An excellent DAC, but now superceded by newer models
Sleek, solid design
Powerful yet subtle sound
Can't handle 192kHz audio
It sometimes seems that Cambridge Audio's ethos is to be everything to everyone, and the DacMagic certainly covers all the bases.
So, while other manufacturers force you to choose whether you want standard digital (coaxial or optical) or USB connections, Cambridge offers all of them. There are digital and balanced outputs, too, alongside the stereo RCA.
Kicking off with USB, the Cambridge proves to be an across-the-board upgrade on the sound provided by a direct laptop-to-amp connection.
It takes and multiplies the punch and attack of some close peers, creating a more dramatic and thrillingly bouncy rendition of Gorillaz' Plastic Beach.
There's also plenty of weight and definition in the bass, and the complex set of sounds and instruments remains organised and well-defined throughout.
More after the break
There's little between the optical and coaxial connections in terms of sound quality.
Full-bodied and detailed presentation
We found the coaxial to be marginally more punchy, but try both if you can as your cable and source may provide different results.
Either way, both offer a full-bodied and detailed presentation, while electronic effects spread to the edges of the soundstage in style.
These strands don't quite, in fact, hang together as well as they might, and the Cambridge is easily baited to brightness by harsh compression.
Features are good for the price. We're not just talking about the inputs, either: you also get a choice of phase filters to tailor the sound to your system and room, and there's even lights that indicate the sample rate of the incoming signal. But it lacks 192kHz compatibility and can only handle 48kHz over USB. The newer (and pricier) Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus is better.