What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Fri, 23 Mar 2012, 6:52pm

Arcam FMJ D33

Tested at £2000
80100
4

A fine-sounding, well-equipped high-end DAC, but not quite the best in its class

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For

  • Impressive scale
  • produces a deep, broad and expansive soundstage
  • weighty bass

Against

  • No display
  • cheap-feeling remote
  • laid back delivery won’t appeal to everyone

Arcam’s last stab at a standalone DAC resulted in the brilliant £350 rDAC. The D33 is a more expensive, technically superior beast, billed by the British manufacturer as its very own ‘Super DAC.’

But for a supposed ‘Super DAC,’ the D33 looks very Clark Kent. The lack of a display is a little disappointing; little green LEDs are the only indicators of the input in use and the bit-rate of the file being sampled.

Inputs are switched via the buttons or supplied remote (which although finger-friendly, looks and feels cheap).

Connectivity is thorough: two coaxial inputs accept all types of digital files including high-res 24bit/192kHz files, while twin optical ins accept up to 24-bit/96kHz.

There’s also a pair of USB sockets: the Type I accepts music files up to 96kHz, while the Type II can handle high-res (PC users will need to install special drivers provided on the supplied disc, Macs are compatible out of the box).

There’s even an additional Type A USB socket for streaming from an Apple device, although at the time of writing it wasn’t operational. Arcam says this will be activated by dealers when it’s available.

Breathtakingly deep sound
If openness, scale and depth are what you crave, then the Arcam delivers. Spin Lana Del Ray’s Video Games and the depth and layering given to the track is breathtaking.

The D33’s laid-back nature suits the pace of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and the moody, broody vocal, too.

Arcam also includes two types of filter settings. One seemed to afflict the sound with a hint of brightness, while the other encourages a more fluid, subtler tone.

Those looking for the punchiest and zippiest of presentations probably won’t warm to the Arcam quite as much; notes could be delivered more urgently and leading edges aren’t the sharpest.

On the whole though, the D33 is a fine machine with bags of ability and is a good alternative to its closest rivals, including the Naim DAC. ‘Super’ might be stretching things a bit, but this DAC can definitely flex its muscles.

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