The DacMagic is a tried-and-tested formula from Cambridge Audio and an effective one it is too
There have been products wearing the DacMagic badge in the Cambridge Audio range for a quarter of a century now, and the 200M is the latest addition to the family. It is one of the more conventional DACs in the group, offering four digital inputs: USB, Bluetooth and the choice of either optical and coaxial or two of each (both connections are fitted for inputs 1 and 2, but only one can be selected at once). Sample rate is extremely good, handling PCM up to 24-bit/768kHz and DSD512. This is the first Cambridge Audio device to support MQA as well. The only real gap in the specification involves the Bluetooth implementation – with neither aptX HD or AAC supported.
TYPE DAC/preamp/ headphone amp
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 215 x 52 x 191mm
Supports: PCM to 768kHz and DSD512
6.35mm headphone out
Outputs: RCA; XLR
DISTRIBUTOR Richer Sounds
The 200M is built around a pair of ESS ES9028Q2M DACs and, as the resulting circuit is naturally balanced, offers both RCA and XLR outputs. Power is supplied via a 12V 2A PSU. The DacMagic is also set up to be a preamp, although it will allow for the volume to be bypassed to work as a line-level device. This functionality is also made available to a 6.35mm headphone jack on the front panel and connecting a pair of headphones automatically activates the volume control even if line level is selected. There are user-selectable filters to very gently alter the output.
The DacMagic 200M closely resembles the older DacMagic Plus (HFC 368) and it’s a tidy and attractive piece of industrial design that is perfectly well assembled for the price. The grey finish does a reasonable job of matching both black and silver equipment, while the white LEDs complement the finish well. The lack of remote control does impede how useful it will be as a preamp, however, and the double row of sample rate indicators (with secondary lights for DSD) is not terrible easy to read at a glance.
This has the slightly unfortunate distinction of doing nothing demonstrably wrong at any stage during listening while never truly reaching the top of the tree at any point either. It gets stuck into Public Service Broadcasting with reasonable enthusiasm and delivers Andreya Casablanca’s vocals with a delicacy and sweetness that holds attention well. As the track builds, there is a slight but perceivable congestion to the midrange that hides some fine detail. With the better mastered Hunt, it is on happier ground, delivering the huge low end very effectively, finding details that some rivals tend to miss without compromising the overall force in the recording.
The issue for the 200M is, without ever sounding sluggish, it can struggle to be truly fast and exciting. Martha Argerich’s sublime playing in the Chopin piece doesn’t have the intensity that it reveals with some of the other devices. There are limits to the amount of information it finds in this elderly remaster too. Individual notes tend to blur into one another slightly and there’s less perceivable space around the piano. The tonal realism of the instrument is very good, though, and the Cambridge Audio avoids the slightly glassy quality with higher notes.
It very effectively finds details in the low end that some rivals tend to miss
DSD performance is good. Home At Last is rich and lush and the 200M does a decent job of taking the immaculate production and ensuring it sounds very good indeed without missing on the musicianship that underpins it. Once again, though, the performance is engaging rather than truly joyous. As one of the less expensive DACs in the group, it’s worth noting that headphone performance is very acceptable, with plenty of power available and little perceivable noise at any stage, making it a potentially strong value option for private listening
A capable and flexible dAc that's a great headphone amp, but it struggles to sound truly exciting
- Refined and tonally realistic presentation
- Lacks excitement
- limited Bluetooth
- no remote