I’ve owned many CD players over the years, but very few dedicated CD transports. More often than not I’ve opted for the single-box approach, favouring fewer components over what I feel are often minimal sound quality gains achieved when using a dedicated transport and DAC.
However, Cambridge Audio’s CX range, currently occupying pride of place in my review rack, doesn’t include a dedicated player. instead, the range incorporates the CXC, a dedicated CD transport designed for use with the CXA60 or CXA80 integrated amplifiers, both of which feature onboard 24/192 DACs based on the Wolfson WM8740 DAC chipset.
internally, the CXC uses a single-speed universal disc drive coupled with Cambridge’s S3 servo solution, which includes state-of-the-art error correction, and dynamically adjusts the disc spindle speed and laser parameters to retrieve the maximum amount of detail from the disc. The S3 system is also found at the heart of the flagship 851C; though, oddly enough, the CXC had no problems reading several CDs that the 851C either failed to read entirely or played back with audible artefacts; including my copy of Green Day’s ’21st Century Breakdown’; a disc which, thus far, only the 851C and a couple of other high-end CD players have been unable to play back in its entirety.
Clad in the same casework as the rest of the CX range, the CXC is as elegant in its styling as it is solid and hefty. while certainly far lighter than many of the players which find their way into my rack, it feels considerably heavier than the quoted 4.7KG. Its panels are sparse in terms of buttons and connections; the front panel featuring only a selection of transport controls and a power button, and the rear featuring both optical and coaxial outputs, control bus connections, an IR input jack, and an IEC input for power.
The front panel is also home to the disc tray, aligned with the top of the central display. There’s also a new Cambridge logo, the ‘Audio’ notably absent from the Cambridge brandname; and a union jack flag hinting at Cambridge’s British heritage and current design headquarters where each product is conceived, engineered and perfected before final manufacturing under close supervision in China.
The CXC is neatly packed in Cambridge Audio’s usual sturdy, foam-lined packaging. It’s wrapped in a cloth bag; as are the accessories, including a remote, control bus cable, batteries and some documentation. As with the rest of the CX range, both euro and UK power cables are included in the box, taped beneath the unit; requiring a bit of careful manoeuvring to extricate the player and its accessories without making a mess or damaging the packaging. That said, it does make for a rather neat presentation, and a great first impression.
The included remote is identical to that included with both the CXA60 and CA80 amplifiers, as well as the CXN network player. It can control the entire CX range, and is similar to the new remotes supplied with the flagship 8-series equipment. The central controls have a nice tactile click to them; and the remote itself feels very solid, with a nice rubberised feel to the rear housing which affords it greater grip.
It’s nicely balanced, allowing it to sit comfortably in the hand, and takes 3 included AAA batteries which slot into the compartment at the back. It also follows the philips-designed RC5 code standard, allowing it to control other similar components that utilise the same IR codes. Similarly, the CXC will respond to any control that utilises the same standard, as it did with the remotes for some of the other components sharing the rack.
The CXC is immensely easy to operate. Basic functions (play/pause, stop, next/previous, open/close and power) can be operated via the front panel. The transport supports the usual programming functions, such as random, repeat (all or track) and shuffle, though the ability to program the playback order of tracks on a disc has been omitted here.
The mechanism itself also feels (and sounds) robust. The tray is smooth in operation (if a little noisy), though on my review sample the tray’s plastic facia wasn’t entirely flush with the front panel of the transport. That said, the transport is quick to read the table of contents, and is inaudible during playback.
The CXC supports CD text; when a CD incorporating CD text is inserted, the name of the album will scroll once, while the remaining time remains stationary. During playback, the name of each track will scroll once, and the track number, total number of tracks and current play time are displayed.
The CXC includes a couple of settings, accessed when in stop mode by holding down the stop button on the front panel of the unit. The transport can be configured to automatically begin playback when the tray is closed, and an auto power down mode will switch the player off after a period of inactivity (30, 60 or 120 minutes). By default, the CXC will power down after 30 minutes of inactivity which is the recommended setting to prolong the life of the unit as the laser remains constantly active when the unit is powered on.
I can’t find fault with the CXC’s sound. It’s notably free of the digital artefacts that plague many budget-oriented models, and it responds well to a change in DAC. Personally I feel that the DAC will have a more profound affect on the sound; so providing a CD transport delivers the 0s and 1s to where they need to go with minimal error, it’s doing a top-class job.
Where CD transports can fall down, however, is in their ability to reject external interferences. The CXC is fantastic in this department; positioned in a rack next to my right-hand speaker, the CXC gave trouble-free operation despite the volume reaching the point at which vibrations were resonating through the floor, the racks, the furniture and the listening seat.
And, while I can’t claim to own many CDs in a rough condition, I was unable to find a disc that could trouble the CXC; even the aforementioned ’21st Century Breakdown’ played without issue.
There’s no doubting the CXC is an excellent CD transport. At a time when many manufacturers are banishing the CD players from their product ranges, leaving those of us with large CD collections with few options to play them back, it’s nice to see Cambridge Audio continuing to support the format. And the CXC is certainly no budget afterthought offering either; that S3 servo system, coupled with optimised, all-digital circuitry will get the best from any disc you place in the tray.
My only criticism has to do with the CD drive mechanism, primarily its disc tray; the quality of which could benefit from some improvement. Budget players from the likes of Marantz and Yamaha are better in this regard. However if sound quality is your priority and you have a dedicated DAC or an amplifier with digital inputs (such as the matching CXA-60 or CXA-80), the CXC is a great buy. Highly recommended.
Ashley, I would like to purchase the CXC but am unsure it will pair with my Musical Fidelity X-Dac properly. The X-Dac will process HDCD CDs correctly (as my old DiscMagic1 transport ensured) but everyone (including CA) tells me the CXC won’t. I find it hard to believe that a manufacturer like CA would simply ditch or disable such a vital function after 20 years. What would be the point of buying a transport that cannot pass all the CD data on to the DAC? Please advise.
HDCD is a technology that has been largely abandoned, hence few players supporting it. Most DVD / Blu-Ray and universal disc players do. I’m afraid I don’t have any HDCDs so I can’t confirm directly whether or not they will work in the CXC. I would imagine that the CXC would pass on the required data for the DAC to decode, but the only way is to try. It would certainly still play the discs, as they are backwards compatible with the RedBook CD standard. Whether you could decode the HDCD information however I can’t tell you. Perhaps get a CXC on a home demo, or take your DAC and a CD along to a retailer and see if it works. I’d certainly be interested to know if it works or not.
Thanks for your reply. I have many HDCDs that I still love to listen to. I live in a small town in the southeast of Poland, so it is difficult to get to a specialist retailer. However, I found one I can go to in the next few days who has the CXC in store. I will take my DAC and an HDCD and see if it works.
I solved the problem. Today, I went to one of the most amazing hi-fi stores I have ever seen – crammed with fantastically presented gear (Nautilus2 in Rzeszow, https://nautilus2.pl if you’re ever in this part of the world). They set up my X-DAC with a CXC and it worked! The HDCD light came on immediately, so I don’t know what those guys at Cambridge Audio are smoking. They are simply wrong. At least now I can enjoy the CXC to the full.
Glad to hear you solved it and thanks for sharing, I had a feeling it might work. I’d encourage you relay the experience to Cambridge also.
Hey Ashley, how’s it goin. I picked up a CXN recently to pair with my creek evolution 100A amp matched with my tannoy XT8F. Now I’m looking for the CXC. Quick question. Since the CXC doesn’t have a DAC, can I connect the CXC to The CXN, and in turn The CXN to the creek audio amp? Will this work? Thanks a lot!
Absolutely, that is in fact why CA designed the CXC without a DAC. It is designed to be connected to the CXN (or the CXA amps of course) and will work wonderfully. Use the coax connection for the best results.
I own the CXC transport and have about 60 hours of use on it. The error correction works well on some CDs equaling the vintage PHILIPS CD80’s outstanding error correction. However, on one silver CD it produces a scratch-like noise and dropout that my PHILIPS and Marantz SA-8400 can play without any issues. Also it lacks the slam of the Marantz’s digital output. I like the player’s revealing nature of power cords, so care is needed when choosing one in order to get the most out of the player, otherwise it is a fine product which produces detailed and clear sound for a relevantly modest price.
Interesting feedback, and perhaps unsurprising as the Marantz has a better transport IMHO
Two weeks ago I went back to the CXC as I could not stream music using the CA 851N due to internet provider issues with the service. I played few CDs and was so disappointed that the CXC struggled seriously to play some silver CDs and CDRs even though it played them fine before. I have 165 hours of use on it, so something went wrong with its tracking ability. Cambridge Audio needs to use quality components that don’t fail after little hours of use. Now I just play it a lot and hope it fails quickly so I can send it to the distributor for repairs before the warranty runs out.
I have not encountered this issue. Send it to the dealer where it was purchased along with an example or two of an unplayable CD and ask that they fix it, rather than trying to cause it to fail prematurely.
Very much appreciate your review, Ashley. Here’s my deal: I’ve got an Arcam 73 that’s about 12 years old and over time I’ve started to hear static during playback. I’m running it through a newly purchased Schiit Yggdrasil (a totally show-stopping DAC btw). Two questions, really: What does static typically indicate? I’ve made my attempts at cleaning the laser with no resolution to the sound issue. Safe to conclude it’s time for a new transport? 2) How does the CXC compare with the Arcam as a transport?
Thanks Geoff for your kind words on the review. Static is unusual in a CD player in my experience. As you’re using the digital output, the only thing that springs to mind is that the laser is beginning to fail, or the electrical adjustments that govern the laser output and focus have slipped. Either can cause the player to struggle to read even the best disc, and that momentary error can cause the static you describe. What have you been using to clean the laser? From memory your Arcam uses the popular Sony KSS-213C laser which is readily available for under £10. If you’re handy with a screwdriver and can work safely around electronics, it’s an easy job to replace it and worth doing to see if that fixes the problem. That won’t help you if the adjustments are out as you’ll need test equipment to fix that (unless you want to go with the trial and error approach). See Here for an excellent article describing the process of laser replacement. I don’t think there would be a significant difference in sound between the Arcam when used as a transport and the CXC, maybe a slight edge to the CXC but nothing major.
Thanks for this, Ashley. I’ve tried the cotton swab/isopropyl route. The static shows up with varying levels of intrusiveness in about 25% of my playback experiences. Sometimes I can hear it clearly and quite disruptively through my loudspeakers, and sometimes I’ve only noticed it under headphones in very careful listening sessions as more subtle artifacts. I’m happy to give a new KSS-213C a whirl. The price is certainly right. As I’m looking at one from Amazon, it seems to be listed as Sony KSM-213CCM / KSS-213CC. Are these interchangeable?
Yes, the KSM is basically the complete mechanism (Laser Motors etc) whereas the KSS-213C is the laser itself. Either should work, though depending on the design of the plater you might have to use bits of the existing mechanism.
I find these reviews all the same and a waste of my time. Can someone answer one question so far not answered in all these copycat reviewd. DOES THE CXC PLAY CD-R DISCS?
The CXC will play a CDR providing is it finalised and conforms to the redbook CD standard. Discs made in iTunes and similar programs will play fine. It will not play discs containing MP3 or WMA files that have not been finalised. The user manual and FAQs found on the Cambridge Audio website clarify this clearly. I can only apologise for wasting your time…
You’ve wasted your own time. Your answer could been found in a few seconds at the Cambridge site. And you get all uppity…
Hey Ashley, thanks for the review ..
I am about to press buy on cxc and my biggest concern is if CA will release any update …CXC is 3 years old and the electronics have improved since …
I can’t say for sure but I doubt there is an update imminent. The CXC is using electronics that have been around for years anyway and there’s only so far CD playback technology can go as it is already mature. Even if an update does come out, I don’t see it being significantly better.
Thanks for the review. I’ve owned the cxc since 3 months now. And I’m very content with it. I’ve connected it to a cxa80. My speakers are the Sony SS-X70ED (which are 4 Ohm). It’s a great set.
I would like to add that the cxc has the ability to program but you have to use another remotecontrol that is compatible with the rc5 system.
Thanks for the tip re programming, useful to know.
My very old Sony X55ES CD player needs to be retired. How would the CXC Cambridge transport mate with my recently purchased Peachtree Nova 300?
As well as any other, should be a fine combination.
I’m rather new to your site, but must say it is very refreshing and down Earth. In a field awash with snake-oil and hyperbole, it is quite nice to find knowledgeable reviews and recommendations that are actually based on practical and real-world observations — not just numbers and scientific theory. Kudos for a wonderful site.
Now some info and my question(s) …
1st my budget system …
Cambridge CXA60 integrated amplifier
Cambridge BT100 Bluetooth Apt-X receiver (stream Spotify and ripped content form computer via JRiver Media Player)
ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 bookshelf speakers
Pro-ject Carbon DC turntable
Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge/stylus
PS Audio PS IIIa phono pre-amplifier
Denon 3910 CD | HD-CD | SACD | DVD-A |DVD player (connected via digital coax and Audio out RCA to compare Denon’s Burr-Brown and CXA60’s Wolfson DACs)
Belkin PurAV power conditioner
Amplifier Surgery handmade silver plated inter-connects through-out (phono, digital, audio)
Amplifier Surgery handmade silver plated 14 AWG speaker cables
As far as listening, goes — I was 50/50 Vinyl and CD — with a few DVD-A (96/24) discs and SACDs thrown in. Lately, I have found myself listening to more CD’s and more Apt-X streamed content. I listen to Jazz, Rock, Indie and classical. Instrumental and vocal definition as well as a focused sound stage is what I look for in my musical presentation. So now to my question(s) …
* How does the Cambridge CXC stack-up to the Denon 3910? I know that DVD-A’s would be a no-goAs I understand it — SACD’s are not part of the picture with the CXC and any player with S/PDIF digial outputs.
2. I’ve found the Wolfson DAC in the CXA60 delivers a slightly more focused center stage and slight bit more bass extension over the Denon’s Burr-Brown, but the Burr-Brown does offer a slightly wide soundstage. What is your thought on the CXA60/CXC combo given my listening preferences? I’m not opposed to another (relatively inexpensive) DAC like a Schiit, etc.
Your thoughts, please!!
BTW — your site has earned a coveted space on my Favorites bar!! 😀
Hi Richard – Firstly, thanks for your kind comments on the site. I’m glad you like what you read, we have some great stuff in the works.
To your question, I’m afraid I haven’t heard the 3910 in person so it wouldn’t be fair for me to offer an opinion on its sound. What I will say is that Denon equipment, like Marantz (Denon’s sister company) tend to be tuned for a more neutral, if not relaxed sound signature. The CX equipment is somewhat forward in its presentation. The CXC was designed to complement both the CXA80 and CXA60 amplifiers, and it does so wonderfully. Though I’m not a believer in the benefits of super costly CD transports as the law of diminishing returns kicks in early where digital is concerned, I do believe that the CXC is a very good transport and works brilliantly at least with the CXA80 (I’ve not heard the CXA60). I would recommend you demo the CXC, ideally as a home trial in your own system to see if the gains justify the cost.
With regards an external DAC, one will in many cases out perform an internal DAC of an amplifier simply due to the cost of materials, the electrical deign, shared power supplies etc. I would recommend that if you can you hear a couple of DACs perhaps including the Cambridge DACMagic. If anything a good external DAC would give you a USB input for your computer, which will give you far better quality than streaming via Bluetooth. AptX Bluetooth is very good but it is still a compromise and nothing beats a direct digital connection.
Is it in these days not wise to go for a streamer like the Cambridge cxn? I know nobody who now buy a CD player. It is all streaming and your cd’s in flac on a server.
A dealer meant there are 3 amps who are a fantastic match for the Tannoy; the old NAD c356, roksan K3 and abrahamsen. And maybe the new Denon 1600 Ne.
By the way, the xt8f are much better than the xt6f with their Fuller and warmer sound and better integration between the drivers.
The CXC is a transport designed to feed a digital device such as the CXN. Some people still own large CD collections and want to play them exclusively or along-side a streaming solution. Some have no interest in a server or in streaming. Despite what audio publications and the music industry at large would like you to believe, the CD is still a huge format. I personally think that CDs will outlive streaming and that there will be a market for CD players for many more years.
I have been reading a few positive reviews of Cambridge Audio CXC and am keen to replace my current modified CD-63SE (> 20 years old) which has started skipping tracks and all. My challenge is there are no hifi dealers in Malaysia with a unit of CXC, so there is no opportunity for a test run with my Musical Paradise MD-P1 Mk2 DAC (vacuum tube based DAC).
I am seriously looking at placing an order online for unit but before I take that leap, would like to seek your views on the planned pairing between the CXC and MD-P1.
I’ve not heard that DAC, but the CXC should pair well with almost anything. Before you get rid of that CD-63SE (which is an exceptional CD player), open it up and clean the laser tracks and the lens itself if you’re confident doing so. Those mechanisms are usually very reliable, and skipping is often due to dried grease on the laser tracks or a bit of dirt on the lens rather than a failure.
Thanks for the quick reply.
I ll give it a try with the insides soon
How would this CD transport work with a Rotel 1592 integrated amp and Linn kelldih speaker combination? Would Rotel’s 1570 be a better match?
The transport and the amp would be a fantastic match. The 1592 has one of the best integrated DACs of any amp. It is better than the 1570 in my opinion. I’m afraid I can’t say how well it would match to the speakers as I’ve not heard them, not being a Linn fan. That said the amp appears to be fairly flat in frequency response and certainly has plenty of power, so if the speakers offer the sound you like then there is no reason on paper at least why they shouldn’t match.
Thank you Ashley!
The Linns are a bit ‘piggish’ being 4 ohm but they sound very nice. Unfortunately, the entire system placement is not ideal in order to keep grandchildren’s fingers and food away from the equipment.
I look forward to other comments before making a final decision.
I am relatively new to the seperates world and would appreciate some advice.
Does anyone have anythoughtsn on the following system?
Cambridge AX 80 -***OR***- Arcam A19
Cambridge CXC (CD player)
Tannoy Revolution 8T
I would need a DAC if I went the Arcam route, which is extra £££ though not critical.
i actually have an unopened Arcam A19 that I am thinking of returning, in order to go Cambridge route.
Any thoughts appreciated.
Arcam amps match very well with Tannoy speakers. When you say the Revolution 8T, I assume you mean the XT8F? The A19, irDAC-II and CXC would make for a very good system. If you can stretch to the much better A29, that extra power goes a long way. The CXA80 is a very, very good amp (we’ve reviewed it here) but it may be a bit bright with the Tannoys depending on your taste.
Thanks Ashley, your thoughts are much appreciated.
It was actually the A29 I audtioned in Richer Sounds with the XT6F (sorry, still getting the hang of the nomenclature!), and the sound was the right hint of warm, with great separation. My taste is for great separation, a ‘real’ live session type sound, but not one that’s so clinical it robs the warmth from the music.
With the A29 and Tannoy XT6Fs, we tried a couple of CD players in the £250 bracket, a Yamaha (cant remember the model) and a Marantz (?6006). The Yamaha just added without taking anything away, and the Marantz pierced my ears a few times, and I felt it ‘wear’ me down quickly, if you know what I mean. The CXC didn’t sound much different from the Yamaha CD, though I’d have to listen again to tell for sure ( (I was music-ed out after a 3-4 hrs or audtioning kit).They had a Cambridge AX60 and I thought it a bit ‘clinical’.
So I am going back this weekend and they are getting the XT8Fs in, the problem with the XT6Fs was that though they were head and shoulders above the Missions and Dalis, on every track we played, when we played MJs Billie Jean the deep, recurring baseline that forms the foundation for the song just melted into a blurting sound with no distinct beginning and end- which surprised us both. So, will try the XT8F and see if it can hold it together.Must admit I was shocked that £1000 XT6F speakers would ‘lose it’ like that.
Are you surprised the XT6Fs couldn’t hold it together?
I’ll compare the Cambridge A80/CXC versus the Arcam A29/CXC , both with Tannoy XT8Fs and see how they sound. Will also try swapping the CXC for Yamaha CD and see what that does, not sure if you have thoughts there…
Thanks again for your thoughts, and swift ones at that !
Your comments on the XT6Fs do surprise me. My experience with Tannoy speakers in general is that they have a very tight, well-controlled low end. However positioning them correctly is very important; if you position them too close to a wall, you’ll get the sound you describe. Similarly using the carpet spikes can have a profound effect, as can simply pushing them properly into the carpet and ensuring that the speakers are level. I currently have the XT8Fs in for review and correctly positioned and being fed plenty of power the low end performance is exceptional. I suppose the cables can make a slight difference there too though there’s no need to spend a fortune on cables, most of it is marketing hype. A good thick well-shielded cable will do just fine.
That brings me nicely onto amps. In my opinion, though they’re very easy to drive, Tannoys do benefit from a bit more muscle to get the best out of them. The CXA60 is in my opinion not enough for a pair of XT6s. It’s not just wattage, but also current capability. The CXA80 has a much larger power supply, slightly more power and can better cope with heavier loads. The A29 is similar. Have you thought about other amps? Perhaps a Marantz PM-8005 with the matching SA-8005? I believe Richer Sounds stock them, and it’s a combination I often recommend. The amp has bags of power and the CD player has an excellent DAC section onboard, plus a superb transport. Ultimately it depends on your budget!
Again Ashley, you are totally spot on.
I went back yesterday, and we repositioned the XT6Fs and….the bass splurge was not there – same speakers, different position. Amazing, these things are often read about and sometimes make me wonder if they truly exist or a fiction, but it actually does happen, just as you say.
Nevertheless, RS had ordered some XT8Fs and I tried those…they just take the experience further, and once I knew what lay beyond my initial horizon, there was no going back. But they are big. BIG. Like, look at me big.
You are right about budget being the factor here. Though I often buy on ‘value’, rather price, I thought I would listen to what the good stuff sounds like and see what the difference is. Cue I asked them set up the Roksan K3 vs Arcam A39, and they suggested I try a Cyrus ‘all in one’ that often gets overlooked (they said).
Results to my ear:
1. Arcam A39 – good, but compared to the Roksan seem a little medicore. Not much separating them really, and cant describe it as bad, just not exceptional.
2. Roksan K3 – livelier. A bit more detail, and rendered more texture to voices and revealed modulation of voices that the Arcam homogenised.
3. Cyrus – amazingly detailed – the most detailed of all…and made me wonder ‘why do you need seperates when someone can pull this off with 1 box?’. But then I realised that they put me in the ‘mode’ of ‘analysing’ the music, so much so that I was sitting there dissecting it, when with the Roksan I was tapping my foot from the get go, as they Cyrus was just too technically focussed and lacked a vital qualitative element that makes music ‘flow’
Paired with the K3 I also heard the Roksan CD player, but was persuaded by my daughter to not buy it as she thought I was much more likely to stream it than use a CD. Would I be right in thinking that 24 bit Tidal would be better than CD? And how does 16 bit Spotify compare with CD?
So, I left RS with £2.5 k down and the following:
1. Tannoy XT8Fs
2. Roksan K3 (has its own DAC and Bluetooth built in)
3. 6m £10 QED cable (I am assuming this is the right ‘level’?)
What do you think?
Its a bit of arms race, but I feel I got on the right ‘plane’, where major compromises in sound weren’t a factor.
The staff were bemused when I said, on leaving, this would combination, probably ‘see me out’.
Thanks for all your helpful tips.
Interesting thoughts Rob. Will go through them in order:
Tannoy speakers are particularly sensitive to positioning by nature of the Dual-Concentric driver. The port design on the XT series makes them easier to place than most other models, but they still do require a degree of care. Unfortunately many dealers have a tendency to just ‘plonk’ them down roughly in front of the listener and call it good. Any hi-fi speaker requires careful setup to get the best from it, and in the case of single-point source speakers such as the Tannoys improper positioning can make the difference between sound that is either stunning or extremely poor.
The XT8s are big speakers, but well worth the size IMHO. I have a pair in for review currently and they rock even in a small room, though I have to move them out a bit to resolve the bass boom, better placed a bit off the rear and side walls if possible.
You’re absolutely right to buy on value rather than price. The fact is that there are great components at all price levels, but in hi-fi, particularly where digital audio and amplification is concerned, the law of diminishing returns is reached sooner than you might think. I believe the A39 is essentially an A29 with more power; the A49 is said to be quite a big jump, but I’ve not had the opportunity to hear one yet. I’ve had my doubts about Cyrus equipment in the past, though they do make some good kit. I’ve found that they tend to be better at lower volumes, as in my experience the power supplies are quite small and they don’t have the power supply headroom required to drive difficult loads to high volumes. Not that Tannoys are a particularly difficult load, but the more power you give them the happier they are.
I’m very surprised RS didn’t suggest you audition the Cambridge 851 kit, especially as they’re the CA distributor and used to push their kit as much as possible. It seems that they sadly don’t push the high-end kit enough, no wonder their truly exceptional analogue preamp (the 851E) was recently discontinued. A great shame.
As for 24-bit Tidal, unfortunately this splits opinion. Personally I think that in many cases high-resolution music and ‘high-res’ streaming is a load of BS (see This Article for a great explanation). It makes me laugh really; all these audiophiles claiming that high-resolution audio gets them ‘closer to the analogue sound’, when we’ve had the true analogue sound for the best part of a century. Given that many high-resolution transfers made today, especially of older music, have no more musical information than can be sampled on a 16/44.1 CD, it’s really not something worth worrying about. If you like the convenience of tidal, go for it. Spotify gives you a bigger catalogue, and if you use the app and get a premium account you can stream in higher quality, which I believe is equivalent to 320K mp3. I’d challenge anyone to tell the difference between a 320K MP3 and a CD. There will always be some who say that high-res is better and that lossy compression methods such as MP3 should be avoided at all costs, but they’re usually those who think that bigger numbers are always better. The truth is that once you get past a certain point anything can sound very good. The best way is to try for yourself; play a track on Spotify, (premium) and then on a CD and see if you can tell the difference.
I think you’ve got a great system. I’m not familiar with the exact cable but I’m sure it’ll do, I use Van Damme UPLC-OFC 6MM which is about £7 per metre and works as well as anything else. If you wanted to hear the difference for yourself, you can by it terminated from Mark Grant.
Many, many thanks, indeed.
What stands out from your website is the candid and unpretenious approach you take to audio. Many hi-fi sites (and magazines) could compete for a place in the ‘Pseuds Corner’ of Private Eye, but this site stands out. I hope you have great success with it.
Thanks Rob. I created AA because as a consumer I was tired of the untrustworthy advice being published. For me, reviews are more about features, quality and engineering than sound, because a product will sound different in every system and every room. As you discovered yourself it only takes a small difference in speaker position to mean the difference between an average and a great system, and the same is true when a reviewer reviews a component. I find it amusing when I read reviews in which the reviewer has auditioned the test subject with a series of other components also on review, and with which they cannot be truly familiar within such a short space of time. I also don’t believe in giving the best reviews to the highest paying advertisers or in exchange for free product. Honesty is the best policy and it’s worked well for me so far, though there are quite a few in the industry who aren’t so keen. Oh well. I’m glad you enjoy what you read and don’t hesitate to shout if you need any further advice!
Hi Rob, I replaced my Cyrus CD player with the CXC and was very surprised with the improvement in sound quality throughout. I replaced the Cyrus as it was on its 3rd laser! am I glad I did. I have the CXA60, very worthy of its awards, but I have found that the M-DAC is superior in all areas compared to the inbuilt DAC on the CXA60 so I would recommend buying a DAC to get the best from the CXC. Hope this is of some help.
I have a plinius inspire 980 integrated amplifier. I was considering purchasing the CXC to pair with the Plinius, the Plinius having it’s own DAC. Is this match recommended?
absolutely, should sound great.
Okay how about this combination? I’m replacing a McIntosh MCD 205 which has issues. A friend gave me a Conrad Johnson da 2B DAC. I plan to match that with the Cambridge transport. The amplifier and preamplifier are vintage mc2255 and C33 respectively. I bought them new in the eighties. The speakers are duntech Marquis.
SHOuld sound great
Thanks ever so much for such detailed review, it is really helpful.
Was wondering if I can get your advice. What do you think of this combination?
851W + 851E
B&W 683 speakers
Would you advise any other combination or brands?
PS. I have also posted the above in you 851N review
Hi Ashley, I’d just bought the PS AUDIO NUWAVE DAC and I’m wondering does it match with CXC?
Yes, I’d recommend using a coaxial cable to connect them both as both have coaxial jacks.
Hi Ashley,I would agree 100% with your review of the CXC, untouchable for the money (and a good bit more!). I recently purchased the matching CXA 60 amp and I am very pleased and impressed with the sound quality from both components through B&W 686 S2s. I have a John Westlake upgraded Audiolab M DAC and have compared this to the onboard dac of the CXC 60 and to be honest, while the M DAC is marginally superior in the mid/treble area the Cambridge does aquit itself very well to the point of thinking is it worth another box on the rack.
Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying your new Cambridge components. To me the DAC in the CXA60 is perfectly good enough, and if level matched with the MDAC the comparison would probably be even closer.
Hi, although taste is very personal, what would you do Rotel 1570 or cxc with the dac100?? My amplifier is the denon 1510.
Probably the CXC with the DACMagic 100. The CXC is a transport worthy of a DAC many times its price, and in DAC terms to point of diminishing returns is reached pretty quickly. There comes a point where 1 high end DAC is really as good as another, despite what some will tell you. I’d go with the Cambridge combo, perhaps adding an Arcam IRDAC-II or one of the more upmarket Cambridge DACs at a later date if you wanted to achieve the best performance possible.
Thanks a lot Ashley!! 🙂
I’m thinking of running a CXC through a Chord Mojo … I think this could be a formidable package ? A little unconventional but by all accounts could be amazing ?
Why not. Unconventional it may be but sometimes such setups are great. Use a proper coaxial cable for the best performance, doesn’t need to be an expensive one though – any 75 ohm coaxial audio cable will do.
Hello. Thinking of pairing a Yamaha AS 701 with a Cambridge cxc. Not knowing much about Dacs, will this pairing work? Thanks, your advice is very much appreciated.
While I’d probably look at one of the matching CX amps for sonic and practical reasons (remote control compatibility being the main one), electrically at least that pairing will work just fine. Connect the coaxial (RCA) output of the CXC to the coaxial input of the 701 using a proper 75 ohm coaxial cable, the dealer from whom you buy the CXC should be able to supply you with one of those.
Would u know if the cxc will fit /play (without extra dav) with a Hegel h80 amp with it’s inbuilt DAC? Or?
As long as that DAC has either a coaxial or optical input, and you have the appropriate cable, it will work just fine.
I currently have a Cambridge CXU which I also use to play CDs. With the recent addition of a NAD D 1050 DAC the sound of the CXU is greatly enhanced. I suppose I should just be satisfied, but, always wanting to buy new toys, and now I have an external DAC, I’m curious to try (read buy) the CXC. Does anyone know if there would be any point to this. Is the CXC transport the same as the one in the CXU. Would the CXC sound better for playing CDs than the CXU. Which raises the question does a player dedicated to playing CDs sound better than a universal player???. Input on this would be greatly appreciated.
I believe that as with most universal players, the CXU contains a transport much like that found in a computer so it is not the same as the CXC. That said both can deliver an accurate representation of what’s on the disc, and I think the difference would be minimal at best if there was a difference at all. I can only suggest borrowing one on home demo to test for yourself, but I don’t think the improvements in sound, if any, would justify the outlay. Depending on the rest of your system, if you wanted an upgrade, the money could be better spent elsewhere. Or of course to buy more music.
Hi,Ashley!I am considering to make some hi-fi system,and I need youe advice.I have lot of files on my PC,on the other hand,I have solid collection of CDs.Now I don t know what to do-to make one system that would be useful and for PC files and for CDs,or to make two separate systems.What would you recommend?It s not about money,it s about funkcionality and performance.
One system that’ll do it all. If money isn’t an issue, Cambridge’s 851N is the best streamer on the market currently IMO, and that includes the exotically priced models from the likes of Naim and Linn. Then choose a CD player. You could stick with the 851 route and go with an 851C, then pair the 2 with some 851 amplification (either the 851A integrated or (for the best performance) 851E/W pre/power). If you wanted to look at other brands, consider a top end integrated such as the A49 from Arcam or the Marantz PM-11S3, or perhaps an exposure 3010 pre/dual mono setup. Then add some speakers, my choice would be one of the floor standers from the Tannoy definition range or perhaps something from PMC.
How would CXC work with Marantz PM8005 or Naim Nait 5si?Yes,I know that SA8005 or Naim 5si CD player would be more natural choice,but the CXC price is more accaptable,and it seems as a great CD player/transporter.
The CXC, being a transport, would require an external DAC to work with either of the 2 amps you mention. The price of which would bring it into the same league as the players that match those amps. If I were you I’d opt instead for the CD player that matches your amp of choice.
Luka your comparison is a bit of a mismatch. I’m going by Canadian prices but the Naim is a $2200 cd player and the Marantz is $1400 and Cambridge is $600 (no DAC). If you’ve got the bucks definitely go for the Naim, as that is undoubtedly the best sounding player of the three. If your funds are more modest get yourself a good DAC for about $700 and go for the CXC. It won’t match the sound of the Naim, and like the Naim it won’t support SACD. But musically I think it sits in the middle of the three that you have mentioned. With a DAC it might run you a titch less than the Marantz
I certainly wouldn’t discount the Marantz. It’ll give the Naim a run for its money. I’d take the Marantz amp over the Naim too.
Hi,Davi!You are from Canada? I have relatives in Montreal.Yes I know the prices,but here how I was thinking:Instead of spending 1400$ on CD player I would match CXC with some good DAC(likeArcam irDAC)for 900-1000$ and the price difference would add for amp or speakers,especially because I don t have SA CDs.On the other hand,I would rather go with PMA8005 or Nait5si amps than with CXA80,because Marantz and Naim have much better reviews.Of course,this is just a theory.
Remember that reviews are subjective and you shouldn’t judge one brand over another because of a review. All manufacturers, Naim included, produce a faulty product once in a while. And for any manufacturer, there is a reviewer who doesn’t like their products, whether it be because of a signature sound, brand bias or a desire to sell more products from a particular brand.
Marantz are often looked down upon because they’re a Japanese manufacturer and because their products often include features that purists consider to be superfluous (tone controls etc). Some think badly of Cambridge gear, purely because A) their products, in the UK at least are distributed by partner company Richer Sounds, and B) because their claim to fame used to be the manufacture of exceptional budget equipment. Many believe that such companies are not capable of producing credible high-end equipment, and sadly are more than happy to share that view with others despite them having no direct experience with the products or brand in question.
What they forget is that these brands have a huge advantage, and that is far eastern manufacturing. Cambridge products are manufactured under close supervision in China, and Marantz still makes its products in Japan. They’re also mass-produced on a much higher level than their British counterparts, and thus are cheaper to manufacture and can be sold for a far more reasonable price.
And because many such brands also sell budget and lifestyle ranges, they make more profit and therefore have larger research and development budgets, access to the latest and greatest technology and equipment, and the ability to finance the very latest manufacturing techniques.
In reality many of the components that find their way into the British and USA-made products contain components manufactured in the far east, right down to the chips, transport mechanisms, and even small components such as capacitors, resistors and transformers. Just because a component was assembled in a given country, it does not mean that its parts were sourced from that country. And all that talk of omitting features for the sake of improving sound isn’t always as it seems, instead it is in many cases because to add such things would drive the price of the product to high to be financially viable. I’d go as far as to say that products manufactured entirely in the far east are more consistent in build quality and reliability, and given the bargain prices they’re sold for you can’t really go wrong.
I have a Meridian 500 CD Transport. It’s had better days (after 20 years of useful life). Is the CXC a suitable replacement (I know prices are night and day). I’m not interested in spending $18,000 for a new Meridian unit. I just need to know if the CXC will be compatible with my Meridian system.
It looks as though the Meridian 500 has both coaxial and optical outputs, just like the CXC so yes, the CXC will be compatible with your existing system. Digital technology has moved on a lot in the last 20 years, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the price difference.
Hi,Ashley!In your review you said:”Where CD transports can fall down, however, is in their ability to reject external interferences.” What did you mean by that?
For example, vibrations from the speakers going through the floor, into the rack and thus into the transport can, in extreme cases, cause some transports or players to skip or cause read errors.
Thanks.I saw that some studio monitors have RCA input.If I connect CXC with RCF Ayra 5 and Arcam irPac,woul it be any upgrade in sound quality?Does it have sense to make such a “system”?
Do you mean the irDAC-II? If so, that will work fine providing you use the variable outputs of the irDAC-II. Connect the variable outputs of the irDAC-II to the monitors, and the CXC to one of the irDAC-II’s coaxial inputs for the best sound, set the gain on the monitors to between 50% – 75%, and used the irDAC-II to control the volume of the system.
No,I mean Arcam rPAC.Does it change all you said?
The rPAC is a USB DAC. It doesn’t have a digital input for a transport such as the CXC, nor does it have a variable output. It could be used to connect a PC to the RCF monitors, providing you used the PCs software volume control, but it wouldn’t allow you to connect devices such as the CXC.
Hi,Ashley!What would you rather choose,CXC with some solid external DAC(in example Arcam irDAC),or Audiolab 8200 CD player,if you can compare it?
It depends on the product. Some CD transport and DAC combinations will better some integrated CD players, while some integrated CD players are better than similarly priced transport and DAC combinations. In the case of the products you mention, I’d pick the Arcam and Cambridge combination mainly due to the reliability and build quality of the two components vs that of the 8200CD. As with everything, choose some combinations and listen for yourself.
Salve ! Io possiedo un impianto Exposure : pre stereo 3010 S2 + 2 finali mono 3010 S2 . Ho acquistato il Cambridge 851 N e adesso vorrei aggiungere il Cambridge CXC. E’ una bella accoppiata ?
Yes. The CXC matches the 851N perfectly.
I hav just purchased the Cambridge CXC . . . Was previously using my Cambridge Azur CD player as a transport connected to a Teac UD501 DAC, listening to my collection for the first time again . . .
Totally satisfied with the CXC, being a classical buff, I am getting performance real results . . ..
No quads about reccommending The CXC . . .
Excellent! Glad you’re enjoying.
I have AVI ADM 9.1s and plan to feed the CXC’s optical output straight into these to liberate my currently box bound CD collection – I’ve not bought the transport yet – would anyone have any recommendations/caveats/hesitation about this plan??
That would make a great system.
This may sound like a contradiction, but I like a cd player to sound as “analogue” as possible. Detail is one thing but warmth and emotion needs to be delivered within the music. I’m already very much sold on the CXA80’s abilities to deliver these characteristics. I would just like to know if the CXC delivers something similar.
I think it does, certainly when paired with the CXA-80 as they compliment each other very well.
Very nice review, lots of detail. I Have the CX80 and CXN and will get the CXC tomorrow. Speakers are the Monitor Audio Silver 6.
Nice system! It’s rare that i miss a review sample but I’d happily have another CXA-80 and CXN. Enjoy your CXC!
Cheers for the very insightful review. I own a CXA80+CXN and I am currently using a NAD C515BEE CD player as a transport, connected to the CXN using a S/PDIF cable. Do you reckon using the CXC will improve the sound quality significantly or at least to some degree? Thanks in advance.
To some degree, yes. The CXC has a much better mechanism than the NAD, so will do a better job of retrieving the digital information from the disc. It’ll probably be more reliable in the long run too. Whether the difference would be night and day is debatable, and whether it justifies the price is up to you. But I’d certainly encourage you to have a listen. The differences between CD transports is a subject of much debate, and I’d certainly say that the difference isn’t as great as some would like you to believe. That said the aim of a good transport is to spin the disc at a constant stable speed and read as much information from it as possible, and that’s what sets them apart. A transport that can read a disc with fewer errors will in theory sound better.
Thank you very much for the prompt reply. I’ll give the CXC a whirl in the near future. I’m loving the CXA80/CXN match (and B&W 685 s2 as well), so we’ll see…
Nice system! That should serve you well for a long time.
Can you compare the CXC transport with capabilities with the Pioneer Stable Player technology (from my PDR05, for example)?
Sorry my english,
Those Pioneers are excellent. They rely on mechanics and electronics rather than pure electronics, whereas the CXC is basically a pretty average CD mechanism controlled by a small computer. Ultimately I think they’d be equal in performance and if you have one, I wouldn’t be upgrading to the other. In fact the Pioneer might have the edge, though I’ve not compared them directly.
Thanks. I was wondering about this change because my Pioneer simply does not read some CDs (TOC read or NO DISC info on display….). Any thougths? Thanks again!
Are they standard off-the-shelf ‘Red Book’ CDs? That is an older player so it may have issues with some newer discs or recordable CDs. It may also be that the lens needs a clean, but usually that would cause it to either work or not. In that scenario a newer CD player may be of benefit, though I’d look at the CDs first.
I only have original CDs, not R or RWs. I think it´s time to try a new player…
Try cleaning the laser first, if you’re handy with a screwdriver and can work safely with electronics. Nothing to lose and you might be surprised what a clean can do.