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Cambridge Audio DAC (sold)

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Cambridge Audio DAC (sold)

Post by HiFiLab on Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:19 am




Specs:

Two-channel, oversampling D/A processor with Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs and Texas Instruments TMS 320VC5501 digital filter.

Digital inputs: S/PDIF coaxial or TosLink optical, USB.

Digital input sampling frequencies supported 44.1kHz, 48kHz (32kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, S/PDIF only)

Digital outputs: S/PDIF coaxial and TosLink optical.

Analog outputs: balanced (XLR), single-ended (RCA).

Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz ±0.1dB. THD (1kHz, 0dBFS, 24-bit data): < 0.001%. S/N Ratio: 112dB.

Channel separation: >100dB at 1kHz, >90dB at 20kHz.

Output impedance: < 50ohms.

Maximum output level: 2.1V RMS (unbalanced), 4.2V RMS (balanced).








Ergonomically, this little bugger is brilliant: 8.6" (215mm) high by 2" (52mm) wide by 7.6" (191mm) deep when you place it on end on its rubbery bed. It weighs just 2.65 lbs (1.2kg). Squeeze it in next to your Slim Devices Squeezebox. Or your Sony PlayStation 3. One reason it takes up so little space is that it comes with a humongous wall-wart power supply so big it could conceivably fall out of a loose socket.

There's an On/Off switch, but the DacMagic sounds much better when left powered up most of the time. (Do turn it and the rest of your hi-fi off when you leave for a weekend or a vacation, and when electrical storms are forecast.)


The DacMagic features the Adaptive Time Filtering (ATF) process, which Cambridge licenses from Anagram Technologies of Switzerland. ATF is built around a 32-bit Texas Instruments digital signal processor that "upsamples" the signal fed to it. Upsampling creates additional digital data points out of thin air. They're not real, of course—except that they are. (I love to razz JA about this upsampling business.) The DacMagic upsamples to 24 bits/192kHz any incoming sample rate at 16 or 24 bits of resolution and from 32 to 96kHz.

The D/A chips are the same Wolfson WMB8740 24-bit DACs used in Cambridge Audio's Azur 740C and 840C CD players. Two per channel operate in dual-differential mode for maximum noise reduction. You can run the DacMagic from its balanced XLR analog outputs into a balanced preamp and power amp for maximum noise cancellation. There's also a pair of RCA outs, for unbalanced types like me.

The DacMagic also features a phase-inversion button. It would be great to have this accessible from the remote control. But wait—there is no remote. Oh, well. A child might be trained and pressed into service. Two digital inputs allow a choice of connection via S/PDIF coaxial or TosLink optical. And there's a USB input for use with a computer or a networked music source.

The rear panel of the DacMagic is almost as crowded as my shaving shelf. It also includes S/PDIF coaxial and TosLink optical digital outputs for connecting to a digital recording device; these do nothing to the incoming digital signal, but simply pass it through.

If you keep reading the instruction manual, your eyes, if they don't glaze over, will come to a long discussion of the three different analog filter modes: Linear Phase, Minimum Phase, and Steep. I wonder how many potential users will be scared away by Bramblearia. Actually, selecting the filters is simple: just tap the Phase button quickly (if you hold it down, the DacMagic reverses phase). Front-panel LEDs indicate the filter type selected.


You may want to stick with Linear Phase as your default. The technical advantage here is no phase shift within the audioband, and a sharp rolloff at about half the sampling frequency. Minimum Phase does almost the same thing and sounds, to me, virtually identical.

An interesting alternative is the Steep filter, which is like Linear Phase but with a steeper rolloff above 20kHz. Steep is said to attenuate aliasing at 22kHz by 80dB. But there's no free lunch; Steep adds a small amount of passband ripple. So pick your poison: aliasing or passband ripple. Already your eyes have glazed over, and you don't even own the thing.

I tried switching between Linear Phase and Steep, playing one movement of a symphony straight through using each. (I had no child handy to act as remote control, and Marina was off watching one of her Russian prime-time serials.) Linear Phase gave a lighter, airier, more transparent sound, with extended highs and better-defined bass. Steep attenuated the highs in comparison, taming the top end of some more aggressive recordings, but bass definition and overall clarity suffered. The sound was more blended, slightly congested—something I noticed more with symphonic recordings than with string quartets. As for Minimum Phase, I didn't hear it do anything that Linear Phase didn't do.

Other than that, I've so far avoided the subject of how the DacMagic sounded. In a word, it sounded glorious—far better than you have any right to expect for 400 bucks. Especially in Linear Phase, I heard well-defined bass, exquisitely extended highs, and a natural midrange. The soundstage was admirably wide, and soloists and their instruments were precisely positioned. What more do you want?

Well, you might ask for an even wider, deeper soundstage and more gut-wrenching bass. It's possible that power-supply limitations kick in here, but for $400, who's complaining? And you might wish that if Cambridge (or someone) does offer an optional kick-ass power supply, it doesn't have to hang from a wall socket. And a remote control would be nice.

If you're looking for the romance of tubes, that's not on offer here. Try the DacMagic with a tubed line stage. I thought that Musical Fidelity's X-10DV3 tube buffer might work wonders. After all, Bramble used to ramble at MF. I have one of these. I put the X-10DV3 between the DacMagic and the LFD NCSE integrated amplifier. I got tube warmth in spades, but with more than a slight loss of transparency, which shows how resolving the DacMagic is.

You probably own an older, sturdier CD player that will do jim-dandy as a transport with the DacMagic. I used a Marantz CD63 SE that's almost 15 years old. Digital cable was Analysis Plus Oval (which I recommended last October).

If you have a really great CD player—such as Cambridge Audio's own 740C or 840C or Cary Audio's CDP 1—you're probably looking at a sideways change in sound, at best. Enjoy what you have. Meanwhile, I'm keeping the Cambridge Audio DacMagic.








Contact Simon Ting 012-3612507


Last edited by HiFiLab on Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:08 am; edited 1 time in total

HiFiLab
Dealer\Reseller\Trader\Service Provider
Dealer\Reseller\Trader\Service Provider

Number of posts : 2273
Age : 39
Location : klang
Registration date : 2011-03-12

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Post by HiFiLab on Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:27 am

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HiFiLab
Dealer\Reseller\Trader\Service Provider
Dealer\Reseller\Trader\Service Provider

Number of posts : 2273
Age : 39
Location : klang
Registration date : 2011-03-12

Character sheet
Source(s):
Amplification:
Speakers:

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