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DacMagic XS review
  • Over the years, I have tried dozens, if not hundreds of DACs. The high end ones are great, Mytec, Lavry, Grace Audio especially great. There's a lot of computers at work so it isn't practical to fit them all with Myteks, on the other hand, the built in audio is usually pretty cheesy and you can't easily run ASIO, etc. High end ones ($$$) have discrete components, a regulated power supply and a real, separate headphone amp with a proper volume dial.

    For the last few years we have been using Weiliang devices. The budget ones are in the $50-$100 range. We buy them on eBay (but beware of fakes). They sound good and are very even and accurate. BTW I really don't like the new AKM chips even though they are all the rage. That's OK, because models with the ESS sabre chips and others are now a bit cheaper.

    On a whim, I picked up the DacMagic XS USB portable DAC on eBay freshly refurbed from the factory.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Cambridge-Audio-DacMagic-XS-Portable-USB-DAC-Headphone-Amplifier-Gold/253743761348

    Comes in different colors. Blue costs more.
    This thing is TINY it looks like a deck of cards in the photos but it is light and small. You can take it on trips. USB powered, and there is a USB 3.0 option with a bit better specs and includes a built in ASIO driver. There's two little buttons to change the volume and change modes. I plugged it into my phone and tablet but YMMV of course.

    There's some tiny LEDs and two holes. One micro USB and one mini headphone jack. Ultra simple.

    OK, blah blah, how does it sound? It sounds expensive. Big, warm, transparent soundstage with lots of depth, detail and presence. The difference between this and a boutique DAC is tiny, and it sounds better than a some of them. It is has the detail you need to edit, with no BS, that's the thing. No DSD, but I will be reviewing a Weiliang if you want that, I never use it myself.

    Premiere loaded the ASIO driver no problem. There's a latency setting which will depend on a lot of things. MME works totally fine at 50ms on my system, and it sounds exactly the same so you might want to use that since Premiere's ASIO is not, shall we say, rock solid.

    Since it is super portable and cheap, you can buy several and have the same sound at different stations, or you can just unplug it from one device and plug it in another. Be aware that if you turn on Premiere while you are using it elsewhere, like all such devices it will change your settings.

    Recommended. (attached photo from DigitalTrends shows the small size and the volume/setup buttons).

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