March 28 2010
When Salman Rushdie was an advertising copywriter, he famously came up with a slogan for cream cakes: “Naughty, but nice”. It was while playing with this latest update of a classic audiophile gadget from the first-rate British hi-fi-smith Cambridge Audio that I coined my own phrase for a category of product that will henceforth be known as “Nerdy, but nice”.
Perhaps you neither know nor care what a DAC (digital to analogue converter) is. All any of us really needs to know is that it’s a way of greatly improving (by “upsampling”) the sound output from digital sources – principally MP3 files. So if you keep music on a PC or Mac, or on a network music client such as Logitech’s Squeezebox or the excellent Sonos range, and play it through your hi-fi or a desktop system, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic is a great way to make MP3s sound as good as CDs. It’s a brilliant, elegant upgrade accessory. It’s easiest to hear it doing its magical thing by setting it to work on music from Spotify. It’s genuinely easy to hear the improvement over plugging your laptop straight into an amplifier.
Cambridge Audio’s product is almost universally adored by hi-fi buffs. Best of all, because it’s a remarkably reasonable £230, you can afford to buy the DacMagic essentially to experiment with and see if you appreciate the difference. This true box of tricks will also improve the sound on games if you connect a console such as a PlayStation or Xbox 360s to your hi-fi via DacMagic – and make the audio from DVDs sound considerably better.