Rega DAC vs Arcam rDAC vs Musical Fidelity M1 DAC

ifor

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2002
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Pulling together various posts on other threads, I have completed my comparison of the three DACs and made a buying decision.

Two weeks ago we compared the Rega with the Arcam and in my system the Arcam was a convincing winner. Today we compared the Arcam with the Musical Fidelity and again the Arcam won the contest, but by a narrower margin.

The comparisons were not actually DAC vs DAC, but DAC vs CDs played by a Cyrus CD8 SE. The CD player always won, but the narrowest margin was over the Arcam. I suppose this means the DAC built into the Cyrus is the best, but I can't currently afford a Cyrus DAC.

So the cheapest is the best and the most expensive is the weakest, in my setup, streaming from an iMac via ethernet, homeplug, Airport Express and toslink to the DAC feeding a Roksan Kandy amp and Spendor A5 speakers. All wireless capabilities were disabled because it seriously affects streaming capabilities and sound quality in this house.

We have ordered an Arcam rDAC.
 

richardw42

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May 2, 2010
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Personal Preferences :)

I had the Arcam, and never really took to it. I suppose my taste in music means I prefer a punchier more attacking sound. I switched to the MF and am now happy.
 

ifor

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Dec 3, 2002
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I was going to say that I think it's probably more to do with system matching than musical taste, but I see you have Kandy amp also, albeit more modern than mine. My wife described the difference between the CD player and the MF as being like the difference between being in the room with the musicians and listening to a recording. I thought it a good description. The Arcam just got us more into the room with the musicians that the MF did. I actually wanted to like the MF more, but didn't.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
See I'm the opposite...

Had the Arcam rDAC and MF M1 DAC on home demo and demo'd the Rega DAC at the hi if dealers and for me the Rcam sounded great; Rega was too neutral/clean sounding and the M1 DAC was the best of both worlds. Detailed, punchy but really opened the soundstage...

The only other DAC I felt came close was the Emotiva XDA1 DAC.
 

ifor

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Dec 3, 2002
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I just realised I had written rubbish! Too much wine!!

None of us are favouring the Rega and I'm in the minority in favouring the Arcam.
 

mitch65

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Dec 16, 2003
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ifor said:
I just realised I had written rubbish! Too much wine!!

None of us are favouring the Rega and I'm in the minority in favouring the Arcam.
That's funny, I was going to post last night but too much wine stopped me! :beer:

I home demoed the MF M1 and the Rega DAC, I ended up keeping the Rega because I found the MF too upfront in it's presentation but with the Rega I could listen for hours without fatigue. It should be noted that I only had a week with them both and it could have been that the MF needed more time to settle down than the Rega.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
All 3 are very good DAC's and get rave reviews around the magazines and owners etc...

However I'd still recommend the Emotiva DAC: http://www.itemaudio.co.uk/emotiva_xda1.html

It's not got a massive covering over here in the UK but there are plenty of solid reviews and people singing its praises online etc...

Mark at Item Audio will let you have one on home demo for close to a month so well worth speaking to him...
 
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Anonymous

Guest
ifor said:
Pulling together various posts on other threads, I have completed my comparison of the three DACs and made a buying decision.

Two weeks ago we compared the Rega with the Arcam and in my system the Arcam was a convincing winner. Today we compared the Arcam with the Musical Fidelity and again the Arcam won the contest, but by a narrower margin.

The comparisons were not actually DAC vs DAC, but DAC vs CDs played by a Cyrus CD8 SE. The CD player always won, but the narrowest margin was over the Arcam. I suppose this means the DAC built into the Cyrus is the best, but I can't currently afford a Cyrus DAC.

So the cheapest is the best and the most expensive is the weakest, in my setup, streaming from an iMac via ethernet, homeplug, Airport Express and toslink to the DAC feeding a Roksan Kandy amp and Spendor A5 speakers. All wireless capabilities were disabled because it seriously affects streaming capabilities and sound quality in this house.

We have ordered an Arcam rDAC.
:? not sure i agree with that, as said it may be down to your listening preferences but when my dealer and i demo'd all 3 of the dacs mentioned we had the results in completly the other way, we used a rega apollo as transport and did a side by side comparison with the apollo and the 3 dacs, first up was the rdac, after listening to it for 10 minutes we switched to the apollo's rca's and the difference was clear..the apollo had completly embarrased the rdac, it was quickly taken out of the set-up and put back in the shop.

next up was the MF m1 dac, this was much better in all areas and a very good listen, switching between the apollo and dac we could hear the very slightest difference and after 5 minutes of switching (blind) i managed to pick out the apollo as the better sounding, but this was sooo close it was very hard to call.

finally we pluged the rega dac in and got started, the differnce in sound between the apollo and rega dac was clear and an almost no brainer, it was like comparing the rega saturn to the apollo but at only half the price.
 

stephennic

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Jul 27, 2008
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Hi,

Just another point of view. I tried out a dac on my sound system with two different cd players (marantz and nad) and found I had different sound coming out of either cd player - one sounded much better than the other. I think a dac can sound different depending on the quality of the components you match it with - one dac can sound great on one system and not so good on another. I would say compare dacs on your system first for the best outcome.

Cheers

Steve.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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stephennic said:
Hi,

Just another point of view. I tried out a dac on my sound system with two different cd players (marantz and nad) and found I had different sound coming out of either cd player - one sounded much better than the other. I think a dac can sound different depending on the quality of the components you match it with - one dac can sound great on one system and not so good on another. I would say compare dacs on your system first for the best outcome.

Cheers

Steve.
I agree with this, and I would expect a better synergy if the Dac and the Transport are from the same brand.
 

ifor

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2002
104
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CnoEvil said:
stephennic said:
Hi,

Just another point of view. I tried out a dac on my sound system with two different cd players (marantz and nad) and found I had different sound coming out of either cd player - one sounded much better than the other. I think a dac can sound different depending on the quality of the components you match it with - one dac can sound great on one system and not so good on another. I would say compare dacs on your system first for the best outcome.

Cheers

Steve.
I agree with this, and I would expect a better synergy if the Dac and the Transport are from the same brand.
Agreed. I'm quite convinced it's to do with component synergies rather than musical taste. I never suggested the Arcam is better than the other two; I just said it sounded closer to the Cyrus CD 8 SE when played through the Kandy and Spendors and this sounded best. If I could afford a Cyrus DAC I would probably get one.
 

jimmy.cross

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Sep 9, 2011
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Hi,

I found this post very interesting. Just some thoughts about the last few comments:

I thought a CD spinner only read "0s" and "1s" and send them to the DAC which would convert them into an a wave. Apart from the quality of the tray mechanism or error correction, I cannot see how can you create sinergy here. All CD spinners should basically produce the same sequence of ones and zeros from a scratch-free CD, unless you have serious issues with the timing of that sequence (which most DAC will fix, anyway). Right?

Cheers
 

ESP2009

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Feb 16, 2009
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jimmy.cross said:
Hi,

I found this post very interesting. Just some thoughts about the last few comments:

I thought a CD spinner only read "0s" and "1s" and send them to the DAC which would convert them into an a wave. Apart from the quality of the tray mechanism or error correction, I cannot see how can you create sinergy here. All CD spinners should basically produce the same sequence of ones and zeros from a scratch-free CD, unless you have serious issues with the timing of that sequence (which most DAC will fix, anyway). Right?

Cheers
Yes, but once you start to add in the different approaches to electronics engineering and design, materials and a whole host of other factors, you soon start to get a variety of flavours taht will appeal to different tastes and gel to greater or lesser degrees with other equipment which is again, based on different approaches to...
 

kungula

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Nov 18, 2007
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I had the Arcam rDac, but I had to give it back as it is not reliable. After one week the USB connection wasn´t working properly anymore. I have now the Nuforce HDP which I like very much. I can only recommend it. The M1 is on a similar level as the Arcam.

Who wants someting better than the Nuforce has to spend a lot more money, one recommendation would be the fantastic new T+A DAC 8 which competes already to the Naim Dac.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
By performing a test without a reliable methodology, we can get biased results. For example, in an overly warm system, a brighter DAC may bring a more musical result and therefore lead to a misleading conclusion. The same can occur with a overly warm DAC into an overbright system. Both DACs may be suitable for specific conditions, but it doesn't mean they are superior to others.

In my opinion, firstly it's necessary to make sure the system in which the DAC will be tested is absolutely tonally neutral. The entire system must be high quality in fidelity and resolution as well. Secondly, it's also necessary to have a benchmark, i.e., a state-of-art DAC or CD player to be used for comparison. Not always a more pleasant sound is the more accurate and near to the reality. The third point is as regards how tests are performed. Obviously, it must be performed as blind tests to avoid "placebo effect". Other important point is concerning musical experience. The listeners must know real tones and textures of the musical instruments to judge what is accurate or not.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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Audio Maniac said:
By performing a test without a reliable methodology, we can get biased results. For example, in an overly warm system, a brighter DAC may bring a more musical result and therefore lead to a misleading conclusion. The same can occur with a overly warm DAC into an overbright system. Both DACs may be suitable for specific conditions, but it doesn't mean they are superior to others.

In my opinion, firstly it's necessary to make sure the system in which the DAC will be tested is absolutely tonally neutral. The entire system must be high quality in fidelity and resolution as well. Secondly, it's also necessary to have a benchmark, i.e., a state-of-art DAC or CD player to be used for comparison. Not always a more pleasant sound is the more accurate and near to the reality. The third point is as regards how tests are performed. Obviously, it must be performed as blind tests to avoid "placebo effect". Other important point is concerning musical experience. The listeners must know real tones and textures of the musical instruments to judge what is accurate or not.
Absolutely.

When taking advice from someone else as to what is good, this element of system synergy is often overlooked....just because it works in a particular environment (for a particular taste) doesn't mean it will work in every situation.

There is also the thorny issue of what (ie. which components) constitutes absolute neutrality, which may in fact be some theoretical ideal. IMO The best one can hope for is finding the best match for one's own ears and system...and nobody can tell you that with any certainty.
 

Cypher

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Jun 8, 2007
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I've had the Arcam rDAc. Did not like the sound.

I now use the V-dac II................absolutely fantastic.

I would choose the M1 dac.

Hope this helps :)
 
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Anonymous

Guest
An unquestionably superior DAC may not sound musical in some not precisely balanced system. Other things is regarding our personal tastes. Some people don't like a dead neutral sound signature and would prefer a warmer tonal balance. So, it's matter of being pleasant to their ears rather than more accurate. That's why it's always a must auditioning audio devices into our system previously before purchasing them.

CnoEvil said:
Absolutely.

When taking advice from someone else as to what is good, this element of system synergy is often overlooked....just because it works in a particular environment (for a particular taste) doesn't mean it will work in every situation.

There is also the thorny issue of what (ie. which components) constitutes absolute neutrality, which may in fact be some theoretical ideal. IMO The best one can hope for is finding the best match for one's own ears and system...and nobody can tell you that with any certainty.
 

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