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Article: Cambridge Audio DacMagic Review


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Hello forum,<br />

<br />

Anytime a posters comments are WAY out of the mainstream, I suggest taking them with a grain of salt. Inferior analog section? Remove from market? I think not! Please use your own ears to decide, and rely more on published reviewers opinions than posters. <br />

<br />

My 2 cents......<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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But my 2 cents is still that the NE5532 op-amp is an inferior component which always sound inferior and harsh.<br />

<br />

If you can not hear it, that is not my problem - I would immediately replace it with a Burr-Brown, National or Analog Devices chip made for audio and I have done so on a number of devices and even my wife immediately notices the difference though she has no clue as to what have been done!<br />

<br />

The 5532 is a component which sounds inferior to almost anything made with audio quality in mind. The output section of the Squeezebox Classic is even worse. That is made with an opamp made for telephones and comms systems. <br />

<br />

Also, my reaction is due to the fact that I get very disappointed when a DAC with the word MAGIC in its name in 2009 uses an opamp which I replaced the first time in 1990... <br />

<br />

That being said, the DacMagic does not sound too bad, but why spend that kind of money on a dac, when the same (analogue) circuit can be found in a receiver which is so much more versatile - and eventhough the DAC-section is less sophisticated still sounds way better than the DacMagic when properly modified... <br />

<br />

So you're right in recmmending people to use their ears, I've done so, and my conclusion was clear: The unit was sent back, full refund received.

Best regards,[br]Jens

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Jens,<br />

<br />

Have you heard this DAC? Impressive kit. <br />

<br />

Best regards,<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>"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."</i><br />

<br />

No need to be sorry Jens. It's clear you're not a fan of some of the Cambridge Audio products and that's totally fine with me. I certainly don't design products for them or have any stake in the company. I do know there are many people around the world enjoying the DacMagic who think the price to performance ratio is very good.<br />

<br />

I'm curious to know what DACs you own and what DACs you consider good? It helps put a little perspective on your very black & white comments.

Founder of Audiophile Style

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Hi Chris and Kurt<br />

I have not had the chance to listen to the Beresford. <br />

Currently I use a NAD M15 pre/processor which when it it works (knock on wood) sounds really good with the rest of my system which is made up of a NAD C272 amp (a bit cold sounding), a custom built class D poweramp and a custom built speaker system based on Seas Excel and Scan Speak Revelator units.<br />

<br />

My wet dream is to make the speakers digitally active - meaning I want to make the crossover completely in the digital domain and a separate dac in front of a seperate class D amp driving the units directly. <br />

<br />

I have a Sony (no fan of the brand) ES SACD player which has been modified using the same components as outlined here:<br />

http://www.sacdmods.com/DVD2900.htm<br />

except that the clock is an older version.<br />

<br />

My only regret is that it is impossible to put my music server (Vista, Foobar) output into the sony - and equally impossible to rip SACD a replay the SACD stream.<br />

What someone at NAD might want to consider is that the modified Sony sounds better than the M15 - to my ears anyway - and the difference is particularly clear when playing SACD analog out versus normal CD digital out.<br />

<br />

I know that I was out of line claiming the Cambridge should be pulled from the market, but I bought the unit based on all the hype and I got so disappointed with the sound and started looking on the net for an possible explanation. <br />

When I found out that it was built using the NE5532 my adrenalin levels set a new record...<br />

<br />

Back in 1989/90 I modified a very expensive Denon CD player and for the first time heard the difference between opamps made for answering machines and opamps made for audio on another level.<br />

Seeing the same chip in 2009 was far from my idea of good fun..<br />

<br />

I should have counted to 500 before posting - but now you know why :-)<br />

Best regards,[br]Jens

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that I really like the Benchmark DAC1 - have only heard in a friends system but it sounded very smooth and detailed at the same time.<br />

<br />

I have also heard a soundcard which sounded very nice - opamps were replaced by AD797 - here it is: http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-meridian.php <br />

<br />

It is discontinued but their newer models look promising as well.<br />

Best regards,[br]Jens

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Hey Jens,<br />

<br />

Thanks for the explanation, it makes sense. An opamp change can really make a difference in a DAC.<br />

<br />

Best wishes,<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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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi FNDR - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I'm not 100% sure about my answer, but I give you my best guess and contact Cambridge Audio to follow-up. My guess is that this output cannot send anything other than S/PDIF audio. Below is some info from Wikipedia about ADAT Lightpipe and S/PDIF incompatibility. The two may share a common interface but that's about it in my opinion.<br />

<br />

From <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADAT_Lightpipe#Cables_and_interface"Wikipedia</a><br />

<i>"Lightpipe uses fiber optic cables (hence its name) to carry data, with Toslink connectors at either end, making them identical to S/PDIF optical cables. However, the data streams of the two protocols are totally incompatible. S/PDIF is mostly used for transferring stereo or multi-channel surround sound audio, whereas the ADAT optical interface supports up to 8 channels at 48 kHz, 24 bit."</i>

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have recently purchased a DACmagic, I am using my Denon DVD as a transport which is connected to the DACmagic via digital coaxial out (other components are NAD370 amp and B&W 703's). The sound is very good but sometimes vocals at top end are a bit 'hissy', i suspect this may be somethingo do with the age of my amp or quality of CD's I am playing....... Any advise on how to how to rectify this problem would be appreciated.<br />

<br />

Also can anyone advise on the 'output phase' selection switch on the DACmagic, I can not really tell any difference when I switch between settings ie reverse phase.... thanks in advance for your assistance.. <br />

<br />

simon

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 months later...

Was there a final reply to this question? The replacement of the OpAmps?

Oyen Digital Mini-Pro 1TB HDD->Wireworld Starlight USB cable->Auraliti PK90->W4Sound USB cable>SOtM dx-USB HD USB to SPDIF Conv.-> Black Cat SilverStar 75 digital cable->Wyred4Sound Dac2->Cardas Quadlink XLR balanced cables->Anthem 225 integrated amp->Straightwire Rhapsody S->PSB Imagine T speakers

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  • 4 weeks later...

Renerator - Go to the links provided by Jens in this thread. It appears that the mods will cost a high percentage of the DAC Magic's orginal price. I'm tempted, though. <br />

<br />

Chris - is there any chance you can compare the "before and after mods" to the DAC Magic for us?<br />

<br />

Thanks,

Michigan Man

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Hi RCduck7 - Maybe I missed something here but I'll provide an opinion anyway. The NE5532 only plays a role in the total sound of a unit. The USB interfaces of the DAC1 and the DacMagic are vastly different and also play a role in the sonic differences.<br />

<br />

Forgive me if I missed something and I'm not adding to the conversation.

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've owned a VDAC for 5 weeks and have just swapped it for a Cambridge DacMagic. The VDAC has a very "Musical Fidelity" sound. Music Fidelity is a company that specialises in beautifully built high end hi-fi but as a lot of their amplifiers are pure class A designs, the sound is akin to a valve design. The VDAC majors heavily on mid range presenting a solid and well separated sound stage with plenty of depth. The downside is also its strength. The mid range, especially vocals is sometimes too far forward to the detriment of the rest of a recording. If you like vocals and appreciate harmonies then this could be the DAC you need. Looking at the box, it's no great looker with an air of being home built. The switch between the USB and the digital input feels flimsy and I think gives the box a feeling of being home built. The reason I swapped it for the Cambridge is that I felt I was listening too much to vocal music in preference to the rest of my collection and I realised that I wasn't happy with it.<br />

Installed the DacMagic a couple of days ago and at first I wasn't happy with the sound stage which seemed flat compared to the DacMagic. However it's now burning in very nicely and constantly improving. I listen to mostly rock and jazz, using the wav lossless format. It's a much better balanced sound with no obvious faults with my musical tastes. It looks and feels well built and is very easy to switch between inputs. I'm so satisfied with it that when I've finished ripping my entire CD collection to WAV lossless, the Arcam CD player is going on Ebay, as when I listen to the same music through the CD player and the DAC, I can discern very little difference in quality.

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  • 1 year later...

There appears to be an apparently held misconception concerning the NE5532. <br />

<br />

Here is an answer in regards to Jens commentary about the NE5532:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

From Benchmark Media.com<br />

<br />

"Don't underestimate the NE5532. We have just completed a very comprehensive set of tests on the NE5532 and on various substitutes. We have not found anything that will equal the transparency provided by the NE5532.<br />

<br />

Some have suggested substituting OPA2134 op amps in place of the 5532s. This is a bad idea! Our tests show an increase in both 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion, and the addition of higher order (4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th) harmonics that are virtually absent from a stock DAC1. In addition, IMD will increase, and SNR will degrade.<br />

<br />

The NE5532 is power hungry, it has high input bias currents, and high offset voltage, but it can drive high-level low impedance circuits with ease. The 5532 should not be used with low signal levels, and it should only be used in low gain circuits. Also, the offset voltage must be managed with appropriate design techniques. I believe the NE5532 has aquired a bad reputation because it has often been missapplied. The DAC1 is carefully designed specifically for the NE5532 op amp. It may surprise you that the NE5532 was selected for transparency and not on the basis of cost. " <br />

<br />

http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/index.php/NE5532_Opamp<br />

<br />

Regards, GeneZ

It all depends upon in what dimension of life one finds themselves living in.  For, one man's music is another man's noise. 

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  • 3 months later...

Its been about five months now with my Dacmagic. Went through the breaking in period with little drama. Just recently I began experimenting more seriously with its features. So... <br />

<br />

Another DAC may sound smoother and very detailed. But, it should not stop there. For somethings un-tested may be in effect. For when taking advantage of the DacMagic's Polarity Reversal function? I discovered smoothness with detail that I was not hearing before. The phase settings also will make a difference. The designer was thinking real world usage. When comparing another DAC, the other may reverse polarity and sound smoother if the audio chain reversed polarity to begin with. <br />

<br />

I have learned over the years that not all electronic components leave polarity alone. As far as I know, its not my DacMagic that was reversing polarity. For when I was still using my PC's sound-card, I found manually reversing the speaker wires polarity improved the sound. <br />

<br />

The DacMagic's polarity reversal feature is great to have. Many years ago I had an RGR (Robert Grodinsky Research) expander that also had this feature. With it, I am easily able to reverse polarity for the occasional recording that is reversed. I simply use the reversal feature. I do not have to go through the inconvenience of reversing my speaker wires for those recordings. <br />

<br />

I was made aware about the effects of proper polarity since the late eighties. That's why when I read about the polarity reversal function of the DacMagic I lit right up. That was the final straw that sold me on making it the DAC of my choice. The other DACs I've read about failed to mention this kind of feature. I am sure they are good. Maybe even better in certain ways. But, their actual potential on all playback will not be recognized without having the freedom to reverse polarity as needed.<br />

<br />

IMHO, GeneZ

It all depends upon in what dimension of life one finds themselves living in.  For, one man's music is another man's noise. 

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  • 1 month later...

Batito7- no, any DAC including the DacMagic is going to convert the digital signal to analog only. You will need a computer or processor of some kind. I, as many others use the Mac mini for this although there are lots of other options to choose from.

New Mini-8gig / Cambridge Audio DAC / Linn Kolektor pre amp / 2 active Linn LK140 amps / Nordquist Cables / Linn Ninka (aktiv) / APV H15 Line Conditioner

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