by Rafe Arnott
Arcam is one of those names in high-fidelity that has an assuring British history behind it. Founded in 1976 at Cambridge University by two engineering-school buddies, Arcam (Amplification and Recording Cambridge) sold more than 30,000 units of their first integrated amplifier design that year alone. Over the next 30 years they continued to refine their circuit designs, and introduce new products from tuners, and CD players to DACs, and AV amps.
Their current lineup is split into three product ranges: Solo, FMJ, and the R-Series. I got treated to a digital, and analog demo session at CES which featured the Arcam SR250 Stereo AV receiver ($3,600 USD), the UDP411 BD player (Blu-Ray, DVD, SACD, CD, and UPnP/CIFS audio and video streaming $2,000 USD) the rPlay (network audio streamer $600) on the digital side, and the party-happy Rega P3 ‘table with matching Rega Elys 2 moving-magnet cartridge ($1,300 USD), and Arcam rPhono stage ($600) on the analog side. A pair of speakers I’d not previously been familiar with – the Dali Opticon 6 ($2,495 USD) – was handling room-pressurization duties, which they did with real aplomb, and transparency to source.
One of the unique aspects of Arcam electronics, particularly in their amp designs, is the company’s use of Class-G amplification. For those not familiar with Class-G, it works like a turbocharger insomuch that it utilizes multiple power supplies that come on-line when needed. The first-stage power supply runs with no crossover distortion, and is pure Class-A in operation, the second-stage power supply comes on-line only when power is needed so energy is not wasted. According to Arcam this type of amplification is difficult to design, and implement properly, so it’s rarely used. But Arcam insists that the sonic benefits of Class-G outweigh any design or operational issues when done right. I have to say the sound was very alive, and vibrant with plenty of muscle in the lowest notes, and non-fatiguing extension in the upper registers.
Coupled with the ease of use of the rPlay with streaming files, and the rPhono’s excellent, organic presentation of playback from the Rega front end, and this was a system that covers every sonic base, and source-component wise, won’t break the bank. This is a relatively affordable hi-fi system which is a testament to the musicality-imbued engineering prowess of Arcam.