Arcam rBlink Bluetooth DAC review

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posted on Sunday, 11th August 2013 by Steve May

Streamer  Hi-fi  Arcam 

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Is Arcam's rBlink Bluetooth DAC the best new secret weapon in the hi-fi installer's armoury? This diminutive accessory, the latest in Arcam r-Series after the general purpose rLink and higher-end rDAC, turns any hi-fi amplifier, be it a new component or legacy heirloom, into a fancy Bluetooth-enabled music streamer. 

Arcam rBlink: Design and Installation
The rBlink takes but a moment to set up, but is transformational when it comes to the causal convenience of mobile music replay. Like its Arcam siblings, the device measures just 100 x 75 x 25 (w/d/h )mm but is a pleasingly heavy 350g. Build quality is excellent. The aluminium casework breeds confidence, while the practical non-scratch base should keep it parked. Also supplied in the package is a 6v power supply and pair of stereo phono interconnects.

The rBlink is a bit of a pushmi-pullyu when it comes to connectivity. One end features the Bluetooth antenna and a tiny pairing button, while the opposite end of the box offers analogue phonos and a digital output. Setting the device up is a breeze. Simply lace it to your chosen amplifier or AV receiver, using an appropriate input, and then pair the rBlink with your mobile sources. In almost all instances we would advise against using the provided digital output, as to use it sidesteps the rBlink's excellent DAC.

A discreet LED indicates the status of the unit. The rBlink will automatically re-pair with a device when it's within streaming distance. Integrators can effectively position the box out of the way, confident that it will simply connect as and when required by users

Arcam rBlink: Performance
Of course Bluetooth hasn't enjoyed the best of reputations when it comes to performance audio, but the arrival of aptX has significantly improved matters. Here the implementation is seriously impressive. We auditioned the rBlink with Arcam's new flagship AVR750 receiver, utilizing for the most part an aptX- enabled Samsung S3 Android mobile. This proved to be quite a potent partnership. Indeed, what was meant to be a short set up using Spotify turned into a protracted (very enjoyable) listening session. Spotify is likely to be a key source for many users, and the quality of the stream delivered via the rBlink to the AVR750 is undeniably high.

Beneath the hood of the rBlink is a proven Texas Instruments Burr Brown PCM5102 DAC; it's this which converts any incoming data into a line level output. Jitter is low, with a healthy signal-to-noise ratio of 106dB. In use, the connection proves reassuringly stable, and we experienced no dropouts when listening in a standard living room space. Of course, in very large rooms you could run foul of Bluetooth's standard 10m distance limitation, so keep that in mind. Playback happens almost instantaneously, there's no disorientating AirPlay style delay.

For owners of older kit, the rBlink can also effectively turn them into network enabled music streamers. Using a DLNA app on our Samsung mobile, we could browse and stream from a network music server, with astonishing fidelity. Our DLNA app browsed and played FLAC and 320kbps MP3s via the rBlink without missing a beat.

Key to the rBlink's high fidelity is CSR's BlueCore 7 silicon. This handles aptX streams up to 380kbps, as well as lower bitrate AAC and standard SBC coding. Of course to hear the rBlink at its best, you'll need to use it with an aptX-enabled device. Thankfully, the number of such devices is steadily increasing, with notable support coming from Creative, HTC and Samsung. BlueCore 7 brings a phenomenal amount of extra headroom to Bluetooth which translates to superb stereo imaging and toppy delinineation. For those looking to add high-quality Bluetooth to any discerning music system simply can't do better than this. However, It should be noted that all connected devices appear to benefit from the rBlink's inherent musicality To benchmark against the the Samsung S3, we also streamed from a Google Nexus 4 mobile, sans aptX, and that sounded pretty engaging too.

Arcam rBlink: Verdict
The Arcan rBlink does what it says on the tin. It's a superior Bluetooth DAC with no other purpose in life. But this dedication rewards in spades, with a fulsome performance that convincingly heralds the mobile as a credible audio source. As such, we think it more than justifies its additional cost over rival Bluetooth streamers, and should add the final little bit of performance magic to any system install. In all, the Arcam rBlink is hugely impressive.

Retail price: £160
Available: Now.

For more on Arcam's product line up visit our partner page here.
Also read:
Interview: Arcam and the art of high fidelity audio
Arcam FML AVR750 tuned for music and movies
Audiophile Bluetooth streaming from Arcam rBlink

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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Posted by James Middleton on 24th August 2013, 10:04 AM
Great piece of kit use this everyday hook up to Multi-room amp

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