We had the opportunity to review NP30 network player from Cambridge Audio earlier and we had few issues with the player. With new Stream Magic 6 (SM6); it seems Cambridge Audio is going to not only sort out all the complaints but also delight us with many more features. The player is loaded with interfaces and features and we are sure that reviewing this is going to be one exciting trip.
OUT OF THE BOX
Just like all the modern Cambridge Audio equipment, even the SM6 has been built well and also has a trademark look of aluminium fascia and neon blue LEDs. There is a large five-line display at the centre which is big enough to be legible from the distance of three to four feet. There are loads of ins and outs at the rear side and a convenient front panel (additional) USB input for quick connectivity. The player is heavy with robust built. On the other hand, there is surprise element that there is no headphone jack from the player that could have been otherwise useful for personalised sessions.
First of all, if you are not into analogue audio formats, the player will become a one-point converging source for all your music and you can feed the output directly into a power-amp. This is because, the player is not just a network player but a pre-amp (though with just a volume control) too! From factory, the player comes as a pure player and one has to activate the volume (which is actually an digital attenuator control, as it can only reduce the volume but not amplify it further from what is being fed from the source) control from the settings menu for it to behave like a pre-amp. However, since there are no analogue inputs, you will need pre-amp if you have additional analogue sources to be selected from.
The player is capable of receiving signal through the Ethernet port, or a supplied wi-fi antenna from your home network. You can also use the plug-in on your CD player as a transport and feed its digital output to the SM6 through either coaxial or optical interfaces, as it is equipped with sophisticated DAC. All the inputs can be used for level attenuation, making SM6 a true digital pre-amp. The attenuation control happens in the DSP circuit and thus it is in the digital domain.
You can connect the player to a memory stick or even an external HDD, as the player is capable of reading both - FAT32 as well as NTFS file system. There are digital outputs at the back too, these can be used to feed the signal to more sophisticated DAC or an AVR (there is no volume attenuation possible here). Thus, the SM6 can be used as a player that can feed your stereo system through analogue outputs and supply music to your AVR through digital output---both can be done simultaneously!
You may keep the player close to you while your system is away so that you can read the display of the player. This may cause inconvenience to control the player through the supplied remote control. Well, you can do this by using the external IR Emitter input and the port is readily supplied at the back panel. You can also use the control bus system if the rest of the system is Cambridge Audio.
For analogue outputs, there are both---the balanced as well as unbalanced outputs to select. Again, both these are active all the time and can be kept connected to two different audio setups. Since the player has most of the audio processing and upsampling in the digital domain, there are various filter curves that can be selected. The difference will be audible only if your audio setup is fairly high-end – you can forget to hear the difference in even decent grade home-theatre setup in that case!
Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 Review
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