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Arcam irDAC review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £399
inc VAT

Excellent sound quality, and we like the remote control, but great-sounding cheaper devices exist


The irDAC has just two outputs. One output is a stereo pair of RCA phono ports that connect the irDAC to an amplifier or active speakers. The other output is a coaxial S/PDIF output. It’s worth noting that if you output audio digitally the irDAC will simply pass on information from the source to another device.

The irDAC’s Sound quality is excellent, with a notably clear and sensitive midrange that makes it particularly easy to pick out details in the most complex guitar and vocal lines. Unlike some high-end audio kit we’ve tested, the irDAC did a good job of reproducing a selection of old punk tracks with less than stellar production values. That’s not something you can always say about high-end audio kit, as flaws less audible on lower quality equipment can sometimes become more apparent. The irDAC produces vivid mid-range sounds, but they don’t come at the expense of solid bass. The treble isn’t overwhelmed by the mid-range either, and we enjoyed the irDAC’s crisp, spacious and detailed reproduction of everything from dubstep to Vaughan Williams’ Norfolk Rhapsody.

Conveniently, the irDAC comes with all the cables you’ll need to use it, including a TOSlink cable for optical S/PDIF, a USB lead, a coaxial cable and a stereo RCA phono cable. If you’ve got a lot of different digital audio sources and want to make the best of each of them, the irDAC is brilliant. It’s more practical and compact than the Asus Xonar Essence One if you’re planning to install it as part of an existing sound system, and it instantly upgrades the audio quality of your digital audio kit. Even so, if you just want great sound we’d recommend the outstanding Arcam rPAC USB DAC. It doesn’t have anywhere near as many features but is much cheaper.

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