Cambridge Audio DacMagic review

Cambridge Audio's DacMagic has plenty of inputs, boasts a choice of sound filters and sounds powerful, full-bodied yet subtle too Tested at £230

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

An excellent DAC, but now superceded by newer models


  • +

    Sleek, solid design

  • +

    Powerful yet subtle sound

  • +

    Well made


  • -

    Not cheap

  • -

    Can't handle 192kHz audio

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

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.

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.

Follow on Twitter

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test