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Review: Arcam rPAC is a quality headphone amp and USB DAC at a nice price

#1 User is offline   Macworld 

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 04:30 AM

Post your comments for Review: Arcam rPAC is a quality headphone amp and USB DAC at a nice price here
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#2 User is offline   KrasniOktabr 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:35 AM

Such a long article for a niche product. Just sayin'
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#3 User is offline   mattwardfh 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 12:06 PM

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Such a long article for a niche product. Just sayin'


Since it is a product category that's unfamiliar to a lot of people, I wanted to explain it thoroughly. Plus it's sufficiently specialized and expensive that I wanted to provide thorough buying advice. And issues of audio quality can be tough to explain briefly.

I'm also naturally verbose. It makes me thankful I was writing for the web rather than print!
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#4 User is offline   glstevens 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 02:35 PM

Well, I have no intention of buying the device (no real need); however, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article. Nicely done. Mission accomplished.
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#5 User is offline   bigh 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 03:32 PM

Fantastic article, perfect for the audience... you frame the performance and characteristics perfectly well for the enthusiast, and without need for 3D spectral graphs and the like.

I like the notion of audio "momentum" - not sure, but I think I know what it means... I would probably say "presence" or "weight"... Is that coming close?

In any event, if there were more articles like this on macworld I'd visit more often... nicely done, and well appreciated!
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#6 User is offline   sgfb 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:17 PM

There's really no point in listening to HD audio (24/96 and above - FLAC or ALAC) through headphones, no matter what DAC/amp you use. Listen on a decent hi-fi system and CDs will sound like LPs used to/still sound. The clarity, detail and depth are astounding. I've since stopped buying music through iTunes and instead go to the HD audio sites. Unfortunately, they are few in number, and the number of recordings in real HD audio format is limited. Even more, there are rights restrictions so that those outside the US can't get much of what's available there.
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#7 User is offline   uruwuin 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 06:11 PM

Do the volume buttons on your Mac's keyboard control the volume of the rPAC, or are the buttons on the rPAC the only way to adjust the volume? Is the volume from the RCA outputs fixed at line level, or can you adjust the volume like you can with the headphone out? Also, how does the rPAC compare to the HRT microStreamer?
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#8 User is offline   mattwardfh 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 07:24 PM

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I like the notion of audio "momentum" - not sure, but I think I know what it means... I would probably say "presence" or "weight"... Is that coming close? In any event, if there were more articles like this on macworld I'd visit more often... nicely done, and well appreciated!


Thanks for the kind words! I actually like graphs, but measurement systems are expensive.

As far as momentum, I think it's certainly related to the things you mention, and I think the cause has to do with things like phase alignment and transient response. But I notice it manifest most in my perception of tempo. If music seems to be higher tempo than usual, that's good; if it's slow and ponderous, that's bad.

As far as "more like this", I review personal audio gear here once or twice a month. Keep coming back!
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#9 User is offline   mattwardfh 

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  Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:16 PM

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Well, I have no intention of buying the device (no real need); however, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article. Nicely done. Mission accomplished.


Thanks!
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#10 User is offline   mattwardfh 

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  Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:24 PM

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Do the volume buttons on your Mac's keyboard control the volume of the rPAC, or are the buttons on the rPAC the only way to adjust the volume? Is the volume from the RCA outputs fixed at line level, or can you adjust the volume like you can with the headphone out? Also, how does the rPAC compare to the HRT microStreamer?


The Mac's volume controls affect the volume of the signal sent to the rPAC, and the the rPAC's volume controls affect its headphone output (the rPAC's RCA outputs are line-level only). But ideally you want the full volume output from the Mac, and then use the rPAC to adjust headphone volume.

I haven't had a chance to check out the HRT microStreamer yet. I'd like to check out their headStreamer, though.
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#11 User is offline   mattwardfh 

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  Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:32 PM

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There's really no point in listening to HD audio (24/96 and above - FLAC or ALAC) through headphones, no matter what DAC/amp you use. Listen on a decent hi-fi system and CDs will sound like LPs used to/still sound.


Interesting—why do you think there's a difference between speakers and headphones here?
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#12 User is offline   StanD 

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  Posted 13 August 2013 - 06:05 PM

mattwardfh said:

There's really no point in listening to HD audio (24/96 and above - FLAC or ALAC) through headphones, no matter what DAC/amp you use. Listen on a decent hi-fi system and CDs will sound like LPs used to/still sound. Interesting—why do you think there's a difference between speakers and headphones here?


I had the same question. My experience is that one can get a revealing, musical listening experience with headphones for much less money than it would cost to get the same thing with speakers. I have Sennheiser HD580's and a Total Bithead, and love the sound I get from Apple Lossless files. (Pure Music software makes an astounding difference, also, for very little money). I spent many thousands of dollars trying to get great sound with speakers, amp, preamp, D/A convertor, etc., and didn't enjoy the sound nearly as much as I do that of my current system. (It also helps that I can listen to whatever I want whenever I want, without worrying about my wife's reaction or sleep schedule!).

BTW, Matt, have you listened to Pure Music by Chanel D? If not, you really should. For $129, I've never heard anything that makes as big a difference in my enjoyment of music. (I'm not related to the company in any way - just a big fan.)
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