Arcam rPhono review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2019. Few rivals can compete with the Arcam's combination of insight and entertainment Tested at £400

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Arcam’s rPhono is a well-specified and fine sounding phono stage. Highly recommended


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    Refined, informative and entertaining sound

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    Well built


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    Nothing at this price

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Phono stages have one of the hardest jobs to do in hi-fi. They have to amplify the tiny signal put out by the cartridge by as much as a thousand times, while adding a minimum of noise and distortion in the process. In comparison, the task faced by pre and power amplifiers seems easy.

The built-in phono stage has become something of a rare beast in amplification. Such circuits aren’t always great even when included, so if the current vinyl revival has perked your interest, we think you should consider Arcam’s rPhono.

MORE: 50 great albums for audiophiles

Build and features

This is a small aluminium-cased unit – about the size of a typical paperback book – and feels about as solid as a brick. It’s finished beautifully with crisp edges and has a smart, understated appearance.

On the front you’ll just find a single indicator light, and this shows the unit is working. Look around the back and things get more interesting.

Here you’ll find dedicated inputs for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges along with adjustments for impedance (MC-only), input capacitance (MM-only) and a range of gain settings that range from 30dB all the way to an impressive 82dB.

There’s even a rumble filter to get rid of ultra low frequency noise that your record player or disc could possibly generate. All these adjustments are made using a multitude of dipswitches.

MORE: How to set up your turntable

At a pinch these can be moved with a fingernail, but Arcam, rather thoughtfully, has included a small tool that slots into the rPhono’s base for easy storage.

Take a look inside and you’ll find a multi-layered PCB, with a great deal of attention paid to grounding and the power supply arrangement. It’s all about reducing interactions between components, reducing distortions and noise levels.

The result should be a cleaner, more transparent sound.

Aiming high, we start off by plugging in our reference, £14,200 Clearaudio Innovation Wood package that includes the Stradivari V2 moving coil cartridge.

Of course, a turntable that costs car money isn’t exactly a typical match for a phono stage such as this, but it does put a spotlight on the Arcam’s performance.

MORE: Best phono preamps 2017


Once we optimise the rPhono’s various settings we’re impressed by what we hear. It sounds big-boned and powerful, delivering a sound of generous scale and pleasing stability.

As we listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony we’re struck by the unit’s sense of composure. It sounds in control no matter how demanding the piece gets, while still delivering a strong dose of dynamic extremes. There’s lot of detail here too, and the ability to organise it properly.

Moving to Mary J Blige’s No More Drama set shows up a surefooted sense of rhythm and plenty of punch. The title track reveals the Arcam to have a subtle and revealing midrange, and a level of transparency that’s rare at this price.

Add it up and you have a capable and informative phonostage that still knows how to have fun.

MORE: 12 of the best vinyl test records

Switching to the moving magnet input – thanks to the use of a Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 package – the rPhono continues to impress.

As we would hope, the sonic character of the product is unchanged from the moving coil circuit, the sound retaining all the composure, insight and drive we enjoyed.

The tonal balance is smooth and refined without sounding like it wants to restrain any of the music’s enthusiasm. That’s just fine with us.

MORE: Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 review


This is a hugely accomplished box. It’s relatively quiet – hiss levels are low – and capable of matching any price compatible cartridge.

It sounds great too, with a combination of insight and entertainment few rivals can compete with. Highly recommended.

See all our Arcam reviews

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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