Cambridge Audio Minx XI Music system

All-in-one digital music players signify a step-change for the hi fi industry, by combining hi fi sound quality with real world convenience. Their allure is like that in the eighties, appealing to both audiophiles and music lovers alike who simply desire a fuss-free way to listen to music, which in the current age might be stored on a smartphone, laptop or advanced NAS drive.

Cambridge Audio certainly gets this and its Minx Xi unites characteristics cherry picked from its separates range that was affordable, packaged into a far more affordable do-it-all single carton. So everything you get is a 40W (asserted) Category AB amplifier derived in the firm's 351A integrated amp, double Wolfson WM8728 DACs lifted from the 351C CD player, the streaming functionality of CA's NP30 network player and Bluetooth connectivity courtesy of the corporation's BT100 apt X receiver.

The Minx streams a wide array of audio formats, including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV although bit depth and sample rate are restricted to 24-bit and 96 kHz. The Minx also does a dandy job of streaming internet radio from around the globe.

Externally the unit feels well made and unobtrusive, and the gloss white option adds glamour. The Minx shares its large dimmable screen with the firm's NP30 streamer, which maybe lacks the visual drama of say Musical Fidelity's CLiC or Pro Ject's Stream Box, but it's legible from a bus ride away and tells users what they must know (seeing the file kind,

Sample rate and bit depth of the incoming stream certainly gets top marks in my book).

An Ethernet interface is joined by round the back another USB input, while a third USB links the supplied Bluetooth receiver. Two sets of analogue input signals (via RCAs) and two digital S/PDIF inputs shared over RCA (coaxial) and Toslink (optical) complete the input signal line up.

The Minx's sub-outside connector also means the unit's ripe for a 2.1 system.

Setup is rather straightforward and, happily, rather than a user manual the size CA contains a brief two pager to get you started. After connecting the provided wifi dongle and Bluetooth receiver I hit 'standby': the Minx springs to life, scan for accessible wi fi networks to pick from. After inputting the password through the front panel's rotating dial of my network (you could also use the supplied remote), I am linked.

Delving deeper to the unit's menu via its eight front panel buttons requires a rapid read of the manual that is longer to understand what each one does, partially because their legends are not immediately intuitive and partly because some perform multiple functions. Controlling the unit through the front panel and supplied remote is good when you get the hang of it, but it is an even more engaging experience controlling the unit excellent (free) Stream Magic app for Apple/Android devices. After immediately installing this on iPad and my iPhone, I'm off and running.

Attributes include naming inputs, tone and balance controls, creating playlists and memory for as much as 20 entries, including net radio stations and streaming sources. There is a 'reply' feature to interact with internet radio and services tailoring content to private preferences. Finally, there is a headphone jack, which auto-mutes the speakers when cans are linked.

Sound quality

By partnering the Minx, a union that is predictable is made for, as I expect that is the type of loudspeaker the little Xi will find up to nestled in many owners' houses. All in all, the Minx might be modest in size, but it's certainly not in sound. It is a lively little unit with a somewhat forward demo that loves to bring vocals and musical verve to the fore.

Streaming is a real world starting point to get a first impression of the Xi's sonic capabilities, as this playback process will attract numerous users because of its sheer convenience. Sending the Sirens of Pearl Jam (at 256kbps) from my iPhone 4S via the standard Bluetooth codec (as Apple is yet to include the exceptional apt-X codec in its cellular devices), garners results that are astonishingly remarkable. The percussion is slightly blurry around the edges along with the piano sounds a bit flat is very unsurprising, given the audio limits of my phone as well as the compressed bit rate. However, what is astonishing is how much life the Minx still manages to inject into the track, making the source's shortcomings far less obvious. The Minx fills the room with Eddie Vedder's voice . Streaming the track over wifi from my PC helps sharpen up things, while pushing more air around instruments, adding extra details to the strings, letting them discover their particular space, making the soundstage seem congested.

While I expect Morrissey wouldn't give a gladioli about audio file formats in the digital age, The Smith's recently re-mastered records are a worthy of inclusion. Andy Rouke's walking bass lines are always a good tool for measuring how well an amplifier keep it in check and can grasp a speaker from the drivers. And speaking the Minx of bass, is engineered with plenty of it, and hearing such fulsome lows from the Qs that were small implies that the Minx was created to get the most out of smaller/budget loudspeakers in the lower registers. Though the Minx's bass is surprisingly powerful, compared Cambridge Audio's 651A integrated amplifier (which typically sits right at the center of my second system) with fairly the same amounts of precision, it is not controlled, and does not begin and halt.

All in all, the Minx's USB input garners the best results for committed audiophile accessing and listening USB content through the Stream Magic program is just as easy as accessing networked media. Comparing a 16/44.1 FLAC of Ben Folds Fives' track Don't Change Your Plans back to back via USB and wi fi adds a greater awareness of midrange poise via the former system. Ben Fold's piano notes have a far more natural ring, emphasising a deeper soundstage in comparison with the one conjured up via wi fi streaming, along with the crisp taps the cymbals sound sharper.

Taking the Minx to Ethernet's sound limit comes in the shape of a 24/96 FLAC of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left, with my benchmark Audiovector Mi 3 Signature floorstanders being now driven by the Minx. Centre imaging is focussed and creates a soundstage that grows past the width of the speaker plane. The way the Cambridge Audio highlights the smooth character of other material that is high-res as well as the Nick Drake record makes the little Minx sound a lot more mature than its price tag would indicate.


Like mini- systems of old, all-in-one players frequently get a poor press in hi-fi land, as within their attempt to be a jack of audio trades, they are sonically a master. Happily that is not the case using the Cambridge Audio unit, and precisely what you get is a confident and compact all rounder, with qualifications that are hi fi that are proper. For those on the hi fi ladder, the Minx will create a handy second or bedroom system minus the hassle of stacks of separates. For those just starting out on their journey that is hifi, the Minx is an incredible value introduction into what 'appropriate' hifi seems like.

Cambridge Audio Minx XI Music system photo