The Good – Carefully built, multi-input DAC with a winning iPod interface for converting digital iPod output to higher end stereo systems
The Bad – May have liked a Bluetooth input, just to finish digital solutions off neatly; the remote is a fraction ‘disappointing’, but by no means a significant problem
The Verdict – My choice for the digital side of my hifi system that includes a laptop streaming Tidal and my old iPod, with all of my favourite playlists
The Arcam irDAC is a digital-to-analogue converter designed to sit at the centre of your higher end digital hifi system. It can source just about anything digital from a PC, laptop or a CD transport, to an iPod. There is no Bluetooth input here which is disappointing because I’d have like to have that one covered off so I would have a wholly digital high quality solution.
Out of the box
The irDAC comes well packaged with an array of leads that really does make a useful contribution to tighter budgets. The DAC comes with a COAX digital interconnect, an optical digital interconnect, a USB Type A to Type B cable and some RCA phono cables to take the output to your conventional amplifier or pre-amplifier. The DAC itself is well built; it feels good and is ‘appropriately’ heavy.
The DAC takes two inputs as SPDIF digital input, two digital optical inputs and an iPod USB input.There is also a class 1 or class 2 USB type B input, the difference being the file sizes that the DAC can receive. I have hooked up my laptop as a class 1 source, no device driver is needed from windows for this and it is a painless set-up process, the DAC receives file sample rates to 44.1kHz (it supports up to 96kHz).
However if I had 192kHz sampled files I would need to download a device driver to make the class 2 USB input work correctly (I have not done this in this review).
Power is provided from the usual multi plug adaptor, however a power feed can be taken from a compatible source and a lead is provided for this (for example I am taking power from the excellent ARCAM A19 integrated amplifier). The iPod port is a useful feature taking digital input from the much maligned (by me in particular) Apple source (5th Gen, iPhone 4,5, 5S etc.) and converting it seamlessly to analogue with no apparent loss of fidelity from ALAC files.
There is no Bluetooth option in here. I do use Bluetooth from my smartphone occasionally and I would have liked this solution from my Android phone. It is by no means a show stopper, I’m just being greedy!
At this level of detail, it is very difficult for me to say definitively how the DAC differs from other solutions. All I can do is compare it to the DAC I have, the formerly class leading Musical Fidelity M1-DAC. The M1 has received much critical claim, mainly because it was the first high performing, relatively affordable and accessible DAC. So the Arcam irDAC has a tough job but it performs very impressively indeed. Despite having the advantage of being paired with the Arcam A19, the Arcam irDAC is a fine performer against its competitor, there is clean presentation, full dynamic presentation and effortless clarity. Using FLAC files through Foobar from my laptop there is excellent bass presentation and no loss of detail from the lower frequencies. I have found the mid ranges to be clear and there is plenty of detail for my over used ears.
On a daily basis, I have found the DAC to be very easy to use, whether switching between sources using the remote or the only button on the top of the box or connecting up the various sources available, the cables and the sockets have been robust and feel comfortable to use.
Looking around at the other products available at this level, this is the DAC to try first for all of your digital solutions; it is excellent, compact and sounds very clean indeed.