Cambridge Audio DAC 3 DACs

DAC 3

User Reviews (13)

Showing 1-10 of 13  
fishwhacker   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 22, 2004]
Strength:

Solid manufacture Can even make old gear sound better, so imagine what it will do for new stuff Upgrade path with XLR

Weakness:

Not a weakness, but the remote has equally sized buttons that are ungrouped.

I'm just getting onto the audiophile treadmill. Some months ago, I bought some old Magnepan speakers and drove them with the receiver of a colleague's sister. It was a Nad 7200 PE, 25 watts per channel and it sounded fine. Better than any thing I've ever owned anyway. I then by-passed the amplification stage and hooked the Nad up to this ancient HK870 2x100 watts per channel power amp, and the speakers 'woke up'. Then I replaced the receiver with a Nad S-100, and the sound became refined. To be fair, the pre-amp has several years difference in filtration and whatnot, so this is to be expected, but it was worth it as the detail audible on each CD let me hear new stuff with each track. It was like someone took the sock off the recording mics. No, it doesn't make the each CD sound like it's completely new, but it adds a general clarity. I won't get into the wine column language often used by audiophiles, but stress only that I am hearing new content in music with which I am completely familiar. I was grinning as I listened to all my CDs again. The pre-amp is very netural to my ear and amazingly well built. (Open it if you don't believe me. The volume control is spun by a small motor--which is to say properly, not digital switching.) The replacement of the receiver (used as a pre-amp) with the S-100 pushed my already good set-up (yes, there are exotic manufactures out there who doubtless make better and more expenive gear, but I'm not made of money), into the very good category. Bottom line: if you like made in first world democracies rather than hammered together by preschoolers in Red China quality, this pre-amp will make even old audio gear sound better. It has a clarity and neturality and ease of transmission. If you, like me, are assembling a system and are looking at a S100, this is definitely worth a listen. Moreover, it can also grow, thanks to its XLR outs. Did I not mention the XLR outs? Well I shall. If your amp doesn't have XLR ins, you now have the ability to upgrade to XLR in the future with this pre-amp. I paied $550 Canadian.

Similar Products Used: An old Bogan tube amp. (I kid you not.)
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Krasimir Jankov   AudioPhile [Aug 18, 2003]
Strength:

Extremely dynamic, great slam Detail (cable important) Bass, mids, highs - everything

Weakness:

None that I can hear for the price

Judging from a review here, I understand my DacMagic 2 is the same as the DacMagic 3 here, so I would like to share my joy and enthusiasm. Great unit! I have been using it for 8 years non-stop. Improves the sound of all players under the £500 range (or even higher). I use it with a Sony QS 920 CD player as a transport and a Sony 80ES preamp with balanced inputs. The balanced connection makes a big difference! Astonishing to have balanced connection on an inexpensive product! Thank you Cambridge Audio for all these years of enjoyment! The basic system: Sony QS 920 CD Sony 80 ES preamp AMC 2100 power amp B&W P6 speakers Van den Hull cables throughout Would be grateful for advice on a possible transport upgrade!

Similar Products Used: Different relatively inexpensive (up to £500) CD Players. They simply cannot compete with the DacMagic on their own (with the DacMagic's XLR).
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
kHNARK   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 22, 2003]
Strength:

Better separation. Tighter and "deeper" bass and midrange. more "air" Balanced outputs. Both SPDIF and optical inputs. SPDIF digital output.

Weakness:

None at the price. The added source revelation may force you to upgrade other parts of your set-up.

Traded this in from a friend for some cable and was frankly amazed at the quality. Had plans to buy a 1200$ cd with upsample but scrapped those after some comparison listening with the Dac3. With it dynamics are improved througout the entire range and low tones come out loud and clear. But the most noticable change comes with separation. Bass and midrange come apart cleaner and some of that much desired "air" is injected into the overall soundstage. The DAC3 is a great place to start if one is looking to improve the sound of alomst any level of audio equipment. As it also takes 48 Khz it works well with DAT tape and also home computers. I use one of the SPDIF inputs to drive sound from my computer to my stereo. Balanced connections to the preamp / amp are almost a must too. Going from pseudo (RCA) to fully balanced (XLR) makes almost as large an increase in quality as just the DAC. Having a decent transport also helps but matters several magnitudes less than the choice of connection. Its a great product for all levels of user, as long as you have acess to a digital output of some kind. Its also good for the tweakers out there as there are several cheap fixes you can make to make it sound even better. A tip is to get hold of the bloody manual. Unless you want to go around wondering why the LED's on the dac sometimes go on and off seemingly at random. Last of all the DAC3 only gets 4 stars overall due to the worksmanship not always being 100%.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
pbirkett   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 23, 2002]
Strength:

Excellent sound quality, tight deep and punchy bass, smooth and warm with plenty of detail and drive, exciting character with wonderful effects on vocals and impressive dynamic abilities.

Weakness:

No HDCD support, although it is quite an old piece of hardware, and the box itself wont win any prizes for beauty.

I bought this DAC after hearing about what a DAC could do for your system on the Hifi Choice forums. As I did not have a CD or DVD player of any description at the time, just a PC, I felt this would be a fairly logical upgrade. Originally, I was going to buy the S700 DAC, but there was a few things about it that made it unsuitable for this particular application. Someone on the Hifi Choice Forums who had since upgraded his DAC to a TAG McLaren DAC20, and this DAC3 was surplus to his requirements, so I snapped it up for £60. My system comprises of a PC with a Videologic Sonic Fury sound card as one transport, and a Pioneer DV-350 DVD player as another transport, both of which are connected to the DAC using co-axial connections. The DAC itself is connected to a Rotel RA-01 amplifier, which is hooked up to some Wharfedale Diamond 8.2 loudspeakers. I felt the DAC added a nice full bodied sound to the music, giving it a little bit of much needed warmth to my system. The bass is punchy, tight and quick, with plenty of depth too, and there is plenty of detail on offer here. It is smooth as well as having an exciting, involving sound to it, much like Cambridge CD players of old. Dynamics are excellent too. Female vocals are stunning on this DAC, they really put a shiver down my spine. At this point in time, I have not heard a source which comes close to being as good as this DAC, at least not in the sub £500 market.

Similar Products Used: Various DVD players, Rotel RCD-02 CD player, various Kenwood and Sony CD players.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Morten Wassmann   Audiophile [Feb 28, 2000]

A very good Converter that can get even better for 30 £. Try LC-Audio's special AD 825 OpAmps and the converter beats everything around 2000 - 3000 £ !!!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tom B.   Audio Enthusiast [Sep 17, 2000]
Strength:

Very Musical, Sounds "Real" (Musicians more present) Good Pace, Clarity and Musical Nuance

Weakness:

None

I guess the DAC3 is a European product or something. I have the DacMagic which sells in the US. It is basically the electronics of a Cambridge Audio CD6 in a separate box by itself. The CD6 is a wonderful CD Player. Putting it in a separate box makes a definite difference in resolving the high frequencies. The DAC sounds the same as the CD6 (and orginal CD4). I
This product was designed by John Westlake of Pink Triangle (he also designed the CD6 and original CD4).
Now a discontined product. If you find one used "BUY IT !!"
I use the CD4 as the transport.

Similar Products Used: CD4, CD4SE, CD6, D500
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tom B.   Audio Enthusiast [Sep 17, 2000]
Strength:

Very Musical, Sounds "Real" (Musicians more present) Good Pace, Clarity and Musical Nuance

Weakness:

None

I guess the DAC3 is a European product or something. I have the DacMagic which sells in the US. It is basically the electronics of a Cambridge Audio CD6 in a separate box by itself. The CD6 is a wonderful CD Player. Putting it in a separate box makes a definite difference in resolving the high frequencies. The DAC sounds the same as the CD6 (and orginal CD4). I
This product was designed by John Westlake of Pink Triangle (he also designed the CD6 and original CD4).
Now a discontined product. If you find one used "BUY IT !!"
I use the CD4 as the transport.

Similar Products Used: CD4, CD4SE, CD6, D500
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Lars Iversen   Audiophile [Sep 23, 2000]
Strength:

Value for the money - Good basic sound quality, and easy to up-grade to Hi-Fi class reproduction.

Weakness:

Poor workmanship - specially is the quality of soldering unacceptable. Missing CLK-sync. output from DAC-3. Can be sensitive to noise from mains (however, I am lucky that I do not have problems at home!)

The basic sound of the Cambridge DAC-3 + Cambridge DiscMagic 1 CD-drive is quit good when considering the price tags!
It has a smooth sound with a - at first listening tests - charming "reverb" adding a little estra ambience to the music. Before modification the Cambridge combination is generally better than any other CD-player in the same price class. A very good quality of electronics parts at the price level. Much better than most more "well-known" brands!

However, if you own a Cambridge DAC-3 you can do 2 things to improve it dramatically:

1) Replace the operational amplifiers (mounted AD712) to better types; Optimum results with AD825 (Requires special PCB!), and very good results with Analog Devices OP275GP (Direct replacement - Not much better on the data sheet, but substantial improvement in sound quality). For both types you'll get rid of the artificial "reverb", the bass goes about one extra octave deeper with more detail and attach, the highrange one octave higher and much more "open", more "open" and detailed midrange, vocals comes to live, dynamics improves tenfolds, much better 3-D imaging and in general more "musically smooth" reproduction!
This modification is a MUST for all CD's in general, and for a Cambridge DAC-3 it will cost you some 2.00-3.00 USD if you can do it yourself!

2) Replace the CLK oscillator to a LC Audio XO Clock and use CLK-syncro between Cambridge DAC-3 and Cambridge Discmagic 1; This dramatically reduces the jitter that often occur in separate drives and DAC's. The sound quality improves on al aspects - specially the strange fuzzy noises that you always feels present from CD's dissapears. The contrast between silence and sound is much more obvious - the back behind the music is more "black" if you get my drift!?!
A very stupid detail is that the Cambridge Discmagic 1 has a CLK-input but the Cambridge DAC-3 has no CLK-output making it more difficult to control both units from the same clock (Essential if you wants to avoid jitter distorsion!). However, if can be overcomed by adding a few components to the Cambridge DAC-3.

Of cause these 2 improvements require either some skills in electronics or that a repair shop can do it for you but it really brings this chinese CD-combination up in a much higher class!

A warning: When you modify a product you also loose any warranty from the manufacturer/retailer - and it may be illegal in some countries to sell the product after modification!

Ratings? The Cambridge DAC-3 is quit good value for your money. Value rating 4* - if workmanship was better from the chinese manufacturer it ought to have a 5*!

Overall rating for sound quality is also a 4* for the out-of-the-box Cambridge DAC-3!

When modified this increases to a perfect 5* both for value and a perfect 5* for overall rating!

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
STEVE   Audiophile [Aug 31, 2001]
Strength:

absolutley phoenominal sound quality

Weakness:

none

I first read about this DAC in the UK magazine, 'Hi Fi Choice' years ago. According to the magazine, they stated and I quote " sounds and measures like the £2000 Pink Triangle DAC ".

Lets get this straight, this think was designed by Pink Triangle and built in china. its circuit board is gold plated, has 3 seperate transformers and 19 independant power feeds to the PCB. it has also balanced output and professional BNC inputs, and can decode at also 48 khz too.

This really is a £2000 ( $ 3000 ) DAC that sells for £199 New !! Amazing ? Yes, but only in as much that it goes to show how much OVER priced 90% of the audio equipment is out there.

Pink Triange sell their own version for £ 2000 as they know they are marketing richer customers.

Cambridge Audio are marketing for the low end budget market, so price accordingly.

Besides, why is high end audio so expensive ? Resistors, wires, capacitors etc are NOT expensive components.

Transformers and Valves ARE but they offer superb performance and genereally better 'value' than transisitor amps.

verdict ? BUY it if you can now find one, or get a CD4 or CD6 Cd player failing that. For most people, they simply cant understand that it can offer the high end sound at such a low cost. Until people realise the scale of economics in manufacturing they wont understand. And end up paying 5-6 times MORE for an inferior product.

I use a Techninc 100 disc CD multi-changer, connected to the DAC, and onto a EAR Valve amplifier, feeding EPOS ES14 loudspeakers.

If sound quality gets any better I dont know, but I wouldnt change this setup for anything regardless of cost. When you understand audio quality you analyse the components and design, not looks, badges and price tags.

Enjoy the music.

Similar Products Used: various, including very expensive so called high end dacs
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Sven Henriksen   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 21, 2001]
Strength:

The bass control and the depth in the sound image

Weakness:

It's very sensitive to disturbences from the powergrid.

This is a very good DAC for the money. Ofcourse are there better DACs out there but not with this price/prestanda relation. The oknly thing I can complain about is a lack of the highest treble. It improves most CD players under 1000$. If you get it modified by LC Audio it is very hard to beat. If you also get the clock sync (with the Discmagic)it sounds like a million dollars.

Similar Products Used: Sentec Diana, Dacmagic 1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 13  

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