Arcam irDAC Audiophile Grade Digital to Analog Converter


New Head-Fier
Pros: Sound quality, Ease of use, Build quality
Cons: No DSD processing, Single set of outputs
After spending some time auditioning and researching I've finally found that illusive nirvana, the perfect mix of price, design and sound for me.
I wanted a DAC minus the frills. As a HD800 owner I already have a high quality headphone amp, Burson Soloist SL, as well as a high quality tube preamp in my main system, so the usual suspects which have money spent on what would be unused features just didn't make sense. I wanted a DAC that is just a DAC, and the only criteria was the sound.

The irDac is a simple aluminium box, quite solid and heavy with a nice matt black finish. It feels and looks nicely made and all the connectors feel solid and durable. The irDAC comes with a remote and cables as well as a typical wall wart power supply.

In use the irDAC couldn't be easier. It's basically plug and play, although I do use a Mac and iPad so have no experience using the irDAC with a Windows or Linux PC. My only complaint would be the single pair of outputs.

The irDAC grabs you from the very first notes. Its quite a quick sounding unit, there's a sense of propulsion and movement that is quite infectious, and at the same time there's huge amounts of detail but not in any overly analytical way, it's more of the whole effect, I can only describe it as homogenous. The top end is sweet and detailed and doesn't tend to bite your head off unless the recording and bitrate are really woeful. The mids are quite neutral and remarkably detailed. You can clearly hear multitracked vocal arrangements as well as each effect added to the mix. Recordings I thought I knew suddenly opened up and revealed all sorts of micro detail I'd simply never heard before. The lower frequencies are light and agile, more about texture and tone than weight and volume. It could perhaps be described as a little bass shy, but I think the tradeoff is a nimbleness that has it's own strengths, you end up following what the bass region is doing rather than drowning in it. Overall the sound quality is extraordinary at the price.
To my ears, the irDAC is clearly the best sounding DAC under $1000 that I have listened to by a significant margin.

-Sennheiser HD800
-Burson Soloist SL
-Dynaudio Contour S1.4
-Copland CSA303
-Kimber cables

DAC's auditioned:
-Arcam irDAC
-Meridian Traveller mk2
-Rega R-DAC
-Musical Fidelity M1 Dac

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Thanks Chris!