Published on September 25th, 2014 | by Greg0
Lovely Lightning-Compatible DAC Dock: The Arcam rDock-uni
The rise of the iPhone brought with it a huge assortment of accessories, and created the category of the smartphone dock. Not long ago, you might dock your laptop, but it’s a fairly recent development to store and carry your music or media with you and need a way to play it on a larger scale. However, because Apple started with the proprietary 30-pin connector and has now moved to the Lightning adapter, whereas most other devices use micro-USB, interest in docks dropped from both consumers and manufacturers. Wireless technologies- whether AirPlay or Bluetooth- also rendered them less necessary.
But anyone with a decent audio system still needs a solution. And while some receivers offer their custom ones, we’ve been looking for a dock/DAC that supports the new Lightning adapter, for those with iPhone 5, 5S, or the new iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, or even the newer generations of iPads and iPad minis. Arcam came to the rescue with their new rDock-uni, which is more than a dock and features a highly-regarded Burr-Brown/TI PCM5102 digital to analog conversion chip so that your music can sound its best. Simple to use and setup, it allows you to plug your iDevice into a stationary spot that connects to your speakers or home theater system, without needing to worry about finding and untangling cables. And it’ll keep your device charging, unlike a Bluetooth system that will drain your battery faster.
It’s not for everyone- you’ll need a decent set of speakers to actually make a difference, and the rDock-uni itself costs as much as the most expensive iPod Touch. Those who live in the Android ecosystem or who primarily leave their music libraries on their laptop or computers won’t have need of the rDock-uni. But if you are an Apple aficionado who loves music, stores plenty of it on your newer iPhone, and want a good-looking and stable dock solution for your living room or bedroom then this is just the product you’ve been waiting for. It works great- and looks nice next to- other Arcam gear of course, from their own AirPlay solution (which continues to work well) and their Bluetooth wireless option, to their excellent amplifier. Plus, we like that it comes with a cute remote control, not a necessary item but handy if you want to set your dock on your nightstand or entertainment center but be able to adjust volume or change tracks while elsewhere.
There are both analog RCA and SPDIF digital outputs, along with a rear USB port that allows you to plug in your old 30-pin cable. HDMI would have been pretty fantastic, but this is a dock built for audio, not video. Audio results are warm, never clipped, and impressively ranged- tracks such as The Knife’s Silent Shout push hard on bass and treble response, but the rDock-uni never felt challenged. It offers plenty of depth and, even on high bitrate files, we enjoyed the extra space and roominess that comes with a premium DAC. If you try listening to output direct from the iDevice, you’ll hear coldness and sharpness, a lack of tonal balance as volume increases, and a shallowness that the rDock-uni resolves and overcomes. Available now, online and in stores, expect to spend around $300 for Arcam’s rDock-uni, the best native Lightning dock solution we’ve seen with a serious DAC.