An absolute must-buy for hi-fi enthusiasts that only listen to music in one room
Cambridge Audio produces plenty of high-end audio equipment, so it should come as no surprise that the NP30 audio streamer is aimed squarely at serious music lovers. It’s a small hi-fi separate that’s dominated by a large LCD display and a chunky navigation dial that’s decked out in gorgeous brushed aluminium.
Every button you should need is present and correct on the front panel, but the bundled remote control is even more comprehensive and has a second set of controls that work with other Cambridge Audio products should you expand your setup with them. You can also download the free UuVol remote app to your iOS and Android smartphone or tablet to browse through internet radio stations and queue playlists. It has an easy to use interface that’s a little more user-friendly than the NP30’s blue LCD display, but at least the blue display’s legible from a distance.
Around the back of the unit there are analogue RCA, digital optical and digital coaxial audio outputs that offer lots of connectivity options. There are also Ethernet and USB ports, as well as a 12V trigger for anyone looking to power on the streamer and a speaker system with one button. There’s also a second USB port at the front, which is much easier to reach if you install the unit in a hi-fi rack.
Setup took less than a minute using Wi-Fi, and once the NP30 was connected it could see all our media shares straight away. Its media streaming abilities are very comprehensive, and as well as being able to stream audio from any UPnP media share, such as a PC or NAS, it also has access to the Aupeo!, MP3Tunes and Live365 services. BBC iPlayer radio is also built in, so you can listen to missed shows or instantly stream podcasts, as well as listen live to any BBC radio station. It connects to each new stream very quickly, and didn’t break a sweat when loading a long list of over 1000 stations.
We were blown away by the NP30’s sound quality, and even though it has a digital connection you should connect it to an amp with analogue cables just so you can enjoy the audio produced by its Wolfson DAC. It plays 24-bit FLAC and WAV files that border on studio quality, so if you take your music seriously you’ll love the NP30. Even internet radio stations with relatively low bitrates were perfectly enjoyable, although nowhere near as clear or refined as our high-quality test tracks. Naturally, its overall sound quality depends on the speakers and amplifier to which it is connected, but with the right equipment you’ll think you were listening to a top-end CD player.
With the amount of features that Cambridge Audio has squeezed into the NP30, we were expecting it to carry a premium price. It might seem expensive, being £400, but compared to the competition it’s a veritable bargain. If you truly value high quality music and want to listen to it away from your PC then the NP30’s a superb way to do it, but the Logitech Squeezebox Touch has many of the same features, plus Last.FM and Spotify support, for almost half the price.
|Media Streamer type||audio streaming device|
|Audio MP3 playback||Yes|
|Audio WMA playback||Yes|
|Audio WMA-DRM playback||No|
|Audio AAC playback||Yes|
|Audio Protected AAC playback||No|
|Audio OGG playback||Yes|
|Audio WAV playback||Yes|
|Audio Audible playback||No|
|Other audio formats||FLAC|
|Other video formats||none|
|Image BMP support||No|
|Image JPEG support||No|
|Image TIFF support||No|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100|
|Wireless networking support||Yes|
|Minijack line outputs||0|
|Minijack headphone outputs||0|
|Stereo phono outputs||1|
|Coaxial S/PDIF outputs||1|
|Optical S/PDIF outputs||1|
|Total SCART sockets||0|