A day spent at Arcam

It was a sunny day in Cambridgeshire, and I was on my way to visiting British hi-fi stalwart Arcam. The company had invited me to its lair, to see its research and UK manufacturing in action, as well as fill me in on the new raft of products with which the company hopes to return to former glories.

And certainly, the company, led by Charlie Brennan whom I spent the day talking to, is getting right back to the cutting edge with its new crop of products. Of course, the successful range of home cinema amplifiers is continuing to be developed, while the long-fabled Arcam Blu-ray player looks set – after a seeming lifetime of delays – for release in September. And Charlie assured me, the last time we spoke that in latest tests with CD playback, this high-def video disc spinner sounded ‘pretty special’.

But it’s the ‘cutting edge’ part of Arcam’s new developments which could herald a new dawn for the company.

Hitting the market soon will be the new iPod docking system, the rCube. This unit is designed to go up against other ‘luxury docks’ from the likes of Bose and B&W, and to combine Arcam’s hi-fi heritage with an extremely compact and convenient standalone iPod system.

Arcam has also, unlike its rivals, focused on a need for portability, including a decent-sized battery and designing the rCube to be easy to carry from one room to another.

It’s certainly a slick-looking unit, and on first impressions in Arcam’s listening room, I can’t wait to get it back to our testing rooms so the whole team can compare it with the competitors in what is becoming an increasingly exciting field.

And of course, the release of the Solo Neo edges ever closer – we will be getting the exclusive first review in our September issue (on sale 30th July). The Solo Neo is a music streaming system equipped with wireless or wired network audio streaming and can handle numerous audio formats from NAS drives and other network storage devices, as well as accessing internet radio stations.

Arcam also showed me the rDAC, a new standalone converter that will sell for £299. It features Optical, Coaxial digital, USB and wireless inputs.

The wireless technology is called ‘Kleer’, which is claimed to be superior to Bluetooth and very favourable to media streaming. Arcam told me, also, that a great deal of work had gone into improving the sonic performance from the USB input.

Another good Group Test springs to mind…. Watch this space.

Charlie Brennan showed me around the whole of Arcam’s UK base including the R&D room, where engineers beaver away with impressive-looking modeling software in order to tweak circuit board designs and squeeze that extra drop of sonic purity that is the holy grail of hi-fi.

He also showed me around the manufacturing floor, where more employees were busy putting together a number of AVR600s...

.. while others ran the finished products through a rigorous sequence of tests to make sure every aspect of performance is just right.

Then it’s simply a case of getting them boxed up – and shipped out.

So, a good day all in all, and it’s encouraging to see a company of Arcam’s heritage forcefully embracing new and developing parts of the sound and vision market. I look forward to getting all these new products in as exclusive reviews – that you will be able to read very soon in the pages of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision.