Mayflower Arc

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by Kerry56, Jul 1, 2017.
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  1. overhaze
    The Fall Creators Update has killed my sound card and its nice Line-in for now but I still couldn't resist doing an RMAA comparison of the Arc and a O2+Odac combo unit. Keep in mind I'm having to use the 16bit Line-in on my Motherboard so the actual numbers should be much higher than this. Still both where tested with the same Line-in at the same volume with the same settings so it should at least give an idea of how they compare.

    Here is the Odac


    And here is the Arc


    Pretty close all in all but the Odac+O2 still takes it. Worth pointing out though to get that performance out of the odac I had to use a galvanic isolator. The arc on the other hand was pretty consistent no matter what it was plugged into. Still I got the best results from it when using optical or with USB plugged into a hub.
  2. overhaze
    My Arc was faulty. After having it repaired it nows tests identically to the odac+O2 combo, meaning both are beyond my onboard line-ins ability to measure. Sounds great too!
    Justin0505 likes this.
  3. Justin0505
    I was never really convinced on the amount of difference that a more expensive "better quality" dac/amp could make over the onboard sound hardware in a good phone or PC. Yeah, it made sense for high-impedance cans, but for IEM's I just didn't buy the hype that a dac/amp would really improve attributes like sound-stage and resolution to a noticeable level.

    Well, I was wrong. I purchased the ARC for use at work because I wanted to be able to bring my Alpha Primes and HD6XX's in and knew that my work PC (latest gen surface pro) wouldnt be up to the task of driving them fully. Also, I'm often on teleconferences for several hours out of the day so the MIC input was a must-have. Aside from the ARC really being the ONLY option in this form factor, quality, and price range, I've also really admired Tyler's No BS approach to HiFi and what hes doing with Mayflower since I saw his first guess appearance on Tek Syndicate years ago. When I started looking for a product like the ARC and realized that Mayflower had already been working on one for years and just released it, there was no way I could resist pulling the trigger. Time from order to delivery was about 1 week, with standard shipping which is pretty impressive for a hand-built product from a small company. Packaging was well done, from a functional perspective. Clearly Mayflower isn't spending any of your money on wasted decorations or superfluous packaging.

    When I received my order, I had just been just been listening at work with IEM's that I had with me: Nuforce HEM6's (triple driver, balanced armature IEM's). So I didn't really expect to hear much difference between my Samsung Note8, MS surface pro, and the ARC.
    Wow, was I ever surprised: "Soundstage" in IEM'S?!?Clarity, separation, and just about every part of how the sound is rendered is significantly improved. Overall its a much more immersive and engaging experience. I also didn't expect to touch the DSP button since I previously associated "push button" pre-set sound tuning with horrible muddy, heavy-handed "beats by dre"ification. I was wrong again. The DSP does a very good job of JUST upping base without losing any detail, bleeding over into other areas, or feeling unbalanced or overdone. The result is "fun" without feeling gimmicky. The inline mic on my HEM's isn't anything special, but it sounds clear and clean and I have to push the gain pretty high before I start to hear any hiss. I cant tell much difference over on-board sound with the mic-in but I'll test more with my ModMic 4 which is much more sensitive and some on-board audio has struggled to fully power before.

    Reading this thread, I have seen that there where apparently some QC issues at least early on. I haven't had any QC issues with mine, but there are certainly some functional quirks.
    As I think some others have already mentioned: the volume is all digitally controlled based on an encoder reading the the position / change in position of the nob. This way circuity responsible for making the sound can be completely isolated from any moving, analogue pieces. However, some part of this game of telephone results in the actual change in volume level noticeably lagging behind the physical input of turning the knob. Physically the nob feels "nice", it's solid, smooth, and nicely damped. Practically, this has no serious detriment to functionality, but from an user-experience perspective it's "odd". Toggling the DSP button (it has the same precise, quality, but utilitarian feel to it as the knob) but it also involves some lag, However, in this case the audio actually temporarily cuts out completely while the dps switches on or off. Again, not really a problem, but with all the effort most consumer electronics place on snappy, instantaneous response to input it takes some time to adjust to Mayflower's approach. Complete prioritization of absolute sonic accuracy and performance first, and everything else is trimmed with a ruthless, utilitarian razor of achieving that primary goal in as simple a design as possible. If making that volume adjustment a few ms more responsive would add in extra complexity and expense in-order to not sacrifice sound quality, then it's not needed.
    The one place that I have an actual issue with the control lag is when powering the unit on: there's a brief pause as the unit powers up, but then it jumps immediately to full volume even if the knob is set to a very low volume position. Turning the volume up and then back down again seems to re-calibrate the encoder and then the volume decreases to again respect the knob position. To me that's actually bad / inconsistent functionality, not just a quirky design decision.

    Bottom line is that the ARC has far exceeded my expectation of sound quality. Mayflower's design approach and quirks result in the Arc feeling like the 1st version of Mayflower's first totally in-house designed and built dac/amp/interface that it is, but to me, that's also part of it's charm. I also don't think its currently possible to get all the same functionality / connectivity for anywhere near it's price from elsewhere in the current market.
  4. Cb1scu1t
    Haven't replied in awhile but saw the above post and thought I'd update now that I've been using it for awhile now. It's been great. Every now and then there's a weird quirk with it such as having to unplug the power and replug to get power or I'll switch from the rca output to my stax then back to the 3.5mm out to my other headphones, the sound will be extremely high until I adjust the sound in any direction then it conforms to the setting. Minor things. I haven't had issues with the power in awhile. But yes this has replaced completely my setup of chord MOJO and ASTRO mixamp and about a dozen wires all over the place. At one point I had 4 different devices going to my TV via hdmi and the one optical from my tvs out to the arc and it was such a no complication setup.

    Currently my setup is ps4 pro to arc via USB for mic input and I switch to USB mode on the arc when playing. Pc to arc via optical cable. My switch doesn't get a ton of use but I can always rig up a 3.5mm or USB solution. Modmic to the front mic input and also a 3.5mm mic output on the back to my input on the back if my computer so I have mic when on discord playing wow. Then arc via rca which bypasses the amp portion to my srs 353x (I believe) amp to my stax L700. Occasionally I'll mess around with my audiofly af180 iems or my new monoprice retro and use the amp to power them. Sound quality seems clean which is what I want from a dac/amp.. A clean signal to work with so its not doing anything to the headphones itself.

    Despite my early qc issues this is still a great bang for the buck product. Before this I feel like there were not actual options and I was pretty much trapped into using a crappy ASTRO mixamp and imaginative cabling to achieve close to what I wanted. Now, the hardest thing I have to do is flip a switch between USB or optical on the back of it depending if I'm on my Pc or ps4. Also The dsp doesn't seem to negatively affect the sound. I mainly use it for games and movies. It adds a bit of emphasis on the bass for a little extra added immersion but definitely wouldn't use it for music as it does change the sound slightly. Great product that's well priced, not perfect but hopefully with more revisions it will improve some areas but I would highly recommend it

    Edited due to mistakes I made after rereading ng
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  5. overhaze
    How does the Arc compare to the Mojo? Big price difference there.
  6. Cb1scu1t
    In terms of desktop use, arc all the way. I prefer the knob to the buttons on the MOJO. Also the MOJO got incredibly hot and mine would make a loud buzzing noise when connected sometimes. Audio quality wise they're no different from what I could tell.
  7. tmaxx123
    So the arc connects to PS4 via usb... are you getting a Dolby surround signal that way? Seems without it you wouldn’t get simulated surround sound to hear footsteps etc?
    Weird that for Xbox they want you to connect via optical and PS4 is only via usb.
    Also dont you lose the chat mix as well? The PS4 chat mix that comes on the system is reaaaally bad compared to the mixamp mixer.
  8. Cb1scu1t
    Yes the ps4 connects via USB and I'm not sure about the dolby. Quite frankly I like to stay with stereo only because the headphones I use have wide Soundstage as it is and are very accurate. Dolby for me always seems to muddy up the sound. In any case, the dsp button on the arc basically adds more low end and widens the Soundstage a bit without affecting the sound much. It's good for movies and immersion in games. And yes you do lose chat mix but I never used it anyway. Usually when I'm playing I'm playing single player games on ps4 and if I do end up talking to friends online I'll adjust the volume accordingly
  9. tmaxx123
    Yikes, alright thanks! Maybe the v2 will have a mixer!?
  10. Cb1scu1t
    I agree. I would like to see a future version have a mixer instead of switching between the two but for my uses I don't miss it
  11. Slashn77
    I just got my ARC and am liking it so far. What headphones and microphone are you using that it is plugged into that splitter?
  12. audiobile
    I was so close to ordering this, and I can deal with quirks, but I'm not sure I could deal with potentially full volume being blasted at me temporarily, I've had headphones damaged by a similar bug in a past sound card.
  13. Justin0505
    I havent duplicated that volume issue in awhile, I think it might also have to do with restarting my PC and ARC and/or disconnecting /reconnecting the usb. -Something about one or the other units forgetting the volume settings. I've had it happen once or twice with the mic where it's very quiet until I actually go into the mic properties on my pc and adjust the gain/volume.

    Still, the ARC is on sale right now for $219... which is pretty hard to beat. I actually like the sound as well or better than my idsd bl, and I think the DSP function works better than the "xbass" on the idsd.
  14. audiobile
    Hmm ok that’s not as bad as I thought, maybe you’ve convinced me to get it, thanks!
  15. overhaze
    The Arc is probably the best price to performance option out there even before you factor in the convenience of the mic input. You are going to have to deal with quirks however. The RCAs on mine are backwards and when I plug in headphones I have to move the Windows volume down and up to get sound.

    Some things I've noted. The Arc is far less susceptible to nosy USB ports than the ODac but slightly more vulnerable to mains noise than the O2. I got a measurable performance increase from attaching a ferrite core close to the power supply. Adding a second one close to the amp itself harmed performance. I also get the best measured performance out of the Arc from plugging it into a powered USB hub. This has been true of every powered hub I've tried. The results are actually slightly better over USB plugged into a hub than over optical. No idea why that is but there you go.

    Worth pointing out my Arcs measured performance still isn't as good as my Odac O2 combo unit when it is galvanically isolated but to my actual human ears the Arc sounds better. Its cleaner and more detailed with better imaging.
    Justin0505 likes this.
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