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Deliriumbassist's picture
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Arcam rpAC
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Picked up the new Arcam rPac DAC/headphone amp this morning, so I thought I'd post up a little review.

 

The equipment being used:

 

Apple Mac Mini (2011 model

rPac

Roksan Kandy K2 Integrated Amplifier

Kef Q500 speakers

B&W P5 headphones (would use my Grado RS2i's, but I forgot to order a large to small jack adapter)

 

First impressions:

 

Very tidy, solid piece of kit, even at 300g. Rubberised underside to help with preventing slipping on your desktop, or on the tables of a moving train. Nice little touch. The connections and buttons feel solid, and the buttons do have a nice action to them, being heavy without being stiff. The unit comes with a nice travel bag, obviously highlighting Arcam's intended use for the product.

The rPac comes with a 'get you started' USB cable and RCA interconnects, which are what are being used for this review. In terms of I/O, you have a USB 'B' input, RCA outputs and a 3.5mm headphone socket at the front. Nice and simple.

 

Hooked up:

After listening to a few tracks using a simple J2P lead from my Mac Mini to the Roksan, I introduced the rPac. The tracks used:

 

Before I Had You- Dave McPherson- the Hardship Diaries

Aenima- Tool- Aenima*

Slip to the Void- Alter Bridge- ABIII*

Tonight, Tonight- Smashing Pumpkins- Millen Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Hurt- Nine Inch Nails- The Downward Spiral*

Africa- Andy McKee- Dreamcatcher

King of Pain (live)- Alanis Morissete- MTV Unplugged*

Paper Airplane- Alison Krauss & Union Station- Paper Airplane

 

These are a mix of Spotify and ripped from CD in Apple Lossless (*). 

 

So first off as a DAC within a hifi system (Mac->rPac->Roksan Kandy K2->Kef Q500). The first thing that hit me, with all the tracks, was how much more space there was in the recordings! Especially in something as layered as Tonight, Tonight and King of Pain- I could picture Alanis' performance, being able to hear when she moves from the microphone, etc. Bass became more focussed (boomy bass has been a slight issue with my particular room, so this was a welcome adjustment), and vocals lost a little sharpness, but gained a lot more detail- even on Spotify tracks, I was getting Alison Krauss' breath coming through the lyrics. Another standout of the rPac's ability to process the signal was with Andy McKee's excellent version of Toto's Africa- when using the body of his acoustic guitar as a percussive instrument, the internal reverb came through beautifully- much better than I can manage on my own acoustic! 

Turning up the tempo and the distorted guitars, Alter Bridge's riffs came through clear- palm mutes were distinct, rather than bleeding into each other, and Myles Kennedy's vocals were also a lot clearer than they were when using a standard J2P cable. The nicest thing though, as a bassist, was that Brian Marshall's lines were poking their head out of the mix! Never realised how good a bassist he actually can be.

 

All in all, the rPac performed very well within a hifi system, considering it's price point. It was easy to set up with a Mac. In a future DAC upgrade, I'd probably like a bit more treble and bass, but the quality of what is there is fantastic (again, at the price point).

 

Plugging in my B&W P5 headphones (which will probably be my headset of choice for when I travel) produced even better results. Anyone thinking that a USB powered headphone amp won't be able to do much will be quite mistaken- but understandably so. The P5s, which I normally use with an iPod Touch or Galaxy S2, have never sounded so exciting, but without being too grating on the eardrums. These headphones do generally lack on bass and can can be offensively bright when driven loud, but were handled very well with the rPac's amplifier. Again, basslines were uncovered from the mix, and the detail was there but without being OTT up towards the top end of the volume scale.

 

My final thoughts:

 

At £150, this looks and sounds to be it's going to have been a great buy. How it handles on the train tracks is yet to be tested, but I'd be surprised if it isn't up to task- being USB powered, portability should be a doddle. I'd say that for those looking at an rDac for computer usage, but don't have the funds for it, this may well be worth looking at- yes, you lose connectivity choices, but by using barebones, Arcam have been able to put a lot of effort into what is there. 

 

Thumbs up from me so far!

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RE: Arcam rpAC

Awesome post dude! Thanks for the detailed info!! I really want one of these now.

Anonymous
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RE: Arcam rpAC

Just picked up my rPAC yesterday.

Quite frankly I echo the review above. Buy one of these before Arcam put the price up! 

 

My setup:

2008 Intel MacBook Pro running OS 10.7 & iTunes 10 - iPAC - Grado SR80i = portable audio heaven!

 

Not tried it yet through the RCA outs, but first impressions with headphones very positive.

I played a range of tracks from the below albums, all streamed from iTunes with equalizer switched off.

Bob Dylan: Infidels

The Alan Parsons Project: I Robot

Patricia Barber: Cafe Blue

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (remastered)

Pomp & Pipes! - The Dallas Wind Symphony (Reference Recordings HDCD)

Acoustic Alchemy: Positive Thinking

Proteus 7: For Your Ears Only

 

Conclusion? For listening with headphones, this is a fantastic upgrade. Vastly better than the internal soundcard and headphone socket. Real space and separation around instruments, clarity to vocals and generally less 'fog' on compressed recordings, downright superb on lossless or uncompressed WAV/AIFF files. Haven't tried any high bitrate stuff yet, but if you are investing to that level, you'd probably go for the rDAC and a separate headphone amp.

In conclusion, if like me you use your laptop as a media centre and want to do some headphone listening, get it! It drives my Grado's superbly, indeed I would suggest they are virtually a perfect match for the rPAC.

I'm lovin' it.

 

 

 

 

 

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I can't agree more. This is a

I can't agree more. This is a fantastic bit of kit! It feels like I am now hearing my music properly for the first time.

I received mine a couple of days ago and have tried it on both my PC (Windows 7) and Mac Air (Via Grado 325s), using a variety of source material ranging from Spotify streams, MP3s (320kbs) and FLACs and it all sounds fantastic. Bass is controlled, and the soundstage is massive! If anything, the difference is more apparent on lower quality files such as MP3s, which I suppose is what it was designed for really. Don't get me wrong, FLACs sound absolutely wonderful, but the difference to how this little gem pumps out MP3s vs the soundcard is night and day! A huge upgrade from my soundcard (Asus Xonar DX)on the PC and the built in soundcard on the Mac.

There is no question that this is by far the best bang for your buck USB-DAC-HeadPhone-Amp out there at the moment.

Anonymous
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RE: I can't agree more. This is a

Hi All,

New to this Forum, usually over at Head-fi, however I came over here as I wanted user opinions on the Arcam rPAC, googling saw me here, and I am glad I did.

I had a listen today at my local Sevenoaks, and I was quite impressed. However I have no other DAC to compare it to, so I was going into the store slightly blind. It didn't help that I also started listening to some Grado's at the same time, I should have stuck with what I was used to rather than changing both the source and the headphones.

So...... It is either the rPAC, the HRT Headstreamer (Nice review here I see), the Audioengine D1 or the Fiio E17. Anyone own a couple of those and has feedback that would be great.

John from Arcam took the time to answer my post on Head-fi and I appreciate his input, I suppose I am just a cautious shopper who likes to research to the max before purchasing.

Jim

 

Anonymous
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RE: Arcam rpAC

Got my rPAC and a set of Grado SR80i's yesterday, didn't have time to rig up my kit until this morning. More than happy with my purchase. Haven't had a lot of time to add much music yet, got some Eagles and The Doors and Muse converted to wav so far.

 

Using Foobar2000 with the WASAPI component, very nice indeed. In fact I was grinning when listening to the guitars in Hotel California, such detail has never been available to me before.

 

If anyone has any aprehentions about purchasing, don't, its a quiality bit of kit, however the little bugger does get quite hot to the touch after about thirty mins.

Anyway, ive got to sort out my Android phone to use it as a remote for Foobar now, but if anyone has any questions etc just fire away. I haven't tried the Phono connections yet, as I only have a Sony Home THeatre amp with Kef 2005.3's, not really ideal for some 2 Channel music, but I will post my findings later.

 

Jim

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RE: Arcam rpAC

anyone compared the rPAC vs rDAC...!?

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RE: Arcam rpAC

WHF have in the latest magazine, tested by normal people in a blind test. The outcome is interesting

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RE: Arcam rpAC

I was thinking about picking one of these up as well so thank very much (both of you ) for the reviews.

Can i just ask anyone reading this who has this running on Windows what it shows up as? Do I need drivers or is it detected as a "generic sound device"? The reason i ask is that I'm using Windows Home server 2011 and, although it's based on Windows 7 it isn't quite the same so some issues arise (my current solution using an Asus Xonar DX card only kinda works, the drivers crash and kill the sound if anyone logs on remotly to the system).

If it's a generic device I can place my order now!

Thanks everyone in advance!

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RE: Arcam rpAC

Double post...  Sorry... :oops:

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RE: Arcam rpAC

I don't own the rPAC but I am pretty sure it doesn't need drivers. The only one of mine that does is the iBasso and that's because it supports 24/192. All the ones that support 24/96 as a maximum through USB don't seem to need drivers. Hopefully someone else can confirm this but 90% sure. I don't think the fact that you are on server 2011 will make a difference, that I am about 80% sure of :). 

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RE: Arcam rpAC

Will the rLink more or less sounds the same as the rPac ? 

They both use the same TI PCM5102 DAC............

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RE: Arcam rpAC

quadpatch wrote:

I don't own the rPAC but I am pretty sure it doesn't need drivers. The only one of mine that does is the iBasso and that's because it supports 24/192. All the ones that support 24/96 as a maximum through USB don't seem to need drivers. Hopefully someone else can confirm this but 90% sure. I don't think the fact that you are on server 2011 will make a difference, that I am about 80% sure of :). 

 

Can't speak for the rPac, but this seems to be pretty standard. You don't need special drivers until you get over 24/96. The fact that drivers aren't mentioned in the rPac manual makes me almost 100% sure.

Stuff.

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RE: Arcam rpAC

I bought an rPac to use as a USB DAC between my Vortexbox and Audiolab amp.

Had some compatibility problems with the Vortexbox though, as it recognised it but couldn't output any sound through it. Not the Arcams fault as it worked perfectly as a headphone amp on my laptop. Think it was just that as it was brand new, Vortexbox have not yet released the drivers to make it work (or so my tech friend said).

In the end I swapped it for an HRT music streamer, which worked first time out the box.

Am sure the Arcam is a great product (I'm a bit of an Arcam addict tbh), but thought it was worth mentioning as if you're in a similar situation to me it would be worth buying from somewhere you could exchange it easily if it doesn't work with your Vortexbox.

 

Anonymous
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RE: Arcam rpAC

Sadly, I have had to return a second rPac since neither could cope with the simple demands of changing track or album either by Itunes or with Logitech media server. Using the rPac via the same usb as my mini Zep plays from would see the green light go on but not always result in the rPac outputing a signal to headphone or to my amp. 

 

Arcam had the first one back and said it was fine. At least the replacement didn't output massive spikes as it yet again clicked out when changing track etc. The first one was certainly very unkind to my headphones & analogue system as it emiited the loudest of noises when the rPac would give up - at the end of an album, when changing tracks, changing albums etc! The green light would stay on sometimes but the only way to get an output from the rPac again would be to turn off itunes or media player, disconnect the usb from the back, etc..... then you might get the thing working again but sometimes at very low volume.

 

In case anyone might think it could be the Mac (a fair question), the sound from my usb going through my mini Zep is sublime, and this is using its own non-asynchrynous dac (I believe). Not worth spending more on the rDac after this experience. Not sure what to do as I have Arcam equipment and like home-grown audio.  

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RE: Arcam rpAC

Hey Guys, I just finished off a review of the rPAC and thought i'd post it in case anyone is looking to get the Arcam, or jut looking at DAC/amps in the £150 area.

http://noblehifi.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/arcam-rpac-review.html

Have a great weekend all Smile

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