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Review and Measurements of Cambridge DacMagic Plus

Bernard23

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Interesting thread, I had a DM+ for a few years in my separates system. During that time, I tried out several alternatives, and always came back to the CA device, as I preferred it, this was with J River, various Roksan and hegel amps, and ATC floorstanders. However, although I rarely used it, I always felt that the headphone amp wasn't great, it was rough / brash sounding with a sloppy sound. The output impedance measurements might explain it (I was using Grado SR80 which are 38 ohm from memory).
 

pma

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I would like to add my 12 cents re function and reliability of this DAC. I have owned DacMagic+ for 5 years, since 2016. The unit has been in every day use, except for my holidays or business trips. There has not been a single issue during this 5 year period. I appreciate balanced output and 2 independent switchable digital inputs, both coax/Toslink. I have 4 different sources connected to these inputs, 2 via coax and 2 via Toslink. Yes only one, either coax or Toslink can be "ON" same time on the same input. However there is still a choice of 4 digital sources which is very convenient, so I switch between CD, TV, Apple TV and DVD sources. And USB input of course. This is excellent and I would not change it for a single digital input DAC. Re sound and parameters, again no reason to make a change. I use low noise analog preamp behind the DAC, so the only possible shortcoming of higher output noise is fixed by not using digital volume control of the DAC. This improves the really usable S/N of the whole chain to the level as with the best current DACs. Several blind, level matched A/B tests with another good DACs have never shown an audible difference. The reliability and versatility (number of inputs and balanced output) are a key to me.
 

anmpr1

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I would like to add my 12 cents re function and reliability of this DAC. I have owned DacMagic+ for 5 years, since 2016. The unit has been in every day use, except for my holidays or business trips. There has not been a single issue during this 5 year period.
My issues with this preamp DAC have nothing to do with its 'sound' or functionality, which is pretty high--more than I require for my PC. It's the ergonomic aspects.

As I've mentioned, my unit's USB LED is out, so you can't directly tell from the front panel that it's switched to USB. However it is easy enough to figure out because the 'incoming sample rate' LED still works, and the 'Digital 1 and 2' and 'Ext' lights still work. I push the selector switch until all the source lights are out but the sample rate indicator is lit. Then I know it's on USB.

Also, the volume control is wonky as hell. Amir commented on that in his review. How this got past the design stage and into production is something I'll not hope to understand. Hopefully that is fixed on the replacement model.

Back to volume control, it has a horrible feel. It is a rotary encoder meaning its value is digitized and used. As such, it has no minimum of maximum like an analog control would. That is fine but what is not fine is the stiff feel of it. Usually rotary encoders are rather lose with detents. Neither is here. Furthermore, I found that it jumps in rather coarse values.
 

pma

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Also, the volume control is wonky as hell. Amir commented on that in his review.

I use it with maximum volume setting so the volume knob is turned off. Analog volume control behind the DAC always gives better S/N than any kind of digital volume control. It is pointless to have great SINAD at 4V output level if the power amp accepts maximum of 0.6V input voltage to reach the maximum power. 16 dB is automatically lost with digital volume control. Level diagrams of the whole chain are not taken into account here.
 

anmpr1

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I use it with maximum volume setting so the volume knob is turned off. Analog volume control behind the DAC always gives better S/N than any kind of digital volume control. It is pointless to have great SINAD at 4V output level if the power amp accepts maximum of 0.6V input voltage to reach the maximum power. 16 dB is automatically lost with digital volume control. Level diagrams of the whole chain are not taken into account here.
I should review the documentation. But I'll ask. Is there a way to bypass the volume pot?

Edit:

It's worth noting that the DacMagic Plus actually ships in its default setting which has the digital preamp mode enabled. To disable this mode, switch the DacMagic Plus off and then push and hold the volume control in, whilst switching the DacMagic Plus on. The DacMagic Plus confirms the setting by flashing the source LEDs downwards for digital preamp mode and upwards for Fixed Line Level mode. If you rotate the volume control counter clockwise beyond the minimum point, this turns on the mute, which is indicated by the source LED flashing constantly.
 
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