Finally there’s another review of the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 on the Internet, though my early one comes up first on Google searches (heh heh).
What Hi-Fi‘s piece didn’t add much to my understanding, though, nor do vague comments such as “lacks sparkle and emotion.” For what it’s worth, they rate the Arcam rDAC more highly.
Personally, I’m not one who is convinced that significant differences between DACs at identical sampling rates are audible anyway, so you may wish to write off my opinion anyway. (If you want to hear a significant difference in realism, depth, and sound stage, switch from digital to an LP!)
But for anyone who’s still reading, a summary of my earlier thoughts: the DacMagic 100 is reasonably priced, offers a wide range of inputs, and is helpfully compact. Its playback on 16/44 material seems equal to — well, perhaps occasionally more bass-heavy than — that provided by the DAC in my $2,000 disc player, and its playback on higher-res stuff is as good as a Super Audio CD player provided that you connect a source to it via toslink or coax.
The “as good as a Super Audio CD player,” however, underlines the fact that if you’re actually interested in high-res digital audio, you should just get yourself an SACD unit like one of the good-value devices sold by Oppo or Marantz. Almost all of the material that’s sold as high-res downloads today is also available on SACD, where it costs less and happens to be conveniently packaged.
Yes, swapping silver or gold discs into a drive seems retro — but ask yourself, are you actually interested in obtaining the best-possible sound at the lowest-possible price, or just in being “modern”?