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  1. #1
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    Arcam irDac vs rDac review

    Hi all,

    I have recently been going through a period of upgrades to my system, and, other than the Sonos, the hanger-on component has been my Arcam rDac. It's a great performer and I've been very happy with it, but the need to walk over to it and press the button to switch inputs has been driving my girlfriend potty. I investigated getting a second cheapy dac for the PS3/Sky, and in my research I came across the newly-released irDac. One of the big features of the irDac is the remote, plus the integration of the Burr Brown DAC chip from Arcam's acclaimed D33. So naturally I thought I'd give it a demo. Sevenoaks Sound & Vision in Maidstone, being the gents they are, allowed me to take one on a no-likey no-keepy basis, so there's nothing to lose.

    Now, I'm well aware that DACs require a period of bedding in, with the rDac taking a good few weeks to settle down and lose its hard edge. So, much to my surprise, the instant I swapped out rDac for the irDac, the difference was distinctly - and positively - noticeable. Usually I'm one of those luddites that can't tell the difference between quite major component changes (for example I recently changed an M6 500i for the CAP-2100 and the difference to me was quite small, although favourable), and I was expecting the difference to be slight at best, but the irDac was doing something quite special. To try and describe it, I would say that the grain surrounding each instrument as it started and stopped that I was used to, was gone. Voices have become silkier, more fluid, and the instruments more defined in their own right. Detail is up a notch, with small variations appearing in what were otherwise even sounds before.

    A few days on and some more listening behind me, the bass too has started to show signs of improvement. Deeper, yet with more texture and definition, blending into the rest of the music in a way that feels natural. The treble has been sweet in that supremely listenable way since plugging it in, and seems to be holding as such. Imaging and soundstage are now eeriely good, with that freakish kind of realism that keeps you listening.

    I must caveat my review at this point by saying that the rDac and the irDac have been the only DACs in my system, but given the great reviews of the rDac, I think I am safe in saying that the irDac is a great performer. It's certainly surpassed my expectations.

  2. #2
    Wammer nsherin's Avatar
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    Nice review thanks for an interesting read. The design features that stem from the £2000 FMJ D33 DAC - lovely bit of kit that I heard at the Bristol show back in 2012. Wish I had the money for one! So, I'm not surprised that the improvements were noticeable. Interesting too about your experience with the rDAC - both myself and SSM also found that it needed a good few hours run-in to sound at its best. Love the little rDAC though and have been using it for a good few hours a day with an FMJ A18 amp for around 2 and a half years - with no desire to upgrade!
    Living Room: Apple TV 3, Arcam A18/DV79/T51/rDAC, Denon DRS-640, Rega P1, Sony MDS-JB980/PS3 Slim/RDR-HXD560. Samsung UE40D5520, Wharfedale Diamond 10.3/10MX
    Bedrom: Mission m70, Sony CDP-XE310/MDS-JE480, Yamaha RX-v890

  3. #3
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    Thanks. I like the A18, very good amp for the money, and the rDac is the ideal partner. It's a great DAC, so I was very surprised how much better the irDac was. Even my girlfriend noticed!

  4. #4
    Wannabe gigolo meridian man's Avatar
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    How much is the new dac.
    Nothing to see here.....move along please!

  5. #5
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    £400

  6. #6
    Wannabe gigolo meridian man's Avatar
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    Nothing to see here.....move along please!

  7. #7
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    I love my rDac which i use wirelessly as the pc's at the other end of the room. shame the new version lacks the wireless mode.

  8. #8
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    I picked up an irDAC yesterday for my ZP80 and CD6003.
    I was toying between an M-Dac or 8200CD.
    Sevenoaks had this so I bought it and boy does it sing.
    Really pleased in the massive improvement in just about every department.
    Very pleased as well.

  9. #9
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    jmhards, did you compare the irdac to the M-dac? thinking of getting one of these myself

  10. #10
    Wannabe gigolo meridian man's Avatar
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    This topic has over 3000 views and 9 replies, so it seems a lot of people are interested in this new dac.
    Nothing to see here.....move along please!

  11. #11
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    I have an rdac myself, and thinking to upgrade...
    Do you thing that as to what sound is concerned, the new irdac worth the £150 diference from the rdac?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by supercapman View Post
    jmhards, did you compare the irdac to the M-dac? thinking of getting one of these myself
    Hi, no I didn't do a direct comparison but I had listened to the M Dac but found it a bit clinical.
    I found the irDAC to be very much the sound I was after.
    So have quite a few others by the sounds of it.
    I also got a bit off due to it being their demo. Which sealed the deal. If I hear anything better in the future I can always put it on the bay!

  13. #13
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    hi guys
    I am new to the forum, but I am testing the Irdac and I wanted to share my first impressions…
    My system is made of a MacMini with Audirvana, a Cyrus 6A amp and Pmc 21 speakers. The only source is the Mac mini with files stored on a Synology NAS .
    I am using a Rega Dac connected to a V-Link in order to enjoy HD files from the Mac mini, but I wanted to test the Arcam due to enthusiastic reviews. Moreover, with the irdac I could use single box only as this reads HD from USB. Remote control is another plus, given that my equipment is kept in a closed cabinet with IR repeaters.

    I got the Irdac on Thursday evening and I let it run-in until this morning, so less than 48 hours. Now I am switching between Rega and Arcam on the same playlist to understand the differences.
    Well, after a couple of hours of listening I am still enjoying the Rega more than the Arcam.
    The Irdac is very nice and it has an exciting presentation at first glance, but I am finding it a bit more "boomy" , more bass but less precise. Moreover, I am losing some sense of space with Arcam, sound is more "boxed". High frequencies are slightly rough compared to Rega sound.

    Rega is more agile , spacious and clean to my ears…
    I know it may be due to the Arcam being new, and I read on several threads (including this) that a proper run-in could take long.
    So I will keep listening the 2 Dacs in parallel for a few days before I take a final decision..
    I'll keep you posted
    Greetings from Italy
    Ale

  14. #14
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    Thanks for bumping this up. I've got the irDAC on my wishlist and was wondering if it improves upon the very good rDAC. The OP's view is that it does. It does give me confidence to buy one. Thanks Andrew. Rep

    SS


    ps: Ale, you do need to give your irDAC more time to bed in before drawing your conclusion. Your early experience of the irDAC sounds like the first 72 hours I had with my rDAC!

    pps: Neil, you are not upgrade-proof! See if you can make the swap to the new A19. A potentially wider soundstage awaits you.
    CONRAD-JOHNSON HD3, ET3SE & CLASSIC SIXTY SE, ICON AUDIO LA4 MKIII > NAIM NAP 100
    PRIMARE DAC30 > AYRE K-5xeMP > GENESIS M60, audiolab M-DAC > GENESIS I60
    REGA RP1, DAC & ELICIT, ARCAM rDAC & FMJ A38, MF X-T100 & X-A2, SONY TA-F246E

    TANNOY PRECISION 6.2, ELAC BS244, ATC SCM11, S3/5R, DM 2/6, XERO, Q 2020i

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the advice SS, I will keep testing the 2 in parallel

  16. #16
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    Update…
    after another 72 hrs I am noticing major improvements on the Arcam (thanks again, SS) , the perception of a "boxed" sound has disappeared and bass is more articulate. However, to my ears it is still behind the Rega in terms of performance. I notice this especially on more complex passages, where several instruments are playing at the same time, and the Rega seems to me more organised , with a cleaner presentation. Clean, not analytical or cold, just cleaner than Arcam.

    The test goes on..

  17. #17
    Leper Wammer AmDismal's Avatar
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    Seems to be a pretty decent price, £400 - a proper notch below the M-DAC price, and I find it easy to believe that Arcam can produce a DAC that sounds better than the likes of MF and Cambridge Audio, given their heritage
    Compression drivers twerk my eardrums

  18. #18
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    Hi folks
    I thought I owe you a final answer on my test (assuming you are interested)
    My final take is that Rega is a better sounding DAC.
    I have tested the 2 Dacs in parallel, connecting them to 2 different Macs (both with Audirvana) and then to my Cyrus 6a.

    The Arcam is a very nice sounding Dac, it improves dramatically after a few days of usage (say 100 hrs or so).
    However, switching to Rega is like removing a curtain. Cleaner, more precise and organised. Bass may sound a bit weaker than Irdcac , but don't get fooled. Arcam bass is just more "in your face", while Rega is more defined and solid.

    So i decided I will keep my beloved Rega and sell the Arcam
    Cheers
    ale

  19. #19
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    The Rega has a nifty little toroidal inside which I've no doubt gives it ample dynamic shove to reproduce every section of an orchestra playing at full tilt, while retaining full tonal authenticity. It is an excellent DAC with staying power in my systems, and even after previewing the Naim and Young DACs I was not convinced they would give me appreciable sonic benefits commensurate with their price-tags.

    The rDAC does lag behind the Rega for dynamic shove. That is, until its stock PSU was replaced with a linear regulated PSU.

    Then the gap closes.

    SS
    CONRAD-JOHNSON HD3, ET3SE & CLASSIC SIXTY SE, ICON AUDIO LA4 MKIII > NAIM NAP 100
    PRIMARE DAC30 > AYRE K-5xeMP > GENESIS M60, audiolab M-DAC > GENESIS I60
    REGA RP1, DAC & ELICIT, ARCAM rDAC & FMJ A38, MF X-T100 & X-A2, SONY TA-F246E

    TANNOY PRECISION 6.2, ELAC BS244, ATC SCM11, S3/5R, DM 2/6, XERO, Q 2020i

  20. #20
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    The gap closes..it does not make the arcam better. Did I get this right ?

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