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Article: Cambridge Audio DacMagic Review


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Great review. I am a recent owner of a DacMagic (less than two weeks) and many of my impressions are similar to yours on this unit. Early on I thought that the bass lines were a little muddy compared to my Meridian G8 (still are to a certain extent but I did not anticipate it would better this unit) but this condition seems to be alleviated with continued burn in. I agree completely with you analysis regarding price vs. performance.<br />

<br />

I notice that you stated that most of your listening was done with MM direct output. I have done most of my listening with wave out but have not really noticed any real difference between the two. <br />

<br />

1. Did you have any impressions on the relative merits of the two outputs? <br />

<br />

2. Did you notice that one output provided any advantages over the other? <br />

<br />

3. Were there any set-up routines you went through that would be beneficial to know as far as the windows xp music server?

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I've been looking at this DAC, and actually phoned the store - stock seems difficult to get hold of just at the mo, otherwise I'd probably be an owner already.<br />

<br />

I'd be interested in a comparison with the devilsound, and I see you've listed it in 'associated equipment'. After Christmas I'll probably be buying one or the other (or the Apogee Duet...)- if it was your money where would it go? My only real consideration is getting the best sound at around this price. If anyone else has any other suggestions or can weigh in on the comparison that would be great too.

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Chris, thanks for the review. <br />

My dacmagic should arrive on Friday and I am curious to see if it sounds better, than the ECHO audiofire 2 that I am currently using. The audiofire is 150€, it is proaudio, similar to the M-Audio mentionned in the forums here. And it does music.<br />

Here in Europe retailers say that the dacmagic is the bargain of the century, that it should have been priced over 1000€... it is that good according to them. What I read from your review is slightly different. It is a nice competent machine but not a giant killer. How does it fare against the Benchmark for instance? You say a lot about technical features and very little about the music it does. It is because you are spoiled by the Berkeley that makes listening to lesser dac boring?

Dac202/LebenXS/MagicoV2 Stealth cables www.bluedy.com

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Thanks for the review Chris. I'll be very curious what folks have to say about this DAC vs the Musical Fidelity V-DAC. I'm going to buy one or the other very shortly, and I'm wondering what the consensus is re) the $100 price difference.

Five (or so) in heavy rotation:

 

Van Halen - Studio Albums 1978-1984 (24/192) | The Eagles - Hotel California (24/192) | Robbie Robertson - S/T (MFSL) | Tord Gustavsen - The Well (24/96) | The Beatles - Rubber Soul (24-Bit)

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hello there,and a happy new year to you<br />

here's the rub.I'm using the little bastard on the latest model macbook(4.1).dacmagic comes through as advertised,but using itunes 8.01 volume control is fractional even with the master(control bar) volume muted. using a teensy trends audio lite dac I keep itunes volume at max (no digital paring)and use the master volume as needed,which allows me to feed my amps direct.dac magic sounds wonderful from balanced to my nagra vpa amps,but it's way loud,even with itunes vol at minimum,as I said.by the way,my rig is all nagra throughout on tannoys,which means the dacmagic competes with the nagra cdc,which ain't chopped liver.seems to me the cambridge does not recognise mac osx 10.5.6.<br />

I really appreciate your taking the trouble to answer me.<br />

michele<br />

<br />

oops I goofed and anwered the mail.my bad

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after two days testing I can confirm the initial result:dacmagic is not fully mac osx usb capable.output volume <br />

is extreme and can only be controlled,fractionally,by the application(e.g. itunes,aol radio) volume control,while main mac os volume and left right balance are completely bypassed. in my experience then cambridge dac matic is not suitable as a plug and play usb dac for mac users,and mine goes back to the dealer.smart marketing move though:who cares about mac users when the cambridge dac is magic for the xbox?<br />

michele

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Thanks for the review, Chris, which largely chimes with my experience of the DacMagic. I really don't think the hype to the effect that it should cost $1000 is justified: it's a perfectly pleasant bit of kit, and unusually well specified for inputs and outputs, but sonically way behind (what is still) my favourite modestly priced bit of kit, the KingRex UD-01, which I auditioned back to back with the Cambridge.<br />

<br />

Last week I also bought the brand new version 2 Devilsound DAC which makes an interesting comparison to both! For the poster above: considering its limitations, I think it's hugely impressive. In out-and-out SQ terms, it's not as sweet or musical (or 'right') as the KingRex, but I suspect it's pretty close to the Cambridge (which I heard in a very different system from mine). Given that it essentially has 'no' power supply, that's quite an achievement.

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I've just bought a DacMagic! Thats a shame. I run the Kingrex T20u and the KingRex Pre so I like the way their stuff sounds, (and would recommend to anyone, incidentally) just wasn't sure about their little DAC- in fact it uses the same chip as the built-in DAC on the T20u.<br />

Maybe the better implementation really makes a difference? Plus, I contacted the distributor and they suggested its pretty much essential to use the upgraded power supply to get the best from it, (although, they would of course!) which bumps up the price quite a bit. <br />

<br />

Having compared the built in DAC on the T20u with the dacmagic, so far... I can't really tell too much difference! Will continue to use it for a couple of weeks to see if burn in makes it better, but if not the improvement is too subtle to warrant the cost. It probably just speaks of the quality of the T20u. I might see if the Kingrex guys will let me try the UD-01... <br />

<br />

Maybe there will be something amazing unveiled at CES, a killer DAC for £200. Get looking Chris! :)

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I've just had the same experience- volume control is not possible with the little white remote. However, it does respond fully to the volume control via an ipod touch. I assumed they would be doing the same thing in the same way, but I guess not. <br />

<br />

So there is a solution if you like the sound! Granted if you don't already have an ipod the solution costs as much as the dac is in the first place...

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I read the first 8 pages of this thread:<br />

<br />

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/musical-fidelity-v-dac-owners-391721/<br />

<br />

and many seem to prefer the v-dac in their side to side comparisons. If you have purchased one or the other I would like to hear what you think. If you are considering something else in this price range please advise . . . <br />

<br />

Some complained about the "PRAT" which is a new term for me, but a couple seem to indicate it gets a little better after breaking in. Still, they prefer the v-dac. Then again they might be maniacs :) I can't help thinking of Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School when he insists on buying new books because "maniacs" might have highlighted the used books. Anyway . . .

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Hi Chris,<br />

<br />

very good article.<br />

I was especially attracted by the use of the Bel Canto USB Link.<br />

I have just bought one, waiting for it to land at home :).<br />

<br />

Just wondering, what MM plug-in are you using with the USB Link ?<br />

Do you confirm bit-perfectness up to 24bits/96khz ?<br />

I can't wait to play with this component.<br />

<br />

Thx,<br />

Elp.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am extremely new here and not at all familiar with the issues some of the posters posed. However, I can say in my application the DacMagic has worked wonderfully. I have an iMac with a Time Capsule, Apple TV and iPod Touch. The Apple TV toslink connection is to the an input of the DacMagic and then connected to my NAD receiver. Used strictly for Music the HDMI video connection of the Apple TV is connected to an HMDI input on my NAD. I use the iPod Touch as the remote when I don't care to have the TV on. I am not understanding the volume control issues raised as both the Apple TV white remote and the iPod Touch remote will control volume on the system. I do have my iTunes library synched to the Apple TV and I don't know if that would make a difference if I were streaming.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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<br />

Thanks for the review! I was wondering, given you have reviewed the Stello DA100 Signature recently, if you could give your impression of how the DACMagic matches up to it? The DACMagic sounds like a great buy but I'd consider spending a bit more on the Stello if it's a significant step up.<br />

<br />

Cheers,<br />

<br />

Matthew.<br />

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Are the majority of people who buy DAC's on this site doing so because the external DACs are better than the ones in their receivers, or is it because their amps do not have DACs built in? I know some like the ability to use the USB on their PC/MAC also.

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The majority of external dacs will be better than receiver dacs simply because the designers only had to concentrate on one thing instead of the many receiver functions. Also, a lot of people are using integrated amps, older receivers, or pre-power amp combos without dacs in them. As far as I know, putting a dac into an integrated amp is just starting to happen with most high end manufacturers ala simaudio and bryston. That been said, I picked up a used Denon 5800 and am quite impressed with the value and quality of the amps and dacs in it given how inexpensive they are now. So while the dacs in some receivers are sub par, some are also pretty good.

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Hi Chris,<br />

<br />

Glad to be in the forum. Nice review.<br />

<br />

Now that it is available, will you be reviewing the new usb, toslink, and Coax enabled Beresford TC-7520 DAC? I'd love to read your impression of it vs. the DAC Magic.<br />

<br />

Thanks for a great forum!<br />

<br />

Kurt Buechler

PS Audio PowerPlant P10. MacBook Pro M1. UpTone ISO REGEN (powered by iFi iPower) Chord Hugo M-Scaler & Hugo TT2. Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference II XLRs. Rogue Audio M-180 Dark mono tube amps

Sonus Faber Cremona. Pair REL S/510

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Hi ,<br />

I am a newbie to this site / forum but would appreciate some advice on DAC magic. I am looking to upgrdae my CD player and was told by my local hifi shop that an alternative was to use my existing DENON 1930 DVD player together with a DAC magic, and this will improve sound from CD's substantially... is this the way to go ..??. or should I just spend the money on a dedicated CD player....??? thanks in advance for advice ..simon

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Does your amp have a high quality digital input? If so, you wouldn't need the external dac at all. I kind of have upgrade-itis right now and was considering a DAC, but some of the good people on this forum have convinced me to save my money for now. If I were you I would bring my DVD player to the store and ask to hook it up to their amp, etc. Compare the sound from it to a good cd player on equipment comparable to yours and see if you hear a difference a/b-ing it. Maybe that DENON puts out sound comparable to the cd player you are considering.

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Hello,<br />

<br />

Re: using the DAC in one's receiver.<br />

<br />

I have the Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 Pre/Pro and it is very highly regarded. Though its overall performance is outstanding, I have found the onboard 2-channel DAC to be just OK. I have connected the Zhaolu 2.0, Zero, and Channel Islands Audio DACs to it and they easily outperformed it.<br />

<br />

I for one would recommend comparing an external DAC with the onboard DAC in a prepro/receiver first before deciding to stay with the onboard.<br />

<br />

Also: be sure to check-out the Beresford TC-7520 DAC. I've had mine for a few days now and am very pleased. It is half the cost of the DAC Magic.<br />

<br />

Best,<br />

<br />

Kurt

PS Audio PowerPlant P10. MacBook Pro M1. UpTone ISO REGEN (powered by iFi iPower) Chord Hugo M-Scaler & Hugo TT2. Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference II XLRs. Rogue Audio M-180 Dark mono tube amps

Sonus Faber Cremona. Pair REL S/510

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I'm sorry Chris, but from a technical perspective the analogue section of this DAC is of so poor quality that it should be pulled from the market asap.<br />

The same goes for the cd player from which they've snatched the DAC.<br />

From a stand-alone DAC I expect the components to be quite a bit better than those in the DAC of a complete AV-receiver in the same price range - not so here though!<br />

Best regards,[br]Jens

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but "The majority of external dacs will be better than receiver dacs" is simply not true. Just look at the circuit designs in the av products and compare them to the DacMagic. The DacMagic is just as inferior in quality as the cheapest NAD receiver on the market!

Best regards,[br]Jens

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