DACs

Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus

ARTICLE INDEX

Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus Design and Setup

The DacMagic Plus is a rather light weight and unassuming box, but given its relatively low price, the construction is more than adequate. The unit I received was in silver with a brushed aluminum faceplate, but the DacMagic Plus can also be had in a sleek, unassuming black.

You can setup the unit flat on a desktop, or to save space, it can be placed vertical using a provided foot. It is a nice looking unit, but there was one thing that bothered me just a bit...

Every time I looked at the Cambridge logo on the top of the unit, it I wanted to spin it like a dial! Much to my distress, whence said finger was placed on top the logo, it did not spin around in circles!! Alas I quickly learned from my mistake and found that the volume knob does indeed spin and plays double duty as a pushable function button. It is a digital volume control so there is a bit of delay when turning the knob that can take a bit of getting used to.

On the front are blue LEDs that show selected input, filter, phase, and incoming sample rate. The source and digital filter is selected with a push of a button, but in order to change the phase, the filter button must be held down for a couple seconds. I really appreciated having the indicators for incoming sample rate. My initial assumption was that out of the box this unit would start playing 192 kHz files, but no matter what I played, the incoming sample rate was always set at 96 kHz. Having the incoming rate LED’s made it much easier to debug the situation and follow the appropriate steps needed to output 192 kHz files. Once that 192 indicator lit up I knew I had things configured correctly.

The DacMagic Plus is setup out of the box for plug-n-play USB 1.1 audio. However, this will limit file playback to 24-bit/96kHz. Via USB, 192kHz files can only be played back via USB Audio 2.0 and switching the Plus to that mode is not a simple matter of flipping a labeled switch. After reading the manual (I know right? Who reads manuals?!), I was able to easily perform this switch and enable USB 2.0 support. This is where the dual function of the volume knob comes into play since you push the knob in like a button in order to make your selection and restart the Plus in that USB mode. Decoding this data are two Wolfson WM8740 24bit/384kHz DACs configured in dual differential mode for each stereo channel.

I used the DACMagic with several pairs of headphones and hooked up strictly as a DAC for some 2 channel listening as well. The only source I used for this review was my laptop via USB.

The other hidden function is switching the output mode of the Plus. By default, the DacMagic Plus is setup in Digital Preamp mode where output from balanced and unbalanced outputs is controlled by the front volume knob. The Plus also has a mode for fixed line-level output if you aren’t using it as a preamp. One should make sure to enable this mode if you will be using it with another volume control.