The Arcam rPAC is a USB, bus powered DAC (digital to analogue converter) and headphone amplifier that forms part of Arcam's new 'R Series' line of streaming music products - which also includes the excellent drDock. The rPAC has a very simple purpose: make listening to music from your computer better. How it achieves this is rather complex, but you wouldn't guess that from the setup or design.
Out of the box the rPAC is perhaps the most basic looking device you will see this year. It is a 100 x 62 x 25mm rectangle with USB power and RCA sockets on one side and a 3.5mm jack on the other. On the top are plus and minus volume buttons and a discrete LED which is red when plugged in, switches to green when processing audio and flickers to acknowledge volume adjustment.
Construction and Setup
Despite this minimalism Arcam has continued the good work it started on the drDock as the rPAC is exceptionally well made. The exterior is heavy cast aluminium with a tasteful matt black finish and a damped rubber base. Much like a heavy bottomed glass, the weighty construction (it tips the scales at 300g) feels good in hand and, as the rPAC will most likely live on a desk, makes it mechanically stable and means it isn't easily knocked over or out of place. We suggested the drDock paid homage to the design and finish of the Apple TV and this is even more apparent here.
You won't need the instruction manual to get setup. The rPAC takes its audio source digitally via USB along with its power so there are no additional messy cables and no wall socket is required. The internal DAC then performs its magic and the audio can be output through either the 3.5mm jack to earphones or via a standard RCA lead (bundled) to an AV system. There are no drivers to install, but both PC and Mac users will need to change the settings in Control Panel (Windows) or System Preferences (Mac) which tells the computer to route audio to the rPAC instead of through the internal sound card.
All this is very nice, but as a one trick pony the rPAC lives or dies by its DAC so let's take a look at the internals…