Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus DAC/Headphone Amp (Playback 55)

Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus
Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus DAC/Headphone Amp (Playback 55)

Next I hooked up a pair of ADAM Artist A5 powered speakers. Through the ADAMs I thought the April Music DP-1 enjoyed a narrow but consistent edge in terms of better depth and image edge definition. Finally, I hooked up a pair of Aerial Acoustics 5B speakers powered by a pair of April Music Eximus S-1 monoblock amplifiers. This rig confirmed what I was hearing through the ADAM speakers—the Eximus DP-1 had ever so slightly better depth recreation and image specificity. But the dynamics, harmonic balance, and low-level detail rendered by both DACs were equally impressive.


My most recent live recording of the Boulder Philharmonic included the world premiere of a composition by Ruby Fulton entitled “Deadlock.” It is a concerto for beat box and orchestra. Shodekeh, the beat box soloist, used a small amp on stage in addition to an array over the concert hall’s proscenium and a freestanding subwoofer. When I played back my 192/24 files of the recording through the DacMagic Plus I was immediately struck by how accurately the bass transients and dynamics were reproduced. During the Beat box passages I could hear how the bass traveled through the hall and how it bloomed as it expanded. The DacMagic Plus also did a superb job of unraveling the complex orchestration and dense musical textures, which included a xylophone and a marimba, both pounding out complicated interconnected rhythmic patterns.

On commercial pop recordings such as Alexis Harte’s “Please Come Out” from his superb album Spoons of Honey [CD BABY.COM/INDYS], the DacMagic Plus did a fine job of retaining all the subtle low-level background effects and textures. Imaging was precise without being pinched or etched. The cut begins with both record surface noise scratches as well as crickets chirping in the background. Through the Dac Magic Plus it’s easy to hear where and when these background sounds are very subtly feathered in and out of the mix.


If you are contemplating putting together a high-quality desktop audio system you will be hard pressed to find any DAC/Preamp that includes a more useful feature set or better sound for anything near the DacMagic’s $649 MSRP (or street price of about $599). Yes, it’s a great value. Yes, it delivers excellent sonics. And yes, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus has certainly earned my recommendation as the new benchmark for DAC performance with a price under $600.

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