Cambridge Audio CXN with Mac via USB - better than Airplay?

Hi all - First time poster so will try and explain my situation but would love some advice please. I have been a Roon user on and off for a few years but have recently jumped back in. My set up is:

  • Cambridge Audio CXA60 Amp
  • Cambridge Audio CXN V1
  • Mac Mini (set up as Roon Core in separate room) with some FLAC files stored on the hard drive
  • Tidal Subscription

At the moment I am streaming Tidal and my library via Airplay (though the Roon iPad app) and realise that i’m limiting myself to to 44.1khz 16-bit playback. I know the CXN does not have the latest Chromecast update so i’m not going to get any better streaming than via Roon or the CA app which has Tidal built in.

QUESTION - If I were to connect my Mac Mini (core) via USB 2 at the back of the CXN directly would I be able to play full 24-bit/192khz music files from my library or Tidal using Roon?

Any help or guidance would be really appreciated.

Hi - I don’t have any experience of the solution you suggest but I’ve always tried to avoid connecting direct to audio

If you’re up for spending a bit… £100…I achieved what you are looking for a different way by assembling a Roon end point based on a Raspberry Pi + HiFi Berry DAC

it gives you full Roon capability and allows you to stream Tidal or local files at full res
I can give yo. bit more detail, if that would help

That would be great Peter. Happy to invest a bit more given how much i’ve spent already. I’d rather not have a Mac connected directy but feel like i’m missing out a little by streaming via airplay.

I followed this guide for my first endpoint

It’s super simple and once I had bought the parts (I used ThePiHut in the UK)

Trust me… it’s assembly rather than high tech :slight_smile:

I noticed a HUGE quality improvement over airplay both in sound quality and reliability

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Thanks - I’ll give that a look today!

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Think I might need a crash course in Ropieee/Raspberry Pi! Just need to work out what parts I need. Assuming this bypasses the Cambridge Audio amp and just streams direct to the CXN streamer? Does it need to be connected to the CXN or is it a fully independent amp/DAC that streams wirelessly. Sorry…still in the early stages of learning!!!

If you go for a DAC board for the Pi (my experience)… it has 2xRCA Phono out that you would connect to an input on your amp
Effectively you would have two sources: a) CXN b) Roon Endpoint

I think there is an alternative route (haven’t tried it) where you could buy a different board and offer a digital out to connect to your CXN

Make any sense?

BTW you can stream over WiFi or connect the Pi to ethernet if you have a local cable
I have a mix… the WiFi is fine with a solid signal. In my case, I have a few locations (Garden, shed, etc.) where it turned out that ethernet was more reliable

Yep…makes sense. Would be RCA for me I think but will definitely take a look.

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So…i’ve taken a decent look at the set up instructions and options. I’m looking at a RPi4 running RoPieee. I can see 2 different connection options (if I exclude wireless streaming for a moment):

Option 1) RPi4 connected directly via USB to the CA CXN Streamer (in this setup the CXN DAC is used)

Option 2) RPi4 PLUS a HiFi Berry DAC connected into the CA CXA60 Amp via RCA connectors (bypassing the CXN Streamer altogether)

Would one setup be better than the other from a streaming quality perspective?

There is a third option: RPi4 plus a HiFiBerry Digi+ Standard (or Digi+ Pro, a little better). Add a suitable steel case from HiFiBerry and a 5V power supply. Run a coax cable from the RPi to the S/PDIF input of your DAC.

I would advise against using USB straight from the RPi, that’s very jittery and contains a lot of noise.

I have NUC ROCK connected via usb to CXN V1 and it plays 24/192 without any problem.

This is the option you want. With an RPi4, there is NO reason to add a HAT for USB. And since you already have the CXN as a DAC, little point to adding a DAC HAT to the RPi, as your CXN is a better DAC unless you want to start spending a fair bit more for the DAC HAT.

Perhaps the ergonomics of a single remote plus removing usb from the chain might lean me towArds pi4/sac hat via rca to the amp

But that’s just my biased view :slight_smile:

Check out this thread re CXN and Linux

Also don’t forget that with a bridge RPi etc the CXN loses all Artwork, it’s just a DAC. As with all digital inputs . The streamer bit is by passed

So which version of the Cambridge CXN streamer is this? An old one (V1) I presume, because according to Cambridge Audio, the V2 version is “Roon-capable”:


Thanks to Chromecast Built-in hundreds of music services, including Sirius XM, Qobuz & Soundcloud, can be enjoyed on the Edge NQ. Just tap the cast button in your favourite app to stream music from your smartphone, tablet or laptop in stunning high definition sound, up to 24bit/96kHz.In addition, CXN (V2) can now serve as Roon end points. They become classified as Roon ‘Capable’, supporting playback of your digital music library and TIDAL in up to 24/96kHz.

That would be the simplest solution - if you already have a V2-version, or alternatively work something out with your dealer with regards to an upgrade. Same box count, no more cables et.

Sorry i am a bit late to the party, we were celebration Southern Hemisphere Xmas yesterday :evergreen_tree:

The CXN referred to is a Version 1. As you probably know you can set up the CXN to either USB Class 1 or Class 2 , they run to 24/96 and 24/192 respectively. Apple doesn’t need a driver (I believe) and CA offer a Windows USB 2 Driver download.

The Roon Ready bit means that with the correct firmware loaded from CA (Recently issued 2-3 months ago ?), the CXV V2, and Asure 851 N and Edge NQ can support RAAT and hence Roon on a direct Ethernet connection. The V1 has a “Technical” (processorI think) limitation that prevents this support and looks like always will.

The reference above was a series of trials to allow USB Class 2 and hence 24/192 to run through the V1 via an RPI and Roipeee. All efforts at setting up Class 2 USB Failed and I had to run on Class1 which Roipeee / CNX supported OK. @spockfish dug in and suggested it was to do with the implementation of USB and Linux on the CXN that caused the issue.

Finally I opted for a RPi , Allo Digione HAT and a co-ax connection to my other DAC and Audiolab M-DAC which now runs 24/192 fine

The CXN I rarely use with Roon and if I do I use AirPlay. I use it via a DLNA sever (JRiver MC) and then Co-Ax out to my Audiolab DAC (and Headphone amp) I notice no difference with my aging ears

The other comment was that if you run the CXN V2 via USB it will be a DAC only (the streamer unit being bypassed) and as with all digital inputs you will lose any artwork, you see a bald USB , Digital 1 etc in print . Using the Ethernet via RAAT wil will (I believe) see artwork.

Hence your best bet is to run Ethernet to the CXN V2 and get the widest range of Hi Res. Chromcast Ready has Hi Res limit I believe although I haven’t see the spec.

Hope this helps