Cambridge Audio Releases DacMagic Plus

When I got a Cambridge Audio DacMagic about two years ago (see my Macworld article about it) I was immediately impressed by how it improved the quality of the music I listened to from iTunes. Even with compressed music, it gives better detail and spaciousness. While I am not an audiophile, the DacMagic is certainly a worthy addition to my stereo.

I just noticed that Cambridge Audio has released a new version of the device, the DacMagic Plus. (Apparently this was released a couple of months ago; I just saw a mention of it in a classical music magazine.) This improves on the original by adding a headphone jack and volume control, allowing it to be used on its own as a headphone amp, which is very practical. In addition, it has a digital pre-amp, so it can be used with active speakers, and it has a Bluetooth receiver so you can stream music from Bluetooth devices.



I would have liked to see AirPlay compatibility, for streaming from iTunes, but you can always stream to, say, an Apple TV connected to the DacMagic Plus via a Toslink cable. However, with only two digital inputs, this may be limiting for some.

For me, though, the big advantage would be using it as a headphone amp, when I want to listen to headphones. The device is compact enough that I could put it on my desk, rather than next to my amp which is on a shelf a few feet from my desk chair, making headphone cable paths a bit easier to use. (I use my DacMagic for my office stereo.)

Unfortunately, it is more expensive than the original DacMagic: it lists at $679, but is available from Amazon.com for $599; the original DacMagic sold for around $429. But the addition of the headphone amp and jack make it a very useful product.

If you’ve never tried a DAC – digital-audio converter – you might be surprised to hear how much of a difference it can make, especially if you play music from your computer. (If you have, say, a high-end CD player, the difference will be much less obvious.) If you want a device to add detail and clarity to your sound, do check out the DacMagic Plus.

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4 replies
  1. L Chen says:

    External DACs are a hot industry right now; everyone and their dog is making one. Without getting into all the technical stuff, suffice it to say there are nice options with all kinds of features (or no-features for the “true” audiophiles, ha ha) ranging from $40-ish to $450, before you jump up to $600-ish.

    NuForce, Musical Fidelity, Arcam, Audio Engine, Fiio, and so on…

    Reply
  2. Tony says:

    This is only for the 1%, not “the 99% of music listeners who… …buy music for music, not for audio quality.”

    Reply
  3. Cedric Tineo says:

    If you stream a digital signal from Airport Express or Apple TV to a high-end DAC or Amp with integrated decoder and high-quality DACs, beware of the following.

    - only sound streamed from the Airport Express with the volume of the source (in iTunes, or on the Music app on the iPhone / iPad / iPod) at 100% results in an un-modified signal being sent digitally to the DAC.
    - if the volume is less than 100% the signal is digitally modified to be output at a lower volume, it is NOT the same as sending the full digital signal + an instruction to play it a lower volume, it does modify the signal and therefore affects it’s quality/purity
    - the Apple TV works the same way, but it converts every signal to 48khz so no digital signal coming out of it (except for audio tracks that were in 48khz to begin with) is ‘unmodified’ – all your 44.1 kHz tracks will be mathematically modified to fit a 48khz digital stream before being sent to the DAC and converted to analog sound.

    Of course those alterations are done ‘quite well’ and the quality degradation is hard to hear – but if we’re talking hifi grade equipment, high-end specialized DACs, etc, one might want to KNOW when the digital signal is modified before being converted by the DAC.

    Although the quality is good -

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