DACs (again!) - buying advice please

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Super Wammer
9 hours ago, Jules_S said:

That's interesting. I didn't know you could select "no filter" - the manual doesn't indicate anything other than selecting 1 or 2. I've just pressed the button, and bugger me, so you can! That's something to play with in days / weeks to come - I really don't want to fiddle too much now until I think I've got the measure of it's basic performance. I've just been been enjoying listening, believe it or not, to an awful quality Radio 2 broadcast over TuneIn via Sonos. And that's quite a good sign, I think, even with a pretty lousy source the Arcam has made it listenable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

And thank you for your kind words BTW - I tend to write just as I speak so I hope my thoughts (and humour) come over. Do you know, I'm pretty certain this is going to be a good weekend... 

Cool. Glad I checked. You may wish to use “no filter” as your default for getting accustomed to it and then have a play.


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20 hours ago, Jules_S said:

So.... the Arcam arrived this morning - can't really beat that for service - 24 hours from placing the order online to arriving at my door. Thank you 2ndhandhifi and UPS, who managed to deliver it in one piece and perfect condition. I've posted pics in the Q Acoustics owners thread anyway, but just to add, the unit is in perfect "as-new" condition with all original packaging, manuals, accessories etc so whoever owned it previously obviously took good care of it:




Naturally work is taking a back-seat today as there's far more important things to be doing than modifying database tables! I've hooked it up using the standard unbalanced outputs and fired it up. And I know you shouldn't take too much notice of initial impressions, but I'm going to anyway. And.... wow. I think the D33 and I will be bestest buddies. I've listened to the entire album "Days of Open Hand" by Suzanne Vega and I'm halfway through Sara Bareilles "The Blessed Unrest".

All I can say is that by track 3 of DOOH I was impressed, and as the album went on I just got totally engrossed. Tracks such as "Institution Green", with its delicate percussive stick-on-drum-case sounds were rendered brilliantly, so much inner detail and yet not at all detatched. The recording isn't the most expansive in its stereo perspective but I could hear all the different strands of the music going on with ease. There's far more body and heft to the lower frequencies than my CA player - in the very first minute or two I thought it was going to be too "warm and cuddly" but not at all. There's detail aplenty to bass instruments and kick drums, just with a dose more "oomph" in the lower registers than I've been used to. And dynamics are definitely there when the music calls for it, both macro and micro-dynamics. On "Prediction" the shape and tone of the bass guitar, the contrast between notes that sustained and those stopped abruptly was really noticeable, and the rhythms towards the end of the track bounced along. The music just flowed with ease, and yet with so much more detail than I'd ever noticed before. There's so much more of a sense of actual instruments - shimmering cymbals, plucked and bowed strings, etc

Other tracks such as "Room Off the Street" with the almost Latin-y feel to the rhythm and the intricate guitar work sounded wonderful, the slightly less dense and better separated production showing up easily. By the time I'd got to the last track "Pilgrimage" I'd got the volume cranked up and the sheer presence of the sound, and the dynamics of the drum kit, together with Suzanne's wistful vocals and the layered background harmonies gave me goose bumps!

With the Sara Bareilles album, the recording is thinner and her voice less "plummy" than the SV CD. That said I was still aware of that bit of a hump in the lower midrange. Given the equipment that's been through this house in the last couple of weeks and the fact that this seems to be a consistent feature, I'm suspecting its a characteristic of the speakers and / or the room interaction, so I'm not going to blame the Arcam for this. Listening to Sara's ethereal vocals (complete with widescreen effect) on the beautiful "Satellite Call" was another goosebump moment for me.

OK, so this is early days yet, and I'm also trying to keep an open mind on external parameters like expectation bias, time of day (and mains quality), and the fact that the sun is out and I've just got shiny new kit to play with and therefore I'm happy. There's a lot of evaluation to get through yet and I've not played with the Arcam's filter choices yet. Nor do I intend to until I've spent some time with it on its default filter 1, that's for later down the line. I also have a set of balanced interconnects too, so once I have settled down to the D33 properly and have a deeper understanding of it rather than just a quick impression, I'll try the balanced connection and see how it differs, or not.

I'd just like to say another thank you to everyone that's contributed to ideas and suggestions in this thread, they've been greatly appreciated and very helpful. I would almost definitely not have considered the Arcam (or the RME, which is still scratching around my thoughts) had it not been for these suggestions.

I'll post some further thoughts on the DAC's performance in my system over in the Q Acoustics owners forum if you want to follow on and see how it's getting on.

Cheers all!


Glad you getting on well with the Arcam DAC. Like Cno said, if first impressions of any kit in your system is good, shows you on the right track. Enjoy.

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Super Wammer

My PS Audio DLIII is advertised on this forum and on eBay...

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