Q: I recently updated my stereo with new speakers, amplifier and preamplifier, and it sounds terrific. With every upgrade has come a big increase in sound quality, and though I have spent almost $10,000, it has been worth every penny. The last step is to upgrade my digital gear.
What would you recommend for a CD player, network player and something to play the music on my computer? I'm down to two open audio inputs on my preamp, so I would like to limit it to two components, if possible.
A: When I read your question, an answer came to mind immediately, and it requires only one audio input.
The Cambridge Audio CXN Network Player can do it all. Though it is marketed as a network player for playing music from the internet, it can do much more, and it does it all with high-end sound and flair.
The CXN can be connected to your network either wirelessly or through Ethernet. It then can play music from Spotify, Internet Radio, Apple AirPlay and other sources. A color screen displays program information, and tuning stations from all over the world is simple and intuitive, using a single knob. Want the local news in St. Petersburg, Russia? No problem. Easy listening music from Germany? Yours with a twirl of the dial.
You can set it up to play your computer files, too. And if you rip your CDs into a lossless format, you can easily access your entire CD collection with no degradation in sound quality.
The CXN also has digital inputs. Connect the digital output of your CD player to the CXN, and it will act as a digital converter to get you the sound quality of the latest high-end CD player. That is because every signal that comes through the CXN is processed with ultra high-grade digital and analog circuitry to produce impeccable sound, no matter the source.
The Cambridge Audio CXN is priced at $999, which may seem expensive at first but actually represents fine value. I've seen digital converters with similar specs priced the same as the CXN, but without the network audio capability. I've seen network music players priced twice as high as the CXN, but lacking the digital inputs. To get it all in one easy-to-use component for under $1,000 is why the audio press adores the CXN.
No easy fix
Q: I read your column about playing CDs in a car that lacks a CD player but has a USB drive. Why not just use a $25 external USB CD/DVD drive and play your tunes through the car's system?
A: Because external USB CD drives are meant for computer use, so the port is only for data. They also require drivers that are either part of the computer's operating system or are installed as part of the setup process the first time the drive is used.
On top of it all, external CD drives require more power than a car's USB port can provide, and they do not have the built-in buffering found in CD drives designed for use while they are in motion (like a car CD player). I appreciate you giving this problem some thought and coming up with a suggestion. I just wish it were that simple.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.