• The DacMagic Is Back

    Cambridge Audio is getting a lot of press for its DacMagic DAC. Pictures of the DacMagic have been surfacing for some time now, but CEDIA seems to be the "official" launching pad for this DAC. The DAC will be about $400 and offer coax, toslink, and USB inputs. A cool feature that at least one major audio magazine has misreported, is the coax & Toslink digital output. The DacMagic offers two digital inputs and one digital output. Not only can this unit be used as a traditional DAC, but it can pass a digital signal through to your components that may not have a USB input. Cambridge is touting the Adapted Time Filtering (ATF™) upsampling technology that upsamples every input signal into 24/192. Purist audiophiles may shy away from upsampling, but I resommend giving it a listen before condeming all together. I can't imagine Cambridge implementing this feature if it produced inferior sound. Read more for the complete release including all the specs and photos.



     

     

    Full Press Release:

    Cambridge Audio takes the market by storm with DacMagic upsampling digital to analogue converter

    Suggested retail price - £199 inc VAT/$399 ex sales tax

    Available October 2008

    With the advent of computer-based music systems, Cambridge Audio's DacMagic upsampling
    digital to analogue converter is the most affordable and effective way to upgrade any PC, network
    music device, games console or standard CD/DVD player to truly high end sound quality.

    This incredible device dramatically improves sound quality to enable the digital music generation
    and gaming fanatics to appreciate their collection immediately in a totally new light. Cambridge
    Audio has a passion for faithfully reproducing music as those in the recording studio intended and
    with the DacMagic, the company has once again set a new benchmark for audiophile excellence at
    a more than affordable price. With most competitors' DACs costing around £1,000, at just
    £199.95, the DacMagic is expected to take the market by storm.

    The DacMagic has a variety of simple connections including S/PDIF, Toslink and USB inputs
    which mean it can be used to improve a wide range of devices with digital outputs such as
    soundcards, portable media player docks or networked music devices including sound bridges.
    Twin Wolfson DACs provide outstanding stereo imaging while a choice of digital filters is available
    for individual preference and flexibility. Key to its abilities is Adapted Time Filtering (ATF™)
    upsampling technology developed in conjunction with Anagram Technologies of Switzerland which
    converts 16-24 bit audio data to 24 bit/192kHz dramatically improving musical reproduction. A 32
    bit Digital Signal Processor (DSP) eradicates jitter which is especially effective with hard disk
    playback from PCs.

    Key features:
    • Two inputs with both S/PDIF & Toslink sockets allow a wide range of digital sources to be
    connected such as network music devices, games consoles, CD/DVD players and other
    digital music devices


    USB input connects direct to PC without drivers to act as a very high quality
    DAC/soundcard providing genuine hi-fi quality playback from desktop or Windows Media
    Center PCs
    • Adapted Time Filtering (ATF™) asynchronous upsampling technology converts 16-24 bit
    audio (at any standard sampling frequency between 32-96kHz) to 24 bit/192kHz
    • 32 bit Texas Instruments Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
    • Dual Differential Virtual Earth balanced filter topology – low order two pole linear-phased
    Bessel filter takes advantage of high sampling rate achieved
    • Twin Wolfson WM8740 high quality DACs in dual differential mode for excellent stereo
    imaging
    • Incoming sampling rate indicator 32 / 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96kHz
    • Choice of filters – linear phase, minimum phase and steep filter can all be selected to suit
    an individual's listening preferences
    • Phase select to invert or reinvert input, correcting possible recording problems
    • Singled ended phono and XLR balanced audio outputs

    • Digital output (S/PDIF and Toslink concurrently) passes through selected source for
    recording purposes
    • Substantial aluminium front panel plus an entirely new ultra rigid, acoustically dampened
    chassis
    • Can be used vertically (custom designed stand supplied) or horizontally
    • Available in silver or black

    Cambridge Audio introduced the original DacMagic in 1994 with the specific intention of upgrading
    CD players. It was received to great acclaim and spawned several incarnations. The digital music
    revolution means the CD is just one format as people listen to their collection in a totally different
    way. Therefore, the time is right for a renaissance. The spiritual successor to the original
    DacMagic allows a range of applications such as PCs, Media Center PCs, network music devices
    and sound bridges to benefit from a DAC's ability to bring downloaded and compressed content to
    life. By connecting to games consoles including PlayStations (PS2 and PS3)™ Xbox and Xbox
    360s™, a new dimension can be given to gaming via dramatically improved soundtracks and
    special effects. Similarly, many consumers with an interest in home cinema use a DVD player for
    both movies and music but may find CD playback to be lacking somewhat. In this respect the
    DacMagic is the ideal way to improve a DVD player's sonic performance. All these products can be
    connected concurrently via USB, S/PDIF and Toslink. Once upsampled, the DacMagic offers both
    unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR outputs for the best quality analogue transfer.

    For those that wish to read about the key technologies involved, the next section continues
    with greater technical detail.

    Adapted Time Filtering (ATF), developed in conjunction with Anagram Technologies, Switzerland,
    intelligently interpolates standard definition 16 bit CD or USB audio to 24 bit/192kHz via a new 32
    bit Texas Instruments Digital Signal Processor (DSP) to reveal unparalled levels of detail. Unlike
    other products based on standard sample rate converters which effectively just draw a straight line
    'between the dots', the DacMagic employs a process that involves a proprietary polynomial curve
    fitting algorithm which ensures that the interpolated data smoothly fits between the original data
    points. A time domain model adaptively generates the new data in the temporal domain
    dramatically reducing digital jitter; even that present in the input audio. This is especially effective
    when used with PCs or network music players where audio jitter introduced by hard-disk playback,
    USB links or Ethernet can be radically reduced.

    Each high quality Wolfson WM8740 DAC handles just one channel for excellent stereo imaging,
    operating fully in differential mode for exceptionally low distortion and noise. Fully differential anti-
    aliasing filters based on a Bessel linear phase topology, which feature flat group delay
    characteristics, provide amazing timing.

    The DacMagic's 32 bit DSP runs Cambridge Audio's own proprietary digital filter algorithms with
    three different filter options available: Linear Phase, Minimum Phase and Steep. Controlled from
    one switch on the front panel, they are extremely clever audiophile topologies specifically
    developed for audio playback and all offer excellent sound quality but differ slightly to appeal to a
    wide range of listening tastes.

    Linear phase is the same as used in the flagship Azur 840C upsampling CD player. It uniquely
    features 'constant group delay' which delays all audio signals at all frequencies by the same
    amount meaning all audio is fully time-coherent at the output.

    Minimum phase meanwhile does not feature constant group delay but rather the co-efficients have
    been optimized without feed-forward so that the impulse response exhibits no pre-ringing in the
    time domain. Some commentators have argued that the pre-ringing as seen in nearly all digital
    filter designs may affect the transient attack of percussive instruments. Minimum phase
    implementation eliminates this and is a technology only seen previously in some extremely high-
    end CD playback systems.

    Lastly, the steep filter removes close in aliasing artefacts by re-calibrating the co-efficients for a
    very slight roll off at 20kHz but an ultra steep drop to the stop-band just after 20kHz.

    These three filters are all of the highest quality but offer subtle differences for the user to enjoy.
    The type of filter chosen is remembered for each input individually so that it is possible to use one
    for PC playback via USB and another for CD playback via SPDIF.

    As with all Cambridge Audio products, the foundation of the DacMagic's
    performance is a bespoke chassis. This comprises a thick 5mm front panel and
    extruded side panels, both fashioned from aluminium, which combine with a
    2mm formed steel base plate and specially designed vibration absorbing feet.
    The result is an ultra rigid, low resonance, acoustically dampened platform for
    the electronics to sit in which enable it be positioned vertically (using the supplied
    stand) or horizontally.


     


     



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    Comments 11 Comments
    1. jrebman's Avatar
      jrebman -
      Are the dimensions available -- I can't see the pics. Also, what's the power supply? wallwart/power brick or IEC?<br />
      <br />
      -- Jim<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Jim - I can't get the information on either of your questions just yet. I'm working on it.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Bingo!<br />
      <br />
      Dimensions (H x W x D): 52 x 215 x 191mm<br />
      (2.0 x 8.6 x 7.6”)<br />
      <br />
      D/A Converters: Dual Wolfson WM8740 24bit DACs<br />
      Digital filter: Texas Instruments TMS 320VC5501 DSP upsampling to 24bit 192kHz<br />
      Analogue filter: 2-Pole Dual Differential Bessel Double Virtual Earth Balanced<br />
      Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz (±0.1dB) - steep filter disabled<br />
      THD @ 1Khz 0dBFs: <0.001% 24bit<br />
      THD @ 1kHz -10dBFs: <0.001%<br />
      THD @ 20kHz 0dBFs: <0.002%<br />
      Signal to Noise Ratio: -112dBr<br />
      Total correlated jitter: <130pS<br />
      Crosstalk @ 1kHz: < -100dB<br />
      Crosstalk @ 20kHz: < -90dB<br />
      Output impedance: <50ohms<br />
      Output level (unbalanced): 2.1V rms<br />
      Output level (balanced): 4.2V rms (2.1V per phase)<br />
      Digital input word widths supported: 16-24bit (16 bit for USB)<br />
      Digital input sampling frequencies supported: 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz<br />
      Audio output up-sampling: Fixed 24bit 192kHz<br />
      Weight: 1.2kg/2.6lbs<br />
    1. jrebman's Avatar
      jrebman -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Thanks very much! Looks like it should work in the second system just fine.<br />
      <br />
      I used to own an Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 and it used a similar upsampling scheme and was extremely anolog sounding -- but it also had a world-class tube output stage. I generally prefer NOS, but I do generally like the stuff Marcel Crose and Anagram do with digital, so I'm pretty open to taking a chance on this one.<br />
      <br />
      -- Jim<br />
    1. Woody's Avatar
      Woody -
      I need to send the signal to two rooms. A main "dance floor" and the "lounge". The main room has a bi-amplified "Pro Sound" audio system with two Crown amplifiers and the lounge has a basic home audio system with a reciever powering 4 small speakers. I'm trying to figure out what I need in between. A computer with iTunes will be the source for the music. Any suggestions? The upsample seems to be a great idea, as the music is ripped from many different cd's at all kinds of sample rates and formats.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Not sure about using both outputs simultaneously. I do have a DacMagic unit here right now, but haven't started reviewing it yet.<br />
      <br />
      You can send audio to multiple Airport Express units at the same time.
    1. Steelman's Avatar
      Steelman -
      Hi Chris:<br />
      <br />
      The DacMagic looks like an incredible bargain and game changer but I have to ask...how much longer are you going to make us wait for the review!?!? I am falling off the side of my chair in anticipation. Does the DacMagic indeed sound like magic or just a cheap alternative we should steer clear of?<br />
      <br />
      In the meantime: <br />
      http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/product_reviews.php?PID=320&Title=Press+reviews<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!<br />
      <br />
      @
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Steelman - I hear ya :-) <br />
      <br />
      I don't want to rush it and do a disservice to anyone by publishing an inaccurate & uninformed review. <br />
      <br />
      No worries, it's coming sooner rather than later.
    1. Hugh_'s Avatar
      Hugh_ -
      I picked one of these up over the weekend to run with a new HTPC via optical out.<br />
      <br />
      I got it before I had received the new computer so it was running on my old system via coax from an M-Audio Delta 24/96 to a basic Cambridge A5 and Sony SS176E's; I wasn't expecting much difference when playing ALAC songs from the previous setup (RCA to amp) but I was blown away by the difference. The music was much more in the room, and more vibrant.<br />
      <br />
      I've now got the new computer, and the dacmagic hasn't been without its difficulties. I have yet to get any sound from the optical out despite the computer registering that it is working (any hints here would be good!) so it's running from USB, which limits you to 16bit and 48kHz output, and the linear phase lamp has packed up. But I don't care, the difference is staggering even with these settings.
    1. gizmobear's Avatar
      gizmobear -
      Its a DAC, not a pre-ampifier.. Got it to my too my Sennheiser HD650 and it rockes! (Even MP3 sounds good whith this lol!). Cambrige have taken parts from their 740 and 840 players, which is quite expensive players...<br />
      The USP input has a Galvanic isolation, so u dont get any ground error to your ampifier! =D (And thats of course the same prinsip whith the optical input). U also hva 3 diffrent kind of filters u can choose whith a clikk of a button. (Linear phase, Minimum Phase and the standar step filter). I prefer Linear phase filter =)<br />
      <br />
      Great page btw!!! Love it!
    1. Watchdog's Avatar
      Watchdog -
      I'm also disappointed by the lack of a volume control. If it had one, as does the Benchmark DAC-1 then it could be used as a preamp and I could eliminate one component from the chain. <br />
      <br />
      I'd like to take a optical or coax output from my computers sound card into the DAC Magic and into a set of Dynaudio powered speakers. Because the Dynaudio have no volume control on them I guess I'd have to purchase a passive volume control if I were to use them with the DAC Magic. Here's hoping next year they create a version with a volume control.<br />
      <br />
      Do users want this? Well, the DAC-1 can now be had in a preamp version so I think there are enough of us out there who would like a combination DAC/Preamp.