This is Part 2 of a four-part Playback report and new headphone, earphone, and personal audio products seen at CES 2012. This section of the report covers products from: Cambridge Audio, Cardas, Definitive Technology, Dynaudio, Etymotic Research, Focal, HiFiMAN, Klipsch, and Monster.
The British firm Cambridge Audio showed up at CES with an impressive array of new products, at least four of which have far-reaching implications for personal and desktop audio. Let me talk a bit about each one in turn.
• Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100 ($369): From almost the beginning of the modern computer audio movement, one of the best loved, most versatile and most affordable DACs around has been Cambridge’s acknowledged classic, the DAC Magic. I’ve been listening to one quite a lot of late, and even though the unit has been around for several years (an eternity by DAC standards), it still holds its own quite nicely with like-priced units that were more recently released. But for 2012 Cambridge has released the new DAC Magic 100, which in spirit—if not in terms of precise features and functions—is the logical successor to the original DAC Magic. Based on a Wolfson WM8742 DAC chip, the DAC Magic 100 is an asynchronous 24/192 USB DAC that also provides three additional digital inputs (2 coaxial and 1 optical). Interestingly, the tiny DAC Magic 100 has essentially the same footprint as Cambridge’s previously released digital iPod dock, making the two units an attractive, multi-input digital audio pair.
• Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus ($599): Taking up where the original DAC Magic left off, but carrying the performance baton much further forward, is the new DAC Magic Plus (which uses, as did the original DAC Magic, a relatively large chassis that can be position horizontally or tipped up on its side and placed in an included cradle for applications where desktop space is at a premium. As you’ll see in a moment, the DAC Magic Plus is a deceptively high-performance DAC that nevertheless sells at a mid-fi price. It offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for the money. Technical highlights include:
o The DAC Magic Plus is based on twin Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DAC chips used in dual differential configuration, and featuring Anagram Technologies 24-bit/384 kHz audio upsampling/jitter reduction technologies/
o The DAC Magic Plus provides an asynchronous USB input that supports 24/96 digital files when connected to USB 1.0 sources, or that can support 24/192 files when connected to USB 2.0 sources while using “ASIO or kernel streaming modules.”
o There are also two additional digital inputs, each of which can be fed from either coax or Toslink input jacks. Finally, the DAC Magic Plus can be used with Cambridge’s options BT100 Bluetooth receiver.
o The unit incorporates (as did the original DAC Magic) three switch-selectable digital filters with settings for linear phase, minimum phase, or steep filtering.
o The output side of the DAC Magic Plus is equally special as it provides both single-end (RCA) and balanced (XLR) output jacks, with the ability to deliver either fixed-level output signals or to be operated in an optional “Digital Preamp” mode with variable-level outputs.
• Stream Magic 6 ($999): The easiest way to think of the Stream Magic 6 is to picture it as a larger and even more versatile version of the DAC Magic Plus whose capabilities have been expanded to include streaming Network Media player functionality. What is very cool is that the Stream Magic comes with a free iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app that allows those devices—in conjunction with a home Wi-Fi network—to remotely control the Stream Magic 6.