DACs

Arcam rPac Headphone DAC/Amp and rBlink Bluetooth DAC

ARTICLE INDEX

The Arcam rPac headphone DAC/Amp and rBlink Bluetooth DAC In Use

The Arcam rPac is a brilliantly fun listen. Before digging in for a long listening session and trying different headphones, it's obvious what a blast the rPac is. Bass is weighty, tight, well defined and infectious. There's a spritely character that makes music fun.

Through more critical listening the rPac reveals greater and greater abilities. Beyond the fantastic bass performance the mid range is detailed and very smooth. Treble is a bit recessed which helps to smooth harsher sounding sources such as YouTube videos. That said, the treble is not so rolled off as to take anything away from well recorded material, it just helps to pin the music with the lower registers. This is a sound profile I really appreciate for headphone listening. Especially in environments with a decent amount of ambient noise. I'll take a fun listen to something cold and analytical any day for desktop use.

I used the Denon AH-D2000 and AKG K-550 headphones and it must be noted that the combination of the rPac and the Denon AH-D2000 approaches magic. They're a fantastically entertaining and fun listen. Any kind of music with a good bass foundation (Hip-Hop, Dub Step, EDM, and Electro-Pop) will generate smiles and foot tapping at the very least. I spent countless hours enjoying this combination. With the AKG cans the sound was a bit more analytical and "accurate" but nowhere near as engaging. With either headphone the Arcam rPac had massive amounts of headroom and never felt unable to drive the cans properly.

I've been living with the NuFor uDAC and HRT Headstreamer for a few years now.

In terms of sound the rPac manages to combine the fun sound of the UDAC with the detail of the Headstreamer and ups the ante with significantly more power and control. Neither the NuForce nor the HRT can match the dynamic finesse and force of the Arcam. It's a fantastic product.

The Arcam rBlink is intended to give none Airplay users a way to stream music from their mobile device via Bluetooth. Thusly the sound of the rBlink is highly dependent on the quality of the source audio and hampered by the limitations of Bluetooth. With streaming services like RDIO or Last.fm it's hard to fault the sound of Bluetooth. Using lossless files it's clear that the DAC of the rBlink is hampered even by the use of AptX.

The analog outputs of the rBlink have the same sonic character as the rPac but with less resolution and definition. Which is a good solution if you don't have an outboard DAC already. If you do have an existing DAC you can use the digital out of the rPac though the fidelity limitations of Bluetooth limit the quality. You're best off just using the analog outputs of the rPac.