Arcam Solo rDAC digital processor

28.09.2011..

A minimalist and elegant silver brick, with on top a button to select 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 back is an analogical RCA with three inputs: one coaxial digital, one optical digital, and one USB, type B. In addition, the external 6 V power supply and the ON/OFF switch. Below, an unusual semi-rigid plastic board that covers the entire surface of the case. Talking about flexibility, there is also a wireless version. Otherwise, it is possible to equip the Arcam Solo rDAC with a dongle - a memory stick - provided by the company as an optional to turn it into a wireless device.

What a soul, inside this gear! The digital sound comes out bodied, accurate, crispy, dynamic and broad. I want make a comparison with my own DAC, a Xindak DAC 3 MkII (if new it has a similar value – about 400,00 euro – but mine is three/four years old). With its double toroidal transformer as power supply and with the tube output stage, that mounts a Goldpin ECC88 Valvo NOS, has less harmonic richness, body and rise time in the attack and release of the transients, which, on the contrary, are very fast in the rDAC.

The rise time rebounds on the Pace, Rhythm and Time (i.e. PRAT), which is remarkable. The music flows with detail and every demisemiquaver is in its place, without any mingle. The interpretation of the rhythmic section is clear, with every hit of drumstick well defined 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 many 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 good digital source. All that, speaking of a “traditional” coaxial digital connection, realized via Stat Audio digital cable and, as transport, a Marantz CD63 KISS CD player. However, through the optical input - used with a budget optical cable – the silver brick behaves well both with my multimedia LC Power Hard Disc for streaming music and with the Marantz. In the end, is not so simple to recognize between this input and the coaxial one, whilst with the Xindak the difference in favour of the coaxial is sharp.

Connected to my computer with a common A-B USB port, the DAC makes enjoyable, with some spatiality too, the user-friendly MP3 files ripped at 320 Kb, whereas it is really at ease with the WAV and FLAC lossless files, whose resolutions is at 96khz/24 bit. It reaches remarkable quality levels. The music here flows greatly, with dynamic impacts and very convincing space rendering. Thanks to the Wolfson 8741 DAC, with the asynchronous USB implementation, or to other technical solutions, in collaboration with the dCS, the rDAC satisfied me with its performances, considering its price. Of course, you can find something better, as it happened with an extemporaneous and improper comparison with an integrated DAC of a Nagra CD player, but, in its price range, the rDAC is a practical component, up-to-date, rightly flexible, with a great sound. In the end, and not only in my opinion, a current reference – we are in the last months of 2011 – even if, the technological evolution in this field is very fast and the competition is cutthroat and numerous.

 

Music selection
Herbie Hancock: Then and now (The definitive Herbie Hancock), MP3 at 320kHz
Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned, MP3 at 320kHz
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
Masters of Acoustic Guitar, 20bit remastered Narada CD

 

Official technical specifications: to Arcam website

Official Italian dealer: to MPI Electronic website

Official current price in Italy: 470.00 EUR

Associated equipment: to Fabio "Puzzled" Barbato system

 
by Fabio Barbato
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