• If you ever spot Spam (either in the forums, or received via forum direct message) please use the Report button at the bottom of each post to make sure a Moderator can handle it quickly. Thanks for your help in keeping things running smoothly!

Cambridge CXN/DAC Question

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
Hi all

I'm thinking about buying the CXN.

I currently own a CXA81 with the built in ESS Sabre DAC and a CXC CD transport. They're connected via digital coax.

The CXN uses twin Wolfson DACs.

If I connect the CXC to the CXN and connect the CXN to the CXA81 using XLR, am I likely to hear any difference in sound?

Thanks.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,015
637
6,070
Hi all

I'm thinking about buying the CXN.

I currently own a CXA81 with the built in ESS Sabre DAC and a CXC CD transport. They're connected via digital coax.

The CXN uses twin Wolfson DACs.

If I connect the CXC to the CXN and connect the CXN to the CXA81 using XLR, am I likely to hear any difference in sound?

Thanks.
I'd be surprised if you didn't hear a difference Adam - subtle but obvious would be my guess.
Might even be slightly more than subtle, but at least you'll be in a position to pick and stick with the one you prefer.
 

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
Thanks for responding.

I don't know very much about DACs other than what their purpose is.

Is the twin Wolfson DAC in the CXN considered to be superior to the ESS Sabre in the CXA81?
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,015
637
6,070
You may well have seen people discussing sound differences between DAC brands.
The consensus seems to be that ESS Sabre are more detailed than Burr Brown, some prefer BB for being more 'musical'.
(I've just changed between different models of ESS Sabre chips, both were detailed and musical - detail helps make my tracks musical ;)).
As ever, take all sound descriptions and opinions with a pinch of salt - especially that sort of over-simplification.
There are a few components around the DAC chip itself (not least the analogue stage) that influence its sound - so, depending on the overall product design, the same chip won't necessarily sound the same.

In the CXN they're using a DAC for each channel - no downside to that - never a bad idea to keep channels separate (the reasoning behind stereo amps described as 'dual mono').
 

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
Interesting. I have seen some people state that upgrading the DAC for their CD player/transport was almost like getting a new CD player entirely.

Obviously, if I do buy CXN I will need to subscribe to a streaming service.

I'm wondering how much of a difference I am likely to notice between a CD quality stream and an actual CD playing via the CXC?

I know it's likely to be subjective.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,015
637
6,070
Interesting. I have seen some people state that upgrading the DAC for their CD player/transport was almost like getting a new CD player entirely.

Obviously, if I do buy CXN I will need to subscribe to a streaming service.

I'm wondering how much of a difference I am likely to notice between a CD quality stream and an actual CD playing via the CXC?

I know it's likely to be subjective.
Taking your points one at a time:

1) I put the coax digital output of a 22 year old Philips CD recorder through the (Khadas Toneboard) DAC I'm currently using. No exaggeration to say it sounded like a different player. (I learned not to exaggerate from my Mum - "I've told you a million times not to exaggerate").

2) I've had my eye on the CXN since version 1 came out in 2015. Funny enough, if I ever bought one, I wouldn't subscribe to any streaming service.
I'm currently using a Pi to stream my CD collection off a hard drive. I also stream
'radio' stations (including one in CD quality!).....all free of charge.

3) The difference between actual CD play and CD quality streaming?
In your case, if you were putting both through the same (CXN) DAC I doubt you'd be able to tell them apart.
 

millennia_one

Well-known member
Sep 1, 2014
380
154
11,070
As I always say the sound dose not come from the dac. It comes from the output stages. It could be the same dac chip in the 2 units but sound will sound far different.

There should, should! be a noticeable difference. The real question is, will the difference be good enough for you to spend the money and is it a “better” difference.

The dac should give better out put but with all things in hifi it’s not always that clear cut.
 
  • Like
Reactions: plus 1

millennia_one

Well-known member
Sep 1, 2014
380
154
11,070
3) The difference between actual CD play and CD quality streaming?
In your case, if you were putting both through the same (CXN) DAC I doubt you'd be able to tell them apart.
I certainly can’t tell the difference Through the Chord qutest.
I truthfully struggle to hear the difference between chrome cast Audio and My dedicated streamer and CD player . To the point I’m now selling the streamer to free up some funds. And don’t really use the CD player any more.
 
  • Like
Reactions: shadders and Gray

Simon 13th note

Well-known member
BANNED
Jul 27, 2020
183
72
170
the speakers are the missing link in this because the output sound will obviously depend on speakers too, and the listening environment. You didn't mention to allow a view to be taken.

My gut would be say I would buy on the overall streamer , features and reviews of sonics, not just on being dual dac capable. For instance I have a dual mono dac which uses one dac card per channel , as the Cambridge audio will, but it isn't as good as a stereo dac like the RME or chord Qutest I have.

As said it depends on the analogue output, but it also depends on the clock, and jitter and how well the dac can deal with it. Mixing it all up I dont think its possible to say other than trying and listening.

Dual mono accounts a good idea especially when used in a balanced configuration but is best where the dual mono nature is preserved to the output keeping the channels separate to the end, which will be mixed together into a stereo amp.

I wouldn't make this the be all and end all, above listening and making judgements of value yourself. A lot of the time people make judgements on tech which can influence them and it's the worse way to buy hifi.
 
  • Like
Reactions: plus 1

Simon 13th note

Well-known member
BANNED
Jul 27, 2020
183
72
170
I believe I read that my CXA81 is dual mono?
had a look and it refers to symmetrical left and right channels but that might refer to the stereo operation. dual mono is different in that the left and right channels are discrete. amps like leema and this hegel h390 I have are dual mono, or my cyrus dac xp signature. you tend to find it in the more premium gear. but again I wouldn't go beyond number 1 ear drum.
 

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
had a look and it refers to symmetrical left and right channels but that might refer to the stereo operation. dual mono is different in that the left and right channels are discrete. amps like leema and this hegel h390 I have are dual mono, or my cyrus dac xp signature. you tend to find it in the more premium gear. but again I wouldn't go beyond number 1 ear drum.
I was a little confused about that. I did notice the claim about symmetrical channels, but I also saw a Cambridge Audio video that mentioned dual mono design. I can’t find the video and I guess that claim could mean a number of things, as you say.

I appreciate the response from everyone.

Can anyone recommend a set of good quality and sensibly priced XLR cables?
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
152
88
18,670
Is the twin Wolfson DAC in the CXN considered to be superior to the ESS Sabre in the CXA81?
Hi,
This is really a listening test to see if you like one or the other.

The dual mono means that there are two DAC IC's in the unit, and each chip is used in Differential Mode as per datasheet figure 26 :

It provides an extra 3db S/N, from 117dB to 120dB, but in general, the entire chain of hifi has a S/N of 110dB or less, so it makes no difference.

Regards,
Shadders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Gray

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
I went ahead and bought a CXNv2. I've had it about a week now.

I'm currently taking advantage of free trails from Tidal and Qobuz.

The CXN is connected to my CXA81 via XLR and digital coax. It's my understanding that the CXN doesn't apply any processing (upsampling) to digital coax, unlike XLR/RCA.

I have noticed the sound quality via XLR (utilizing the CXN's Wolfson DACs and upsampling) is good but is lacking some slight clarity. My biggest problem is that the soundstage/imaging seems a little jumbled. Vocals don't always seem to be centred and appear to be coming from both speakers. I've read that this could be due to the processing applied?

Digital coax offers more clarity, the soundstage/imaging is more defined and vocals are centred. It just sounds better.

My final observation is that I'm not entirely sold on Tidal and Qobuz sounding the same as CD. Yes, I'm aware that FLAC should sound no different and high resolution should probably sound better, but when I play a CD it just sounds better to me.

I'm sure there's lots of variables.

The biggest issue is the amount of poor quality recordings. It's extremely disappointing to listen to a song and realize it sounds like garbage.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Al ears

record_spot

Well-known member
May 30, 2015
56
18
10,545
The WM8740 has been around for years. AVI used them in their Lab Series player back in 2005/6, Arcam I think in some of their FMJ CD players. Cambridge used five of them in the 752BD and later CXU. Astell and Kern used one in its Junior DAP a couple of years back and it's appeared in any number of other bits of hifi gear.

I love it personally, I think it has a nice detailed, but quite rounded sound, or at least, that's the sound of the gear I've heard it used with, so it's plainly not all down to the DAC, but the manufacturer's implementation. Could I split it out from a different DAC? Well, maybe the ESS Sabres which I understand are rather more tonally open. These days, I like the sound of the Sony CD player I use from the early 90s - more prominent bass and a touch clearer in the treble. Uses one of Sony's own DACs from memory.
 

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
The WM8740 has been around for years. AVI used them in their Lab Series player back in 2005/6, Arcam I think in some of their FMJ CD players. Cambridge used five of them in the 752BD and later CXU. Astell and Kern used one in its Junior DAP a couple of years back and it's appeared in any number of other bits of hifi gear.

I love it personally, I think it has a nice detailed, but quite rounded sound, or at least, that's the sound of the gear I've heard it used with, so it's plainly not all down to the DAC, but the manufacturer's implementation. Could I split it out from a different DAC? Well, maybe the ESS Sabres which I understand are rather more tonally open. These days, I like the sound of the Sony CD player I use from the early 90s - more prominent bass and a touch clearer in the treble. Uses one of Sony's own DACs from memory.
I don't think the issue is the Wolfson DAC. Some people seem to think the ATF2 upsampling is the problem.

I wish it could be disabled in order to compare.

I could be wrong.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,015
637
6,070
Like you Adam, I would expect only the analogue outs to be upsampled.
I also wouldn't expect that to make things worse.
Have / can you compare RCA with XLR out?
 

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
Like you Adam, I would expect only the analogue outs to be upsampled.
I also wouldn't expect that to make things worse.
Have / can you compare RCA with XLR out?
I had considered that as well.

I haven't tried using RCA yet as I don't currently have any RCA cables. I'll try as soon as I can get some. I'll report back as soon as I'm able to compare.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Gray

record_spot

Well-known member
May 30, 2015
56
18
10,545
I don't think the issue is the Wolfson DAC. Some people seem to think the ATF2 upsampling is the problem.

I wish it could be disabled in order to compare.

I could be wrong.
Never considered the upsampling a problem. The 752BD is a fantastic machine. I know a good few folk on a couple of forums that rated it above the Oppo 105/105D. Others found it too close to call.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,015
637
6,070
I had considered that as well.

I haven't tried using RCA yet as I don't currently have any RCA cables. I'll try as soon as I can get some. I'll report back as soon as I'm able to compare.
Ensure volume level is matched before comparison but expect no discernable SQ difference.
 

Adam W.

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2020
53
27
70
I received a new set of RCA cables a few days ago and connected the CXN to the CXA81 with them.

After a few days of listening I have come to the conclusion that the sound quality via RCA is better than XLR. In fact, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from digital coax.

The CXN was connected to the CXA81 via XLR, RCA and coax at the same time so I was able to make some quick comparisons.

XLR just sounds lacking and somehow less coherent. I have no idea why.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,015
637
6,070
XLR just sounds lacking and somehow less coherent. I have no idea why.
The reason I suggested comparing RCA with XLR is because this part of your earlier post specifically caught my attention:
'My biggest problem is that the soundstage/imaging seems a little jumbled. Vocals don't always seem to be centred and appear to be coming from both speakers'
That's a classic description of the L & R channels being out of phase - although if they were, I would expect the symptom to be very much more pronounced than you've described.

However, if just one end of either one of your XLR leads has been incorrectly wired, you'd be out of phase (if pins 2 & 3 have been reversed between plug and socket on one lead).
For the reason I've given, I think it to be extremely unlikely, but it's very easy for you to check the wiring.

You just need to confirm, from socket to plug on each XLR lead, pin 1 to 1. 2 to 2 and 3 to 3.
Pin numbers are marked on the plastic bodies between them.
If you haven't got a multimeter, you can open the plugs and look at the wire colours.
You never know........(but I doubt it).

(At least you know the upsampling can't be the cause of the RCA / XLR difference).
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts