Cambridge Audio’s original $349 DacMagic was a huge success. It was so dominant that it earned a place as the DAC to beat if you were making, selling, or buying a sub-$400 Digital Audio Converter. But as with all good things, its time has finally come to an end and it has been discontinued. Fear not, however, as Cambridge Audio has a replacement in the wings: the DacMagic Plus. With added features and a higher price tag of $649, does the Plus live up to its name? Yes, it certainly does.
What’s been added to make the DacMagic Plus? Most obvious is the addition of variable output via a front panel volume knob. The front panel also sports a headphone jack as well as additional buttons for digital filter selection and absolute phase. On the inside of its diminutive case the Plus upconverts to 384 kHz and can now stream from a Bluetooth device via a BT 100 adapter.
While the original DacMagic was a general purpose DAC that could be used either in a desktop or room-based system, the DacMagic Plus’ feature-set places it firmly on a desktop. Why? Because although the DacMagic does have a variable level control so it can be used in lieu of a preamp in a room-based system, it lacks a remote control. Operating at farther than arm’s length away will prove difficult. The inclusion of a headphone amp, multiple digital input and output options, as well as balanced and unbalanced analog outputs gives the DacMagic Plus near-perfect ergonomics for use on a desktop. Combine the DacMagic Plus with powered speakers such as the Audioengine 5+ and you can have a complete high-quality desktop system for around $1000.
• Twin Wolfson 8740 24-bit digital-to-analog converters in dual differential mode for precise stereo imaging.
• Asynchronous USB technology for reduced timing jitter and better sound on USB input.
• Anagram Technologies Adapted Time Filtering 2 (ATF2) 24-bit/384kHz audio upsampling with jitter reduction for better sound with compressed audio sources.
• Incoming sampling rate indicator 44.1/48/88.2/96/192kHz helps verify source quality.
• Choice of three filter settings for fine-tuning sound to suit your listening preferences.
• Phase-inversion switch to compensate for out-of-phase recordings or phase-inverting amplifiers.
• Built-in headphone amplifier and full-size (1/4") front-panel headphone jack.
• Bluetooth ready for wireless playback from any compatible Bluetooth device (via an optional Cambridge Audio adapter).
• Supports the high-quality Bluetooth AptX CODEC for streaming audiophile quality music from a compatible Bluetooth device.
• Two digital inputs, each with both optical (Toslink) and RCA coaxial (S/PDIF) jacks.
• One USB (Type B) input for connection to a computer.
• Optical and coaxial digital outputs (pass-through).
• RCA and balanced XLR audio outputs (both active simultaneously).
• External power supply included.
• Non-slip silicone stand and 4 self-adhesive rubber feet included.
After several weeks of playing streaming radio from a Logitech Squeezebox Touch for break-in, I connected the DacMagic Plus to my main desktop system. Input sources included a direct Toslink feed from my MacPro desktop computer, direct USB from the MacPro, Coaxial S/PDIF from an Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 4, S/PDIF from a King Rex UD-384/32, and S/PDIF from a Matrix 96/24 USB converter. Output devices included AudioEngine 5+ powered speakers, ADAM Artist A5 powered speakers, and Focal XS Book powered speakers, plus the new April Music Eximus SI monoblock power amplifiers driving ATC SCM-7 speakers, Aerial Acoustics 5B speakers, Role Audio Canoe speakers, and a Velodyne DD 10+ subwoofer. The right and left speakers got their signals from the balanced outputs while the subwoofer received its signal from the unbalanced outputs. For the headphone output testing I used AKG K701, HiFiMan HE-300, and Grado RS-1 headphones.
During set-up the DacMagic Plus had no significant issues. Straight out of the box the DacMagic Plus is configured to support up to 96/24 via USB 1.1. But for 192/24 capabilities you must change to USB 2.0 via a special combination of button pushes. The methodology for this conversion is buried on page 22 of the PDF version of the user’s guide, though in my view this information really needs to be on a separate “read me first” page. I suspect that Cambridge Audio customer support is going to spend quite a bit of time explaining to new owners why their DacMagic Plus isn’t supporting 192/24 straight out of the box.