What a difference four years can make in the life of an audio product.
When we first the DacMagic from Cambridge Audio back in 2009 (our Robert Archer took a Hands On listen), it wasn’t quite a full-size rack component, but it was close and it had the refined look and finish of other Cambridge gear so it could blend in with an audio stack.
Over the last few years, while the emphasis on digital audio has increased, the size of many digital-to-analog converters (DACs) has decreased. Cambridge Audio’s new DacMagic XS USB DAC can be counted among those shrinking products.
That doesn’t mean it comes up short on features, though. It sounds like the DacMagic XS delivers plenty to get you the most from your computer-stored digital music collection and streaming web servers, whether you want to hear them through headphones or plugged straight into your stereo system.
The device — which Cambridge notes, and illustrates, is smaller than a box of matches — connects simply. On one side there’s a micro USB port to hook into your computer and on the other a 3.5mm jack for your headphones or analog adapter to go into a receiver, pre/pro, integrated amp, etc. If you’re a headphone fan, Cambridge Audio also has you covered with the DacMagic’s built-in 150mW headphone amp.
The DacMagic uses a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter to replace your computer’s sound and deliver up to 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio (HRA) to your ears, while also cleaning up your lower-res MP3s and other audio files. It has asynchronous USB clocking and works with USB class 1 and 2. For the latter, you can install Cambridge’s dedicated driver for Windows; no drivers are necessary if you’re running Mac.
You can bypass the computer’s volume with the simple +/- volume controls right on the DacMagic. An LED status indicator lets you know if you’re at full resolution quality and when you reach max volume.
A brushed, black aluminum case highlight the sturdy construction, which measures just 1.2 x 0.4 x 2.1 inches. Another neat trick? The DacMagic runs just $189, so it’s even more cost-friendly than some of the comparable-sized products.