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Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus: possibly the best value DAC today

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

This thread is dedicated to the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus which may very well be the best value DAC on the market today.

 

I'll get the ball rolling with Ken Rockwell's review which, unlike most qualitative, take-it-from-us reviews of the DacMagic + so far, is based primarily on quantifiable scope measurements.  These are some of the phrases that Rockwell used to describe the unit:

 

"astounding performance"

 

"It has the best performance I've ever measured over USB of any DAC at any price. It's completely immune to even the slightest jitter that other excellent DACs can't remove from USB"

 

"sonically superb"

 

 

Ken Rockwell's review

 

 

Cambridge-Audio-DAC-Plus.jpg

 

Personal Comments:

 

  • Disclosure:  I own one.
  • For those of us who use active monitors, the inclusion of variable line output and XLR connections are a welcome addition and a departure from most DACs at this price point.  Since you can connect both the RCA and XLR line outputs simultaneously, the XLR output can go to the monitors while the RCA output can go to a dedicated headphone amp.  Convenient and streamlined signal path.
  • The feel of the volume knob is a bit strange, but this is a minor quibble.
  • Yes, it should have come with USB 2.0 from the factory, but upgrading to USB 2.0 is a snap.  Don't let the horror stories on the 'net make you think otherwise.  
  • I've given up struggling to hear the subtle and minute differences in the filters so I've given up, leave it on linear and enjoy the music.
  • The faceplate is nice, but I had wished for thicker side plating.  It's far from bad, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 32
Thread Starter 

[Reserved]

post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 

For those who can read German, a review based in part on measurements.

 

index.php?action=dlattach;topic=115980.0;attach=98500;image

 

 

post #4 of 32
That's very tempting, I may have to check it out. I've been on a DAC hunt lately, and I like my LD DAC I, but I'm looking for something a little more flexible and better suited for my new Cary. I got in a Bifrost, don't really care for it, it's a little too Spartan for me. Also ordered a Xonar Essence One, it has tons of bells and whistles and I like it quite a bit, but if there's something better for the same money I'll go with it.
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 

Another interesting unit that has received positive subjective and objective (i.e. with scope readings) reviews is the ESI Dr. Dac Prime ($469).

post #6 of 32

If you want to start a thread titled 'Mauricio's Thoughts on DACs', be my guest. but its generally considered good form on Head-Fi to check for an existing thread on a given piece of kit before starting a new one:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/581591/dacmagic-plus-impressions

 

For someone who is obsessed with objective measurements, you seem to have no trouble throwing around speculative opinions. 'Possibly the best value DAC around today' is like me telling people I have possibly the biggest you-know-what of anyone on Head-Fi : its a tough one to prove or disprove. 

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 

Did I not provide links to reviews based on measurements?  Did I not refrain from linking the reviews based on little better than take-it-from-us pronouncements?  It is based on those reviews with measurements that I said the unit is a good value.  Notice that I did not tell you that it is a good value because to me it sounds "musical", because "I can hear the air between the instruments", it has "a wide soundstage", "it has good articulation", "the bass is dry", "the imaging is more liquid", blah, blah, blah.  I am only interested in measurements to the extent that they serve as an anchor, a reality check, a moderating influence on speculation, placebo and bias.

 

If you have an issue with this thread, its content or form, please bring it to the attention of the moderators.

 

 

 


Edited by Mauricio - 3/30/12 at 10:44pm
post #8 of 32

Got one today, with the BT100 module.

 

If you are interested whether to get a BT100, here's my thoughts:

 

1) It works only in 44.1kHz

2) At least with my 2011 MacBook Air, sound audibly clips if you set volume on the Mac higher then ~50%. Sound quality, compared with the USB 2.0 connection is notably worse (which is understandable, as there is compression used on the Bluetooth radio interface). However, the convenience of not having to lay in bed with my laptop and not having cables all around is probably worth for when watching movies.

3) MacBook Air 2011 does support apt-X.

 

One more note: if DacMagic is connected via USB to an iPad (via camera connector), it works as long as there's a powered hub in between, also at 44.1kHz. I tried with the first iPad, don't have 2 or 3, so can't really comment.

 

Hope this is useful :)


Edited by CDPlayer - 3/30/12 at 10:03pm
post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 

Another option, one that I am contemplating, is to place the DacMagic+ next to the couch or bed (within the length of a USB cable), and then run the audio line-out cables to the speakers, the XLR connections allowing you long-ish cable runs.

post #10 of 32

The DAC section looks great.  The head amp, not so much.  WTF is up with that output impedance?

 

I wonder how close the DacMagic100 is...

post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mauricio View Post

This thread is dedicated to the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus which may very well be the best value DAC on the market today.

 

I'll get the ball rolling with Ken Rockwell's review which, unlike most qualitative, take-it-from-us reviews of the DacMagic + so far, is based primarily on quantifiable scope measurements.  These are some of the phrases that Rockwell used to describe the unit:

 

"astounding performance"

 

"It has the best performance I've ever measured over USB of any DAC at any price. It's completely immune to even the slightest jitter that other excellent DACs can't remove from USB"

 

"sonically superb"

 

 

Ken Rockwell's review

 

 

Cambridge-Audio-DAC-Plus.jpg

 

Personal Comments:

 

  • Disclosure:  I own one.
  • For those of us who use active monitors, the inclusion of variable line output and XLR connections are a welcome addition and a departure from most DACs at this price point.  Since you can connect both the RCA and XLR line outputs simultaneously, the XLR output can go to the monitors while the RCA output can go to a dedicated headphone amp.  Convenient and streamlined signal path.
  • The feel of the volume knob is a bit strange, but this is a minor quibble.
  • Yes, it should have come with USB 2.0 from the factory, but upgrading to USB 2.0 is a snap.  Don't let the horror stories on the 'net make you think otherwise.  
  • I've given up struggling to hear the subtle and minute differences in the filters so I've given up, leave it on linear and enjoy the music.
  • The faceplate is nice, but I had wished for thicker side plating.  It's far from bad, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I am listening to my DacMagic Plus as I type.  I have enjoyed it for three months now with my HD-800s.  I obtained it at the same time as my HD-800s. I was looking for a combined DAC/headphone amp that I could run via USB from my PC, and the DacMagic Plus had just become available at a local dealer.  

 

The sound is fantastic, I have never enjoyed my music so much. I had no problem upgrading to USB2.0, just followed the instructions available on the Cambridge website for Foobar.

 

I have since connected it to a Rotel RB1562 power amp driving a Focal Sib/Cub speaker system.  Makes for a fantastic PC sound system. 

 

The volume dial is unusually stiff, but I have become used to it and don't really notice it anymore.

 

post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 

The DacMagic Plus' biggest problem is that it sells for only $600, and it doesn't advertise itself as a "high-end" unit sporting esoteric technologies or cutting-edge implementations.  There also exists an insidious bias against Cambridge Audio, likely a result of it consistently offering good value.  Nevertheless, stores catering to studio professionals now stock and sell it.  Two examples are ZenProAudio and Sweetwater.

 

Yes, the headphone amp output impedance is far from good.  It's probably best suited for high impedance, high efficiency cans.  For me, the headphone amp was not a factor in my purchase.


Edited by Mauricio - 4/13/12 at 7:44am
post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mauricio View Post

The DacMagic Plus' biggest problem is that it sells for only $600, and it doesn't advertise itself as a "high-end" unit sporting esoteric technologies or cutting-edge implementations.


Sad but true.  The numbers look great.

 

There seems to be a pretty strong bias against Cambridge among audiophiles (in the pejorative sense of the word).

post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 

The headphone amp does a competent job the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro 250 ohm cans.

post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by maverickronin View Post



Sad but true.  The numbers look great.

There seems to be a pretty strong bias against Cambridge among audiophiles (in the pejorative sense of the word).

It's the same issue with the Xonar Essence One. It's too cheap and it's made by Asus.
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