Hands On: Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC

DacMagic digital-to-analog converter can enhance the appreciation of desktop audio listening.

Hands On: Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC
Robert Archer · October 26, 2009

Digital-to-analog converters (DAC) have become the next big thing, thanks to audio’s migration into the digital realm.

Cambridge Audio‘s entry into the DAC category is the DacMagic. I used the DacMagic in every imaginable scenario while recently reviewing it.

Hooking up the affordably priced upsampling DAC, which is available in black or silver, is pretty straight forward, whether you are using a computer, disc player or anything else. In my case, most of the time I ran a USB from a Mac and a PC to the DAC. I also ran balanced out cables to a set of Adam Audio A5 active monitors.

On the unit’s back panel are S/PDIF and toslink inputs, USB and a choice of RCA, XLR, S/PDIF and toslink outputs. The DacMagic’s front panel is also simple, featuring:

  • An on/off button
  • A source input selection button
  • A filter phase selection button

Most of my listening was done with an Apple G4 Powerbook loaded with AIFF, ALC and AAC files, and a PC set up with recording software. I also listened to the three filter options: “Linear Phase,” “Minimum Phase” and “Steep Filter.”

I didn’t find a lot of difference between them. I did prefer the default linear mode, which I thought produced more body and slightly more openness.

The DacMagic, distributed by Audio Plus Services, added a musical warmth and fullness to the listening experience on different file types. The most noticeable effect it had was on the playback of AAC files where the midrange and top-end reproduction of cymbals and strings sounded smoother, the stereo separation of the image improved and the overall cold edge of digital audio had been removed.

When I used the DacMagic as an interface in a recording environment it facilitated the monitoring of some layered multi-tracked and basic acoustic guitar recordings. In this setting I could hear the separation of tracks down the left, right and center of the mixes, the addition of subtle effects like chorus and reverb and the timbre differences of things like snare drum, bass and guitar EQ.

The most handy feature for installers, arguably, is its ability to set up in a vertical or horizontal position, which many consumers will appreciate in a desktop environment crammed in with printers, computers and everything else.

MSRP: $479

  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]

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