I was suitably impressed by the Arcam rHead headphone amp and now I have its streaming stablemate, the Arcam’s rPlay to review.
The rPlay is the latest addition to the brand’s rSeries. I have to admit I was excited about this. I liked the rHead so much I bought it, I already own the company’s iRDAC that I bought about 4 years ago. Needless to say then, but I was expecting good things from Arcam once again.
It shares the same aesthetics as the other r-devices.
It’s compact, black, and heavy. Yet it promises to have the power to transform even the most traditional system into a network streaming, this is 2017, audio set-up.
Arcam rPlay design
The rPlay has the now familiar footprint of 194 x 44 x 124mm. This makes it the same width and height as the rHead but the streamer looses around 15mm in depth.
It also shares its no-nonsense minimalist approach. The front features just a pair of status LEDs with a pair of chromed buttons up top. Those are your volume buttons.
Everything you need is around the back.
You will find a USB port but this is marked as ‘Upgrade’.
If you have the availability of a wired connection, the rPlay also sports an ethernet port.
Rounding things off back here are the power switch and connection.
The unit sits on an anti-slip, anti-vibration rubber isolation pad.
All-in-all, another very sturdy well-built device from Arcam.
Arcam rPlay performance
As I have a dedicated switch for my A/V rig hidden behind my TEAC cassette deck, the easiest option for me was simply grabbing a short ethernet cable and plugging the rPlay in to the switch. Sorted. This will undoubtably be the best, most stable option.
In the interest of this review, I also tested the Wi-Fi as the rPlay is compatible with 802.11 b/g/n bands.
This method is equally simple. I pressed the WPS button at the back of the Arcam streamer and then the WPS button on the front of my D8500 (yeah, I kept it). After some frantic flashing of LEDs, job done.
I opted for the Fixed RCA outputs to plug in the Chord C-Series interconnects which were already plugged in to my Musical Fidelity M6si. The rPlay is taking the place of my Musical Fidelity V90-Blu Bluetooth receiver during this review.
The difference between the Fixed and Variable outputs is that, when using either the Fixed or SPDIF connections your amplifier will control the output volume. If you plug in using the Variable RCA ports, the volume buttons on top of the rPlay will control output levels.
Thanks to the DTS PlayFi streaming platform built into the rPlay, you are abile to stream music wirelessly from smartphones, tablets or laptops to speakers throughout your home, and from a range of music sources.
Just download the dedicated DTS PlayFi app onto your smart device and you’ll be able to simultaneously stream services on up to eight rPlay devices connected to the same network. Instant multi-room goodness.
The DTS PlayFi is consistently stable, as well as intuitive to use.
My first test was grabbing tracks from my NAS, currently loaded with a 8TB drive.
Flicking over to Tidal and all is good here too.
Look. No hands!
Alexa is certainly putting herself about a bit. She even will help you with your rPlay.
The Alexa integration comes courtesy of DTS Play-Fi, and means instead of seeking out that beloved playlist using your phone’s screen, you can simply ask the rPlay to find it for you – or perform any number of other tasks.
The thing is, this was announced last year and I still can’t find Play-Fi in the Amazon.co.uk or .com Alexa Skills list.
The rPlay supports PCM files up to 24-bit/192kHz. The DTS PlayFi app has a ‘Critical Listening’ mode that allows native streaming up to 192kHz without downsampling.
The four-layer circuit board reduces interference between components. Add to that the use of multiple low-noise power supplies, this should result in the cleanest signal to the output stage.Musicality is as I have come to expect from Arcam.
CSS’s dancy mix of indie rock and electronica plays fluidly. Tempo is upbeat and the reproduction energenic.
I did not notice any loss in timing through the app, NAS and rPlay.
Streaming via Tidal and Qobuz shows the impressive stability of this system.
I am only just discovering Qobuz with a free trial and this test is making me think about keeping a full subscription.
Flicking through to some Tori Amos and the textures and dynamics are deep and expressive. I did start to get a sense that the soundstage was narrower than I am used to through my normal playing route. You see, playing from my NAS I usually control via my laptop with it plugged in to the iRDAC with a Chord Company C-series USB.
Rock and metal retains its urgency and Mr Big’s debut ‘Addicted to that Rush’ is as frenetic and pacey as it should be.
It is at about this time I noticed that there’s no Bluetooth. This isn’t really a deal breaker as you don’t need it with the DTS Play-Fi app, but it does seem to be a little omission.
Arcam rPlay review conclusion
It looks, or sounds, like Arcam has done it again.
The Cambridge company has managed to produce an audio device that performs well beyond its price tag.
The rPlay is compact, easy to set-up and use, and has impressive sonic qualities.
There may not be Bluetooth and the soundstage is presented a little more enclosed, but the rPlay is one of the most efficient ways of updating your Hi-Fi for networked streaming.
Arcam rPlay price and availability
You can buy the rPlay right now from Amazon for £400.