Cambridge Audio has plenty of previous where music streaming is concerned - its range of products built around its StreamMagic platform are, without exception, both well-regarded and profoundly competitive. With the diminutive MXN10 (and its bigger, slightly more expensive full-sized sibling, the AXN10), the company wants to further democratise its technology by making the modernity of digital audio streaming available to owners of ‘legacy’ hi-fi systems at what might easily be considered ‘entry level’ money.
The MXN10 may be half the price of what was, until now, Cambridge Audio’s most affordable music streamer, but it’s not short of features (unless you’re keen on the idea of a fascia display, anyhow). It’s possible to get digital audio information on board via dual-band wi-fi (or Ethernet, if the idea of absolute signal stability appeals), Bluetooth 5.0 (with SBC and AAC codec compatibility), or by plugging a mass-storage USB drive into the player’s rear panel. Getting it out again happens via the stereo RCA analogue outputs (for connecting to an existing system, wireless speaker or what-have-you) or the optical and coaxial digital outputs (for use with an offboard DAC).
The StreamMagic allows access to internet radio, Spotify Connect, Deezer, Qobuz and TIDAL Connect, and Apple Airplay 2 and Chromecast are built in too. It’s UPnP compatible, so any music stored on a common network is accessible. The MXN10 is Roon Ready, too - so all of the above can be collated into a single area.
Once the digital audio information is on board, it’s pored over by an ESS Sabre ES9033Q digital-to-analogue converter, capable of handling digital audio files of up to 32bit/784kHz and DSD512 resolution. Which, by any realistic measure, ought to be plenty.
In short, then, the MXN10 gives access not only to all of the digital music you own or rent via a streaming service, it is a portal to an entire planet’s-worth of radio stations. Looks good when it’s written down, doesn’t it? As long as the Cambridge Audio sounds as good in practice as it looks on the page, we’re very much in business.
The MXN10 is integrated into a system consisting of Naim amplification and Acoustic Energy loudspeakers via its stereo RCA outputs, which means it’s taking care of digital-to-analogue conversion duties. Qobuz, TIDAL and Roon accounts are integrated into the StreamMagic app and we’re good to go.
Given some reasonably high-resolution content to deal with, the MXN10 is a poised, informative and absorbing listen. In absolute terms it errs towards the ‘lush’ where its overall tonality is concerned - but not fatally so. Those who want an MXN10 to join an existing system should ask themselves if their kit already sounds sort-of warm-ish… but the rest of us needn’t worry. We can just sit back and let the Cambridge Audio entertain us.
It hits with real determination in the lower frequencies, but the amount of detail it reveals and the control it exerts over the attack and decay of bass sounds means it’s a decently rapid listen. It gives rhythms proper expression, and has plenty to say about the timbre and texture of the low-end. At the opposite end of the frequency range, meanwhile, there are similarly impressive detail levels, plenty of well-supervised attack and a chunkily substantial overall tonality. The MXN10 forgoes perhaps the last scintilla of bite and shine, but let’s face it: if we’re forced to choose, a mild rolling-off of treble information is preferable to hardness or edginess at the top end.
The midrange is probably the star of the frequency range show, though. The MXN10 communicates like nobody’s business, letting vocalists of all standards express themselves to the full. Although it’s no further forward on the soundstage than the frequency information that surrounds it, the midrange is nicely spaced and has more than enough room in which to manoeuvre.
That’s thanks in large part to the size of the soundstage the Cambridge Audio creates, and the rigorous way in which it controls it. Even complicated recordings with numerous participants are laid out coherently, and the unity and togetherness of the presentation isn’t compromised by the spacious nature of the MXN10’s sound.
It does good work where dynamics are concerned, too. It puts considerable distance between the quieter, more contemplative moments and the last almighty charge into the final chorus, of course - but it’s also able to identify and contextualise the more subtle dynamic variations in a solo instrument, and can give the harmonics either side of the fundamental decent expression.
In almost every way, the MXN10 is unobtrusive and very easy indeed to live with. At just 52 x 215 x 191mm (HxWxD) it doesn’t need much shelf space, and given that you’re likely to make just one connection from its rear panel (apart from mains power, obviously) it’s not going to make too much of a mess of your careful interior decor choices. It’s only available in that ‘lunar grey’ finish the Cambridge has been persevering with for a good while now - but that’s unlikely to put off too many prospective customers.
Control options are limited, but those that are available are well implemented. There’s a power on/off button on the fascia, and four preset buttons for swift access to favourite radio stations and/or playlists. Everything else is taken care of by the fourth generation of Cambridge Audio’s StreamMagic control app. Here’s where you set up the MXN10 onto your local wireless network in the first place. Here’s where you integrate your favourite music streaming service(s), where you define those four fascia presets, where you check for firmware updates and what-have-you. You can even rename the device (to make it easier to search for in that long list of Bluetooth devices your phone has been attached to, for instance), and finesse the length of time you’d like the machine to stay operational without an incoming signal before it powers down.
What you can’t do, though, is control volume - and this can’t help but seem like a significant omission. One of the real charms of digital audio is convenience, after all - but if you have to use the physical volume control on your system, or open the control app of the wireless speaker (for instance) you’re listening on in order to control volume levels, well, that doesn’t really fall under the heading of ‘convenience’, does it?
It’s a sign of how committed (and how successful) Cambridge Audio is where this sort of thing is concerned that the most compelling alternatives to the MXN10 are Cambridge Audio products. The AXN10 is a full-size version of the MXN10 that should suit those who want a kit-rack filled with similarly sized products, while the CXN v2 adds functionality (and a nice big fascia display) to the mix. It’s a fair bit more expensive than either the MXN10 or AXN10, mind you…
If you want to add high-quality music streaming smarts to your existing system without spending an arm and a leg, it’s hard to think of a reason why you shouldn’t give the Cambridge Audio MXN10 your undivided attention. It’s physically discreet, it’s properly specified, it’s flexible in its connectivity and it sounds both poised and entertaining. If it allowed you to adjust volume without making quite so much of an effort, it would be approaching ‘perfect’.
Blawan Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?
A strident, unblinking recording that manages to build intensity without ever getting any louder - or changing its attitude in any way, in fact. A great opportunity for the MXN10 to demonstrate its control of attack and decay, rhythmic positivity and tonal precision.
Fat White Family Tastes Good With The Money
Glam rock never went away, it just got stroppy and druggy. Here’s where the MXN10 gets to show off its facility with dynamic variations both broad and fine, and showcase its mastery of midrange fidelity during the ‘none more gruff’ Baxter Dury soliloquy.
Benny Goodman Stompin’ At The Savoy
Uncomplicatedly sunny, unarguably musicianly and, most of all, as catchy as all get-out, here’s a tune that lives and dies by a player’s powers of midrange communication. Happily, every harmonic detail, every blare and every murmur is captured, contextualised and delivered by the MXN10.
Right at the moment, this is the first review that we know of.
We'll update our "Alternative Views" as and when others get their hands on the streamer, although we doubt any will be as good as this review :-)
Because you want great-sounding access to music streaming services, internet radio and the likes of BBC Sounds without binning off your existing system and starting again.