Big shoutout to Audio Advice for the loaner unit as well as they’re continued non-monetary support of the blog and channel over the years!
Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!
Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…
Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100
- DAC Type: Wolfson WM8742 24-bit DAC
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz (+/-0.1dB)
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.002% 1kHz
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio: -112dB (unweighted)
- Dynamic Range: 112dB
- Output Impedance: <50 ohms
- Max Power Consumption: 4.6W
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.8 x 8.7 x 8.4 inches (46 x 220 x 212mm)
- Weight: 1.7 lbs (0.8kg)
- USB: 1 x USB Type-B (up to 24-bit/192kHz)
- Optical: 2 x TOSLINK (up to 24-bit/96kHz)
- Coaxial: 1 x RCA (up to 24-bit/192kHz)
- AES/EBU: 1 x XLR (up to 24-bit/192kHz)
- RCA Line Level Output: 1 x pair
- Digital Output (Pass-Through): 1 x RCA
- Headphone Output: 1 x 3.5mm (1/8-inch) stereo jack
- Voltage: 100-240VAC, 50/60Hz
- Power Consumption in Standby: <0.5W
Gosh, audio to me was so different just a few years ago.
Like the exciting beginnings of a hopeful marriage, my disposition towards this hobby hadn’t devolved into pure and unadulterated cynicism quite yet.
My enthusiasm for these audio gadgets was as sweet as a vintage vinyl record playing on a warm summer evening.
Back then, DACs were gateways to sonic paradise, promising to elevate our audio experiences to new heights.
I hadn’t yet experienced the toxicity of the hobby and those who argue endlessly about this stuff that, in the grand scheme of things, means absolutely nothing.
Audio was fun. It was… Magic.
And, among the cherished memories of those times, one name stands out; the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit the days when my disposition toward DACs was far from sour.
^Look how much fun I had – playing with Lego men on top of headphone amps and dacs. xD
The Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 is a versatile digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that offers a wide array of connection options, making it a suitable choice for enthusiasts seeking to enhance their audio experience.
- Related: Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?
With its neutral design and performance-focused features, it caters to a range of audio setups and preferences.
Let’s take a look at some of its technical features first.
The front panel includes a Standby/On button. This button allows you to power the DAC on or put it in standby mode when not in use.
The Source button is used to toggle between different input sources, such as USB, S/PDIF 1, S/PDIF 2, and Toslink.
USB LED Indicator
An LED indicator often accompanies the USB input option.
This indicator lights up when you’ve selected the USB input source, showing that the DAC is ready to receive audio from a USB-connected device.
S/PDIF 1 and 2 LED Indicators
The S/PDIF 1 and 2 LED indicators correspond to the coaxial and optical digital input options.
These LEDs light up when their respective input sources are selected, helping you confirm your chosen input.
Toslink LED Indicator
The Toslink LED indicator signifies the optical digital input option.
When you select Toslink as your input source, this LED will illuminate, indicating that the DAC is set to receive audio through the optical input.
Incoming Sample Rate Indicator
Perhaps my favorite feature, the DacMagic 100 includes a display or LED indicator that shows the incoming sample rate of the audio signal.
This provides valuable information about the quality of the audio being processed, allowing you to ensure the DAC is handling the audio at the correct sample rate.
One of the standout features of the DacMagic 100 is its extensive range of connection options.
It boasts a variety of inputs, including optical, coaxial, and USB, which allows users to connect multiple devices such as Consoles, CD players, Blu-ray players, TVs, and computers.
This versatility ensures that users can integrate the DAC into various setups, making it adaptable to different audio sources.
For instance, I actually used it with my PS4 and connected it to an original JDS Objective 2; a beloved amplifier that has unfortunately been discontinued and replaced with the equally as wonderful ATOM.
The DacMagic 100’s performance can be described as clean and transparent.
It effectively converts digital audio signals into analog with minimal distortion, resulting in a natural sound output.
The inclusion of an asynchronous USB input is a notable feature for computer-based audio setups, as it helps to reduce jitter and improve audio quality.
However, the price point of the DacMagic 100 is worth considering in relation to its competitors.
In retrospect, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 has indeed been a notable player in the world of DACs, offering versatile connectivity and respectable performance.
However, it’s worth considering its price evolution over the years.
Back when I first demoed it, it was around $200. Since then it’s increased by roughly $50 in some places, and I wasn’t even completely sold on it back in 2018.
In other words, I thought it was a bit too pricey.
In light of this price hike, one might question whether it represents the best value for your money, especially when there are other options on the market that offer similar or even superior performance at a lower cost.
For those seeking a more budget-friendly yet impressive combo amp/DAC solution, the FiiO K5 Pro is a compelling choice.
It has garnered a reputation for its affordability and solid performance, making it an excellent pick for many audio enthusiasts.
I use one every day!
That is to say that the K5 Pro is a combo amp/dac that at the very least, matches the DacMagic 100 in terms of versatility.
Note: The below image is the back of the K7, but they both have identical connection options.
If you plan to use balanced headphones, FiiO’s K7 is another option to consider.
Balanced audio can offer enhanced sound quality (depending on who you ask), and the K7 is designed to deliver just that.
- Recommended: Balanced vs. Unbalanced Audio Cables
Ultimately, while the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 remains a good product and one that I certainly enjoyed, the price increase over the years may make it less appealing for budget-conscious shoppers.
To be clear and straightforward, if you’re looking for alternatives to the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100, the FiiO K5 Pro is my top recommendation for a budget-friendly combo amp/DAC solution.
It offers impressive performance and represents a compelling alternative – especially given it’s an amp/dac combo at a fraction of the price of the DacMagic 100 (which is ONLY a DAC).
In other words, if you’re new, you’d need an amplifier to pair with the DacMagic 100 which only adds to the final cost: roughly $350 plus.
Why do that when you can just get a K5 Pro at $149 or K7 at $200?
If you require balanced audio, then the FiiO K7 is a strong option.
These FiiO models are highly recommended as alternatives to the DacMagic 100, providing excellent value for your money.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend. I hope you enjoyed this Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 Review and came away with some valuable insight.
Would YOU buy this DAC? Thoughts on the K5/K7? Let me know!
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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All the best and God bless,