which you can freely assign to radio stations, songs or albums. Another 95 presets can also be reached with a tap on the app’s home screen.
In its streaming capabilities, however, the MXN10 does not differ from the larger models. That’s good news, because the common StreamMagic platform of all current Cambridge streamers works excellently and with all the refinements. Mixed playlists of any length, in which music files from your local NAS server or computer can alternate with streams from Tidal, Qobuz or Spotify – no problem. Gapless playback with all formats that technically allow it – logically.
Navigation in the current track by dragging the cursor in the timeline – voilà. Rearrange, supplement, shorten the current queue – please do. Whether you want to sit in a chair enjoying an album, or want to fill a party with your sound: the MXN10 won’t let you down. And it doesn’t embarrass you with mysterious malfunctions either, but does its work stably.
Large selection of music sources
As inconspicuous as the MXN10 looks, the range of music that it brings is rich. It starts with the thousands of web radio stations that Cambridge has set up its own server to manage. The search function is lightning fast, the offer is huge, the quality depends more on the stations than on the playback device: Linn Radio at 320 kbps sounds fantastic, HR2 and SWR2 at 256 kbps as well, most others broadcast at 128 kbps, which still sounds better than most FM tuners or DAB.
You can use your own hard drive music collection via UPnP streaming on the MXN10. Our listening room server with 3500 albums can be conveniently browsed via the StreamMagic app, long lists appear either with large cover tiles or as compact lists that can be scrolled through fluently. This is still not a matter of course everywhere: with the Cambridge there is no frustration, even in large collections.
If you find UPnP or DLNA servers too superficial, you can also pair the Cambridge with the expensive premium server Roon – the MXN10 is “Roon Ready”. Of course, your favorite music streaming service also runs on the player, as long as it’s not too exotic. Qobuz, Deezer, TIDAL and Spotify are directly supported. The latter two work in the “connect” variant, which allows or requires the use of the respective native app.
Thanks to Chromecast built-in and Airplay2, there are also ways into the player for countless other applications. Bluetooth is added as a very simple streaming tool – but without the better-sounding codec aptX. And if you don’t feel like using wireless or a network, you can simply plug a USB HDD or memory stick into the USB socket on the device.
Highly integrated interior
However, a few features of the larger players are left behind for reasons of space. The MXN10 is a pure network player and does not play a supporting role as a D/A converter like its big brothers. In the absence of a coax, optical and USB-B input, you cannot connect your PC, a CD drive or the television. The player also lacks a volume control – that’s a bit of a shame, especially since similarly compact competitors from Sonos and Bluesound have this option. So if you’re toying with the idea of connecting it to your pair of powered speakers, you need to be able to control the volume on those.
It is interesting to compare the MXN’s converter and audio stage with that of the twice as expensive CXN V2. The latter doesn’t do twice as much, but feels like at least twenty times the effort, with whole armies of components. In the MXN, a single, tiny chip does all the work and drives the output jacks without even another buffer amplifier.
With a demanding music program, this super-straightforward structure does not show any weaknesses, but rather seems to outgrow itself: The old Genesis album Selling England By The Pound, here converted from a SACD rip into 88.2kHz/24bit FLAC, sounded extremely authentic and dynamically fresh. This is clear hi-fi from a 500 euro player.
Conclusion Cambridge Audio MXN10
Focused entirely on music streaming, the Cambridge MXN10 delivers excellent sound value for the price. You can use it to elegantly bring any system into the network, connect the player either analogously or turn it into a pure data donor via its digital outputs. The Cambridge convinces audiophiles who are still rather skeptical about streaming with its uncomplicated operating concept. On the other hand, it surprises spoiled streaming connoisseurs with its sound competence.
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