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Arcam rPAC - Specifications & Performance

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



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Arcam rPAC


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At the heart of the rPAC is a TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC chipset, the same one used to such good effect in the drDock. Arcam throws out numerous stats which certainly look good on paper (see below), but the highlights are the support for 24bit depth, sample rates up to 96kHz, a frequency response of 10Hz to 20kHz and headphone output power up to 138mW - enough to power the vast majority of headphones without issue.

On top of this is RF suppression which combats the interference created by high frequency radio bands inside a computer from the likes of the power cables, ports and the internal microphone. The cherry on the top is the inclusion of asynchronous USB which reduces the noise and jitter associated with USB music sources. This problem occurs due to the computer being responsible for the timing in the playback. Asynchronous technology bypasses that by using its own precision clock circuits to control the timing inside the DAC.

rDAC specs


Upgrading from a typical onboard sound card to the rPAC results in immediately obvious improvement across the board. Like the drDock, the rPAC brings greater clarity, depth and deeper, more resonant bass. Moreover, the general background hiss and audiological grime that poor quality computer audio is covered in is essentially eliminated. A crude analogy would like listening to music from behind a closed window then opening it.

If we can level a criticism it is that the treble does occasionally sound a little shrill, but we found this only on tracks with particularly wild sonic make-ups such as A Lily's 'Lights Shone Brighter, My Delicate Sun Is My Sparklin' Sun' which is hardly representative of the vast majority of music!

It should also be noted that the rPAC isn't only at home with music. Any audio emanating from your computer will be given the once over, so it will enhance everything from streaming video services like Sky Go, and BBC iPlayer particularly when watching good quality content like films on the former and nature documentaries on the latter (not to mention Later With Jools Holland). Internet Radio also receives a welcome and much needed boost whether it is music focused or simply conversation based like BBC Radio 5 Live. In short we found no situation where our computer's audio output did not enjoy substantial benefit.


April 27, 2012, 1:45 am

I've pondered on buying a dedicated DAC. including the DacMagic.

I see the benefit over taking analogue output from a soundcard, primarily the reduction in noise.

However I send audio over HDMI to my Onkyo SR608, which means it's digital right up until the amp's DAC.

The benefit in this case is far less clear to me; if you have a decent amp is an external DAC likely to give a noticeable improvement (assuming decent speakers/headphones)?

Chris Beach

April 27, 2012, 12:37 pm

@Bugblatter, it wouldn't seem to make sense tbh. The Onkyo is going to have a fairly decent DAC in it already. If you want a better DAC surely replacing the Onkyo makes more sense as the DAC would be used for anything the Onkyo processes...this only benefits (and can only benefit) the PC sound.


April 27, 2012, 5:00 pm

What cjb110 said. There's little point in you buying a DAC for this setup, unless you use some high-end headphones with your PC.


April 28, 2012, 12:54 am

Cheers guys; guess I'll just have to find something else to sate my gadget lust :o)


April 29, 2012, 11:51 pm

Is it noticeably better than the Native Instruments Audio 2 DJ which is available from £67 online 100mW power though.


April 30, 2012, 5:01 pm

I bought the D7 sidewinder from ibasso after giving up waiting for E17 in February. I like it and on paper the D7 has a better a spec 24/192 over usb and it has an analogue volume control which solves the hunting for mouse issues. Any chance of a head to head three way with these?


June 16, 2012, 11:51 am

I am not one of the "99%" (of audiophiles who would consider £150.00- that's 250 bucks to me- "budget"), and I popped for the rPAC over the cheaper Audioengine D1, for example, because I am fond of British audio design (I own Rega everything, strained through Dynaudio X12s). Hearing music through a MacBook Pro/iTunes/Grado SR80 headphones, did absolutely nothing for me. I was expecting the rPAC to perform a miracle. The sound was certainly more detailed and expansive, but the Arcam device did not serve to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The dealer suggested Pure Music software, I tried their demo and was sold- until some of the songs on my iTunes list that I had added from CD were grayed out and I was directed to iTunes to purchase. (Please, computer-philes, do not comment and offer suggestions. Thank you.) Next day, I played a CD through the rPAC and was pleased, and will purchase the device. Why? I think expectations played a large part here. There now was a head bobbing, feet tapping, smile factor here- not just an EQ expander trick. No, the $250.00 rPAC did not turn my Mac/headphones into a threat to my hi-end rig- that's simply unrealistic. However, I now see the device as a necessary link to acceptable computer audio- coupled with some type of playback software superior to iTunes- and, hopefully, free. Any-which-way I play it, the rPAC is expansive and detailed, though orchestral strings sound a bit steely, and I could use a bit more color (spend some time out in the sun, Cambridge guys). While I have your ear... Home-audition rules. Thank you, Pro Musica Audio, in Chicago, for being so cool about lending stuff. May our bricks-and-mortar audio and record stores thrive.

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