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February 2012 Issue - page 4

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February 2012 Issue
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ITS MAGIC

My system consists of an original Rega Planar 3, a Marantz PM6003 amp and matching CD6003 CD player completed with a pair of Wharfedale 10.1 speakers. I have also purchased a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic which makes the sound coming from my old laptop a revelation. When I picked up my October copy of Hi Fi World must admit to feeling a bit disappointed to see the Dacmagic was not included in your DAC Supertest. The Dacmagic appears in your standards section so I presumed it would be a great budget Dac to start the Supertest with. I would of really liked to read the opinion of the Hi-Fi World experts on the super little Dac, why was it left out ?


To finish my letter off I would like your opinion on using the Dacmagic as the digital source for my CD6003. Would this be a good idea and would it show an improvement to the current sound quality I get from the CD6003 at the moment. I would be looking to upgrade my CD player in the future but if the Dacmagic would do the job I could use my budget on something else. Once again thanks for the great read every month.

Pete Wood

 

 

 

cambridge-audio-dacmagic

Cambridge Audio Dacmagic is a "super little DAC". Why was it left out?


 

Hi Pete. Can you not just connect up the Dacmagic to your CD6003 CD player and listen to see whether it is an improvement? My guess is that you will not find it so. Although the Dacmagic measures very well and is a typically tightly engineered and a squeaky clean digital device, you will find it has a lighter balance than the Marantz convertor. You may or may not like the difference; I would hesitate to declare it “better”.


There was no hidden reason for not including it in the Supertest. We had already reviewed this little device, favourably, and wanted to give space to other products clamouring to get into the magazine. NK

 

 

BOXED IN

I suspect I am one of the “silent majority” who struggle on with their systems in splendid isolation trying to achieve some kind of audio nirvana but never quite getting there. I think I now need help as blundering on is no longer an option!


Over the past twenty years or so I have slowly moved up the hi-fi ladder by improving my system in fits and starts until it has now reached the position where I am reasonably happy with it. On the good days it really sings and takes me to places where my spirit and soul are healed. On the bad days it merely sounds good. I am now stuck as to which direction to go next in terms of improving it.


My system currently consists of a Squeezebox Touch connected to a NAS storage device which holds my music as uncompressed FLAC files. All network connections are wired ethernet. To this is connected a Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista DAC receiving the coaxial S/PDIF output from the Squeezebox Touch. This feeds a Music First Passive pre-amp (copper version) and a Musical Fidelity A308CR power amplifier, driving KEF Reference 205 speakers. A PS Audio Power Plant Premier re-generates the AC power for the Squeezebox Touch and DAC (but not the power amp) I use various modest starter level cables and inter-connects. Listening sessions are controlled by the iPeng controller running on an iPhone (genius !).


I am now stuck as to how significant improvements can be achieved without spending a king’s ransom.

My initial thoughts were that may be the DAC was the weakest link. I duly borrowed a NAIM DAC for a 3 day trial as it has had some rave reviews and I hoped it would make a major improvement. However, this ended in disappointment as I thought it did not really provide a convincing upgrade from the Tri-Vista and in some areas I reckoned the Tri-Vista was actually better.


Has the art of the DAC really not progressed in almost 10 years? Or was (is) the Tri-Vista just an extremely good DAC and there aren’t major improvements to be had  just variations on presentation?

 

 

I am now considering DACs such as the Antelope Gold, Weiss DAC2, Wyred4Sound DAC2 etc but as it is extremely hard and time-consuming) to arrange home demos of this kind of gear, some pointers would be gratefully appreciated. Would any of these be significantly better than the Tri-Vista? Would I get better value if I got the Tri-Vista fine tuned by Musical Fidelity themselves?


Or, should I be looking at other areas of the system  cables / supports and isolation, perhaps? So many options and possibilities  no wonder I am confused! Perhaps I’ve reached the point of extreme diminishing returns and would be better off spending my money on other things?

My budget is not fixed and depends mainly on whether I consider something to represent good value for money. I find it extremely difficult to free up the time for demonstrations and often buy items un-auditioned but informed by reviews. Like most people, I am a little shy of hi-fi dealers as they will direct me towards what they stock and not necessarily what is right for me. I am looking for significant improvements  not just differences in presentation.  Any help and advice would be gratefully received.

Shahzad Ahmed

 

weiss-dc202-dac

 

 

 

 

Audition the Weiss DAC2 or dCS Debussy as alternatives to your Trivista DAC – but they need high quality digital sources.


 

Hi Shahzad and thanks for your e-mail. Your Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista DAC with its miniature Nuvistor output tubes is well regarded for good reason and you will not easily improve on it unless you move up to the dCS Debussy DAC operating asynchronously from a USB connected source, a considerably more expensive option costing £7500 and a slightly different arrangement that would need top quality digital sources. Do try and audition the Weiss DAC2 as well as this is another strong performer.


However, your sources really need to be looked at first I feel. Your Squeezebox and NAS drive are fine starter items and the Squeezebox is tweakable up to a point, but neither are within the realms of upcoming audio server products that, for example, rely not on spinning mechanical hard drives which are electrically noisy, but upon solid-state drives (SSD) which are quieter and have a higher read rate. We will be reviewing such products in forthcoming issues, including a Mac Mini fitted with an SSD drive and purposed for audio.


naim-unitiservenaimndx

 

Naim NDX network player and Unitiserve NAS drive deliver high quality digital from a variety of sources.


 You have to remember that every day computer sources can use crude clock multiplier circuits that add jitter, a blight proper audio sources avoid through better clock generation and/or re-clocking. Who knows what your NAS drive is doing? It may well be the weakest link in your set up.

An obvious choice to replace both Squeezebox and NAS drive would be Naim’s NDX network player and Unitiserve NAS drive with CD ripping mechanism, reviewed in our October 2011 edition.


Your system is fine and is, I suspect, held back more by source limitations than anything else. NK



 

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