While we were hugely impressed with the rPAC’s overall audio performance we did find a couple of areas worth dwelling upon. The first is the lack of a mute button as we found ourselves having to reach for the pause button on whichever player we were using whenever we were asked a question by a colleague or thought we heard the doorbell or the phone ring at home. ”Correction: mute is available by simultaneously pressing both volume buttons, though it does require very precise timing.”
The second element is the limited nature of the functionality. The rPAC may be superb at its single task, but in doing so it is inherently and stubbornly inflexible. Take for example the Fiio E17 which not only performs the role of the rPAC, but also has a built in 1500mAh battery delivering up to eight hours of use on the move. On top of this it has SPDIF output and a digital display with (admittedly limited) adjustable equaliser all for less money.
So the big question is whether the rPAC is worth the expense. Despite the arguments laid out above we would say a qualified, yes. While the rPAC does take a further step up the audio quality ladder, it’s going to be overkill for many users. Unless your computer is hooked up to a Hi-Fi costing thousands, or your headphones are of the £500-plus calibre, the upgrade to something like the E17 should be sufficient.
That said, while the price of the rPAC may look high it is worth noting it hits a new price low for a device incorporating asynchronous USB, a feature usually reserved for DACs at more than twice the price and streamers in excess of £1,000. Do you need it? Well, again it depends on the level of your existing audio equipment, but we’d certainly be tempted. Value is very much in the eye of the beholder, but from this perspective the rPAC is a bargain.
The rPAC’s laser-like focus won’t be for everyone, even some looking for a DAC, but it ignores the jack of all trades approach to become a true master of one. Like all Arcam’s new R Series products the rPAC marries this performance with exceptional build quality and brings asynchronous USB to a new price low. You’ll have to be seriously into your audio to make the most of the rPAC but if your ears and equipment match up, it delivers in spades.
Score in detail