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Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus

A Review On: Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic Plus

Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic Plus

Rated # 45 in Amp/DACs
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Price paid: $599.00
longbowbbs
Posted · 7102 Views · 13 Comments

Pros: Versatile, many user adjustable settings

Cons: None so far

I purchased the DMPlus to work alongside my MacMini. The MacMini has been stripped to just Mac OSX and Amarra Mini ver 2.4 using iTunes as the librarian. The Mini's USB output to the DMPlus is via an Audioquest Forest USB cable. I have 2 ways to listen to the DMPlus. First, I plug my Sennheiser HD650's directly into the headphone jack. In this mode the DMPlus acts as a headphone amplifier. iTunes and Amarra feed directly to the HD650's. The sound is wonderful and open. Great soundstage. You can see in your mind where each instrument is placed. The imaging is spot on...after you adjust the balance that is. 

 

One of the pluses of the DMPlus is the user adjustability. There are 3 different slope settings to set to user preference. Also, you can choose between synchronous usb 1.1 or Asynchronous usb 2.0. The default is 1.1. You have to read the manual to see how to adjust this setting. Until you do the device will not be recognized as a usb 2.0 device by the computer.

 

Balance is another adjustment that is not labeled. You must hold down the Filter/Phase button and then the volume knob becomes the balance adjust. Release the button and the knob returns to a volume control.

 

Once the unit is dialed into your setting preferences it is ready for action. I have it's unbalanced RCA outputs connected to my Denon AVR-4311ci receiver so I can enjoy the DAC through my M&K S-150's. There are Balanced outputs as well if you have the equipment for it. The difference of the Mac Mini via Toslink to the receiver and the DMPlus via RCA is interesting and fun to A/B. The TosLink utilizes the Denon's AKM DAC's so this set up allows me to have my choice of DAC output.

 

Most of the time I find myself using the HD650's directly plugged into the DMPlus. It is a simple setup. Mac Mini as source, DMPlus as DAC/Preamp/Amp and HD650's as cans of choice.

 

Life is good! (and simple!)

 

IMG_0074.JPG

 

Here is another review from Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity:

 

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/dacs/dacs-reviews/cambridge-audio-dacmagic-plus.html

13 Comments:

I have the original DacMagic and have enjoyed it very, very much. In the Q&A on Cambridge's website, it says that connection via USB cables limits the sample rate to 44 or 48 kHz due to inherent limitations of USB cable. Don't know if I buy into this. The DacMagic LED was showing 48 kHz in when the file playing was 96 KHz, so I thought the USB was the cause. Later I found I just wasn't aware that the iMac output has to be set to 96 kHz and 2-Ch. 24 bit via Audio MIDI Setup in Utilities. I haven't gone back to USB but have been using optical port on iMac ever since the initial problem. Maybe you know whether the USB output represents by-pass of all processing in the digital stream? I'm not sure it does, although it bypasses the internal DAC. Pretty sure the optical output bypasses any processing of the digital file. Do you have any thoughts regarding Mac processing with either UBS or optical outs?
I have been A/Bing the optical and USB of the DMPlus for a bit now. Both are going into the DMPlus. I simply change the sound out between the optical and the DMPlus USB in the Mac's sound control. Then I switch from USB to optical input on the DMPlus. I prefer the USB to the optical. It is subtle, but I find the USB to be fuller than the optical only. Whether this is due to the internal MAC circuitry or not I cannot say. I have read everything I can find on the apple site about sound processing from the Mac's various devices and they simply don't focus on the stuff e=were are interested in. Computer company, go figure..:)
After messing with the settings for awhile I am going to reconnect the optical out to the Denon AVR-4311ci receiver again and have my choice of DAC's. Denon uses the AKM Semiconductor AK4358VQ DAC's (2 of them). Naturally, the Denon forums tell me I am nuts to use any other DAC, but I find I really like the Cambridge when I compare the two. Both are very nice, but the DMPlus gets my vote for primary listening choice.
Nice review!
I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks, Chris
Thanks for elaborating on your comparisons of USB vs. optical. I think I'll be doing the same and just elect for the one that sounds best without further concern about what the iMac is doing internally. Just got in a Matrix M-line amp and have it connected to DM. Using Audeze LCD-2 phones. Sounds really good and I will compare to another amp in A/B comparison shortly. Also I bought the dual OPA 627A opamp to roll for the stock in this amp, but will wait to evaluate the sound a while before swapping out the opamp.
Chris J, thanks for the kind comments!
Audiofan4life, Isn't this the best part of this hobby! Experimenting with different gear and combinations is always a big part of the fun for me.
longbowbbs,
Yes, indeed! When we hit the combination that makes good music sound real and we are immersed in it- wow. My family doesn't get it- they just say, oh that sounds nice, and go on with their conversations. They'd be just as happy with whatever gear they could get at Walmart.
Just compared an Audinst HUD-mx1 headphone DAC/amp by running the DAC's output to the Matrix M-line amp, bypassing the Audinst headphone amp section. While I've been impressed with the sound the little Audinst can produce for the money, it was unquestionably a step up to the DM. Better imaging, warmer vocals, smoother overall.
So far, I can't really hear much difference at all between the USB and optical outputs from iMac to the DM. Have you noticed that using USB cable the DM cannot be set higher than 48 kHz sampling or higher than 16 bit? Maybe it's different with the new DMP model. With the optical, the DM is set to 96/ 24, but as I said, I can't really hear a difference at first listen. Maybe the DM does a great job of upsampling, making a difference in the formats very small in terms of audible differences, if any. But since I'm paying for 96/24 so to speak, I think I'll probably stick with optical. Awesome either way. BTW, have you listened to Audeze LCD-2 phones through your gear? I'm in love with them. I'm fond of very solid, detailed, controlled (musical) bass. These phones reproduce whatever bass is there, down as far as audible. No smearing or distortion at all. Listening to Patriot's Dream by Jennifer Warnes right now and the big bass drum whacks sound so real and clean. Aaron Neville's "Everybody Plays the Fool" has great percussion and bass that's a perfect arrangement. And there are no trade-offs: mids are detailed and accurate, as are highs which do not have the brightness which I find annoying in some phones. But I guess I'm getting off subject. Let's enjoy our DM's.
I did find that using an Audioquest cable made a nice difference from a generic computer USB. The Forest is the least expensive. I have the Cinnamon as well. Big improvements fir the USB. The DMPlus indicates the sampling rate at 44.1. The DMPlus may be different from the DM in handling USB audio. Here is an excerpt from the DMPlus manual:
Up to 24-bit content is now supported via both the USB Audio and Digital Inputs.With Windows PCs the DacMagic Plus can operate driverlessly (i.e. use Windows own built-in driver) at up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution.In addition our own Windows driver (downloadable from www.cambridge-audio.com/DacMagicPlusSupport) allows up to 24-bit/192kHz operation and supports both kernel streaming and ASIO.Mac PCs already support up to 24-bit/192kHz USB transfer natively.:If the file is up to 192K it will play in its native rate via the DMPlus' USB. k00l!!All my files are AIFF lossless ripped directly from the Mac Mini's internal DVD-Rom drive via iTunes...(That took weeks!!)I have been enjoying my handful of SACD's and DVD-A discs via my Denon DVD-5900 to AVR-4311ci through the Denon Link. I listen through the Denon's HP jack or I listen to the M&K S-150's...Sweet either way!...:)
OK...another thing to play with on the Mac...
http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/index.php/OS_X_Audio_Playback_-_Setup_Guide#Audio_MIDI_Setup
Set the output to 192k (Or whatever from 44.1, 48, etc) It will not change the sample rate from it's native, but if you know you have something in say, 96, then you can force the playback. If it is not correct your speed will reflect the newer, incorrect sample rate. (Chipmunks anyone!..;)
longbowbbs, Sorry for slow response to your post. I'm new here and I couldn't find the reference to this thread in my list of posts. Don't know why. But just now I came across the emailed link to the thread.
Okay, that's great info and I appreciate it. Seems as though the the DMP is an improvement in USB support of 24/192. Until I upgrade to DMP, I'll be running optical in. I saw a new Cambridge DacMagic 100 advertised for under $400 which appears to have some of the features of the DMPlus. It supports 24 bit/192 via USB and has its own clock, bypassing the Mac's clock. I'm not familiar enough with DAC manufacturers and models, but I would assume the DMPlus has a DAC that's better than 100. Did you buy your DMP before the model 100? Right now I've been moving my DM back and forth from computer to main stereo system, so I'd consider the 100 if it is an improvement over the original DM. Any opinions on that?
Oh, and the DM100 does not have selectable filter type. I hope it is similar to the min filter setting of the DM, which is my preference.
The DMPlus uses the Wolfson WM8740 chips. The DC100 uses the newer WM 8742. I have not heard the newer chips to see if there is any sonic difference I could detect. I am really pleased with the DMPlus so I would expect the DM100 to be very capable.
Thanks, I'll keep my eyes open for anyone trying the DM100.
Follow Up post:

I have had a few weeks to enjoy the DM+ with the Decware CSP2+ Tube Pre-Amp/Headphone Amp.

http://www.decware.com/newsite/CSP2.html

This is a nice combo. I have several hundred hours on the DM+ and I would buy it again. However, now that I have a dedicated HP amp to plug my HD650's into I am clearly using the best parts of the DM+.

First, I have used and enjoyed the HP amp on the DM+ but clearly, this is not the strong suit of this unit. My Fostex HP-P1 portable DAC/Amp is easily its equal in the amp department.

I spent some time today listening to the parts of DSOTM that Gwarmi referenced earlier where he felt the DM+ was lacking in detail, as well as most of the album several times...(It is an all time favorite! Not tough duty for sure...) I went back and forth between:

1. MBPro>AIFF files>Amarra>USB 2.0 out>Audioquest>DM+>CSP2+>HD650's with Toxic Cable Silver Poison's
2. Denon DVD-5900>CSP2+>HD650's with Toxic Cable Silver Poison's

The Denon handles Redbook and SACD and I have both discs so I was listening to 3 iterations of the album. I ripped the Redbook disc via iTunes to lossless AIFF, So I was reviewing AIFF vs. Redbook vs. SACD for versions of the tracks.

No big surprise the SACD offered the clearest and more detailed sound, more data and DSD to boot. What was gratifying was the DM+ and the Redbook were virtually indistinguishable. I probably listened to "Great Gig in the Sky" 10 times. It was fun and enjoyable trying to hear what differences I could perceive. All in all I wanted to remove as many variables as possible to what could be considered detractors to performance. Quality Cables, Check. Actually using USB 2.0, Check, etc....

As a point of reference last week I got to play with the Burson 160DS, The Rega DAC and the highly regarded Metrum Octave. Each has its individual pros and cons, but as a system, my current CSP2+/DM+/MBPro with AIFF files is proving to be just as satisfying as any of those other units.

This is always a YMMV hobby. Everyone has their own perceptions (and sometimes ego when we have dropped cash on the table). For me I am glad I have the DM+. Will I get something else later? Hey! This is Head-Fi! Probably, but not because I am unhappy with the DM+


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