The Arcam drDock is the curiously named new addition to Arcam's iPod dock lineup. Succeeding the irDock and rDock it greatly expands upon both, adding a host of useful features. Its raison d'être is to be the quality interconnect between your iPod, iPhone or iPad and a high end AV system and/or television. To do this it features a built-in DAC as well as SPDIF, analogue and (for the first time) HDMI outputs. It will also charge your iDevice and synchronise it with iTunes over USB. This is quite the feature list but, as with its award winning speaker dock the Arcam rCube, the company has delivered in spades.
The most obvious place to start is the design. The drDock is part of a wave of new 'R Series' products from the company (which includes the 'rDAC' which we will review in a few days) and they feature a unified aluminium construction and matt black finishes. In photos the drDock looks good, but in hand the build quality is exceptional. Arcam has pulled out all the stops to give the drDock a premium feel, and it succeeds. The overall effect is a little akin to the Apple TV with clean lines and a full rubber base (rather than cheaper rubber feet) which adds solidity and a feeling of quality. The connectors are beautifully carved out too with the SPDIF and analogue connectors finished in signal-friendly gold.
The design has also been radically altered. The sunken well connector of the irDock and rDock have been removed so that iPod touch, iPhone and iPad devices can all sit comfortably. Interestingly the irDock is also surprisingly heavy (415g) which, while not usually a desirable quality in gadgets, is ideal here as an iPad can dock comfortably without feeling like it may topple over at any moment.
That's the outside, so what about the inside? The beating heart of the drDock is Arcam's internal Burr Brown DAC, a model used across the new R Series. The DAC takes any iDevice out of the equation by stripping the digital audio before it hits their inferior circuitry and processing it directly before sending it on to your AV system or TV.
Also worth a mention is the drDock remote control which past models have lacked. It isn't much of a looker but is no bigger than a couple of thumb drives and yet outdoes many larger remotes for functionality as it has full support for the music menu system on iOS devices as well as repeat and shuffle functions plus the usual power, mute, play, pause, skip/seek and volume buttons.
In short, all the ingredients are there and we are pleased to report they come together impressively.