Having left the DAC market alone for the best part of twenty years, Arcam is making up for lost time with an increasingly extensive range. The latest arrival is the irDAC that replaces the earlier iDAC. While it looks similar, the irDAC boasts more inputs (which are now 192kHz capable) and is completely revised internally to include a new DAC chip, improved jitter reduction measures and extensive power supply arrangements. 

One useful feature in terms of using the Arcam in an AV system is the presence of a remote control that allows for input selection from your seat, which is something most of the competition at this price don’t have. Another useful convenience feature is that, via USB, the track skip commands will control many pieces of music software. Convenience shouldn’t be the reason you choose the Arcam, though. The performance is genuinely excellent across all the inputs available (USB, coaxial, optical).

Refined sound

The Arcam irDAC manages to retain the good points of the older rDAC, in that it is forgiving and refined with a huge variety of music and has a warmth and detail with voices that makes it very easy to listen to for long periods. Where the irDAC differs, though, is that it provides a sense of excitement and drive to more up-tempo and aggressive music that the older models never seemed to be able to generate – the clever part of all this is that the irDAC can sound lively and exciting but avoids tearing bright or poorly-recorded material to shreds while it does it.

In terms of weaknesses, only a very slight lack of bass weight counts against it. If you are looking for an outboard DAC under £500, you simply have to hear this one.