Home / Computing / Peripheral / Arcam rLink

Arcam rLink review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 4

Arcam rLink
  • Arcam rLink
  • Arcam rLink 2
  • Arcam rLink 3
  • Arcam rLink 4

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Removing jitter & cleans up audio source
  • Warm, crowd pleasing sound signature
  • Excellent build quality, discrete design
  • Potentially negates need to upgrade existing audio equipment

Cons

  • No USB input or 3.5mm jack output

Key Features

  • Integrated TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC
  • Optical & Coaxial inputs
  • Dual RCA outputs
  • 10Hz - 20kHz Frequency Response
  • Manufacturer: Arcam
  • Review Price: £149.00

Much like your favourite band, when technology companies get on a roll you just want them to keep doing what they are doing. This rarely works with bands determined to change things around and technology companies determined to chase the latest fashion or fad. Happily Arcam knows when it is on to a good thing.

Features

The rLink is the latest addition to the company's rSeries line of audiophile grade products that integrate a Burr-Brown DAC in various form factors to enhance your listening enjoyment. It follows the rPAC (a USB powered headphone amplifier), and drDock (a iPhone/iPad charge dock with audio and video outputs) and is arguably the simplest of the bunch: a wired DAC that cleans up a digital source (be it from a TV, games console, media player, etc) on its way to your speakers or hi-fi.

Arcam rLink

Essentially this means the Arcam rLink is a middleman that - if it does its job well - will breathe new life into existing equipment. To set about this the rLink has coaxial and optical inputs on one side and left/right RCA outputs on the other. There is also a power port alongside the inputs as, unlike the rPAC, none of these sources can power the device. Setup is merely a case of connecting the source device and destination output to the rLink and switching it on at the power socket. This is the true definition of plug and play.

Design

Much like a good referee, the role of the rLink is therefore to be heard, but not seen and as such it has a deliberately innocuous appearance somewhat akin to a rectangular Apple TV. At 100 x 75 x 25mm it is of a similar size too, but weighs a noticeable 350g.

In a lounge-based scenario the weight is a good thing as it comes from premium build materials. The rLink has a heavy cast aluminium exterior coupled with a tasteful black finish and thick, damped rubber base. We wouldn't suggest throwing it around, but the rLink certainly suggests it can take its fair share of knocks and it also won't be a dust magnet - a small mercy given the wider obsession with glossy piano black.

Arcam rLink 2

Performance

So back to the DAC itself. Like the rPAC and drDock, the rLink uses a TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 which supports sample rates up to 192kHz with 24bit depth and has a frequency response of 10Hz - 20kHz. Other stats Arcam is keen to point out are a signal-to-noise ratio (A –Weighted) of 106dB (24bit), line output level of 2.15Vrms and Total Harmonic Distortion Noise of 0.002% - signs that adding the rLink into your system should introduce no real world detectable interference.

Latest Deals From Ebay

  1. Arcam Rlink D/A converter

    $179.00 View Item

Williamn

July 2, 2012, 5:03 pm

The second paragraph was absolute gobble-de-gouk. It might as well have been in Spanish! What the £$%! does this thing do?!

Gordon394

July 2, 2012, 10:49 pm

Dear Williamn, it is actually very clearly stated - especially for the audiophile audience for which it is intended.

Let me explain with an example. Rather than connect your Xbox, TV, etc directly to your HiFi system you connect it to the rLink and the rLink connects to your HiFi/speaker system.

Audio coming from the source (Xbox, TV, etc) is therefore decoded and cleaned up by the rLink before it reaches the speakers.

As a result we found audio was markedly improved and significant enough for many to save a larger investment on a new HiFi/speaker system.

nanite2000

July 3, 2012, 2:53 am

@Gordon394: Nope - still not getting it. Why would a DIGITAL signal need to be 'cleaned up'? What's to clean? It's digital! Also, how is this product any better than a £40 DAC from Maplin?

Gordon394

July 3, 2012, 4:13 pm

Well you *do* get it, you just don't get why you'd need one.

About DACs:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...

In short: DACs are as variable in quality as speakers. A digital track may be 'clean' in the sense that it is digital, but the audio itself - the bitrate, the information missing from a compressed track - is far from perfect and a DAC works to improve this, much like upscaling fills in missing information with standard definition video. Some are good, others not and all have their own particular sound signature: deeper bass, a focus on midrange, etc.

peter207

July 3, 2012, 5:56 pm

Bought one last week and used it to upgrade my old Cyrus CD6. Really good improvement in sound, more open, smoother and more detail, quite a bargain for the end result. Plan to try on my Logitech Squeezebox next.

PS nanite2000, Craplin is cheap as chips audio, Arcam is a serious audiophile product

Chris

July 4, 2012, 12:12 am

Wait, what? You connected this thing to a (pretty well regarded) £700 CD player and it improved the output? I'm not sure if that's an endorsement of the DAC or a strike against the Cyrus, but it's pretty impressive nonetheless.

The Squeezebox should have a Wolfson or Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC, so I'd be interested to hear if you discover any improvement.

nanite2000

July 4, 2012, 3:11 am

The problem with "Audiophile" products is that sometimes the claims of improvement are imagined, rather than actual. It doesn't help that many of these claims are not supported by any actual evidence. As is the case here. Arcam say their rLink product improves digital audio quality - where's the evidence? How did they test it? What standards were they measuring against? Where are the test results? Where are the comparison charts showing the improved signal compared to a budget DAC?

When TrustedReviews reviews graphics cards, CPUs and systems, you use benchmarks. What are the benchmarks here?

I'm not suggesting all audio products are equal, but this product and review is light on details, and doesn't demonstrate how it is better than a budget model.

Gordon394

July 4, 2012, 2:23 pm

@nanite2000 - I'm afraid the trouble with ALL audio products is quality is based on taste rather than benchmarks. Not even all the TR team can agree which is there favourite speaker system, dock, pair of earphones, etc. I even have a friend who prefers the sound of 128Kbps MP3s over lossless audio.

As such all we can do is explain why we like a particular audio product and what we find the results to be - much like a film critic. We could post signal graphs, but that tells you nothing about whether the sound signature it is aspiring to will be to your liking.

Jeremy Smart

May 11, 2013, 11:31 pm

The first one I bought kept powering down every hour or so, so I took it back to the shop. The replacement is very crackly, and also occasionally powers down (and the only way to restart it is to unplug the thing). Complete waste of time as far as I'm concerend, won't buy an Arcam product again.

comments powered by Disqus