Arcam rPAC USB/Headphone DAC

General Information

The rPAC is a USB powered DAC and headphone amplifier designed to dramatically improve the performance of PC and MAC computers. Simple to connect, easy to transport and delightful to use the rPAC is the most effective sonic upgrade for your computer you could possibly imagine.Plug in your headphones and you'll experience a level of sonic clarity far removed from the grainy, lifeless noise your computer usually serves up. Simply put the rPAC plays music.Using a digital to analogue converter (DAC) normally found in very high end HiFi components and Arcam's world-class audio circuitry, the rPAC takes audio files stored on a MAC or PC and delivers converts them into beautiful music with stunning clarity and precision. Its USB power system means no "wall wart" PSU is needed and the choice of line level output or headphones socket allows you to share the musical enjoyment with friends or keep it all to yourself!The rPAC will sit discreetly beside any desktop or laptop computer and is constructed using a durable, precision cast aluminum case. Designed for music lovers everywhere it is ideal for the home, office or on the road.

Latest reviews

Pros: Very clean and pleasant sound. Small size with nice build quality.
Cons: Underpowered for some headphones. Crashes occasionally.
I spent a few hours with this unit today, and tried it with about 8 pairs of headphones. My setup was Macbook Pro -> Audirvana Plus v2 player -> rPAC
The unit is very simple - no display or indicators, just plug and play. Feels nice in the hand too, small but solid.
I was really pleased with the combination of the Audeze and the rPAC, which was articulate and perfectly balanced and natural. It had enough power to drive the Audeze and Beyerdynamic T5p easily but some phones needed maximum volume to get loud and I think it was the Hifiman HE 560 which just didn't get loud enough.
I only had time in the shop to compare it with one other DAC, the Asus Xonar Essence STU. I preferred the Arcam - it seemed more tonally balanced and overall more natural sounding.
UPDATE: Later I found out that it seems the rPAC can be made to work at up to 192kHz too. These are the instructions, but try this at your own risk. I have not tried it myself:
download the driver from:
This software is Windows only.
Whilst holding down the volume up/down buttons plug in
the rPAC to a free usb port.
install the software downloaded above.
Look in device manager and you will see that the
driver is now authored by ARCAM rather than by
There is also a firmware update included in the
above package that may help with choppy audio
on Win8 (also Linux/OSX) machines
Hope this helps someone.
Pros: Excellent build quality, Good amplification and DAC with good instrument separation, wide soundstage, articulated & detailed sound, excellent PRAT.etc
Cons: no battery, can’t be used just as amp (only as dac) , has only volume buttons with no screen or menu


Hey guys,

I have seen this little box recently and it intrigued me a lot. It has an impressive build quality.

It has a very thick aluminum case and it feels like a tank can get over it and wouldn’t hurt it.

Ok…Now I am curios..would it hurt it? Why am I thinking of this?

Because of this crazy video:

Hmm…All i need now is a tank… Does anybody knows a guy…with a tank?

I managed to get a test unit and while I had a good feeling about this small box, it still managed to surprise me.

Let’s get to business shall we? For testing, I have used Sennheiser HD800Focal Spirit OneAudeze LCD2,  Fiio E17 and Burson Conductor.

Here are my impressions on some songs:

Pink Floyd – Time

The treble is really detailed and sparkly at the beginning. The bells were nicely separated and had a very present ring. The presentation was detailed and I just loved the drums coming from every direction which you can easily pinpoint. The voice was natural and had a nice texture.

Sons de la frontera - Al jardin de la alegria

This was a nice surprise. The sound was airy, articulate, controlled & detailed. Loved how the guitar strings snapped with full extension as they were right near me. During the test I liked the sound presentation so much as I listened to 4-5 other songs from that album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) Angry And Dead Man Alive

Wow…I just loved this song…I really got caught in the moment. I don’t know about you but I just love articulate sound and this combo, rPac+Spirit One, was just awesome. The guitars gave me goosebumps. The drums…had a very very good impact and round full sound.

Leonard Cohen – The Traitor

Again loved the guitars. rPac goes very well with the articulate nature of the Focal Spirit One. Leonard’s voice seemed natural and present as it should be throughout the song.

Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing

Really nice PRAT. Really toe tapping! I really feel that the separation of instruments is quite good in this small package. The sound articulate as always and the bass was fast and with good extension.

Infected Mushroom – Army of Mushrooms  - Wanted To

The PRAT was awesome. I really love the well extended bass with the rPac. The sound was fast, energetic and really engaging.

Amandine Beyer & Gli Ingogniti – The Four Seasons -  L autunno Allegro

The sound was quite open and dynamic.  On this piece, however I realized the background wasn’t quite black. I changed the stock usb cable with a Chord Usb Silver Plus and the problem was solved. The difference was quite noticeable.

Comparison to Fiio E17

Given the price point you would ask yourself how it would compare to FIIO E17.

These units are pretty close but there are some differences between them and it may be a matter of choice after all.

Sound wise

The rPac had a more detailed sound with better decay, the sound was more articulated & better rounded at both ends, with better instrument separation, better bass extension and more energetic.

E17 has a warmer presentation & a cleaner sound than the rPac and that is mainly because the E17 runs on battery while the arcam is powered by the USB. I have tried a better cable with rPac and it really improves the sound.

Sound wise, I prefer the rPac to E17.


I have tried Sennheiser HD800  with both units. rPac was maxed out for normal listening, while the E17 had more until reaching maximum, so it seemed like e17 had more juice. However I felt that the control was quite better on the rPac, and it did reach a good normal listening volume. So rPac quite impressed me with this. I ended up listening to a whole bunch of songs with the pretentious HD800 & the arcam unit (never expected this…wow) .  There I was…minding my own business when the rPac surprised me as hell with this.

Build quality

The e17 is almost half the size of the rPac.

Both have a very sturdy aluminium case, but the rPac really looks impenetrable.

While the E17 has a usb input, SPDIF In, aux out & headphones out, the rPac has only the USB In, headphones out and RCA out.

The E17 has a nice menu while the rPac has only volume buttons on it having a rather spartan but pleasant design .

While you can use Fiio separately as amplifier and as dac, the rPac could be used just an external dac with other devices.

Also the E17 has a battery than can become really handy in some situations, and also contributes to a cleaner sound.


I really loved this little box and I recommend it with ease to anybody who wants portable sound. Don’t forget that it really benefits from a good USB cable.


  1. Excellent build quality 
  2. Good amplification and DAC with good instrument separation, wide soundstage, articulated & detailed sound, excellent PRAT, good decay, well extended & punchy bass, nicely overall rounded sound, sparkly but not bright treble
  3. rca out


  1. no battery
  2. can’t be used just as amp (only as dac)
  3. has only volume buttons with no screen or menu (i don’t find this upsetting but there might be people that would)


by HeadMania

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! :)


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