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Review and Measurements of Cambridge DacMagic Plus

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#81
I own two of these; one in black and one in silver. This test is proof to me that measurements only go so far. While the M51 test showed far more 'anomolies' than this [tho, with notably higher SINAD at least], I can strongly affirm that when source is a cable box to> 50 foot hi speed HDMI to> M51, it far out resolves the same cable box to> short TOSLINK to> DacMagic+ to> 50 foot Mogami cables to the same amp & headphones as previous. ;)
Could be the cable box. Seems probable cable box design would pay close engineering attention HDMI path, and TOSLINK could be an after-thought.
 

pma

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#82
Here is Toslink comparison to USB:


Performance is tiny bit worse with Toslink. Noise floor is a bit higher, there are a couple of tones on each side of our main signal at 12 khz. And some power supply spikes down low:

View attachment 22437

Nothing audible so use whichever is needed/convenient.
I assume those power spectral lines, though very low in level, might be a result of different cable shield leak currents when you changed from USB to Toslink. I have got rid of them completely by using an isolation transformer in front of the DacMagic Plus power supply.
 

pma

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#83
I think back in 2011, there was not as much awareness of output impedance. Or the serious headphone audiophile community that exists today. So people did what they used to do which is to put a resistor on the output and with it, gain output protection, ease of design, etc.
I do not agree with this. I was using output impedance of <= 5ohm in my preamp headphone outputs, class A biased, and able to give more than 250mA output current, back in 2002. Still not usual, today.
 

audio_tony

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#84
EDIT: Added jitter graph.

Hi all, new member here - I have been following the forum for a few weeks now.

This review was of particular interest to me, as I have an older Dacmagic (Azur) the model that preceded the one under test here.

I have performed some measurements myself - however I don't have access to an AP (lucky you Amir!!) - I use Virtins and an Asus STX sound card.

The figures I get for my DacMagic:

THD: 0.0009% (L) 0.0007% (R)
THD+N: 0.0011% (L) 0.0010% (R)
SINAD: 98.82dB (L) 99.98dB (R)
SNR: 102.72dB (L) 102.76dB (R)

I have posted the graph from Virtins and also RMAA test results (should be attached to this post).

I sometimes question the numbers produced by RMAA.

My test procedure (Virtins) is: Input levels are -6dB - through to a home build sound card buffer (a simple box, 100k Input impedance, 2x gain) -> Asus STX.

Test frequency is: 1.000428 kHz

For RMAA, I use -1dB levels, rest of the signal path is the same.

All tests conducted at 48kHz / 24bit, using SPDIF into the DAC.

I suspect the noise levels could be better (Asus quote 124dB for the card) however I guess the noise from the PC is inevitable.

Jitter was measured with the Jitter function in Arta - 48kHz / FFT: 32768 / Kaiser7 / Linear averaging.

There was no difference between Optical and SPDIF. I am using a USB to SPDIF converter (CM6631A chipset) from a Chinese Vendor on Ebay (£32 or 32 GBP) - I guess that helps.
 

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Jimster480

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#85
Well for something that is 10 years old.... it looks like it performs pretty well!
Better than many other devices which cost way more and are newer.
Sometimes "newer" isn't always better.
 
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#86
is there actually a difference when using a balanced out but using an xlr to rca to feed a unbalanced amp ? Some people at other forum claims to hear improvements as the rca out has to go through 1 extra op amp
 

audio_tony

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#87
I've read that people who own the Azur DAC claim that taking an unbalanced feed from the balanced output claim it sounds better, but I don't believe it myself.
I challenge anybody to hear the difference a single opamp (or even multiple opamps for that matter) inserted into a circuit would make, assuming the circuit design is competent of course.
After all, the music we listen to will have passed through several opamps (usually standard NE5532s) during the course of mixing / mastering.
An NE5532 configured for a gain of x2 will yield THD less than 0.0001% and s/n ratio of -110dB + so quite how someone would hear any difference...
 

JJB70

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#89
Should i upgrade mine to a tier 1/2 Topping or SMSL DAC to enjoy better sound then?
Only if you want to buy something newer. In terms of sound quality the DAC Magic+ is audibly transparent and remains pretty well featured and I see no reason to replace one if it still works.
 

Sueekhy

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#90
Only if you want to buy something newer. In terms of sound quality the DAC Magic+ is audibly transparent and remains pretty well featured and I see no reason to replace one if it still works.
Thanks JJ, I'm always tempted by the lure of DSD native though....
 

Veri

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#92
For anyone wondering how the jitter is so squeaky clean on this older device. They used advanced (ESS Sabre-like) ASRC to get it so. Found the details here (dutch article): https://www.hifi.nl/recensie/3628/Cambridge-Audio-DacMagic.html

Each channel of the DacMagic has its own Wolfson WM8740 DAC and analog circuits that are dual mono and balanced. The DacMagic therefore also has XLR outputs in addition to cinch/rca. Thanks to a unique digital filter circuit with DSP (Digital Signal Processing), extra Jitter suppression and upsampling to a higher sample rate became possible. The DSP IC is a Texas Instruments 32-bit type that works with ATF (Adaptive Time Filtering) asynchronous upsampling. That ATF is in fact one of the most important assets of the DacMagic because the resampling process has a higher precision than that of most common sample-rate converters. The Cambridge DacMagic ATF DSP works with an algorithm that is closer to the original signal than conventional interpolators and can upsample up to 192 kilo Hertz (24-bit), according to the manufacturer.

Thanks to the 32-bit DSP IC, Cambridge Audio has been able to develop their own digital filter algorithms with three different filter options. With a button on the front panel you can choose between linear phase, minimum phase and steep filtering.
 

Shane D

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#93
Has anyone tried to feed this DAC from a Sony DAP (I have a NW-ZX300) via the OTG cable?

I was going to buy a used one but a guy on Head-Fi said that this DAC would not pick up a flow from the OTG cable on different Sony DAP's. He has the two models above mine.

Help?

Thanks.

Shane D
 

ElNino

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#94
I just wanted to say thanks for posting these measurements of the DacMagic Plus. I was impressed enough by the 32-tone IMD measurement to pick up one of these for a very good value used yesterday, and it really is such a nice unit. Probably wouldn't have thought to put it on my list to consider if the measurements hadn't been available.
 

ElNino

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#95
For anyone wondering how the jitter is so squeaky clean on this older device. They used advanced (ESS Sabre-like) ASRC to get it so. Found the details here (dutch article): https://www.hifi.nl/recensie/3628/Cambridge-Audio-DacMagic.html
There's a bit more about the technical details behind the Anagram ASRC here: http://www.auditionveritable.com/840C/840C White paper.pdf

Basically they use a non-linear rather than linear interpolator to do the ASRC followed by a conventional Bessel digital filter. They don't disclose exactly what order of non-linear interpolator they use (although I'd imagine you could find out by digging through old Anagram patent filings). There's a graph on page 10 comparing the DNR to an unidentified ASRC IC, probably the AD1896. I believe the AD1896 by comparison uses a linear interpolator.

Edit: I was curious... for those who want the gory details, here's their method: https://patents.google.com/patent/US7259700B2/
 
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#96
Hi, I was recently trying to compare the outputs of the Bluesound Node 2i and Dacmagic Plus using the same source (Roon on a QNAP NAS). At first, when I compared the Node 2i DAC output to the Dacmagic Plus DAC output fed by a Toslink from the Node 2i, I could hear no difference. I couldn't even tell which was which. However, when I fed the Dacmagic Plus directly from the QNAP NAS with USB, it really opened up. So the output from the same DAC sounded different when connected directly with USB vs connected by Toslink from the Node 2i. Why would this be? Is it that Roon through the Node 2i toslink passes information to the DAC differently from how it passes through the USB on the NAS? Or is it that the DACMagic Plus behaves differently depending upon whether it is receiving the input through USB vs Toslink? Is there a third possibility? I've tried coaxial between the Node 2i and Dacmagic plus as well. Behaves the same as the toslink. The USB sounds better though.
 

arecibo

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#97
I've had two of these units die within months of each other. They only produce a constant, high-pitched sound on all outputs including headphones.
If you search online you will see that this is a common issue, rising questions about a defective product.
Moreover, their after-sales after-warranty service is non-existent since they tell you to go to distributor or a shoddy 3rd party.
 

anmpr1

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#98
I've had two of these units die within months of each other. They only produce a constant, high-pitched sound on all outputs including headphones. If you search online you will see that this is a common issue, rising questions about a defective product. Moreover, their after-sales after-warranty service is non-existent since they tell you to go to distributor or a shoddy 3rd party.
It is sometimes said that a cheap DAC is as good as an expensive DAC. Well, sonically perhaps. But if cheapness means poor build quality, then what's the point? I guess one could ask why buy a thousand dollar unit when they can buy ten 100 dollar DACs over the course of a lifetime. I guess someone might want to make that trade-off.

I bought a Benchmark DAC3-HGC preamp headphone amp for my main system, and a CA DACmagic Plus for my PC. Both units have similar functionality, but the CA build quality is not as solid, and the LEDs are going out. OK... it cost five times less than the DAC3. But personally I would not want to buy another CA, much less five more of them. LOL
 
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#99
For anyone wondering how the jitter is so squeaky clean on this older device. They used advanced (ESS Sabre-like) ASRC to get it so. Found the details here (dutch article): https://www.hifi.nl/recensie/3628/Cambridge-Audio-DacMagic.html
...
Hi, again, Veri -- Thanks very much for this reference! It led me to an even more useful CA White Paper at http://www.auditionveritable.com/840C/840C White paper.pdf that clarifies a lot about the up-sampling but also raises a couple of (ignorant?) questions:

1) If I understand the block diagrams correctly (have to study this WP more closely), the digital up-sampling is done between the digital source and the DAC chips. Right? If so, it makes CA's de-jitter solution completely separate from the post-DAC analog output filtering. Yet these disparate functions serving distinct purposes seem often to be discussed as though they were a single unit. Or do I still have it all wrong?

2) I think I recall that decent CD players have typically "up-sampled" (read, replicated) the digital source and run their DAC chips at a higher rate to make it easier to apply a sharp analog filter before the analog output stage. Maybe the only essential difference here is the quality of the up-sampling technique that CA is using in this unit?

3) Since newer DACs, which are also measured to have very low jitter noise, seem to have no such careful up-sampling mechanism (or at least don't trumpet them), how do they get rid of the jitter that presumably comes from largely the same timing issues in the source? (The CA WP cited above seems to outline a couple of other approaches, but I didn't fully take them in) Is there any reason to conclude that one approach is superior to another?

Since the CA DacMagic Plus is still on my short list, it would be helpful to me to understand this better. Otherwise the Topping D50s (for example) seems superior in every way, given I don't need balanced outputs nor a less than perfect headphone amp. -- JClarkW
 
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Hi, I was recently trying to compare the outputs of the Bluesound Node 2i and Dacmagic Plus using the same source (Roon on a QNAP NAS). At first, when I compared the Node 2i DAC output to the Dacmagic Plus DAC output fed by a Toslink from the Node 2i, I could hear no difference. I couldn't even tell which was which. However, when I fed the Dacmagic Plus directly from the QNAP NAS with USB, it really opened up. So the output from the same DAC sounded different when connected directly with USB vs connected by Toslink from the Node 2i. Why would this be?...
aurum -- Since this is pretty close to what I'm hoping to do, I'm wondering if you ever got (or figured out) an answer to this question?

I don't use Roon, nor do I have a NAS library (yet), but I was thinking of buying a DacMagic Plus (or Topping D50s or E30, or some other newer budget DAC) to replace the mediocre internal DAC in my Node 2, thereby improving the sound appreciably. Since I would still use the Node 2 as my streamer, however, I would have to take the digital output from the Node 2 (via Tos-Link or Coax) into the external DAC and then connect the latter to my integrated amp with RCA audio cables. If I understand you correctly, this is pretty much what you describe doing.

Any explanation or guidance would be much appreciated. -- JClarkW
 
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