Cambridge Audio, a veteran British brand, has always pursued the perfect sounding. It strives to make progress in technology and is welcomed by many audiophiles with limited budgets. Nowadays, digital streaming, computer audio sources are gradually replacing traditional CD players. In response to the situation, Cambridge Audio has successfully launched several multi-functional digital players supporting various digital inputs. The Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus is a DAC, but it is also equipped with a wealth of inputs and outputs and is a multi-functional digital-analogue converter.
Almost all DACs produced in recent years have a built-in USB input feature, which can be used when connected to a computer. The USB input has low jitter characteristics, which can support up to 24-bit/192kHz. That is a high-resolution format. Not only that, but this machine can also adopt the Bluetooth receiver BT100, enable the ability to wirelessly connect to computers, tablets, mobile phones, and other devices, easily play music lists on various smart devices.
In addition, DacMagic Plus also provides two sets of standard SPDIF inputs, two coaxial and optical input ports, which can be connected to traditional CD-Player and can also receive TV, Apple TV, Apple AirPort Express Digital music signal of other devices.
This machine also provides several output methods. In addition to the primary RCA output, there are also XLR balanced outputs. DacMagic Plus has a built-in preamp function that can adjust the volume of the analogue output.
Because headphones have become popular in recent years, so of course, DacMagic Plus has a built-in earphone amplifier, and the earphone output socket is set on the panel.
In addition, this machine also provides digital outputs, one for coaxial and one for optical. Such rich inputs make DacMagic Plus have diversified use possibilities. It can be used as a traditional DAC to connect CD-Player. It can also be used as a USB DAC to connect to a computer.
And of course, it can also be used as a D/D converter, transfer the music files in the computer to DacMagic Plus via USB or Bluetooth, convert it into SPDIF signal and send it to traditional DAC for decoding. In other words, this machine is not only a digital-analogue converter but also a multi-functional digital audio source control centre that gathers all kinds of digital audio sources in the home.
The price of Cambridge Audio products has always been friendly and affordable. This DacMagic Plus is no exception. The compact case feels very thin and light in hand.
The inside of the case is a very compact circuit board, full of ICs, capacitors, resistors, and other components. Cambridge Audio is an experienced professional manufacturer with a reasonable circuit layout, and basic features such as output protection are available.
The core of this machine is the DAC chip WM8740 from the famous British manufacturer Wolfson Audio, which is currently the top DAC chip company, known for its excellent sound quality. Its products are commonly found on high-end audio systems. WM8740 has a built-in digital filter. As far as I know, base on this chip, famous manufacturers often develop their own digital filter algorithm, burn it into the chip, and tune out the perfect sound.
Although DacMagic Plus is not an expensive product, it has the digital filter ATF2 provided by Anagram Technologies, which has the functions of upscaling for reducing digital jitter. Anagram Technologies is a Swiss technology company that specializes in digital signal processing. Swiss high-end audio manufacturer Orpheus also uses ATF filters in their high-end DAC products.
The USB input of this machine adopts the popular XMOS USB audio chip, which is compatible with USB Audio 1.0 and USB Audio 2.0. In USB Audio 2.0 mode, it can support a high-resolution format of 24bit/192KHz. It is no easy task for small audio manufacturers to develop stable and reliable USB audio chips with good sound quality. A cheaper and trouble-free way is to use audio source chips from major IC manufacturers such as Texas Instruments. However, these chips can only support USB 1.0 and cannot play high-resolution music files. The sound quality is not satisfactory. Only a few small manufacturers develop their integrated solutions and keep them as a secret recipe.
However, this situation has gradually changed after XMOS launched the cheap audio chip. Many manufacturers have begun to introduce USB DACs, which are equipped with XMOS chips. As the circuit layout, power processing, and tuning methods are different, the finished products produced by various manufacturers are ingeniously different. And so are the performances.
When I started listening to Temirkanov’s Ravel Orchestra (Signum SIGCD330) conducted by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, I immediately noticed that this DacMagic Plus has a good temperament, soft and elegant sound, gorgeous and bright colours, good texture. This exquisite sound quality is a taste that is difficult to match for many affordable models.
Not only that, but the sound field of this unit is also more stable than expected. The positioning of all the voices on the stage is always clear and precise. Listening to the entire piece of music, the sound position of each instrument is so precise.
I repeatedly listen to DacMagic Plus to play various types of music. No matter classical music, rock music, jazz, vocals, orchestral music, piano, this DAC has an outstanding performance.
Take piano solo as an example. When Debussy’s “Prelude” is played, the touch of the keys seems more casual and lacks a little depth, but the crisp and gorgeous tone is gorgeous. When listening to Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2”, I found that the dynamic contrast of this DAC was also excellent, and the scenes seemed calm and relaxed between the opening and closing.
Even Bruckner’s “Symphony No. 8” has played to the great scene, always maintaining a calm and unhurried manner. The music is unfolding in front of the eyes like a sea of clouds on the virtual stage, and the atmosphere is ethereal and wide.
I also listen to the album “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” by Yo La Tengo’s rock band. DacMagic Plus does not emphasize the rhythm of the low frequency and also focuses on the human voice.
I at first thought that the built-in headphone amplifier of DacMagic Plus was just a simple way as a preamp. After listening with the headphone, I realized that this preamplifier is quite good. The sound is clean, transparency is high, and the driving power is perfect.
On the whole, DacMagic Plus has a slight softness, brisk and freehand without profoundly expressing the subtle accents in the phrases. It makes people only feel pleasing and not superficial. The sound played by DacMagic Plus is quite beautiful and full of contagion. I especially appreciate the relaxed style of DacMagic Plus, allowing people to enjoy the beauty of music without any hindrance.
I think DacMagic Plus is a pretty unique product. First of all, DacMagic Plus has rich input/output interfaces with complete functions. It can be used as a traditional DAC or as a D/D converter. This machine is not only an excellent DAC but also a standard ear amplifier.
The built-in high-quality headphone amplifier adds flexibility to daily usage. Connect to the computer and plug in the headphones, and you can immediately enjoy the excellent sound quality. In addition to the full range of functions, the more critical, of course, is the sound performance of this machine, which makes DacMagic Plus unique among many affordable DACs.
It is always inevitable that they have strengths and weaknesses. The choice and trade-off between many advantages and disadvantages is quite a test of the manufacturer’s technology. DacMagic Plus is a cheap entry-level model. I did not expect it to perform comprehensively and without any flaws.
However, Cambridge Audio, an experienced professional manufacturer, is well-versed in tuning, creating a soft, flexible, elegant and upright temperament. Such elegant sound quality makes DacMagic Plus outstanding among many affordable models, and it is sure to attract audiophiles who wish to have a noble sound with a reasonable budget!