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Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 Review

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me by a member. Despite having been announced back in 2012, the DacMagic 100 seems to still be a current product, available on Amazon costing US $199 including Prime shipping.

While it won't be mistaken for a high-end audio products, the DacMagic 100 nevertheless differentiates itself from budget DACs with its enclosure and design:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Audio Review.jpg

The back panel also shows some differentiation:
Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Back Panel Inputs Audio Review.jpg

Notice the dual S/PDIF coax inputs. And a ground lift for USB input which may solve nasty ground loop issues (no guarantees though).

An external adapter, double the size of typical phone charger, powers the unit.

Overall, the box makes a positive impression.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual, we start with our dashboard of 1 kHz tone and see what we get:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Audio Measurement.png


Nice to see above 2 volt output. Distortion and noise as embodied in the SINAD rating falls in competent, but nothing resembling state of the art:
Best Desktop USB DAC Review 2020.png


Dynamic range falls in the same category:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurement.png


Intermodulation distortion test shows good noise performance (sloping down part of the curve) but onset of early distortion:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC IMD Audio Measurement.png


Jitter test looks fairly good on all three inputs:
Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Jitter Audio Measurement.png


32-tone test signal shows more intermodulation distortion than I like to see:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Multitone Audio Measurement.png


Linearity test which shows how accurate the level from the DAC is as signals get very small, is very good but shy of competitors:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Linearity Audio Measurement.png


Finally THD+N versus frequency shows a slight rise in distortion as frequencies get low:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC THD+N vs Frequency Audio Measurement.png


And generally indicative of some ultrasonic noise.

Conclusions
There has been recent development in the $110 to $130 range in desktop DACs where you get near state-of-the-art performance with such useful features as remote control. So it doesn't make sense to recommend the DacMagic 100 in that context. If you have one though, or can get one used then it is a fine DAC with solid build.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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RickSanchez

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Surprised to see this ends up basically on par with its big brother (also a 2012 product?) the DacMagic Plus.
  1. SINAD and dynamic range are just barely better vs. the DacMagic Plus.
  2. The DacMagic Plus seems to be just slightly better with jitter, IMD, linearity, and multitone.
The price difference (MSRP) between the two seems fairly justified though. The DacMagic Plus has balanced (XLR) outputs, volume control, selectable output filters, and coax + Toslink outputs.
 

wwenze

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Surprised to see this ends up basically on par with its big brother (also a 2012 product?) the DacMagic Plus.
  1. SINAD and dynamic range are just barely better vs. the DacMagic Plus.
  2. The DacMagic Plus seems to be just slightly better with jitter, IMD, linearity, and multitone.
The price difference (MSRP) between the two seems fairly justified though. The DacMagic Plus has balanced (XLR) outputs, volume control, selectable output filters, and coax + Toslink outputs.

Less higher-order harmonics in the THD chart and much better multitone for the bigger brother, I would go for that one if possible.

Seems like nowadays I just look at the "floor" of the multitone to make a quick conclusion.
 

kouki_monster

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Surprised to see this ends up basically on par with its big brother (also a 2012 product?) the DacMagic Plus.
  1. SINAD and dynamic range are just barely better vs. the DacMagic Plus.
  2. The DacMagic Plus seems to be just slightly better with jitter, IMD, linearity, and multitone.
The price difference (MSRP) between the two seems fairly justified though. The DacMagic Plus has balanced (XLR) outputs, volume control, selectable output filters, and coax + Toslink outputs.

I looked at both of the DacMagic models and really wanted to want one, but in the end the performance/$ ratio of today's "Chi-fi" won me over. If Cambridge could shave $50 off of each model's price then they'd have some real contenders IMO.
 

Koeitje

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Now I am really curious how new Cambridge Audio products perform. If their 2012 DACs are doing this well, their newer stuff is hopefully even better.
 
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mikata

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Thank you for the review. Glad to see this DAC got measured.
I'm positively surprised over the performance. Bought one of these units on sale few years ago to accompany a Paradigm PW Amp for TV duties, but actually never connected it to my TV.
Decided that I still wanted DD/DTS decoder so I got a AVR with a power amp. I still have it and I'm sure I'll find some use for it.
 

KxDx

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I miss mine. Refurbs pop up on Cambidge's ebay store for under $150 every so often. No particular reason I miss it, but it was a cute little box that did the job well. They offer a full warranty on refurbs too.
 

Jimbob54

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Now I am really curious how new Cambridge Audio products perform. If their 2012 DACs are doing this well, their newer stuff is hopefully even better.
I've got the CXN V2, love it. If it was measured here or elsewhere and was shown to be sub par, I would still love it, but probably get the itch to upgrade . Such is this life!
 

anmpr1

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I think CA has milked the design a bit too long. As good as it was back then, and is still reasonably respectable, for the dollars asked it's time to look elsewhere. A refurbed model might be OK if gotten cheap. I have one in a closet somewhere, replaced with the CA DacMag Plus. One thing on the latter more expensive unit: the tiny LEDs are starting to fade, making that functionality useless. I'm not sure who spec'd LEDs that wear out so quickly? To save a few pennies in production? Maybe it's just my unit, who knows?
 

Bombadil

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what's with the postal worker panther? Good enough for government work? Just meh?
 

confucius_zero

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Now review the DACmagic Plus
 

anmpr1

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apparently cambridge uses rubbish chinese caps in their dacs that starts to leak prematurely.
LOL. A premature leak? Is that better than a delayed leak? I had a higher end Yamaha tuner (TX-950) where a cap leaked all over the circuit board. Don't know where the cap was made or whether my problem was a one-off. Caps should dry out before they leak.
 

confucius_zero

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kouki_monster

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Now I am really curious how new Cambridge Audio products perform. If their 2012 DACs are doing this well, their newer stuff is hopefully even better.

They make good stuff. Their tiny cube "Minx" speakers are fantastic for their size.
 
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