A silver brick with a button placed on top and front of it apparently looking minimalist and elegant. Pressing this button you can change the inputs. If the selected input is connected a green light illuminates above the input's label on the front/top edge. Unconnected, the four chinks/lights illuminate red. The output on the rear is an analogical RCA with three inputs: one digital coaxial, one digital optical, and one USB type B in addition the external 6V power supply and the switching supply ON/OFF. Below, an unusual semirigid plastic board that cover the entire surface of the case. Talking about flexibility the Arcam Solo rDAC is also available wireless or with an optional wireless dongle.
What a spirit inside! A digital sound that is bodied, accurate, crispy, dynamic and broad. In comparison my own DAC, a Xindak DAC 3 MkII (if new with a similar value – about 400,00 EUR – but mine is three/four years old) with its double toroidal transformer as supply and the tube output stage with a Goldpin ECC88 Valvo NOS, loses in harmonic richness, body, speed of the cue and release of the transients, which are very fast in the rDAC.
This velocity rebound on the pace, rhythm and time (i.e. PRAT), absolutely remarkable. The music flows with detail and every demisemiquaver is in its place, without mingling. The interpretation of the rhythmic section is clear, with every drumstick’s hit well define and intelligible. The negative effects of the old digital system seem disappeared. No more noises in the high range and no more artificial and artefact sensation that was typical of the old cd players. With high level vinyl and well tuned turntables with faultless supports - in all truth not very common in the audiophiles’ rooms - something is missing as overall pleasantness of the listening experience; someone calls it musicality, a quid very difficult to define objectively, though. Yet the gap narrows more and more and so the money needed to buy a digital source of good quality. I’m referring to a “traditional” digital coaxial connection, realized through a digital cable Stat Audio, and as transport a cd player Marantz CD63 KISS. With the optical input, used through a cheap optical lead, both with my multimedia HD LC Power for liquid music and with the Marantz, the silver brick behaves itself and at the end wasn’t so simple to tell between this input and the coaxial one, whilst with the Xindak the difference in favour of the coaxial was sharp.
Connected to my computer with a common A-B USB lead, the DAC succeeds in giving back with pleasure and some spatiality the use friendly MP3 files ripped at 329 Kb, whereas is really at ease with the lossless wav and flac files with resolutions to 96khz/24bit, reaching remarkable quality levels. The music here flows great, with dynamic impacts and very convincing space performances. Thanks to the Wolfson 8741 DAC with the asynchronous USB input support or to other technical solutions in collaboration with dCS, the rDAC satisfied me considering its price. Of course you can find something better, as it happened with a extemporaneous and improper comparison with an integrated DAC of a Nagra CD player, but in its price range the rDAC is a user friendly component, up-to-date, flexible enough, with a great sound; in the end and not only in my opinion, a current reference – we are in the first half of 2011 – even if the technological evolution in this field is very fast and the competition is cutthroat and numerous.
Herbie Hancock: Then and now (The definitive Herbie Hancock), MP3 a 320 kHz
Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned, MP3 a 320 khz
The Doors: The future starts here, WAV
The Eagles: Hell freezes over, WAV
Sibelius: Karelia suite, Gibson, LSO, FLAC 24bit/96khz
Beethoven: Piano concert n.5 Emperor Concert, Rubinstein, Barenboim, London Philharmonic Orchestra, CD RCA
Rossini: Ouvertures, Muti, Philarmonia Orchestra, CD EMI
Narada, Masters of Acoustic Guitar, 20 – bit remastering
Official technical specifications: to the Arcam site
Official Italian dealer: to the MPI Electronic site
Official current price in Italy: 470,00 EUR
Associated equipment: to Fabio "Puzzled" Barbato system