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Cambridge Audio DacMagic series?

Connecting Hauptwerk to MIDI organs, sequencers, ...

Cambridge Audio DacMagic series?

Postby cthart » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:24 pm

Hi,

Is anyone using any of these products? See http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/pages/series-dacs

They can function as a USB soundcard and feature very high quality DACs.

The DacMagic Plus with pre-amplifier (including volume control) and headphone socket seems ideal for mounting at the console.

Cheers,

Colin
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Re: Cambridge Audio DacMagic series?

Postby pat17 » Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:55 am

cthart wrote:Hi,

Is anyone using any of these products? See http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/pages/series-dacs

They can function as a USB soundcard and feature very high quality DACs.

The DacMagic Plus with pre-amplifier (including volume control) and headphone socket seems ideal for mounting at the console.

Cheers,

Colin


Hi Colin,

Quite an interesting topic. I was expecting it would be answered by someone more knowledgeable than me, yet since no answer came so far I”ll try to answer… and to bring better experts on this thread. I don’t recall this point has been addressed so far yet it seems very interesting to me.

I would answer in two directions.


Sound Card vs. DAC

The opposition looks odd in itself since a Sound Card includes a DAC! Nevertheless, I think the approach is quite different on those two ranges of products.

A sound card is much more versatile in itself. It allows through its multiple I/O to connect stereo / surround setups. It’s usually bundled with dedicated software where EQ, mixing, reverb, etc… may be monitored and fine-tuned. It may also comes with microphone inputs (important when measurements are required, etc…). DACs being dedicated to a connection to an audio setup, they usually lack this versatility - the two models presented here are stereo for instance.

I’ve been browsing on several forums about DAC and computers after I read your post. Quite a lot of enthusiastic comments, showing how interesting the solution can be. Yet, since it is dedicated to recorded music played back through these DACs, I’ve read a lot about Jitter, but nothing about latency. This might be an important point to be considered when we are dealing with Hauptwerk.

On the other hand, for those of us who have an audiophile approach, there’s little doubt – at least on my mind – the quality of the DACs used in those dedicated units are better than those selected for most of the sound boards available on the market. I personally own a UltraLite-mk3 Hybrid which I highly consider in terms of audio quality. When looking for the DAC model included in it, I had some difficulty to spot the information and actually discovered a brand I was even not aware of. When it comes to the Cambridge Audio DACs, the well acclaimed Wolfson (WM8740 or WM8742) are leading the show.

Besides, by limiting itself to Digital to Analog Conversion, one may expect internal circuitry to be more straight-forward – another good point when it comes to audiophile approach, where the simpler the better.

Last but not least, the cost of such DACs are lower than high level sound cards...


Cambridge Audio

I do have two experiences concerning this brand, which might partially answer your questions.

I’ve listened to the DacMagic 100, the smaller of the two models you have mentioned. Yet it was in a quite different context. Since I have very limited experience in terms of “digital music”, I wanted to test the AAC files recorded on my iPod on a medium to high level audio setup, where the iPod was connected through the DacMagic 100. The result was better than I had expected (very good clarity, a sound rich and warm as I like it) yet the bass part of the spectrum was not really present. The test was done on organ music, meaning the problem was basically affecting the pedal division. It must be added though there might be a bias on the result since (a) this bass issue might come from the AAC file (not sure if it is as efficient on all other the frequency response curve) and (b) the test took place in an audio shop auditorium, on a setup I was not very familiar with (amplifiers and speakers) in a room which by definition is different from mine.

The other experience I can share concerns the Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD Blu-ray Universal Player. This is the one I chose as my main player on my personal audio setup. The quality of the DACs was important here – my setup is based on analog amps. (separated pre-amplifier and amplifiers units) feeding electrostatic panels. In other words, the sound signal remains analog as soon as it enters the pre-amplifier. Although equipped with Crystal DACs "only", unlike high end models using the Wolfsons also used on the DAC Magic you are mentioning, The Cambridge Audio was so good when it comes to sound processing I now hardly listen to its predecessor, a high-end Denon universal player fully equipped with 6 Burr Brown DACs (another well acclamed DAC manufacturer).

Hope it can help you a little bit on your inquiries… :wink:
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Re: Cambridge Audio DacMagic series?

Postby cthart » Sun Jun 23, 2013 12:16 pm

Pat,

I too am familiar with the 650BD, we have one :-) I must admit that with a young child around the house we haven't used it much for audio lately but now that he's getting a bit older, the listening sessions may start again. We will however need to get our speakers' tweeters replaced having been damaged by inquisitive fingers...

I'd be very interested in any latency figures if anyone can provide them. I think I'll fire off an email to CA and ask them. I suspect the numbers may be quite low given the presence of an ASIO setup guide on the support page here http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/products/ ... er#support

Thirdly, these two devices are actually also a USB sound card, having a USB connector and supporting the standard USB Audio Profile. They are of course however limited to just two channel audio, while a dedicated sound card is more flexible. I'm leaning towards a low-high-end PCI card for the "less wires" solution, but if I go for a USB solution then a CA DAC will be considered; I really like the built-in pre-amp with volume control option. This option would be even more attractive if it can also be multi-purposed -- eg listen to CDs in the music room (maybe the computer's CD transport can even be used?)

Cheers,

Colin
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