Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 DAC

It is barely been a secret in hi fi groups that Cambridge Audio was due to replace its value DacMagic D-to-A converter that is remarkable. Giant-killer though it was - it even boasted balanced outputs - its USB input signal was limited to 16-bit/48kHz.

Cambridge has created two new models this year. The DacMagic 100 featured here is a little more economical than the DacMagic that is outgoing, while a more ambitious DacMagic Plus model (GBP350).

At the' 100's heart lies a Wolfson WM8742 24-bit DAC. Powered with a 12V/2A plug-top supply this little unit might look like a beer-budget sound addon 'widget', nevertheless it ticks all the boxes demanded by an audio enthusiast.

Its asynchronous USB input is completely 24-bit/192kHz-capable, Cambridge supplying a USB Audio Class 2.0 driver for Windows PCs via its site. Holding down the source selector button while powering up the DAC regulates whether the USB input is set for Audio Class 1.0 or Course 2.0 functionality.

What's missing from this DAC is balanced XLR connectivity. And unfortunately it is not compatible with 176.4kHz sampling rate data (via USB and S/PDIF).

Far from being obstructed by the considerably larger and costlier DACs in this month's group evaluation, the DacMagic 100 produced a wonderful performance in the listening tests. Seeming self effacing and commendably impartial, via one of its coaxial S/PDIF inputs it produced an expansive soundstage 'Killer'. The image it described was not narrow and deep, the individual aspects of the track convincingly layered in perspective. The Musical Fidelity M1 DAC was judged to be a little sharper-concentrated, and also the Cambridge did not deliver the fruity, however the DacMagic 100 sounded clean and well balanced at both frequency extremes.

The sizzling leading end 'Behind The Veil' was held in check without being overly sat-upon, the dynamic wallops of bass guitar and kick-drum delivered with decent strength and girth to help keep the adrenaline flowing. The DacMagic 100 opened its mouth wide with higher resolution records.

Again, it could not quite match the vivid clarity with the 2L record of Britten's Simple Symphony, nevertheless, the cohesiveness proved not easy to criticise. The M2 Tech over, and where the Shanling DAC had sounded smeared-etched and marginally artificial, this Cambridge was all of a piece.

Its excellent sound quality was likewise apparent via its USB input, the excerpt conveyed handsomely at both 96 and 192 kHz sampling rates.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 DAC photo