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Amp/DACs item created by jamesnz, Dec 19, 2011
Pros - Great Desktop Speaker System support when working
Cons - Not so hot headphone amp.
My Chinese DacMagic Plus started well but audio cutouts and hisses were plaguing it within 3 months, sent it back and was declared fit, resent it and apart from fancy explanations no help after loud buzzing started at every other startup. I could also replicated problem on another system.
I got tired of going deaf and ruining my speakers for 2 years, so I threw it in the trash can.
Update: Thank you all for comments. For my consolation the HD-DAC1 replacing it is working flawlessly in the same system.
Pros - 3in1 headphone amp/dac/pre amp, plenty of connection options, sound quality
Cons - No DSX/DSD support, no remote control, occasionally strident treble
This is a review of the Cambridge DacMagic Plus DAC/headphone amp/pre amp.
The Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus was sent to me by Cambridge Audio in the UK as a loaner for the purpose of doing this review and including it in my recently started $250+ amp/DAC comparison thread. Since Norway is fantastic I did have to pay about $100 in taxes to get it into the country. A big THANK YOU to Cambridge Audio and Rebecca for letting me check it out.
The Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus is available from numerous online and domestic resellers with prices ranging from $400 to $500 at the time of this review. This is a link to the current Amazon listing for the DacMagic Plus:
For more information about the DacMagic Plus you can also visit the Cambridge Audio website:
I’m not in any way affiliated with Cambridge Audio.
I've got to admit that I've be fascintated by the DacMagic ever since the release of the first version so naturally I was thrilled to finally get the chance to test out one of its siblings.
Short introduction to Cambridge Audio:
Cambridge Audio is a UK based company that was established in 1968.
This is what they say about themselves on their website:
“Since we released our iconic P40 amplifier in 1968 we have pursued one simple objective: to produce audio equipment that faithfully creates a pure and natural sound. Whilst our contemporaries in America like heavier bass in their playback and often in Asia brands emphasise a mid-range mix to carry vocals, we at Cambridge Audio are sold on the unfiltered, unadulterated ‘British Sound’.”
Spoiler: Click to show!
I’m a 44 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
I tend to value function over form within reasonable limits.
I do not use EQ, ever.
I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
Built, accessories and functionality:
The Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus is a solid state headphone amplifier, DAC and pre-amplifier combo.
The DacMagic Plus is available in two different colors: black and silver. I’ve got the silver version.
Unfortunately Cambridge Audio doesn’t state the rated output power for the DacMagic Plus along with the rest of the specifications. My search on the internet also came out with one pretty reliable option that stated about 125mW at 37.5Ohm but please take this with a grain of sand. Output impedance is rated at very high 50Ohms.
The DacMagic Plus has a metal/aluminum chassis that feels really solid. The physical controls available on it do feel reliable although I’d have preferred a aluminum volume knob instead of the plastic one. The rest of the physical controls sums up to a switch to choose between the input 1 or 2 group of connections or the USB connection, On/Off switch and a switch to choose between three different digital filters. Although it doesn’t feel very heavy the overall build still feels solid enough for a desktop unit. A nice feature is the included stand that let you use it standing on one of the short sides in case you lack space on your desktop or if you just prefer it that way. The volume knob, albeit being plastic, feels sturdy enough in usage and the volume increases quite slowly when turning it up making it easy to find exactly the right listening level for your preference but also a lot of turning when shifting for some easy to drive IEM’s to some harder to drive full sized headphones. I find the changes between the three different digital filters to be very subtle but in my experience this is the way it works in most devices offering this feature so I won’t hold it against the DacMagic Plus.
The DacMagic Plus offers one USB B digital audio input and one separate DC power input. It also offers two groups of optical and coaxial input as well as optical and coaxial outputs. The two groups with SPDIF inputs work so as you can only choose to connect either one optical or one coaxial source to each of them. I still think this is a smart move from Cmbridge since it gives more flexibility in terms of sources that can be connected. There’s also one 6.3 mm headphone out socket. In addition there’s a RCA line out option as well as a set of balanced outputs. I’d have liked an analogue input as well to be able to combine it with other, non-digital sources.
The DacMagic Plus works very well with Android when connected with an OTG cable and using USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) as music player. Although Android and sound does not have a great reputation the Plus have worked with every Android device I’ve tried it with (with the help of UAPP).
The DacMagic Plus support all popular file formats for audio up to 24bit/192kHz files. Being released already back in 2012 it naturally lack support for DSX/DSD files.
The accessories included are:
1 USB cable (USB A to B Type)
1 User's Manual (including warranty card)
4 spikes for fixing (to attach the main body to the floor)
1 stand for using it standing on the short side
1 Power adaptor (DC 12V)
I’ve used the DacMagic Plus a lot for the last month and my unit has played for well over 100 hours.
Spoiler: Click to show!
Digital to analogue convertersDual Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs
Digital filterAnalog Devices ADSP21261 DSP; upsampling to 24-bit/384kHz
Analogue filter2-Pole Dual Differential Bessel Double Virtual Earth Balanced
Frequency response20Hz to 20kHz (±0.1dB)*
THD @ 1Khz 0dBFs<0.001% 24-bit
THD @ 1kHz -10dBFs<0.001%
THD @ 20kHz 0dBFs<0.002%
Signal to Noise Ratio-112dBr
Total correlated jitter<130pS
Crosstalk @ 1kHz< -130dB
Crosstalk @ 20kHz< -112dB
Output impedance<50 Ohms
Max. output level (unbalanced)2.1V rms
Max. output level (balanced)4.2V rms (2.1V per phase)
Digital input word widths supported16-24bit
Digital input sampling frequencies supported32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz**, 192kHz
Audio output upsamplingFixed 24-bit/384kHz
Max power consumption12W
ColourBlack or silver
Dimensions (HxWxD)52 x 215 x 191mm; (2.0 x 8.6 x 7.6”)
*Steep filter disabled
**Digital 1 & 2 Inputs only
THDat 1kHz 0dBFS 24-bit signal with 22kHz low pass filter = 0.001%
at 20khz 0dBFS 24-bit signal with 80kHz low pass filter = 0.003%
Frequency response10Hz - 100kHz
Recommend headphone impedance32 Ohm to 600 Ohm.
Spoiler: Click to show!
Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
Ane Brun – These Days
Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
Metallica – Die Die My Darling
The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
Eva Cassidy – Songbird
Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
Celldweller – Unshakeable
Jack Johnson – Better Together
Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
Dire Straits- So Far Away
Björk - Moon
Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
The first thing that I noticed when I started to listen to the DacMagic Plus was the lean, clean and airy presentation it offers.
Bass extension and impact is very good without any noticeable roll off in the lower frequencies. The quality of the bass is ever so slightly on the loose side though. I’m not sure if it’s the rated 50Ohm output impedance on the headphone output that makes this happen or if it’s the characteristic of the amp/dac though. Unfortunately I do no longer own any really high impedance headphones to test with.
The midrange is liquid and smooth with plenty of details. The DacMagic plus sounds very linear through all frequencies and the midrange is no exception. Nothing really stands out and it sounds very natural and airy like a fresh breeze. I feel as if there’s some richness missing from the sound though and I’ve definitely heard offerings with more dynamics in the presentation. This makes the presentation feel slightly two dimensional and thin with some headphones. Although the sound is natural sounding I do find that vocals, especially male ones, lack some weight when comparing directly to other units. .
The treble is very well extended and airy and I’m not able to detect any harshness in it. Although being slightly on the bright and thin side it does never feel harsh or artificial to me but rather light and refreshing.
The overall presentation has good soundstage but better height and width than depth. Layering is also good as is the amount of air between the instruments. The background does also feel black and calm. Transparency is also quite good. All together I’d describe the sound of the DacMagic Plus as lean and clean. This is a signature that I personally find to be quite appealing when paired with warmer sounding and/or bass tilted IEM’s or headphones.
Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
In these comparisons I’ve been listening through my Hifiman HE400i’s.
I’ve been using the USB input when doing these comparisons. Both units has been hooked up to two different laptops both running Windows 7 with the same settings and I use MediaMonkey as my player of choice.
Both units was connected to a simple switch box through their respectively headphone outputs. This way it’s very easy to switch between the sources in minimal time. I also use a simple Android app to volume match the amplifiers so although maybe not perfectly scientifically the result should still be pretty correct.
Burson Audio Conductor V2+ (1,499) vs Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus:
Compared to the DacMagic Plus the V2+ has a fuller and richer overall presentation without really having more bass presence, the bass on the V2+ has quite a bit better texture though. The Plus is thinner, brighter and dryer sounding while the V2+ is more organic sounding and has better timbre to the notes making it sound more natural. The V2+ is also a bit more distinct while they both have a very nice amount of air I the presentation. The V2+ has a darker, calmer background and better dynamics through the whole frequency range. The treble on the DacMagic Plus is slightly fatiguing in comparison.
The V2+ of course has some other advantages as well such as significantly higher power output (4W @32Ohms compared to ca 125mW@37Ohm on the Cambridge), two analogue RCA inputs and both pre-amp and DAC direct RCA outputs, in addition it also has a great quality remote control. The DacMagic Plus on the other hand offers an optical output, and balanced pre-outputs as well in addition to its RCA pre-out. It also has the three different filters to choose from.
Although both these are both desktop units that offers multiple inputs and outputs the V2+ pulls ahead on both sound quality as well as build quality and should also do so costing about three times the price of the DacMagic Plus.
JDS Labs Objective2+ODAC Rev B ($279) vs Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus:
Compared to the DacMagic Plus the ODAC has an overall slightly fuller sound. The ODAC offer more energy and attack while the DacMagic Plus, albeit being a touch brighter, is more relaxed and laid back. The ODAC is more distinct in what it does and has better clarithy while the Cambridge is smoother and had noticeable more air between instruments, this is also the reason that it feels more relaxed in my opinion.
Feature wise the DacMagic Plus offers both coaxial and optical inputs in addition to an optical output. The ODAC has an 3.5 mm analog input while the DacMagic has both RCA and balanced outputs. The ODAC is considerable smaller and both units feels very well built.
Audinst HUD-DX1 w/Burson SSV5i op amps ($479) vs Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus:
Compared to the DacMagic Plus the Audinst have a fuller and more bass tilted presentation. The Audinst is also definitely the warmer sounding of the two while the DacMagic Plus is brighter and dryer. Audinst offer more energy and attack while still maintaining warm and smooth. The treble on the DacMagic Plus is more airy but can also be more fatiguin. Overall the Cambridge unit is cleaner and leaner while the DX1 is more dynamic and warmer sounding.
Feature wise they both offer and optical inputs and outputs but the Cambridge unit has two optical inputs. They both have RCA analog outputs but the DacMagic Plus offers balanced output as well. They both have USB B inputs. The Audinst has the dual headphone outputs, one 3.5 and one 6.3mm while the Cambridge has one 6.3 mm output. The DX1 can also run directly from USB power which makes it a bit more flexible. The footprint of the DX1 is quite a bit smaller. Build quality feels very solid on both units with the Cambridge pulling slightly ahead. The Audinst unit is a good deal more powerful.
For even further comparisons feel free to visit this thread for breakdown between more $250+ amp/DAC units (this is a work in progress and several other units will follow in the near future).
The output impedance of the headphone out on the DacMagic Plus is rated to 50Ohm. This means that it may not be the ideal partner with headphones and IEM’s with lower impedance than 400 Ohm. I’m still confused if this is really correct and if so why Cambridge Audio would chose such a high output in their implementation.
In this section I’ve tested how some of my favorite headphones but also one earbud and one pair of IEM’s pairs up with the DacMagic Plus.
Hifiman HE400i ($449):
The HE400i, when paired with the DacMagic Plus, loose some drive and energy making it sound quite flat and unengaging to me. I wouldn’t say that they sound bad but I’d easily prefer a more dynamic slightly warmer source to pair with the HE400i’s for my preference.
The signature of the HD598 is quite laid back and relaxed and the presentation from the DacMagic Plus is like a fresh breeze for them and really brings out the best of them. The bass and the wide soundstage is still there but the slightly bright characteristic of the DacMagic Plus gives some well needed energy to the HD58’s without ever making them feel fatiguing.
AKG Q701 ($300):
The Q’s sound good but not great paired with the DacMagic in my opinion. The bass has good presence and impact, which indicates that the power is sufficient, but I find the overall sound slightly on the thin side and on some recordings even borderline shouty. This combination doesn’t sound bad but I’ve heard better sources for the Q’s.
Philips Fidelio X2 ($300):
The X2’s has plenty of dynamics on its own and can sound a bit too bassy and boomy when paired to a warm source that have more than the natural bass presence. With the DacMagic Plus it sound well balanced while still retaining its great dynamics. This pairing sounds fantastic in my opinion.
VE Zen 2.0 ($138):
The Zen 2.0 is a 300Ohm earbud that I like a lot and tend to use instead of closed headphones.
The Zen 2.0 has a smooth and pretty laid back signature that works very well with the DacMagic plus. There’s enough energy to make the presentation engaging and I don’t find the dynamics lacking at all when these two are paired together. I’d even go as far as saying that this is one of the best sources I’ve heard so far for the Zen’s.
Aurisonics ASG-1PLUS ($500):
The ASG-1PLUS is an 11Ohm hybrid IEM (1 DD + 1 BA).
The 1PLUS has an excellent out of head presentation and its bass (especially mid- and upper bass) is quite a bit subdued. I’d say that they work fine with the DacMagic Plus. The slightly bright presentation gives them some extra energy and transparency as well as a very nice treble. They do, however, also lack some dynamics in the lower regions that I know they can have with the right pairing to sound really great. This is still a very enjoyable combination though. Although the 1PLUS is not as easy to drive that the 11Ohm suggest I’m not able to detect any background hiss whatsoever when using them with the DacMagic Plus.
To sum up the matching section the signature of the Cambridge DacMagic Plus does make some of my headphones and IEM’s sound very good while some lack a bit in performing their best when paired with it. The DacMagic Plus has a very low amount of audible hiss even when paired to my most sensitive IEM’s. The biggest drawback is certainly the rated 50Ohm output from the headphone output, that being said I still found it to work great with even lower impedance stuff. Although I’ve not been able to find the rated output power from the DacMagic Plus from any reliable source I can say that it does have enough power for all my full sized headphones which still make it very versatile in practical use.
The Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus may be a four years old release but in my opinion it still holds its own even in today’s crowded market. It offers the possibility to connect two different sources using either optical or coaxial connection in addition to the USB input. It also has digital outputs so that it can be connected to a DAC that don’t have a USB input. It has balanced outputs (which is very rare at this price point). On top of all this it does also sound great.
Priced at $400-500 the DacMagic Plus may not punch way above its price point but I’d still consider it an interesting option within its price bracket. It doesn’t support DXD/DSD but if that’s not a big deal to you and you value a great amount of connections it may still be a worthy contender for your new rig. If you’ve got headphones or IEM’s that match the sound signature of the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus I’d rate it as a very solid performer at its price point.
Audio Quality: 4.0
Pros - Sounds OK, Inputs and outputs.
Cons - Build, Treble harshness, Grain, Lacks dynamics.
Ok so because I don't feel like ranting endlessly I'm gonna try to keep this short:
There's not a lot to say about the sound, there is not too much wrong with the sound:
a little bright, harsh and grainy. Otherwise its quite good with actually good width in the soundstage which I like.
Now the build:
Once you get it out the box it looks fine with OK construction. But things went downhill. Fast.
First of all the led indicators started blinking and not working in just few months so there's that...
Next thing was the corrosion that built on top of the units surface.
Soon after that the volume pot went all to ****. Turning it quickly clockwise to make volume go UP it would go DOWN because it can't recognize fast (or even normal turns)
What I have to do now to change volume is to turn it VERY slowly which is a pain in the ass OR turn it in the opposite direction to make it go insane and maybe get the volume right by chance.
After like a year the unit got dirty which obviously happens to everything if you don't maintain it like every week. So I'm like "okay time to wipe off some dirt and dust"
Now the first wiping motion I do on the front face of the DAC the paint just smudges all over... ARE YOU SERIOUS? There went the resale value if it wasn't low enough after the corrosion + other problems. Its now completely ruined to **** the paint of the logo is just a smudge, no lights work and the corrosion... Now I keep it under my table in the dark just powering my speakers through XLR since I got nothing else for that job.
With 500$ This is just unbelievably bad. Cambridge Audio get your **** together this is pathetic.
To all people thinking to buy this: DON'T
Buy a Chord Mojo for 600$ and be happy with better detailed and smooth immersive sound and WAY better build + portability.
This was written in the moment so not too informative, just a warning that this is not a good product.
The thing is I'd happily given this product 3.5 stars but with this kind of build quality not going to happen.
Pros - worked for 5 minutes
Cons - A waste of time and money. No support from Cambridge.
Mine developed a noisy right channel after a relatively short time. Cambridge Tech support was poor and customer support was just as bad. This company is pennywise and pound foolish and should not be looked at as a quality audio company but rather a clueless, mediocre, greedy organization.
Pros - Clarity, comprehensive set of connections, driver support for Windows users, desktop footprint
Cons - Volume pot feel, front panel led lifetime
Had the unit for two years now, mainly driving Behringer active speakers and occasionally headphones. I like the fact unit can be placed horizontally or, as I prefer it, vertically using the stand that comes with the unit. Have use it mainy for listening Tidal on a silent Windows pc but have also tried hi-res music from HDTracks played on FooBar2000.
This is indeed a headphone forum, but any critical listening of this unit has been in my case via speakers. What drove me to DM Plus was the fact that it has balanced XLR outputs, which really makes a difference. It also has rca output which I may use for a subwoofer later. And yes, I have only good things to say about the headphone output, but can't say it would've been critical.
In my case DM Plus replaced pc's own soundcard output so, as expected, it was easy to detect the added sound clarity and openness, especially with ASIO drivers that also bypass Windows OC volume control, and block all the sounds from the OS. I experimented for a while with the different filter options, and ended up on the linear because to me it sounded a bit sweeter on acoustic recordings.
My two minor complaints are: volume control, which also acts as a mute switch when pushed, feels sticky and cheap. There's no indication of the current volume level on the volume control or elsewhere. Finally, 2 out of three blue indicator LEDs that are basically on most of the time (44.1 kHz sampling frequency á la Tidal, and USB input) are already dead. However, I still very much like this unit. Upgrading from this, and really find audible improvements is going to be hard or perhaps even impossible for my level of audio enthusiasm.
Pros - Detailed But Still Musical At $490.00 Retail
Cons - Whatever They Are I Can Live With Them
A Review (Or better yet, how can we spend a small amount of money on a box to make our music and movies sound better?)
The Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus By Member Redcarmoose October 2015
Great specifications and testing provided by Ken Rockwell, note link at bottom of page.
Ken has simply spent more time and money reviewing the DAC and currently offers the most complete and comprehensive review out there.
Ken Rockwell's review is where you can read all the good things he has to say about the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus. Much of his research and measurements were crucial in swaying me over to make the purchase. His review will not wander off into long ridiculousness like mine here. He offers a no nonsense fact based review with cold hard facts which support my lost and convoluted ramblings here.
My review is just hot-air about basic consumer thoughts and choices pertaining to todays DAC market and personal use.
The choices today:
Knowing your best choice is knowing what your applications are going to be before hand. The one thing you don't want to do is buy a DAC and find you get equipment down the road that does not interface with it or becomes redundant. We have all found out buying two or three cheap products could be the same cost as getting one nice expensive product and keeping it for a longer time.
Today there is bombardment of DACs and we are always wondering if a simple entry level DAC will do the trick and be something we are satisfied with in the end. If you look at the market the last six years, things have changed for the best. Today everything has a DAC in it.
This technology has given big manufactures plenty of ideas as how to reintroduce the chips into the market. Today we can just get a USB stick and plug it into our laptop and then plug our headphones in and have vastly improved computer audio. There are simple China made DACs on eBay starting at $25.00 and $75.00 to $199.00 USB sticks which offer surprising driving force for full size audiophile headphones. So in the end we have to ask ourselves why we would want to add complexity to the purchase. Many here argued for years that DACs don't ever sound different and that we are deluded and stupid with our spending money to even try to get improvements.
I have thought DACs have all sounded different. Some were warm and some were thin and analytical sounding. Some were cold and some were really cold sounding. My biggest issue was I did not own a CD player until 1998. I have listened to vinyl from the early 1970s on and had no need for those little disks. I also have very ingrained ideas about digital sound. I have heard it sound really good, but then at times I could also hear it sound thin and non-musical. Still I was slowly drawn to the disks as after the mid 1990s so much music I wanted was not even out on vinyl.
I ended up with a digital CD playback system that I felt replicated the sound of vinyl as close as I could get with my simple middleweight spending allowance. Some have studied the Rega Company house sound and thought they maybe have even added a slight reverb response to the signal processing to get warmth. I don't know, it's a trade secret like the formula for Coke. Still I liked it and the tone seemed a little closer to vinyl than the Sony consumer player I owned? I slowly started a close relationship with the enemy known today as digital with the Rega Planet CD player.
Years have gone by and the new thing is the stand alone DACs with the ability to take a USB signal or optical signal and RCA digital feed and make music come out the other end. We now moved from CDs to digital downloads and streaming from online sources. In some ways the CD has become outdated and gone the way of vinyl in the major market place.
So why not just get a good USB DAC and call it a day? I can rip all my CDs to a stand alone hard drive. I can get a DAC with single ended or balanced outputs and go directly from my computer to the amp and put that old CD player in the garage with my record player?
Around 2012 a storm of sorts started at Head-Fi. Many folks were getting their feet wet in computer audio and learning stuff and the market was changing almost daily. People were buying stuff and using their very own ears to test different methodologies, not seeing truth in simple facts used to sell goods and services. Folks started to post their beliefs and ideas started to change. We had whole pages of member rants on their self-made soapbox who indecently are now eating yummy crow. Remember too that as of 2015, that was only 3 years in the past. I will not go into it all as if you have read this review this far you may have read all the confusion. To summarize it all, you had the Wolfson chip camps and the Cirrus Logic camps. You had the USB synchronize from the DAC or synchronize from the computer. You finally had the leave the sample rate alone camps and the 24-bit/384kHz upsampling camps. Only a few knew or thought they knew what they were doing and history was in the works. The market was going to change forever and DACs were to be in every audiophile house just like a refrigerator.
Ok so why not still just get a good USB DAC and call it a day? Well it really depends on how clamped down to your computer you want your audio world to be. Another choice now is to get a high-end blue-ray player with a USB input and call it a day. In many ways that has worked great for my friends. I have seen really nice systems resulting from a MacBook Pro with Amerra playing on top of iTunes being USB connected to a DVD player as the DAC then single ended or balanced lines out to a preamp.
Still remember when the DAC Magic Plus came out it was only $600. The price has now been super-glued tight at around $490. You have twin Wolfson WM8740 chips running in dual differential configuration and if you have a collection of computers it works with all of them, plus your streaming devices and DVD players. You have a basic headphone amp which drives easy to drive headphones or IEMs directly for a simple desktop system, plus line out balanced or single ended outs for powered speakers with a digital volume knob to make the DAC a complete preamp unit.
If your like me you have a bunch of CDs and like to play them. The Rega still works and can be just a transport. You can get a DVD player and with HDMI hooked to your TV you run an optical cable to the DAC Magic Plus and have it decode a 48 kHz sample rate incoming then run it out to your headphone amp of choice. In some ways the unit is able to stay with current technologies but only does PCM 2 channel and will not recognize DTS or any fancy digital CDs like SACD, remember those?
The weakest link here may be the wall plug? Still they offer after-market wall plugs to go with it. Audiophiles have a funny problem with consumer land lines. They want to get new ones made out of copper or just some way upgrade the power cords to reach the level of all other equipment they have in use. Still remember we are describing an entry level DAC which gives us a little safety from the incoming obscure sonic format improvements. And believe me they are coming. There are marketing buzz word creators and scientists hovering over their work spaces continually creating new more pure formats like DSD as we speak. The question here though is what can we find for just $490 that is reliable and goes with the rest of our gear?
Maybe on the slightly thin side of life, maybe not so much? I would say it's musical without a ton of soggy warmth or darkness. The question here is if you can listen to CDs directly out of a solid state headphone amp at high volume levels and go from one CD to the next for 4 or 5 hours straight without a break? Is the thing musical enough to hold you? Is it clear enough that you think your hearing the whole picture on the disk. Can you enjoy the sound straight out of the DAC and is it high-end enough to place it in pure line out mode only to your best amps and leave you not wanting more or a slightly different sound. Can you listen to 320 Kbps MP3s and enjoy the tone? If something does all the above and contains a level of speed and clarity along with some musicality day in and day out as it does here, then the DAC Magic may be something to consider?
Most of your personal results are going to come from two distinct areas in your audio life. Starting with what soundquality you have been exposed to, your choices in music make a huge difference. So much so that some music requires different gear to really put it to the audio test.
Your also going to get giant differences depending on the equipment you interface whatever DAC you buy with. It's all about synergistic relationships in the end. Much of the ideas about equipment and the conflicting information on Head-Fi result from the exact same equipment used along with different equipment, resulting in different results due to specific synergy. A dark amp is going to maybe equal out the sound quality of bright headphones and a darker DAC may sound better with a bright amp. Finding the synergy is the key to maximizing your sonic dollar and getting a rig you can live with and enjoy long term. There is no end to this sonic quest, still being able to utilize the gear you still have and trust to it's maximum potential for the longest use period lets you allocate other funds into other areas increasing your performance-to-dollar ratio in the end.
I ended trying a range of computers in USB mode. Each playback system had a different sound to my ears. Much of this could definitely be placebo as I'm basically using five different digital devices when listening using the DAC at hand here.
1) Samsung Laptop PC running WASAPI based Foobar 2000 with HD Audio 24 bit/192 kHz audio files.
2) DVD player with CDs HDMI linked to optical linked to DAC.
3) An old white MacBook playing Wave files and MP3s using ITunes.
4) A new MacBook Pro Running Amarra 3.0 with an array of files.
But I Still Like Those Things They Used To Call CD Players:
Being a CD lover I found myself very surprised by the reference material I personally ripped into 16/44.1 FLAC files and played back in Foobar with the Samsung PC. There are times like this when you realize the potential of computer based audio systems and especially with playback of songs you have been intimately close to over the years on CD. An experience like the described can lay the positive ground work for the realization that asynchronous computer audio is not only easy and simple, but sonically equal or superior to a transport with a CD spinning? We have already started to see CD transports and included DAC systems start to fall in cost from their up to six figure realm. If this is directly due to computer audio and the recent sonic and ease of use advances in the last six years, only the elite consumers can offer verbal disclosure.
The fact that the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus can allow an enthusiast like myself to hear into the recordings and extract such detail as to make the above revelations is no small thing at the prices asked today. We are now on a great sonic edge where devopment in digital audio could start to improve to another level. At the next levels we are sure to experience better sound at a reduced price and much of our audio quality concerns will most likely fall to the waysides to be met with the ultimate confedence, we are obtaining all we can extract from our digital files, loosing nothing along the electronic processes at hand.
Here are the findings along with great test results by Ken Rockwell.
Pros - Detailed "high quality" sound
Cons - A bit sharp in the treable
It´s a tragic fact that USB 2 (192khz) doesn´t work with Mac´s OS X Maverick!
I would´ve xpected that Cambridge Audio was ready to meet the new OS from Apple!
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!)
Here is another review from Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity:
Pros - Usable as a preamp and headphone amp.
Cons - Loss of sharp filter, No Remote.
I was surprised to say the least at the sound of this new model from Cambridge Audio. The new dac sounds a few steps better than the dac it replaces.My only complaint is the volume control.It has a cheap feel to it.and the adjust ability is not very good.you have little volume then move it just a small way and the volume increases far too much.Other than that it is worth a listen.