Pros: Build quality, aesthetic. Warm sound
Cons: Lacks detail. Very flat sounding compared with others in this price bracket
Being a Brit you might think I would be biased in favor of the Arcam rPAC but I am sad to say this DAC has let me down big time. The overwhelming choice of headphone DACs out there puts the Arcam in a difficult position. Arcam has a good reputation in mainstream HiFi and is obviously trying to carve a niche into the headphone world also, but this attempt falls way short of the competition IMHO.
I compared this with a FIIO E17, NuForce uDAC2 and Audioquest Dragonfly.
Source headphones for my trial included: Sennheiser HD650, AKG K550, Audio Technica M50 and Westone 4Rs with custom tips.
All music files tested were FLACs and the source computer was a Macbook Air running Fidelia.
The real issue regarding the rPAC is the lack of resolution. I would say it has a 'warm' sound and softens the edges of anything played through it. Some people may actually like this effect but for me the warmth actually removes layers of subtlety and finess that so many recordings have. Voices sounded, once again, warm but any subtle voice oscillations were lost and everything ended up sounding rather flat. Instrumental playback also had these traits and blending the two together ended up with a cocktail of two dimensional blandness compared with the DACs mentioned above.
I realise my comments may annoy some lovers of this DAC so I will point out the things I liked. The build quality is very high. The unit has a certain weight to it that gives you confidence that the engineers putting this together actually have put some care into its construction. The sound, although lacking in resolution and depth, does have a warmth that many will find pleasant and I am sure prolonged sessions will not fatigue the listener.
In summary then, a competent DAC but nothing to write home about and unfortunately does not resolve or have anywhere near the depth of the competition in this price bracket. Sorry Arcam....must do better in todays drenched USB DAC climate! :)