Searching for an opinion to get more out of my Onkyo CD-Player, I found the Cambridge Dac 3 to complete my hifi-setup. I want to be honest: I was not searching for the best sound available anywhere, I was searching for a low-cost-solution.
In Germany, the Dac 3 is about 650DM, it is hard to find any other DAC in this price-class. But of course i did not buy it “deaf”, I at first compared it to other devices… But I will talk about that later. Carrying the cambridge home, I was happy about the plastic-handle on the top of the package. Ah, somebody must have turned his brain on…not the usual big box that nobody is able to bring down the stairs without fearing death… Unpacking it, I found an users manual, really nicely made, some adaptors for different digital-cables(!!!) and a catalogue. What surprises, is the superior Build Quality.
The front is Aluminium, nicely rounded and shaped, not the black plastic that other companies use for their product-range. the whole thing looks as if it did not matter if it fell down the stairs even without packaging. the cambridge comes with: Inputs (switchable on front!) 1 optical 2 coaxial BNC (there are adaptors from BNC to chinch) Outputs: 1 pair chinch 1 pair of XLR balanced(!) 1 digital output e.g. for copying cd´s the sample rates are: 48; 44, 1 and 32khz, which should fit every standard equipment on the front panel there is the mains-switch which really is one, no standby-mode on the left and on the right there are: a turning-switch to choose between dat, cd and optical and 6 green LED´s to inform about: sampling frequency, SCMS-copy-bit and correct signal, further on a “EQ”-Led for deemphasis if on the CD. the Cambridge has got three transformers and 19 voltage-controllers on its little gold-plated circuit board plus an integrated jitter-killer. But now the sound… what a surprise! I started with the optical connection because I had no coax-cable at first, and because my amp only had cxhinch-inputs, I did not use the XLR´s.
The first CD was Lori Carson-where it goes. Closing my eyes, I had a feeling as if the singer could hit me with its guitar or as if lori`s tears would fall on my feet. the room-feeling of the DAC3 is astounding. but that`s not all…all the frequencies are there, there is no hum, not too little bass, not too much highs, no cold mids. Mark Knopfler-golden heart…how I love this CD. With only my Onkyo-Player the sound was somehow hurting, I often turned the volume down or stopped listening the CD. But now it is big fun, all the instruments have got their place on stage, Mark sounds like in his best days with the dire straits. Miles Davis-Kind of blue I don´t miss my turntable anymore! Beethoven-symphonies: they come brutal and dynamic, fearing and soft…depending on what happened on the recording, the Cambridge is able to start a fire or thunderstorm or whisper softly. All in all, I could not stop listening, and so I sat the whole weekend just changing CD´s and wondering what I never had heard before…as if somebody had cleared them! NOw my setup has become better, and still I do not have the wish to change the DAC into another.
I tested Parasound, Musical Fidelity, Rotel, Cayin…but they do not come close to my cambridge. So I decided to keep it for the rest of my life… Technical data(by cambridge) Range: 4Hz to 20KHz +/-0.5dB THD : < 0.0025% at 1KHz SNR : >110dB channel separation greater than 130dB at 20Khz
Any questions left? I believe not… Since I won´t sell it-try to get one at your dealer!