Praise for DacMagic

Just wanted to give some very positive feedback for the Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC. It doesn't seem to get much attention around these forums, but I am enjoying it immensely. In my opion, terrific value for the money.

During the past few weeks, I have used it with great success both within a PC music server and 2-channel environments.

Who knows, I may end up switching it out for a better DAC in the future, but for now I am quite pleased.

As a side note, I was not impressed with it at first when used to enhance an NAD C541 CDP. On a whim, I switched out the NAD for a modest Sony DVD player that is around 5-7 years old. Then, everything came into place and the music was rich and detailed. The Sony DVD/DacMagic combination blew the doors off the NAD/DacMagic combination. Go figure...
Can you compare the PC>USB>DACMagic sound vs the Sony>(did you use toslink or coaxial?)>DACMagic sound? Any difference?

I also own a DACMagic and my experience is similar to yours. When I first received it, I hooked it up with a modestly priced Onkyo CD player which I used only as a transport. However, when I substituted a far more expensive Pioneer Elite universal player, the change was dramatically better -- and I am something of a skeptic about revolutionary changes in performance. Sam Tellig, in the May issue of "Stereophile", reports similar results when switching from a Marantz CD player to a more "robust" one manufactured by Denon.
How about NAD vs NAD/DacMagic?
How about NAD vs SonyDVD/DacMagic?

My mhdt Paradisea+ did not match well with NAD C541i at all. Paradisea+ works quite well with cheap CD/DVD players, a little bit better than NAD. In a sense, it tells NAD C541i is pretty good by itself.
I am happy to hear that. I just pre-ordered one online and look forward to comparing it to my Benchmark DAC-1 on my main rig although it was purchased for my secondary/daily system in the living room.
OT: Ihcho, I concur that the NAD player ( I have a 541 without the i ) is very good by itself.

Back on topic, sort of : anyone using a DACMagic and wondering about the effect of a better transport might first try applying the tweaks I have used with success on the NAD, to wit : vibration-damping footers ( Bright Star or Herbie's ) and an isolation transformer for the AC.

Final icing on the cake is a Herbie's Black Hole damper on the CD itself.


Herbie's feet

Black Hole

Isolation transformers can be found on eBay. 125 VA to 250 VA rating should be fine.
Tobias: i have a NAD 545 BEE cd player. What kind of differences might I expect with vibration damping footers?
Audiowoman, the music gets cleaned up. This can be apparent in different ways
but overall there's better resolution. This can lead to other perceptions, for
example: image fills out, becomes less flat. Leading edges of notes are clearer
so that instruments and rhythms too are better defined. Harmonics are sweeter
and timbres more natural. Soundstage gets bigger.

IME there is no downside to mechanical and electrical isolation/damping and the
cost is minimal for the improvement gained. They have to be regarded as tweaks
because there is the question of degree: they don't make as large an
improvement in the above areas as the right component upgrade. However they
are worthwhile tweaks, just as essential in my book as quality cables, and if an
upgrade ( or any other kind of grade ) does come along, they will work with the
new piece too.

I sure would like to hear what you think of the DacMagic vs the Benchmark DAC-1. Would you post your impressions once you get enough time with the DacMagic?


I would like to hear the difference between DacMagic vs DAC-1, initially i was thinking to buy Benchmark until the launch of DacMagic.

Currently, my CDP is Cambridge Audio 540C V2, i believe DacMagic will well match with CDP since they are from the same manufacturer.

I would also connect external DAC to Squeezebox V3 to bypass its Burr Brown internal DAC.
A friend of mine owned both the DAC magic and the Benchmark dac and he said that to his ears the benchmark was better.

That said, for the money the Cambridge dac is still a terrific value!

I currently own both a Benchmark DAC 1 and a DacMagic. I use both in my main system. They're both very good (and the DacMagic is a very good value, to boot), but they sound quite different from each other.

The Benchmark is noticeably leaner sounding and, as with many components that are tonally balanced for this character, it is very revealing. The sense of transparency to the source is very high. From the upper mids through the treble (to the limit of my 51 year old hearing, anyway), the DAC 1 is "laid back" which provides a nice octave to octave balance. A bonus is superb imaging with dramatic depth.

The Cambridge is both warmer and a touch brighter. It might sound less "transparent", but more dynamic. Imaging is quite good, but not at the DAC 1 level.

To me, this is a system dependent choice. I rotate 4 different speakers (Merlin, Verity, Ohm+Velodyne, Magnepan+Velodyne) in my main system and each one sounds a bit different when a different DAC is rotated into service. The added dynamics of the Cambridge benefit both of the sub/sat combos, which are getting more time these days, so the DacMagic is my choice. OTOH, I prefer the Benchmark with the Verity and the Merlin is a toss-up.

All, of course, IMHO.

Hope that's useful.

Auronthas, I have the DacMagic mated with the CA 540C v2 and it performs remarkably well.
Edgejazz, thanks for reporting, how's the sound produced by DacMagic compared to CA 540V2? I prefer warmer and musical sound, my music preference towards vocal jazz, classical, new age and easy listening genres.

Thanks again.
Auronthas, the sound is warm and musical, you will be pleased. We kinda listen to similar genres and I can tell you that jazz and vocal jazz are the two that semm to perform best in my set up. When you do get the DacMagic, give it some time to settle down. But even out of the box, from my experience at least, it improved the soundstage, imaging, detail, and tighter low end, but still maintaining the warm character of the system. Hope this helps.
Great and thanks for the feedback, i am looking forward to own this DAC.
Just received June 2009 Stereophile yesterday, there is a follow-up review by John Atkinson on DacMagic. Check it out
I have the DacMagic hooked up my pc and listen to itunes downloads, to streaming jazz, to Mariner baseball games. Its a great little dac. Fits nice on my desktop. I have it running side by side to a $6,000+ combo transport (Accustic Arts) and Dac (Audio Note). The difference is maybe 10% and some tunes there just is not much difference. I have an upgraded usb cable coming so imagine it might take another step forward. Amazing value from my point of view.
I have DacMagic and it improves imaging, soundstage and definition to my CD player. I am thinking about swapping out the DacMagic's IC op amps in favor of Burson discreets. Anyone tried this or other mods?
Has anyone compared the DacMagic with the Azur 840c digital inputs? You would think they would be close or nearly identical, but things often don't work that way.
I have had a DACMagic in my sytem for a while and have been very impressed by its performance. I run the digital out from my Squeezebox into one input and the digital out from my Sony player to another input for listening to RBCD. I also run USB directly from my music server from time to time, like when I'm previewing something over the web from eMusic or the like. Nice to have all of that flexibility!

Before the DACMagic, I was using a Musical Fidelity XDACv3 with both the XPSU external supply and the X10 tube buffer. I wanted to get something with switchable inputs, so the DACMagic seemed a good choice at a reasonable cost. Well, "reasonable cost" became an understatement once I got it hooked up. Much better transparency, air and imaging than the MF stuff (which I still think is very good). I think the DACMagic is a fantastic value and to get better sound, I'd probably have to bump up to something like the new Bryston or Bel Canto DAC3.

As far as setup, use good cables; I'm a big fan of PNF Audio and have both their Coax and Toslink cables on the DAC Magic and their interconnects on the output. Also, as stated previously, vibration control is always a good thing. I have the DACMagic sitting on three #2 Vibrapods and it does make an improvement in clarity and dynamics.

Ejoy the music!
Try it with a Blu Ray player. It will take it up a level. Try the Stone's Shine a Light movie or the new Neil Young.
The dacs in the Dacmagic are the same as in the Azur 840 so the sound is Identical. It wouldn't be an improvement.
Stevenbell, the DACs in the DacMagic are not the same as in the 840C, they are the same as in the 740C. Even if they were the same, that by no means says that the sound is identical. The type of DACs used are just one aspect of the sound. There's a whole lot more to the overall sound quality than just the type of DAC that is used in the design.
Everest audio
The Dac's in the 840 are the same according to Stereophiles Sam Tellig. He even goes on to say the sound would be simalar between the Dacmagic and the 840.Take it up with him I was trying to be helpful.
Stevenbell, I was just correcting and clarifying. I know you were trying to be helpful, so don't take it personally. Sam Tellig was apparently wrong if that's what he said. The DacMagic uses dual Wolfson DACs (the same ones as the 740C) and the 840 C uses Analog Devices DACs, so I just wanted to correct your information. But I still hold to what I said that you can't say something sounds "identical" because they utilize the same DACs. Don't worry about it.
So I can expect to get better sound from a differnt transport? After reading this months Stereophile I gave up hope of getting better sound with a better transport.
I've had varying experiences with different transports with the DacMagic. On a very old Nak single disc player from a customer, the DacMagic made very little difference when I was expecting substantial difference. A Cambridge Audio 640C V2 was clearly superior to this old Nak player. But when a DacMagic was connected to a Cambridge 640C V2 as a transport, the DacMagic was definitely a notable improvement. So, based on that, a person would think that the DacMagic would blow away the Nak from its analog outs, but for some reason it didn't respond well to the Nak as a transport.

Other people here have had varying levels of improvements depending on the type of transport used. Regardless of what reviewers or others say, I trust my ears first. For me, I have definitely noticed sound quality differences with various transports and the DacMagic.
I truely have come to grow fond of the Dacmagic. I previously was using a highly regarded SACD player that was several years old and I find the the Dacmagic to be a very notiable improvement with CD's. It is like moving from mid-hall to a front row seat at a concert. I understand that some may not like that presentation but I find it very pleasing. It has added improved dynamics, detail, and exitement to my music listening sessions. I think Dacmaigic is not given enough credit for everything it does accomplish. Possibly it should have been put in a fancier box, weight andded, and the price raised to $995.
just kidding of course, I'm greatful to Chambridge bringing such an accomplished product to the market at such an afordable price. Many can experience tuely fine sound that may not have been able to otherwise.
I am interested in some additional comparisons between Dacmagic and the Benchmark DAC1 if anyone has direct experience I would like to get additional feedback. I'm all fired up about audio again now.
Any new thoughts on the DAC Magic?

I recently upgraded my speakers to Ohm Micro Walsh Talls which are connected to a Parasound AVC-1800 and HCA-2205 amp. I find that my old Sony DVD player isn't quite cutting it in relation to the rest of the system.

I'm on the fence regarding Blu-Ray/SACD, and am thinking that committing to new formats isn't such a good idea for me if I can improve on redbook with a DAC. I listen exclusively in 2-channel anyway, and won't make the best use fancier formats.

Any further opinions on the DAC Magic would be great!
Hello! i just acquired Dac Magic recently and mated this with an old cheap Marantz cc-3000 5 carousel for my 2nd system ( all s/s) and th result is good very satisfactory and few days ago just received a new Harmonic Technology Digital copper and even sounded better.Now i have to break it in the cable for the better.
You cant go wrong with Dac hear the magic!
Well, I've been struggling to appreciate my Dacmagic, but I'm about ready to ditch it. It's OK, overall, and it does do certain things better then the dac in my cdp, but in my system, there's something in the midrange that irritates me. It's like an electronic sounding coloration, and I'm also hearing some sybilance. It may be subtle, but I think using Maggies makes it stand out. So far I've not been able to sit through a whole CD without changing back to my cdp's output. The unit is plenty broken in, and I've tried various cables, but no luck. It's all about system synergy, and in my rig, it's been a frustration, so far. I was really hoping adding the Dacmagic would be an upgrade, but's it's been a lateral move, at best.

Yeah, if your gonna add it to a cdp with a crap dac, you'll probably be pleased, but it all depends on what you have for comparason.
I have the dacmagic hooked up via USB from a Dell notebook (Vista), running audioquest copperhead to a NAD c372. This is my 2nd system, used in the computer room. In the room I also have 2 universal dvd players that connect directly to the NAD, not via the dacmagic. This is because all the music I listen to is on the hard drive, and I have no reason to play CD via the dacmagic. I do play sacd and dvd-audio straight to the NAD in 2-channel, and those sound very good. I have tried both units via the dacmagic to play CD as a test, and it was an improvement over both units in CD playback, but not as good as listening from the hard drive.

Sometimes I take the notebook and dacmagic and connect to my main system to see how it sounds, and it sounds very good. But again, playing music from the hard drive.

I also have a CA 840C in my main system, and it's built in DAC is better than that of the dacmagic, but no surprise there.

However, even though the 840C is better sounding, if I had never heard the 840C I would have been satisfied using the dacmagic on the main system.

The dacmagic is a good unit, and beats hands down any outboard sound card I have tried with the notebook. I am very happy with the unit. Anyone with a PC with lots of music on it will like the upgrade over a sound card. BTW, all the music on the hard drive is in WAV format, either CD ripped to WAV, and a lot of vinly recorded to the hard drive in WAV. The latter works very well, and sounds much better than my CD's ripped to WAV.
Got my CA DacMagic, first impression (no fully run-in yet), it delivers a wider, deeper and more dynamic soundstage, better clarity, i can hear different depth of music with ease, it provides a very good and clear 3D sound imaging especially at mid-range (vocal) frequencies. I tried them at both digital sources, i.e. CA 540C CD player and Squeezebox Classic.

I believe it would be more warmer and musical after full run-in. I am very satisfy with its performance though it's just the first time audition.
I just purchased the Dacmagic (will receive later this week). It will be used in conjunction with Squeezebox Duet and possibly an older CD changer. Looking forward to hearing the results.

This is followup review and feedback on DacMagic, balanced XLR Cardas Quadlink 5C cables, MIT digital coaxial cable after a week or run-in for approx. 40 hours.

I observed the sound stage is getting smoother, warmer. Although the sound stage during the initial auditioning is clear and clarity, but i felt it's little bright, too transparent, too tight, i couldn't listen for long session music as it's hurting and stressing my ears.

Now, i am pleased that the combo between DAC, balanced XLR cables and digital coaxial cable has come to another stage where warmer, musical sound stage is finally presented. I wish the sound stage will further improve overtime as the DAC and cables are not yet full run-in which is at one third or one quarter of its run-in journey.
I have been using my new Dacmagic for about a week. Probably have 20 hours on it. I leave it on 24/7.
Can you hear much difference between MIN Phase & Linear Phase filters? I definitely hear the Steep filter. I have been using the Linear filter for most of my listening.
Source is Squeezebox Duet.
I have been using the Dacmagic for 6 months now and the sound is amazing.The instruments are well laid out in the music I listen to.I didnt find any difference between Min,steep and linear.My setup is imac(itunes) to airport express to optical out into Dacmagic .My speakers are MA RS6.For 399 this is definitely a terrific performance DAC.Going from a budget onkyo receiver I am pretty happy with dacmagic
KS- I'm using MA RS6 too. Driven by Naim Nait XS. Nice sounding speakers for small to medium size room.
I'm thinking about using a Dacmagic to run a Rotel RCD 991 AE. Does anyone have experience with this set up? Is the cd player already as good as I'm going to get? It's currently being played through a CA 840a via XLR cables.

I listen to vinyl about 95% of the time. I'm trying to bring some cds back from the dead. The dither on the Rotel has improved the sound/fatigue factor (especially compared to my old NAD 521BEE), but the warmth of vinyl still reigns supreme.

I'd like to be confident that the $400 leap is worthwhile. Eventually, I'd also like a Wadia dock to improve sound from the iPod for playlists during parties. However, the Wadia is another future purchase and is of secondary concern.

Thanks for any help,
I've had a bunch of Dacs now and for various reasons. These include Musical Fidelity x3 dac, PS Audio III, Grace M902 Chinese made Matrix, and now the DacMagic. Each has its own character and I mainly used them to play thourgh my computer set up but also tried it out in my main system that is all Simaudio with Wilson Sophia 1 speakers. I think the Dacmagic is the best value by far. My favorite remains the Grace M902 but I sold it since I don't used it much and I sold it to buy the Matrix and the Dacmagic and still have money left over. The musical fidelity was nice and warm but too many things need (power supply, cords) to sound good. The PS Audio was sold to get the Grace and I liked it as well but I think the DacMagic is second only the Grace. The Grace is much more analytical while being very dynamic and had excelelnt bass. The DacMagic is more lush and I don't mind it with the Wilson speakers. I mainly use it to upgrade the sound coming from my 500gb Apple TV.
I use my DACMAGIC with a Cambridge Audio 550C CD Player. I bought the DACMAGIC to upgrade an old NAD 541 unit, ¬°but the NAD died suddenly!

After some months using the DacMagic, I think that the differences that the DAC may produce are subtle (using it with a good transport), these are more noticeable with human voices, then a lesser degree with acoustic instruments (like piano, guitar, ...). Then, the differences are much less noticeable, almost imperceptible when compared to electric instruments (like the rock music in general).

What I hear, especifically better with the combination 550C/DACMAGIC is simply more detail, more textures, better definition and enhanced image, and even I fell a more airy sound. In contrast to the 550C alone, I hear a thud sound, as if the speakers were covered by a thin pastic.

I need to clarify something: the Cambridge 550C is an excellent CD player, most people could live with the 550C very happy without an external DAC. I thank that sound of the 550C is better than my old died NAD 541 (if my listening memory don't lie to me, due to the fact that I wast not able to compare both CD players)
NOW - MAKE IT SING - like a much more expensive unit !!!!

Before I start - make sure you read the WARNING!

OK - Had this unit for a while now and been happy with it - especially streaming via an Apple TV - better sound than my CD!

But I had noticed that the unit and power supply runs a little warm - that usually means it's being taxed a little.

So I started looking at upgrading the power supply, which is not easy since all third party units are generally DC and this requires AC!

Then I had a moment of enlightenment - LOW VOLTAGE LIGHTING!

They use a 12 volt supply - only thing is, the units you can buy (for the garden) have timer crap on them

WARNING: DO NOT - I repeat DO NOT use the latest "electronic transformers" being used in the lighting industry - because they may not produce a true SINE WAVE!

If you can find a proper electrical supply store you can buy IRON CORE lighting transformers - mine is rated 100VA and comes with a heavy steel enclosure approximately 3x6x2.5 inches.

You then need some 16 gauge copper wire and a DC connector (it;s what those little plugs are called). I also included an fuse in the 120v side

Whole thing cost about $50 + my time - but the difference in the details and soundstage was incredible.

Now I'm not sure why CA does not provide a larger power supply - it would cost them peanuts. guess they want to sell you higher end product

REPEAT WARNING: DO NOT - I repeat NO NOT use the latest "electronic transformers" being used in the lighting industry - because they may not produce a true SINE WAVE!

Torroidal transformers would be even better since they are more efficient and far less noisy

Yes, it hums a little, but once I placed some plastic foam under the cover and some rubber feet it was not detectable from my armchair.

This is by far the enhancement with the largest impact I have ever made - like stepping up to $5000 cd player.

Spacious sound, incredible imaging in 3D, amazing details never before heard

I used the power supply from the DACMAGIC on my CA 640p phono stage and guess what - similar improvements we attained!

Both these units needed... MORE POWER!
Riley804 thought I should include the following to address concerns about messing with power supplies...

A piece of equipment will only draw the power it has been designed to draw - increasing the power rating of the supply will NOT affect this - increasing the voltage will!

e.g. In north america small appliances of different power ratings are all connected to the same power supply - which is generally rated at 15amps - my alarm/radio does not draw 15 amps - probably closer to 0.5 amps, but it is perfectly happy connected to a 15 amp service :-)

Also - if your power supply is rated at 1 amp then you assume that's all it will draw. if it draws more than 1 amp, then the power supply will overheat

Most ratings are continuous, but with hi-fi you have to be able to handle serious peaks in the music and if your power supply cannot do this then you get heat generated, which in turn, causes a whole host of other problems.

All I have done is provide a supply with a higher current rating so the equipment can now handle those peaks - that is all!

Another thing I found is that the CA power supplies were not very accurate - the phono supply measured 16+ volts and the DACMagic measured 14.5 volts

Also - the 22 gauge wire on their supply is no where near large enough to handle the continuous and more importantly peak current draw of this unit!

The new supply I am using measures 13 volts - which is much closer to the 12 volt spec

One thing I have found is that the DACMagic runs considerably cooler with the new power supply - and that is goodness for a unit of this power rating.

Why? - it is likely that the circuit is now getting the current is requires in order to operate as it was designed and is not in a continual state of "stress"

Using an underrated power supply to restrict performance, as appears to be this case, is very dangerous - a fire hazard!

Granted - CA does not want people messing with power supplies...
1. because most people have a complete lack of understanding regarding power ratings - an underrated supply becomes a fire hazard
2. the consequences of putting an incorrect type of supply on equipment would be damaging - The reason for my "WARNING"

They have a blanket policy - Don't mess with our supplies! - it's just so much simpler than an explanation!

What I cannot understand is why CA limits the electronics that has such great potential if properly supplied with power - probably cost related, but could be, they wanted to reign in the performance of this unit so it does not compete with their more expensive line. Guess what - it competes!

This unit is sounding far from stressed right now :-))

BTW - I would caution that you DO NOT try this unless you are adequately experienced - failing to take the proper precautions can lead to equipment failure or worse - FIRE!

Be careful if you are attempting this.

ALSO - because of its size (i.e. Small) connecting the DC Connecter plug required me to insulate the wires inside the plug cover with shrink-sleeve to prevent a short circuit - FATAL!

If you try this - you do so at your own risk!

Electricity is quite simple - unless you cock-it-up!
Wow! That is really fun news and a fun project. What are the model/part numbers of the parts? Any need for soldering? How about peak current? (I have all my audio devices plugged into the same 15A outlet.)
UPDATE: another AG member is using a ready made power supply

It's a bit moe expensive, but professionally made by a reputable power company

If I had found out about this I would have gone this route simply because of the hassle soldering the silly little DC connector

I like the look of this unit very much because they have tackled all of the problems and then some including noise filtering - something my solution does not

I would advise going this route

Soundbit - RE: same outlet - there is not problem with this - actually it would be preferable to prevent the dreaded earth loops

There is a taylor made ps from Pangea that is built for this type of upgrade - I would recommend their solution over the DIY one - since they are the pro's


Even at $100 it will make you Dacmagic sing!

Happy listening
It may be that the P100 noise filtering in both directions is a major deal. The "faqs" section for the P100 at Audio Advisor has the best description yet of what the P100 is all about (conversation with the designer), and I just ordered another one for my 640P phono preamp. Hot running "wall wart" power supplies annoy me, but the P100 runs cool and is seemingly a bargain for what it does.
Great information, thanks. For those of you who use a Squeezebox Touch were you able to hear the difference of the Touch DAC vs. routing through the DAC Magic before the PS upgrade? How did the upgrade effect the sound?
The Squeezebox Touch has it's own sound...sort of sweet and "lower middy", but altogether not bad. In my compulsive quest for the cheapest possible upgrades I discovered that used DACMagics are around $300, and meet my needs for balanced outs and multiple ins (for Squeezebox and CD digital coax outs). Happily it made a LARGE improvement over the 'Touch alone (more coherant, sweeter, more accurate seemingly), makes my old but well designed Marantz CD player (a sturdy "changer" actually...NOBODY talks about those) sing, and added 3 blue lights! Might have something to do with the "re-clocking jitter reduction", upsampling, and better dacs/filters. The 'Touch lands the fish and the DACMagic cleans it. The P100 is sort of a calming presence except for the blindingly bright LED. FYI, the DACMagic "plus" comes to the US later this month, and looks way cool.
I'm really enjoying the DacMagic especially now with the Pangea P100 power supply. I can't solder to save my life so the $100 for the P100 Power Supply from Audioadvisor was worth it to me.