Cambridge Audio Minx Xi Digital Music System

Device Type: Integrated Amplifier/Network Player/DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Input: Ethernet, 2x USB for USB storage, Coax S/PDIF (24/96), Toslink (24/96), Wi-Fi, A2DP plus aptX Bluetooth, 2x analog RCA, 3.5mm analogue input
Output: 3.5mm Headphone jack, 2 pairs speaker binding posts, subwoofer out
Dimensions (H x W x D): 90 x 270 x 285mm (3.5 x 10.6 x 11.2”)
Weight: 5.8kg (12.8lbs)
Availability: Online and through Authorized Dealers
Price: $899.99
Website: www.cambridgeaudio.com

All-In-One
The Cambridge Audio Minx Xi packs a 40 watt per channel (into 8 ohms) Class AB integrated amplifier, a network player, DAC, and headphone amp into one relatively small and sleek metal-wrapped high gloss white or black package. Throw in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and the Cambridge Stream Magic app for iOS or Android devices, and you've got yourself one very good reason to never leave your couch. Except to dance.

The Minx Xi can handle up to 24/96 on all of its digital inputs (Ethernet, USB storage, Coax, Toslink) and supports ALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, and OGG file formats. The DAC inside is the Wolfson WM8728. There are also two analog RCA inputs, a subwoofer output, A2DP aptX Bluetooth is provided with an included USB dongle, as well as regular old Wi-Fi. The speaker binding posts can be removed to accomodate banana plugs which is how I rolled. There are also two 3.5mm jacks on the front panel (headphone jack, analog input) along with a USB Type A input and a number of push buttons and a rotary dial that doubles as the volume control for controlling everything. There's also a front panel display for navigating through the menu options or displaying the music source information including artist, album, track, elapsed time (track), sample rate and bit depth.

Cambridge also includes a nice wand remote as well as a free app, Stream Magic, for iOS or Android devices which I greatly preferred over the wand. Who wouldn't. Since the Minx Xi includes Wi-Fi, you can in theory get away without an Ethernet connection to your network. I say in theory because we all know that Wi-Fi is an inexact science in terms of streaming especially with higher sample rates and things like additional network traffic and signal strength will directly affect your ability to enjoy your music. Which is to say I recommend connecting the Minx Xi via Ethernet if you are able. Since the Minx Xi also includes Bluetooth, you can stream to it from your phone or from someone else's phone which regular readers know tickles my music sharing fancy. The RCA inputs allow you to connect legacy devices like disc spinners, AM/FM tuners, or tape decks.

On the networking side, the Minx Xi is UPnP/DLNA compatible so it will automatically see your similarly endowed network attached storage. After connecting the Minx to my network with a short run of Ethernet between it and my network switch, plugging in my speaker cables and the included power cord, I had the Minx reading my music library from the QNAP HS-210 NAS running Twonky Media server in minutes. I accomplished this using the front panel control wheel without referring to the manual, I like to live dangerously, by simply scrolling to and selecting "Media" by pushing in the control wheel, then selecting "UPnP Servers" and finally my NAS. Simple. The Minx Xi also supports a number of streaming services including Aupeo!, Live365, MP3Tunes, Pandora, Rhapsody, BBC iPlayer Radio, as well as Internet Radio.

The Stream Magic control app is a job mostly well done. It is easy to use and provides the basics of playback operation including volume control and even adds tone controls! (bass & treble) and balance. For your network resident music, the Stream Magic presents folder views including Album, Artist, Artist/Album, Tracks, as well as a number of Genre options. These views will actually vary based on which UPnP server software you are using but these are the options with Twonky. Touching and holding your finger over a selection, whether an album or track, brings up the option to Play or Add to queue. If you have music playing, adding more music to the queue puts your newer selections at the bottom of the current queue. Selecting Edit when viewing the queue allows you to delete and reorder tracks in the queue. I have seen apps with more options like Play Now and Play Next so I'd rate the Stream OS as somewhat limited in this regard. Overall, the Stream OS app is very responsive and there's very little lag time when scrolling through my library in Album view.

One quirk I noted with the app is if you select one track to play from an album, the remainder of the album tracks will play even though they do not show up in the play queue. This happens even if you have another song lined up in the queue which indicates a bug in the app as far as I'm concerned. Back on the plus side, the app makes it very easy to search and sort through Internet Radio stations, even filtering by bit rate, and save your favorites which show up under the "Memory" menu option.

Cambridge Audio SX-50 Bookshelf Speakers
I asked Cambridge to send over what they considered to be a good matching speaker from their stable and I received a pair of their SX-50 bookshelf speakers ($249.99/pair) in black (they also come in Walnut). The SX-50s are a two-way rear-ported design sporting a 25mm (1") silk dome tweeter and a 35mm (5.25") treated paper cone mid/woofer. Frequency response is rated at 50Hz - 22 kHz with 90dB sensitivity according to Cambridge. I'll talk about this $1,150 system shortly.

A Musical Minx
Let's talk about just the Minx first. While I wouldn't imagine too many people will pair the Minx Xi with a speaker like the DeVore Fidelity The Nines, doing so made it easy for me to talk about the Minx's sound since I am intimately familiar with the DeVore's. First off, the Minx Xi had no problems driving 91db-rated The Nines to normal (for me) listening levels and beyond. Music was presented with a nice amount of dynamic punch, well-controlled if slightly reticent bass response, and overall a very pleasant tonal balance tilted slightly toward the darker/friendlier side.

I listened to all manner of music through the Minx including CD-quality and higher resolutions from my NAS, Internet Radio, Aupeo! (I had a ball with their 30s Best Blues station), Live365, Pandora, and Rhapsody and more. Using my iPad as a remote running the free StreamMagic app also allowed me to play music stored on it through the Minx with a simple tap. While lossy streams sound like what they are, this does not prevent me from enjoying what they offer on tap. Of course better quality music sounded better and the Minx Xi does a very nice job with HD music. Any number of good-sounding downloads I own, from Duke Ellington's Afro Bossa to Jimmy Scott's All The Way to Omar Souleyman were all delivered with enough detail and drive to make the listening experience very enjoyable. I also connected a USB flash drive to the Minx's front port and played music stored on it with no issues.

Compared to the similarly featured and less expensive Bluesound Powernode ($699 see review), the Bluesound device delivered a more full-bodied sound, a more powerful presentation. Instruments had more of the sense of their full voice and weight, imparting a more engaging experience. There also appeared to be greater resolution, of hearing into the recording, where the Minx Xi sounded darker overall by comparison. However the Bluesound Powernode does not offer all of the input, output, and streaming options of the Minx so if things like analog inputs, a headphone amp, and the number of streaming services offered by the Minx are of interest, you will not get these with the Bluesound Powernode.

The Minx Xi's headphone amp drove my Audio Technica ATH-W1000s without a problem and offered a finely detailed sound. The overall presentation struck me as sounding a tad light weight, with instrumental voices not feeling as full as I've heard them.

The Full Cambridge Kit
When paired with the SX-50 speakers, the general nature of the Minx Xi still remained although this little system certainly worked together in showing off their respective strengths. Taken as a whole, music was fun and room-fillingly large while exhibiting a nice amount of detail and color. Of course bass response was somewhat stunted, Cambridge rates the SX-50s from 50Hz - 22 kHz, so if you want booty-shaking bass, you'll want to add a subwoofer. That said, I found their sound to be perfectly fine with most music if a tad light weight.

Again when we compare, unfairly, the SX-50s to the larger and more expensive DeVore's there's simply stuff missing. Bass response, overall weight, resolution, and more but I only offer this in lieu of a meaningful comparison to similarly priced speakers. Taken on their own the SX-50s sound natural and I found them easy to listen to and even easier to enjoy. Easy to listen to also translates into an overall warm sound with a sweet top end, never biting or harsh. The midrange was rich enough to dig into the music and the Minx Xi/SX-50 combo had a nice punchy presence.

A Clever Minx
The Cambridge Minx Xi is a very nice all-in-one device. Capable of delivering music from network-based storage, USB storage, Internet Radio, a number of streaming services, as well as throwing in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity along with a 40W integrated amp and a headphone amp, there's an awful lot to like including its relatively small size and good looks. When paired with the Cambridge SX-50 speakers, this $1,150 system has a lot of musical pleasure to offer.



Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
Marc San Soucie's picture

Buried in the technical specs PDF on the Cambridge Audio web site is the phrase "Gapless playback supported". It would be excellent if you could (a) report this in your reviews of streaming devices and (b) test it to make sure it's true.

Thanks for the review. Interesting product.

dubby's picture

Hi,

As I'm waiting for Light Harmonic Pulse X Dac (the balanced version of Geek Pulse - capable of handling up to 32/384), it is possible to bypass the Minx Xi internal DAC ?

Thanks in advance.

Antonio Saraiva

Michael Lavorgna's picture
So you could connect your Pulse X DAC via RCAs.
dubby's picture

Thanks Michael ;)

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