Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30 networked music player

networked music player

Media streaming devices have been getting cheaper and cheaper, but the first model from high-end hi-fi manufacturer Cambridge Audio costs £400. Can the Sonata NP30 be worth all that money?

The device doesn’t have speakers – to get sound from it you must pair it with an amplifier or powered speakers.

It has standard phono and digital sound outputs, and if paired with Cambridge Audio kit you can use one device to control the other. It’s designed to fit in with other devices in the company’s Sonata range but it will of course work with any hi-fi kit.

It needs to be connected to a network, either through the rear wired network port or using the wireless aerial.

It comes with a power cable but not audio or network cables – you’re encouraged to buy your own ‘high quality’ ones.

We found the wireless setup annoying – you need to use the front-panel dial or the supplied remote control to enter the wireless network security key, but we couldn’t find a way to delete characters – if we got a number wrong we had to switch it off and back on and try again.

What appeared to be a Back key on the remote control only took us on to the next page each time.

What are the Compatible Devicesfor this music player

It can play music stored on a networked computer or other device, or stored on a USB memory key that’s plugged into the front or rear USB sockets.

It can also stream internet radio, play BBC iPlayer radio programmes and podcasts, and link to internet music services, though not big names such as Spotify.

As you’d expect from a high-end hi-fi product, and one this expensive, sound quality was very good.

Of course it depends on the quality of the file being played, but with a good source and connected to a good amplifier and speakers the NP30 really sang.

It was easy to use, too, with a large, clear four-line screen that can be read from a few feet away, and it was responsive to move through menus and navigate music collections, unlike many cheaper, underpowered streamers.

However, we detected little improvement in sound quality over what we could get from a £150 media streamer, even with high-quality music files, and so we find it hard to recommend the Sonata NP30 to anyone but the most ardent audiophiles.