Can Arcam rPlay slay the Sonos beast? Just maybe! AVForums likes it quite a bit

The functionality provided by DTS PlayFi rivals other top contenders in the multi-room streaming arena. Added to already fantastic Arcam performance, the combination in rPlay is a clear winner.

It is said that Arcam knows a thing or two about great digital audio, having pioneered the first outboard DAC in the late 80s and spinning forward through every ensuing technology. Today, the venerable Arcam rSeries proves the point, with multiple award-winning products under its belt. The new rPlay builds on that knowledge and has the distinction of including DTS PlayFi, a groundbreaking technology that makes streaming easier and less closed-off than ever before.

PlayFi incorporates your favorite streaming services like TIDAL, Spotify, Pandora, and much more, as well as local UPnP streaming. Listen to music files up 24/192 resolution, in sparkling Arcam sound quality. Use the handy, free app for Apple iOS, Android, and Windows, conveniently controlling ANY PlayFi device, not just the Arcam rPlay. And soon, PlayFi will incorporate Amazon Alexa for even more convenience.

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Keep reading for excerpts from the review by AVForums:

The capabilities of Play-Fi are entirely competitive with the requirements we generally have of a streamer in 2017. You get sample rate support up to 24/192kHz, the usual clutch of supported formats and integrated streaming service support. In this case, a lot of service support. The rPlay arrived with Deezer, Spotify and Tidal and in the time it’s been here has added Qobuz, Amazon Music, Pandora and Juke. All of them are selectable via a control app that is supported on iOS, Android and (unusually) Windows desktop devices. It does feel a little odd to select a third party app to control the Arcam – not least because I discovered an old Arcam app on my iPad while installing this one – but there’s no question that the DTS effort is a very good app.

The Arcam bit of the rPlay is no less considered. The decoding is built around a Burr Brown PCM5102 and the architecture of the rPlay is bespoke to this unit. The connectivity of the rPlay is relatively limited but reflects the requirements of a streamer. You get the option of wired and wireless connectivity and analogue outputs with a solitary coaxial output. The most interesting fitment is there are two analogue outputs. One is a fixed level connection while the other is a variable output. What is notable is that the preamp functionality is carried out entirely in the analogue domain and volume is carried out via a variant of Arcam’s resistor ladder volume control.
The rPlay is a member of the rSeries components that have been undergoing a recent revision and expansion. Unlike the FMJ components, they are half width units that share almost all their metalwork. The good news is that this metalwork feels solid, looks good and is extremely well finished. Arcam’s decision to simply rubberise the base and do without feet means that the rPlay is simplicity itself to accommodate. If you don’t want it on display, it would be simplicity itself to squirrel it away.

An area where the Arcam is on much stronger ground is the setup and basic configuration. This is logical to a fault and works brilliantly. If you have a WPS enabled router, it is utterly straightforward but even if you don’t, it’s still logically arranged and very easy to do. The rPlay also feels slick and together in a way that some streamers – even ones rather more expensive than this – can fail to do. Even if you are coming off the back of Sonos or the like, the rPlay is going to meet your expectations.
Having performed the simple setup procedure and connected the rPlay via the fixed output, the news is almost exclusively good. Arcam might have made use of third party software to make the rPlay work but it undoubtedly sounds like an Arcam. Thanks to the use of decoding and design practise used on other products, it has a house sound that is unmistakeably Arcam. Like a number of brands, this sound has evolved gradually but discernibly over the years to adapt to modern tastes. This means that the Arcam is impressively dynamic – more of which in a bit – but hasn’t lost a very slight warmth and refinement to the presentation which helps it across a wide selection of music.

Listening to the 16/44.1 rip of Yello’s Flag, the Arcam is rather lovely. The opening track Tied Up is a riot of big band sounds and an almost carnival rhythm. The Arcam sounds lush and rich but this warmth and scale hasn’t been bought at the price of any sense of softness or bloom. While some digital devices can sound ultra detailed but a little ‘etched’ as if the voices and instruments had been cut out of the background. The Arcam by contrast is big inviting and natural.

The most readily apparent area of this is the bass. The Arcam is one of the most affordable devices that has genuinely convincing and full bodied low end. Listening to the Arcam via a pair of speakers capable of extending to the 30Hz region, there is simply better definition and presence to the information at this point that simply isn’t there with more affordable rivals. This gives the Arcam the ability to be felt as much as heard.
Arcam’s decision to build the rPlay around a licensed platform rather than one of their own (however it might have come into being), was not without risk but having spent some time with the rPlay, I think they made the right decision. Minor quibbles about the performance of streaming services aside, this is a well thought out, flexible and attractive platform that works with the levels of slickness and stability that this software now needs to stand out. If it becomes something that is widely taken up, it augers well for multiroom use too.

More importantly, the Arcam still looks, feels and, most importantly, sounds like an Arcam. This is a wonderfully capable all-rounder that brings things to its performance that more cost-effective streaming platforms can lack. If you have decided that UPnP streaming is the digital method for you, this is a device that punches above its weight, combining great functionality with sparkling performance. For this reason, the rPlay comes highly recommended.