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back to article Arcam Solo rDac wireless digital-to-analogue converter

Wireless music systems are commonplace nowadays, but some folk still prefer to use a standalone digital-to-analogue converter to liberate their digital music library, and these are the punters Arcam is pitching its Solo rDac at. Arcam Solo rDac Arcam's rDac: minmalist styling As you might expect from an up-market British …

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WTF?

Are these new Vulture Central units?

>>The sound produced by the rDac had greater levels of clarity and detail, particularly with the re-mastered analogue classical recordings that make up the bulk of my music collection.

The extra detail really shone through when listening to Robyn's Body Talk albums, which were reproduced with truly impressive vibrancy.<<

Are we not engineers? Do we not believe in standard measurements - y'know, signal to noise, quantisation noise, frequency response, step response, and so on - these days?

C'mon, save this rubbish for the audiophool magazines.

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Boffin

The Airport Express is better and more flexible.

Nice idea, but the wireless part should be standard not an extra.

A better solution is a Airport Express using a optical cable into your own DAC like the Beresford Caiman. This combo is cheaper and more flexible. You can even stream directly your music from your iPad, iPhone or iPad with iOS 4.2 without the need of a computer, which is pretty sweet.

Now with the release of Airplay from Apple, no doubt in 2011 we'll see a flurry of these devices and remote speakers. The Airport Express 802.11N version has excellent components for high end audio if you build your own linear power supply this improves the performance even better over the switch mode power supply in the AE.

If you want perfect digital, rip your music in iTunes using Apple Loseless format (It's the same as AIFF but uses less space and it's still Loseless) with the Error Correction switched off.

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Audiophile stuff

I for one am highly suspicious of statements about quality being an "order of magnitude" better, which has a mathematical, not subjective definition. It's quite amazing that when properly set up double-blind testing is carried out, a lot of these differences suddenly become undectable.

As for gold plating digital connections. Well, I suppose it looks pretty and if you keep your audio equipment in a damp cellar, then it might prevent corrosion, but it makes sod-all difference to sound quality. It will basically either work or not without much inbetween, like pretty well all digital communication.

Not to say that bad DACs don't exist, but if they do, then it's objectively measurable with proper instrumentation. Any properly equipped audio lab would be able to measure how accurately the analogue output tracks the digital data for a lossless feed. However, obhective measurements like that don't sell over-priced electronics to gullible members of the public...

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It's all down to the quality of the interconnects...

'Swapping the rWave dongle for a USB cable didn't have any noticeable impact on sound quality'

That does surprise me. Especially when you consider that the sound quality would be adversely affected by the quality of the air you are using.

For future tests, might I suggest you try using cleaner air? 'Air dusters' that 'dust' the air for you can be bought from places like Maplin. Expensive, but well worth the cost IMO.

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Flame

Call me ignorant...

...If I'm wrong but surely the quality of a cable that passes digital data shouldn't make ANY difference to the quality of the audio? Obvously, if data gets lost due to cheapo cables thats a different story, but still that shouldn't make any difference to the perciev ed quality of the audio that comes out of the speakers if it gets there?

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You're right, it won't...

But don't tell anyone!

It's a bit like the 'sound enhancing SATA cables' nonsense. And Kate Middleton wearing plastic wrist bands to help balance her life... as for me, I'm off to buy some magic beans.

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Methinks

we need a sarcasm icon.

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Thanks Francis...

...but I got Jahills sarcasm. I was merely pointing out something ELSE about a sentence that Jahill had highlighted.

@Jahill: "Sound Enhancing SATA cables" sounds like a similar marketing scam to "Made for Audio" CD-Rs.

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@Shades

Perhaps if there was an irony or sarcasm icon available, then you might have appreciated the reponse as such...

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I have my air shipped in from Tasmania.

You can't trust the mucky British air to properly carry either EM or sound waves. It ruins the fruitiness of the clarinet and entirely detremblizes the lower notes of the piano. If you're still listening to your music through Blighty Air then you may as well throw away your vinyl and buy yourself a stylophone.

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USB

"the rDac uses audio specialist Data Conversion Systems' (dCS) asynchronous USB system"

Err, all USB audio is asynchronous. It has to be, otherwise it doesn't work. I suspect it's actually just a Texas Instruments USB<->I2S chip, and an upsampler chip by dCS.

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Testing

Not entirely sure I don't prefer a reviewer to use his or her ears when testing audio kit. A string of numbers, stats and oscilloscope screen grabs may get some of you all moist but at the end of the day all most normal people are interested in is how it does the job and how does it sound compared to other similar devices. I'd say the Reg got both those boxes ticked quite succinctly.

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Anonymous Coward

The rDAC usb technology

Hi Rob

Please can I refer you to the following:

http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/7719.html

and

http://www.hifi-advice.com/USB-synchronous-asynchronous-info.html

Both sources detail the three methods for receiving digital audio over the usb audio class from a host.

The rDAC's USB system does use the Isochronous Asynchronous method, which was produced by dCS. The rWave also features the exact same USB technology as the rDAC for extracting audio from the host PC.

R

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Just like all USB audio, then

The point is that *all* USB audio is done asynchronously, so saying this is a feature is just balls.

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Actually...

..I think you missed the point - this DAC implements the "Isochronous Asynchronous" method of USB audio which is fairly tricky to do and is the reason why almost every other USB DAC uses "Isochronous Adaptive". This *is* a feature, and for those who understand the technology it *is* a big deal.

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From the second link

"extremely precise dacs can be very unforgiving and too-controlled sounding, while other dacs can be extremely musical."

<sarcasm>Yeah, and my arse can be extremely musical too.</sarcasm>

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@Francis Boyle

I'm in total agreement. So we have to have randomly imprecise DACs which, in some way, make the analogue signal more "musical" by, presumably, introducing some distortion or other.

(Of course there are tools out there to emulate the audio characteristics of analogue devices, such as certain models of guitar amps, but if anybody is to use those, I'd rather it was the originator of the music and not in something as mundane as a DAC - it's job is to reconstruct the waveform as accurately as possible from the digital content).

That second link is almost pure hokum.

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Paris Hilton

Request for next review

Those specialist SATA cables that improve the audio from a NAS. Or gold-plated USB cables.

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I still say cleaner air is the way forward

but platinum sata cables would make for an interesting review!

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Oh really?

"[A] DAC that boosts the quality of music"

I'd like to see that. The inane pap that gets churned out for the pre-pubescent market will always be inane pap, however good the replay system is.

I won't argue that a good DAC can provide a better signal though.

Sorry, pedant rant over.

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AExp

Apple Express is the simplest here. Similar to Gorgehead (lossless approach) I've a FLAC library shared via a transcoding DAAP server through iTunes out to 5 Airport Express units. Can't tell the difference between this as a source & the original CD via Rega Planet source through my main Quad/Linn system but then my ears might have started to gel up ;-)

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Dongle at the wrong end

Needing a WiFi dongle at the iPad/iPhone end is both less power efficient and less portable friendly. Airplay using an Airport Express or AppleTV as the dongle at the DAC end is a much neater solution.

Two additional points, firstly what kind of audiophile uses 320K MP3s for comparisons? MP3 uses a 16K cutoff filter to start with, and then lossy psychoacoustic compression that audiophiles wouldn't be seen dead listening to. Apple lossless or FLAC compression please, or if you're really desperate for space then high bit rate AAC with VBR enabled.

Second point you failed to compare it with the much cheaper and similarly rated DacMagic, or equivalent (comparing it with the CYP AUI-D3 which costs 1/10th of the price? Really?)

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FAIL

Audiophile's New Clothes bunkum of the silliest sort.

For shame.

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375 squids for that?

Oh wait, its Designed for Apple(TM), so of course, you are paying for the LOOKS of the thing.

Oh wait, you then have to pay extra for the USB dongle / Apple plug connection if you want the wireless side? Riiiight....

Then the comparison is done with MP3 files, which have a tendency to squash the waveform completely out of whack. There are no meaningful comparisons done beyond an ear test. Oookay.

Overpriced unit, underdone review. I have a Dalmatian dog, and I think its better than an Alsatian, just because. My review is just as informative.

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For wireless

Buy an Airport Express and spend the £300 balance on a nice high end Optical DAC if you must. You get bit perfect 48_44.1/16 which is all this offers over wireless anyway, plus you don't have to buy that USB thing, plus you share printers, plus you can expand your wired network plus you can play to multiple rooms synchronously, plus...

Oh and if you can't stand iTunes Airfoil for £20 is your friend.

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