Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 Review
The USB DAC network streaming is about to become the mainstream of digital playback in the next stage. For such a trend, Cambridge Audio, one of the essential audio manufacturers in the UK, will certainly not be absent. It has already launched NP 30 streaming earlier. With its complete functions (streaming and DAC function) and compact size, this player has been recognized by the British professional audio magazine What Hi-Fi. This Stream Magic 6 is even more outstanding.
In addition to the original functions of the NP 30, it also adds more practical functions such as USB DAC, XLR balanced output, and front-end control. If you are trying to build a playback system that is more convenient to operate and easier to make people happy, don’t miss the following detailed introduction to Stream Magic 6!
Cambridge Audio NP30 vs Stream Magic 6
Why is the launch of Stream Magic 6 outstanding? First of all, the most significant difference between it and NP 30 is the product positioning. The NP 30 is smaller in size, not the size of an available audio system. But the size of the Stream Magic 6 is like a general amplifier or CD player so that more functional circuits can be installed, making Stream Magic 6 an advanced product. This pure English Stream Magic 6 can be said to be a very competitive model. No wonder it received significant attention as soon as it was launched.
What are the featured designs of Stream Magic 6? Its most unique place is that it is equipped with special ATF2 (Adaptive Time Filtering) technology. ATF is a technology developed by the Anagram company in swiss. In addition to Orpheus, it is also used in many high-end audio companies.
The ATF2 of Stream Magic 6 uses a 32-bit DSP arithmetic processor from Analog Devices, which upscales all input signals to a 24bit / 384kHz format performs arithmetic processing. When upsampling and resampling, a Polynomial Curve Fitting Interpolation calculation method will generate a more accurate waveform. The signal will then enter the buffer, and the time base will be recalibrated through the internal clock system, thereby significantly reducing the time base error (jitter). It is helpful to restore the original sound of the digital signal.
ATF2 also provides three digital filter modes, including Linear Phase, Minimum Phase, and Steep. The tone is different. Users can choose according to their preferences or system and space conditions. Conveniently, switching the filter mode can be done directly through the remote control without operating on the front panel.
Stream Magic 6 also has a great feature, which is the switching of the input signal phase. In the past, almost all high-end preamps or DACs are integrated with a phase switching function. Still, in the digital processing era, the signal phase can be directly inverted without going through the hardware, which is much more convenient. However, to switch the phase of Stream Magic 6, you need to use the Filter/Phase button on the panel. After a long press for 2 seconds, the function of this button will change from the filter mode switch to the phase switch.
Stream Magic 6 supports the UPnP function, which can access music files stored in other UPnP devices on the same local network. The file formats it can support are pretty complete, such as WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WMA 9, MP3, AAC, OGG Vorbis, etc. The highest is 24bit / 96kHz.
Stream Magic 6 is also a convenient DAC. In addition to having Co-axial and Toslink inputs, it also supports USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 connections. If your computer is a Windows system, you don’t need to install a driver when selecting Stream Magic 6 with USB 1.0. At this time, the highest sampling rate supported is 24bit / 96kHz. If you choose USB 2.0, you need to install the driver provided by Cambridge. The highest sampling rate can reach 24bit / 192kHz. If you are using a Mac system, no driver is required.
Of course, Stream Magic 6 also has the Internet radio function. You can listen to it through the built-in Internet radio services, such as BBC iPlayer Radio, SiriusXM, Pandora, Aupeo, Rhapsody, etc. Besides, Stream Magic 6 supports the more and more popular Podcast and can be connected to some high-quality Podcast program providers, such as Podcast.com, Blog TalkRadio, and BBC Podcasts, etc., to expand your Listening category and vision. Such streaming audio will also be up-converted by Stream Magic 6’s ATF2 technology during playback to achieve better sound quality.
Control and Connections
To control the Magic 6, you can do it through the display on the Stream Magic 6 panel, but most people don’t do it because it’s too inconvenient. Cambridge has launched an App called Stream Magic. Both Apple and Android systems can download it. You can use mobile phones, tablets, and other digital devices to play remotely and enjoy the convenience of streaming.
Stream Magic 6 itself can support Ethernet network cable connections or Wi-Fi wireless network connections. If you use a network cable, almost no settings are required. Stream Magic 6 can be found by opening the App. If it is via Wi-Fi, a login password is also required.
Stream Magic 6 can also enjoy the convenience of Bluetooth connections, but you have to buy a BT100 Bluetooth receiver first. The BT100 can be plugged into the back panel of Stream Magic 6 through the USB type A interface to turn on the Bluetooth receiving function. Besides, there is a USB type A jack on the panel of Stream Magic 6, allowing you to play music from the USB flash drive.
There is a power button on the left side of the panel, which allows the user to define it as Idle mode or Standby mode. If you choose the Standby mode, when you press the power button on the panel or the remote control, it will be turned off. If you want to turn it on again, you must wait at least 30 seconds to complete the boot process.
What is the difference between Idle mode? In Idle mode, the screen of Stream Magic 6 will turn off, and all playback functions will be hauled, but the network function is still working in the background. At this time, as long as the device is turned on, it can be streamed immediately. It can be seen that Stream Magic 6 is not only super powerful, but many designs are also super intimate.
In terms of analog output, Stream Magic 6 provides RCA and XLR outputs and pre-control functions. According to the user manual of Stream Magic 6, what it provides is the Digital Preamp function. When this function is turned on, the user can adjust its volume through the remote control or portable device via the App.
Therefore, in the actual audition, I connected Stream Magic 6 to my preamplifier, using it as a music source. During the test, I used the streaming function and connected it with the network cable. The music came from my NAS.
Besides, Stream Magic 6 supports kernel streaming and ASIO playback under Windows, which means that you can skip the Windows audio processing system and get better sound.
After listening to it for a while, I found that the most potent Stream Magic 6 has no apparent features. What? Is this a feature? Isn’t it just featureless? I think a good signal source should be like this. It should be very natural and easy so that the listener will almost not find the existence of the signal source. Stream Magic 6 sounds very natural. That kind of feeling can only be heard on high-end CD turntables, but in comparison, Stream Magic 6 is much easier to own. No wonder it can get What Hi-Fi award For sure.
However, there is a prerequisite for such a relaxed sound performance that I hear through Stream Magic 6. High-quality music files must be streamed over the Internet, just like the way I listened. Because I have also saved the same file to a USB flash drive, I then plugged it into the USB port of the Stream Magic 6 panel to listen to it. There is a big gap between the sound and the streaming. Although I did not try to use Stream Magic 6 as a USB DAC and connect it to a computer to listen to it, Stream Magic 6 will have better streaming effects than USB DAC. That is the advantage of Internet streaming and why current high-end brands almost only do streaming DACs.
Although “natural sound” is not easy to describe in words, it still has some characteristics. First of all, Stream Magic 6 has a correct and rich tone, a balanced frequency band distribution, and an excellent thickness throughout the frequency range. Taking The Artemis Quartet playing Schubert String quartet No 15 in G major as an example, you can feel the clean and transparent texture, the rich resonance of the piano, and the excellent quality density. Compared with the USB DAC32, it lacks some gloss and smoothness, but the characterization and strength of the music seem to be more vivid.
Then listen to Beethoven’s No. 3 Symphony. Stream Magic 6 shows a sense of calm, large and open scale. I heard that Stream Magic 6 also has the pattern and straightforward structure that only high-end streaming players can have with such a symphony. The low frequency is calm, clear, and very flexible. It shows excellent depth of field in a clean background, and it does not sound chaotic.
However, Stream Magic 6 still has room for improvement in its weak performance and the difference between the strong and the weak musical elements. If these areas are also taken into consideration, it will be able to challenge the high-end models.
Through Stream Magic 6, I can feel the various expressions of the recording, such as a precise spatial shape, clarity, the low-frequency lines, the incredible sound, etc. It sounds pretty enjoyable. The most important thing is that Stream Magic 6 plays electronic music, pop songs, and jazz music in this film without being too irritating and frivolous and has a gentleman style with British equipment.
Finally, I listened to Martha Argerich play the “Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No.1.” This performance is very complicated, with large fluctuations in the momentum of the song. Generally speaking, it is not easy for small music systems to perform well. However, through this song, I am sure that Stream Magic 6 has sufficient strength and can be used as a more extensive music system.
The Stream Magic 6 network music player launched by Cambridge Audio in the United Kingdom has the function of the preamplifier and covers a variety of network and digital music signals, up to 24bit/384kHz high-resolution.
You can also use the APP application for wireless remote control, which is super convenient! Are you looking for a solution for digital music listening? This feature-rich and detailed Stream Magic 6 deserves your attention.
Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 Specs
- DAC: Dual Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs
- Digital filter: 2nd Generation ATF2 up-sampling to 24-bit/384kHz. Linear Phase, Minimum phase or Steep modes.
- Analogue filter: 2-Pole Dual Differential Bessel Double Virtual Earth Balanced
- Digital Input: S/PDIF 75 ohms or TOSLink optical
- USB Audio Input: USB Type B conforming to Audio profile 1.0 or USB Audio profile 2.0 (user 1.0 or USB Audio profile 2.0 (user selectable)
- Analogue audio outputs: Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analogue audio outputs
- Compatibility: UPnP 16-24 bit, 32-96kHz, Local USB media 16-24 bit, 32-96kHz, USB Audio1.0 16-24 bit, 32-96kHz, USB Audio 2.0 16-24 bit/32-192kHz, Toslink 16-24 bit/32-96kHz, S/PDIF 16-24 bit/32-192kHz
- BT100 Bluetooth receiver: A2DP plus aptX
- Audio formats: ALAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, AAC, HE AAC, AAC+, OGG
- Standby power consumption: <0.5W
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 85 x 430 x 305mm (3.4 x 16.9 x 12.2”)
- Weight: 4 kg (8.8lbs)