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Arcam ST60 review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021 winner. Arcam’s first-ever dedicated music streamer sets a new benchmark Tested at £1199 / $1500 / AU2495

Music streamer: Arcam ST60
(Image: © Arcam)

Our Verdict

Arcam’s first effort in the field is laudable: the ST60 ticks multiple streaming boxes while prioritising performance

For

  • Clear, full-bodied sound
  • Detailed and dynamically expressive
  • Strong streaming support

Against

  • Not the last word in fun
  • App isn’t very sophisticated

With Arcam having dabbled in network streaming with its compact Solo Uno and more serious SA30 just-add-speakers systems in recent times, it was only a matter of time before the British company launched a dedicated music streamer.

The Arcam ST60 is that debut, and unsurprisingly uses the streaming architecture from its premium amplified sibling (and naturally strips out the amplification stage), gifting owners AirPlay 2, Google Cast, uPnP playback and internet radio at their fingertips, as well as analogue and digital connections and support for MQA and Roon. That’s a sweeping offering in today’s music streamer market – one inclusive of the popular streaming platforms that boast broad music service and device support, and that consequently taps into the emerging habits of this generation’s keen streamers. 

With such compatibility becoming more and more ubiquitous, however, it’s becoming harder for streaming products to stand out with their spec sheets alone, so performance remains a key differentiator. And Arcam has been in the hi-fi game long enough to know that.

Sound

Music streamer: Arcam ST60

(Image credit: Arcam)

As such, it has entered the music streamer market with an impressively talented performer. The ST60 is self-assured in its delivery – big, full, solid and expressive. Perfume Genius’s Jason comes through our speakers with stark clarity in a soundstage that’s pleasingly open and broad. His falsetto vocal is lush and romantic, bookended in the frequency range by a solid, substantial bassline and an equally present and nicely textured harpsichord up top. It’s a captivating rendition that’s easy to sink right into, thanks to the ST60’s tonality, muscularity and clarity – sonic characteristics we’ve come to expect from Arcam products over the years.

The benchmark at this price point is currently held by the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning NAD C 658, which is our first port of call after we unbox, power up and initially acquaint ourselves with the Arcam. The NAD’s precise, coherent presentation comes to the fore as we play Oneohtrix Point Never’s We’ll Take It, and yet one play of the piece through the Arcam is enough to tell us much more about it.

Music streamer: Arcam ST60

(Image credit: Arcam)

The ST60’s fuller, clearer delivery is better able to capture the atmospheric echo around the percussion. The percussive strikes and thorny synths take on extra dimension through the Arcam, too – and not just in terms of shape and texture but also how they all work together as a musical pattern. Experimental instrumentation like this depends on its ability to pique your interest and keep your attention, and the Arcam’s greater detail, dynamic insight and tighter timing does this better.

Similarly, as we shift through genres, the Arcam more capably dissects the electronica pattern in the backdrop of Dave ft Fredo’s Funky Friday. The beat is snappier, too, although in absolute terms the Arcam is on the measured side of carefree, and we do find ourselves wishing it deviated from some sensibilities slightly and freewheeled a little more during upbeat tracks. That said, it’s far from a slouch; agile and rhythmic enough not to hamper a track’s musicality.

Features

Music streamer: Arcam ST60

(Image credit: Arcam)

Most of our listening is from our NAS drive (via DLNA), our local iPad’s library (via AirPlay 2) and Tidal (over Google Cast and from within Arcam's MusicLife app), and each works well and sounds more or less consistent.

Arcam has made improvements to its MusicLife app (a gateway to streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz as well as internet radio) to enhance usability, and we find it a mostly fine and usable, but not seamless, experience. A few times during our testing, the app and machine would temporarily trip up between switching sources from Google Cast to built-in Tidal or internet radio.

Its interface isn’t as sophisticated as those of the Linn or Naim apps – perhaps not surprising considering the comprehensive ecosystem of streaming products those brands have compared to Arcam – and we find ourselves preferring to use the free Bubble uPnP app when browsing our networked libraries. That’s not the end of the world, not least as there are free alternatives and many will no doubt choose to use native music service apps supported by the aforementioned Apple and Google wireless multi-room platforms anyway. But we’d expect Arcam’s software to mature as its streaming portfolio grows. 

Arcam ST60 tech specs

Music streamer: Arcam ST60

(Image credit: Arcam)

Inputs 4 x digital inputs (coax, optical, USB)

Outputs Balanced XLR and RCA analogue; optical and coaxial

Playback GoogleCast, Airplay2, uPnP; Roon Ready certified; MQA

Dimensions (hwd) 102 x 43.3 x 306mm

Weight 5.5kg

We reckon there’s more chance of that than Arcam taking physical design cues from the contemporary-looking Cambridge Evo 150 and Naim Uniti Atom, anyway. We like the modern stylistic flourishes such entrants have brought to the hi-fi market, but we have to say we’re also fond of the ST60’s no-nonsense, traditional look, which could pass for any source from a pick of decades, and matches every other in Arcam’s HDA component range.

Not solely a streaming product, the ST60 also accommodates external sources through its twin coaxial and optical inputs. A USB drive can be plugged into its USB socket, which is also onboard for software updates. Much more of a necessity for a music streamer is its outputs, of course, and to that end the Arcam has a fine selection – coaxial, optical, RCA and balanced XLR. An RS232 connection is to hand for those who wish to remote control the Arcam from a third-party home automation system, too.

Last but certainly not least (considering the streaming-savvy nature of the ST60) is an ethernet port, a connection we’d recommend using if possible to get the most reliable connection. For convenience, however, two antennas that screw onto the rear to grant the ST60 wi-fi connection (and, aesthetically, a pair of pointy ears) are supplied in the box, along with a full-sized remote control that is fittingly functional over fancy.

Verdict

Arcam has carried its decades of sonic expertise seamlessly into the streaming segment, both with and without amplification, in one box. Its proprietary software may not be exemplary, and its chassis design may not win a best-dressed award, but if you can get over that you will be rewarded with the best-sounding performer available for this money. 

If you’re happy with your hi-fi system but simply want to smarten it up by slotting a streamer next to your separates, the Arcam ST60 is a strong choice.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 4

MORE:

Here's how to add a streamer to your hi-fi system

Read our round-up of the best music streamers

Read our review of the NAD C 658

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 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.


Read more about how we test

  • bristollinnet
    I have over the years bought a lot of Arcam kit, most of which at the time has been up there with the best in mid-market separates. However, their latest offerings whilst appearing to tick all the boxes, just have not been up to scratch.
    They announce kit whilst obviously still in development - the ST60 was announced a year ago !
    They launch kit with obviously unstable and incomplete firmware - see https://arcam.discourse.group
    Their software app design is really poor - or to quote this review - Its proprietary software may not be exemplary in the marketTheir after market support has been patchy at best, and many dealers are turning away
    HiFi streamers have yet to adapt properly to the presence of the new lossless and HiRes services such as Amazon Music or Apple Music.If you are after a basic no-frills stereo or AV amplifier, I'm fairly sure Arcam know how to do that as well if not better than most. Anything else and I'm far less certain.

    I really want to believe this somewhat flattering review...but frankly I don't. Once you lose the confidence of existing owners...

    I shed a tear for this once great British brand.
    Reply
  • phollow35
    I'm puzzled by the comparison to the NAD C568, a 3-star rated CD player that sells for half the price of the Arcam. Could that reference in the article be a mistake? How does the Arcam compare to the Cambridge Audio CXN, what I thought was your standard for a streamer in this price range?

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • hj050
    phollow35 said:
    I'm puzzled by the comparison to the NAD C568, a 3-star rated CD player that sells for half the price of the Arcam. Could that reference in the article be a mistake? How does the Arcam compare to the Cambridge Audio CXN, what I thought was your standard for a streamer in this price range?

    Thanks!
    I think that link was supposed to point to the NAD C658 pre-amp/dac/streamer.
    Reply
  • Gray
    Better for left-handed people maybe?, to have the main controls on the left.
    (I only know I'd prefer them on the right).
    Reply
  • Joe Cox
    Good spot - now corrected!
    Reply
  • Sliced Bread
    I agree Arcam’s are buggy, but I can’t help but love the sound.
    Reply
  • Smokiro
    I admire your patience Bristollinnet.

    For me, I would never ever touch anything close to Arcam.
    This is the most unreliable electronics I have ever bought.

    Had theirs last blu ray player and the software was bad without the support and 1 patch since new.
    Broke without even using it.
    Bought an A29 amplifier also broke.
    To compliment all when you lift the thing up it leaves legs on the surface because it is just rubber-not even glued to the chassis.
    It has nothing to do with hifi.

    Whoever will buy this thing on "glowing" reviews won't be happy.
    They cannot make hardware and software.
    Best for anyone if this company would just shut operation, instead of pay for reviews and leave customers unhappy.
    Reply
  • hybridauth_Facebook_517413122
    Smokiro said:
    I admire your patience Bristollinnet.

    For me, I would never ever touch anything close to Arcam.
    This is the most unreliable electronics I have ever bought.

    Had theirs last blu ray player and the software was bad without the support and 1 patch since new.
    Broke without even using it.
    Bought an A29 amplifier also broke.
    To compliment all when you lift the thing up it leaves legs on the surface because it is just rubber-not even glued to the chassis.
    It has nothing to do with hifi.

    Whoever will buy this thing on "glowing" reviews won't be happy.
    They cannot make hardware and software.
    Best for anyone if this company would just shut operation, instead of pay for reviews and leave customers unhappy.
    Thank you, for your review. Saved me from buying there for trouble!
    Reply