Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30 hi-fi streamer
Hi-res, networked musical box
Review Sound quality isn’t always the first consideration in the world of digital music, where songs tend to be compressed for convenience, rather fidelity. That’s where Brit hi-fi brand Cambridge Audio hopes to make its mark with the NP30 (Network Player 30), which offers better-than-CD hi-res 24-bit audio playback for music files and Internet radio over your home network.
Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30
Lacking an amp and speakers, the NP30 has been designed to fit in with the company’s swish-looking Sonata range – such as the AR30 amp (and CD30 and DVD30) – but it can be connected to virtually any set-up using its standard stereo analogue outputs. You can also use digital S/PDIF and optical outputs for connecting to higher quality DACs and there’s a trigger connection that allows the NP30 to automatically power up when the amp it’s connected to is switched on.
Unlike similar devices such as Sonos or Squeezebox, the NP30 is a native 24-bit player with a built-in 24-bit/96kHz Wolfson DAC, which puts it well above CD’s 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution and firmly in the hi-fi category. While you can stream full 24-bit files using the on-board Wi-Fi, Cambridge Audio recommends using the Ethernet connection, so there’s less chance of interference, though I didn’t notice any when testing.
As well as getting the music off your computer, Cambridge Audio’s UuVol streaming service offers over 20,000 Internet radio stations that you can sort by the usual location and genre, and search by name. Using Uuvol’s web portal you can also search by bitrate and add non-UuVol stations too.
Wi-Fi on-board, but streaming using Ethernet is recommended for 24-bit audio
It also offers additional streaming services with BBC iPlayer (radio), Live365, Aupeo and MP3Tunes and you can access podcasts too, at least from the BBC and BlogTalkRadio. There’s no Spotify, Napster or Last.FM yet, but CA says they’re negotiating for licences now. You can also play back tracks from a storage device from its USB port.
Next page: Remote options
erm, did anyone actually listen to it?
considering is supposed to be a review of a hi-fi device, not just a toy, one would hope for a few more comments on the sound quality over and above half a sentence tucked away near the bottom.
Full disclosure first, multiple Squeezebox owner here. However, contrary to the article, the current SB, the Touch, does indeed natively support 24bit/96Khz (and the Squeezebox Server supports 24-bit/192Khz files, which it downmixes before streaming to the SB). It also has a Web frontend (in fact, the server with Web frontend, is free, even if you don't have any physical devices, and there is also a software "SoftSqueeze" player that runs in Java). There is also an iPod like "Controller" for hand-held, colour screen, high-speed navigation/control including artwork. There are iPhone and Android apps, some free, which don't have multiple second delays to the controls.
I like CA stuff, I have some myself, but this player seems a bit rough and ready, and expensive, for this market (though they should do well, as Richer Sounds, being the only distributor, don't sell the Squeezebox, nor push the Sonos much (I was in there last week enquiring about Digital Streamers in fact, and it's currenty not their thing)).
The mention of the WEP key made me check CA's website, it does support WPA, so that's alright then ;)
Good luck to CA though, anybody that helps get the message across that Digital Music playback doesn't have to revolve around Apple, the better!
SB Touch most definitely does 24/96
I stopped reading the review after the first couple of paragraphs 'cause it was obvious that either the reviewer was biased or ignorant or both. The SB Touch most certainly does 24/96 and it does it very well indeed.
IIRC, the Squeezebox also uses a 24 bit / 96 kHz Wolfson DAC
Did I miss something here? Why would you pay £400 for something that is basically a media streamer - which can be bought from as little as £45 (or £20 if you don't need a network) and includes HDMI which will plug right into the AMP. Hell, just buy an Apple TV for £99 and that comes with some superb control apps via the iPhone and iPad. And I'm sure you can get Amps to take care of the 24-bit sampling...
Just because it's from a Hi-Fi company doesn't mean it's actually any good or good value.